Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ramadan in Morocco 2019


Last week, I had a 20 hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco, on the way home from Portugal. I arrived a little before sunset and had hoped to find somewhere to watch locals break the Ramadan daily fast, since watching in Morocco once before was a moving memory, but when I got to my hotel it didn’t seem like there was anywhere to go to people watch. 

So instead I walked down towards the giant beach, the corniche, I was staying near to take a walk. As I got closer, I looked out and noticed that the beach was lined with tables and thousands of people were sitting with groups of friends and family waiting for the sun to set so they could break their fast. The tables were stacked with all kinds of food, and of course, plates of dates and plenty of water to replenish their bodies. There were horses and mini ponies on the beach for rides as everyone waited. Soccer balls flew in the air. 

It had the most celebratory feel. I was moved to tears and stunned by the perfect travel kismet that brought me there. It was an honor to be able to see this raw local joy first hand. It was such a beautiful view of Islam and the power of religion to build community traditions. 

Iftar suppers like this happen every night for a month on that beach and all over the world. I wish all the Americans that speak so badly about Islam could have been there with me. Eid Mubarak to all my friends who are celebrating!

Breaking the fast on a Casablanca beach

Iftar supper - Waiting for sunset - Casablanca, Morocco

Morning in the Casablanca Airport waiting for a flight to Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Portugal 2019


Thank you Portugal, for a wonderful trip. History, ornate tiles and beautiful architecture, great street art, lots of fresh seafood.

Click HERE to see a my photo album from the trip.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Spirituality and Healing at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima

Praying to Fatima for Healing
Today is the 3rd anniversary of my emergency gastric surgery in Beirut, Lebanon. Oddly, here in Portugal I was able to honor the anniversary in a strange way. I visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, which claimed it was the 4th most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. Wow! Who knew? 

So anyway, after checking out the cathedral and watching a prayer service out in the property grounds and being kind of awed by the size of the place and worshippers shuffling around on their knees in worship, I headed to the gift shop to get myself a candle. I always light candles when I go to new churches to try to honor the experience and spirit and take a moment to reflect. 

It was a giant gift shop filled with Fatima’s of all sizes and lots of rosaries, because worshipping Fatima seems to be all about the rosary. But beyond that, there were lots of candles and a very odd surprising thing: full size wax versions of body parts. There were feet, legs, arms, eyes, hearts, livers, kidneys, breasts and, wait for it, intestines! Well clearly, I had to participate in whatever this tradition was, so I got one and brought it out to the large fire area where everyone was burning candles and making prayers. 

This was not your average church candle rack, but instead a huge pulsing fire oven. I placed the intestines on to a rack, said a prayer asking Fátima to protect me from future flair ups and failures and stood back to watch it melt. As it began to melt the flames roared and enveloped it. It was shockingly dramatic and pretty moving. So dear Lady of Fatima 🙏🏻, I’d really appreciate if you can do everything in your obvious incredible power to prevent another horrible, painful incident of diverticulitis. Thank you!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos (the Discoveries Monument)
This city girl loved Lisbon. 😍 What I realized this trip is that cities take time to reveal themselves and if I give myself enough days in them, I fall in love and find the travel zen feeling I so yearn. It’s a relaxed feeling that doesn’t feel stress and always finds interesting corners and crevices. It’s having enough time to just wander with no agenda. After wishing farewell to my family, I headed off on my own. I stayed in a cool hostel, learned history while seeing some of the sites, walked for miles, scootered along the waterfront, ATE, hung with an old friend who happened to be in town, found a super cool arts compound, went off into the hills to a colorful palace called Sintra with random new travel friends, visited a far off neighborhood having a major street art festival and just mostly really soaked it all in. #livetotravel #theworldismyoyster