PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — Morocco Day 3, Evening Iftar

Serendipity: “The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

Serendipity — what we experienced this evening in Tangier.

Last night, during dinner, we had the most delightful waiter, Reda, a high school senior. During the course of our conversation over the meal, he extended an invitation to us to join him and some of his friends for Iftar.

Iftar is the celebratory meal where people gather to break their fast at sundown during Ramadan. I had been told before that if you are ever invited to participate in an Iftar, you must do it because it is an honor and a true experience. As a result, we shared contact information and planned to join them the next day by the beach, to break the fast with him and a few of his friends.

During the course of the day, we kept in touch, but our return from our day in Chefchaouen took longer than we expected and there were several points where the others were uncertain whether we should go ahead with this invitation. But occasionally, not surprisingly, I can be quite bullheaded. And I was determined to go, even though we did not have time to pick up dates or other food  items that would’ve been appropriate for us to share with the feast.

As a result, we arrived by the Mediterranean a bit late, but well before sundown, to meet Rena and his friends Amine, Fati and Rania. They had purchased street foods to break the fast along with procuring a table right by the sea, along an area where many other families and friend groups were gathered to break the fast.

Because it would be rude to not contribute to the meal, we unpacked what food we had with us from our trip. As a result a bag of Cadbury eggs, some crackers, turkey bites and my ever ubiquitous bag of black licorice that I always have when I travel joined all of the food that they had laid out.    

We then sat and waited for the call to prayer to end the fast and began to get to know one another. Rena is a student who is also a photographer, a lover of movies and a truly old soul. His two women friends were both studying nursing at university, and his other friend worked as a waiter at wedding events and was beginning to study German.

Of course, when he said, he was studying German, I immediately spoke to him, only to discover that he had only  been studying for two weeks. The laugh was contagious. They hope to one day move to Germany.

Rena’s English was superb and the others spoke a little at varying degrees, but immediately it was apparent that the vibe for the table was joyful, as we talked about just about every topic under the sun. Seriously. During the course of the evening, we covered everything from Gabriel Garcia Marquez to why Rena and I both hated “The Alchemist,” to the meaning of life, to the prevalence and cost of hashish, to why “Fifty Shades of Gray” was a horrible movie.

We found out about how families respond when their children start dating, how hard it is not to be a faithful Muslim when everyone else is fasting and why piercing and tattoos are frowned upon in their culture.

They were fascinated by the fact that I was a pastor. I even performed a mock wedding ceremony for one couple, with a promise that I would be invited to the real thing if it happened. Gretchen showed them pictures of wild ricing, hunting and fishing. And Johanna made plans to go to hammam — a Turkish or Moroccan style bath — with the women the next week.

We looked at the stars over the Mediterranean and found constellations and talked about the world. Even though it was three American women in their 60s, Johanna and a group of four Moroccan teenagers, you would never have guessed that there were more differences than similarities.

It was nothing short of a magical evening, where all of the things that divide us in the world faded away as four Christians joined four Muslims for a feast that celebrates charity and devotion.

It was a night of serendipity I will never forget. As we hugged and kissed each other on the cheek to say our goodbyes, you would never have known that our worlds and ages were so different. Instead, you would have seen the beauty of what it means to be part of the human family.

Serendipity indeed.



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