Rhonda and I just got back from a fascinating trip to Morocco. It's like nowhere else I've ever been.
Medinas are old walled towns, or sections of Arabic cities. Of course they weren't designed for cars, but they were designed for defense, so the streets are very narrow and maze like so as to elude an enemy who has penetrated the outer wall. At the souk, or market, these streets are a bustle of activity. They still hold plenty of donkeys, carts, vendors, running children, and the sites, smells, and sounds of Morocco. Now, more than a few motorbikes have added to the character of the experience. Had it not been for our guide, I'm sure we'd still be lost in one of these Moroccan mazes. You see, the interesting thing is the facades are almost all simple and unadorned. Just a flat wall of some sort of cement plaster and a door. The surprise is when you walk through the door into a riad.
A riad is traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard. At one time it was likely the home of an affluent family. We stayed and ate in many of these riads. I still can't get over the surprise as we walked through the very plain, undistinguished facades into a sky lit courtyard with colorful tile, ornate plaster, and unbelievable beauty. It’s kind of like Cracker Jacks. The surprise is on the inside.
As a cliché, I don't think my title "Don't judge a riad by its façade" is likely to surpass "don't judge a book by its cover", but you get the idea. I learned another interesting thing on this trip. Morocco is 99% Muslim. I had never been to a Muslim country. I have to admit I was a little bit concerned about what it would be like. I learned a lot about their faith, their culture, and their people. I found the people warm and friendly. They seemed to be respectful of different cultures, and people. Each medina had a Jewish quarter where the two faiths had lived in harmony. A Jewish couple with us never felt threatened. Our guide Rdouane (Rod to us), talked about many aspects of their life, and we built a friendship and understanding. Muslims are a deeply disciplined in their faith which both impressed us, and at same time broke our hearts. Yes, I do wish they would see the truth in my faith. I was reminded we shouldn't form general opinions about people because of the color of their skin, their faith, or because of a few extremists that don't adequately depict the nature of a people. There are plenty of white, American Christians I don't want people to use to form their opinions of me, my culture, my faith. I now have a Muslim friend. I felt welcome and safe in his country. I found they love their families just like we do. In the future I will try not to judge a riad by its façade. They can be really beautiful inside.