20 Oct News and Views from the Palais: Ba mohammed
Ba Mohammed embarks on a whole new adventure.
The Palais Amani Effect:
Summer in Fez: that dry baking heat, intense and luminous that revs up day after day and seems here to stay, permanent, unstoppable. And then one day the heat breaks, the morning starts with freshness in the air, and we know that autumn and a new high season have arrived.
And whilst in our daily working lives, weeks turn into months, months turn into seasons, and seasons into years that fly by with a speed that can feel vertiginous at times, each time I cross the threshold, and come back to Palais Amani, there is feeling of grounding as if and nothing has changed. The breath-taking beauty as you step inside from the bustle of the street is intemporal; time seems suspended as if nothing has changed.
My heart beat slows, my body relaxes and the wonder of the gardens and the soft chuckle of the fountain allows a special stillness; time to listen to the birds and feel the sun filtering through the citrus trees, to just be as if the time between this visit and the last fades away, season after season, year after year.
This apparent unchanging stability, back to the safety of inner sanctuary, is the wonder that I call the Palais Amani effect. And within this inner sanctuary, and very much centre stage until now, Ba Mohammed has sat serving Moroccan mint tea, that infamous beverage, the symbol of welcome, to guests, staff, friends and family alike.
Of course his name is not really Ba Mohammed, it’s Mohammed: tout simplement!
Ba, or father, is the name he has been given by the team at Palais Amani as a sign of respect, the father if you like of the team and temporary father of the guests too during their time with us. He greets them in the morning and wishes them good night at the end of their day, and if anyone can demonstrate how it is possible to communicate without a common language, it is he.
The oldest member of the Palais Amani team:
He is the oldest member of the Palais Amani team, not only in age, but also in years of service having started on the property before it opened its doors to our guests 13 years ago.
He was employed as night watchman by the contracting company who did the main building restorative works in the four years it took to make Palais Amani the jewel that it is today. And when their contract was over, he came to us to ask if he could stay on.
So Ba Mohammed was the first to join the team, first as night watchman, watering the plants when the guests slept, and helping with luggage for the late arrivals and the early departures, then as doorman and then more recently as he was reminded of the passing time by increasingly sore knees he took on the central role of making everyone feel at home by serving tea.
In the time he was doorkeeper, Ba Mohammed was one of the first faces that our guests would see as the great cedar doors opened letting them into the magic of the garden. Over the years he became quite a character as he encouraged guests to take pictures with him to star on the Facebook pages of people from all over the world.
But despite the Palais Amani Effect, years have gone by and like the waning of the summer sun perhaps, he too has moved into autumn, and we are accompanying on a new journey: one that many embark on with some intrepidation, For this month Ba Mohammed is retiring.
A momentous journey:
Day in and day out he has met people from all over the world, greeting them with the language of hospitality and loved sharing with them in his own way that needed no common words. But until this summer, he had never left his hometown of Fez.
The dream of all Muslim believers is to go to Mecca, a momentous journey for those who can and something that remains a dream for so many. On the imitative of our director Iliass Benzitoun, our gift for his years of service was to allow him and his wife to travel take this momentous journey, the trip of a lifetime, that they undertook this summer.
So now his name has changed. He is still seen as the father but he is referred to as Haj Mohammed, Mohammed the pilgrim, and at the start of the new high season all the team celebrated his achievements, as we wish him well.
Touched so many hearts:
I can’t quite believe that he’ll stay away permanently, but when he does drop in to see us, which I am sure he will do, he in turn will be welcomed with a glass of mint tea.
He has touched so many hearts, may his heart fill with joy when he drops in now as a guest, as a traveller.
As he sits there sipping his mint tea, may the Palais Amani Effect recharge his batteries before he goes on his way.