Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1/10/12: Birthday Miracles and Morocco!

The Gnawa of Morocco 

Well the age of 24 keeps getting better and better with each passing day. The actual birthday was amazing, the next day and night were even better, and the day after that I found out that my class on the foundations of Islam was being given a week extension on the final research paper! Though I am still proceeding as if the paper were due on the original date, the extra week will be so useful for extensive editing which will hopefully ensure a polished final draft. I'm almost positive that I mentioned this in a previous post, but if not, I am writing this research paper on the Gnawa of Morocco, who are an Islamic Mystic group originating from Sub-Saharan Africa. With each passing day I discover the most amazing things about these people, and I am so glad that I decided to branch away from my focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict so that I could gain exposure into different regions, people, and religious practices. 

A main feature of the Gnawa is their music which combines more traditional Sufi music with pre-Islamic African styles. In my paper I examine both the Gnawa music and how they use this music in their Islamic rituals, and then examine how these rituals and practices compare and contrast to Islamic traditions of native Arab-Berber Moroccan Sufis and West African Muslims. Once the paper is complete I will afford more detail, but take my word that it is fascinating to learn about this group of people and how they incorporate both Islam and pre-Islamic, African shamanism into their religious practices and rituals. Just to give you all an idea of what the music sounds like here is a clip for your enjoyment :-) I am so fortunate that I will be able to see them perform live this summer when I go to the Fez Music Festival in Morocco! Just one more exciting adventure soon to be had!

In other exciting news, I was able to register for my seminars next semester which just adds to my excitement for the spring. For one, I am so ready to be done with this cold weather... Not only am I seriously lacking vitamin D, but now people, instead of thinking I'm from Lebanon,  ask me if I'm Russian... NOT OK ON ANY LEVEL... Thank goodness I'm going home to beautiful, sunny Palm Springs in a month so I can reclaim my Arab skin tone! However, aside from excitement at the prospect of returning to a much warmer Tel Aviv come March, I am so excited about my upcoming seminars. I am taking a course on the History and Historiography of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which, for those of you who know me or have been following this blog, will be very relevant for what I want to focus my academics on, I will be taking a seminar on Gender, Age, Sexuality and Health in the Middle East which is bound to be fascinating, and then my last seminar will, at the advice of my wonderful advisor, be on the Origin and Evolution of the Arab State system (yet another fascinating topic that should give me wonderful insight into the Palestinian-Israeli issue). 

Moving away from the academics, life in Israel is continuing to be amazing above and beyond anything I could have ever expected. I can't believe it has almost been a half a year since I left the states to start a new life in the Middle East. It honestly seems like I have been here 5 minutes, yet when I look back on all that I have done it seems like a lifetime has passed. In 3 weeks I will be journeying back to California for a month, and, as excited as I am to see my family and to be home with friends, I know that I will miss Israel, and this region, terribly. I am beyond overjoyed to say, however, that upon the completion of my month at home, I will be returning to Israel as an Olah Chadasha (New Immigrant). I will soon be an official citizen of this amazing country!! I will finally be legally Middle Eastern :-P. 

I don't know how much excitement will be going on between now and my return home due to this looming research paper, but I will be sure to post updates every 2-3 days on what is going on here in the Holy Land! Luckily I'm pacing myself well with this paper so that I can try and keep up with my social life a little bit ;-) 

Until we meet again!
Lilah Tov ya Chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone

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