Africa, but not as we know it

first_imgVendors in the Djemaa El Fna, Marrakech’smain square, prepare for evening trade. The tranquility of the Menara gardensin Marrakech.(Images: Wikimedia)MEDIA CONTACTS • Moroccan Embassy, Pretoria+27 12 343 0230• Morocco National Tourist Office, Rabat+212 537 67 40 13Chris ThurmanThere’s a famous lyric from “Star Trekkin’”, the song that parodies cult film and TV series Star Trek, in which Mr Spock warns Captain James Kirk: “It’s life, Jim … but not as we know it.”A few years ago, when I told a friend I would be travelling to Morocco he reminded me I shouldn’t expect that country to be at all similar to South Africa just because they are part of the same land mass. “It’s Africa, Jim,” he affirmed, “… but not as we know it.”At the time, this seemed to me a rather inappropriate remark – certainly not in keeping with the pan-African sentiments that those of us who are citizens of African countries are encouraged to inculcate.After spending some time in Morocco, however, I found that I had to agree with him. South Africa and Morocco are not only on opposite ends of the continent; as those who have visited or lived in both countries can attest, they often seem to be worlds apart.This is, of course, as it should be. Essentialised notions of Africa, according to which African countries are seen as generic entities with more or less the same histories, cultural practices, world views and political structures (with, at best, scope for a little variation on the theme), are both inaccurate and dangerous. They reproduce precisely the kind of generalisation that facilitated the colonisation of the so-called dark continent.On the other hand, precisely because colonialism brought about artificial national borders that did not take into account the clustering of different ethnic groups, cultures and tribes – which has resulted in countless instances of internecine conflict or civil war across the continent – it is perhaps appropriate to discuss characteristics of the various regions.Southern African countries share languages, show similarities in climate or topography and have strong cross-border cultural, political and socio-economic links. The same is true of regional affiliations in western, eastern, central and northern Africa.In particular, world history has shaped the countries to the north of the Sahara desert in ways that are distinct from sub-Saharan Africa. Morocco has been influenced as much by French, and more recently, Spanish incursions as by interaction with Arabic peoples of the eastern Mediterranean. Before that, there were the Romans and Phoenicians.Throughout, the Berbers or imazighen have asserted their presence as the indigenous people of this northwest corner of Africa.Rich, complex historyAs a result of this rich and complex history, a country has been forged that is in some ways recognisably African – whatever that may mean – but that, to those of us from southern Africa, also feels enticingly exotic. And there is no place in Morocco more enticing than the all-singing, all-dancing, all-suffering, all-smiling, all-smelling, all-selling city of Marrakech.Rabat is the capital of al-Magrib, the Kingdom of Morocco; Casablanca is its largest city, with a certain appeal to fans of the iconic 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman; Fez has the renowned Fes el Bali, a remarkably well-preserved old town or medina.But the Red City of Marrakech, right in the centre of the country, is the beating heart of Morocco.I arrived there as a dusty late afternoon was turning to red-earth dusk. Looking out over a thousand rooftops, I surveyed a scene marked by haggard palm trees and crumbling sandstone towers. The smoke was rising from the cooking fires of the main square – Djemaa El Fna, the “place of the dead” or “place of the vanished mosque” – and the buskers and snake-charmers were packing up for the day; soon the real entertainment of song, comedy and serious debate would begin, lasting deep into the night.From speakers mounted on the minarets of mosques, muezzin singers called the Islamic faithful to prayer. I wandered away from the busy square, tracing a path through quiet alleyways and into the dim, labyrinthine passages of the souk, or market. Merchants sipped on sweet mint tea and discussed religion. A young couple shared a brief farewell and a kiss before approaching the separate male and female entrances to a hamam, or steam bath.Vast differencesA few days later, I travelled south to Ouzoud – an isolated spot where a waterfall cascades down a 100m precipice, feeding a fertile valley in the foothills of the High Atlas mountains. Here, amongst a small Berber community of subsistence farmers, I felt I was back in Africa.Unfortunately, there was to be no reverie of belonging. I was invited to a village wedding feast one evening: a kind gesture by my hosts but, I realised with disappointment, an imposition on my part. The bonjours and giggles of the young boys in attendance reminded me that I was an intruder, plainly a foreigner who did not fit in.It was time to leave, but I did so without any sense of sadness at being an outsider. For South Africans, as for tourists from other African countries – and indeed, perhaps more significantly, from countries elsewhere in the world – it’s good to be reminded that a vast continent must contain vastly different peoples and places.Africa cannot be condensed into a single, simple idea – a blank space on the map – and the dizzying difference of Morocco provides ample proof of this truth.Moroccan Embassy, [email protected]+27 12 343 0230last_img read more

Timberwolves beat Lakers for first Christmas win

first_imgDon’t miss out on the latest news and information. The Timberwolves led by 10 with 7:42 left in the second quarter, but the Lakers closed the half on a 22-13 run. Kuzma hit a 3 with 1:07 left to give Los Angeles its first lead before Butler hit a spinning layup to put Minnesota in front 53-52 at the break.TIP-INSTimberwolves: Towns had 18 points in the second half. … F Nemanja Bjelica had one point and two rebounds in six minutes after missing 15 games with a sprained left foot.Lakers: Los Angeles missed out on a chance to break a tie with the New York Knicks for most wins on Christmas Day, dropping to 22-22. The Lakers played on Christmas Day for the 19th consecutive season.ADVERTISEMENT The Fatted Calf and Ayutthaya: New restos worth the drive to Tagaytay Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next After 30 years, Johnlu Koa still doing ‘hard-to-make’ quality breads Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler (23) shoots around Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle during the first half of an NBA basketball game. APLOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler scored 23 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points and 10 rebounds and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers 121-104 on Monday (Tuesday Manila time) for their first-ever Christmas Day victory.Former Southern California standout Taj Gibson had 23 points and nine rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have won four straight. Jamal Crawford added 19 points off the bench.ADVERTISEMENT MOST READ ‘A complete lie:’ Drilon refutes ‘blabbermouth’ Salo’s claims Westbrook scores 31, OKC keeps rolling with win over Rockets Jordan delivers on promise: 2 Cobra choppers now in PHcenter_img Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games LATEST STORIES Malditas save PH from shutout MRT 7 on track for partial opening in 2021 Ethel Booba on hotel’s clarification that ‘kikiam’ is ‘chicken sausage’: ‘Kung di pa pansinin, baka isipin nila ok lang’ Kyle Kuzma scored 31 points for the Lakers, who have lost three in a row and six of seven. Jordan Clarkson had 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Julius Randle had 16 points and seven rebounds.Minnesota pulled away when Towns and Crawford combined to score 12 straight points after Randle put Los Angeles up 84-83 with 11:14 to play. The Lakers cut the deficit to 105-99 with 4:30 remaining, but Gibson knocked down consecutive baskets to restore a double-digit lead.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSBoxers Pacquiao, Petecio torchbearers for SEA Games openingSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingKuzma scored 10 of the Lakers’ first 14 points.Los Angeles was without Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. Ball sprained his left shoulder against Portland on Saturday, and Ingram missed his second straight game with quad injuries. Hotel says PH coach apologized for ‘kikiam for breakfast’ claim View commentslast_img read more