Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Marrakech Djinn by Elisa Manalo Simon

In the summer of 2005,  a Berber tour guide in downtown Marrakech, Morocco made his way to a cafe after a busy escorted tour had departed.  As he wended his way towards the shady side of the street and passed an old university,  he came upon a terrified university student madly dashing into his path.  Perched at the edge of northwestern Africa, Morocco is a thriving tourist destination for both Europeans and Latin Americans.  Despite its sunny weather year-round, its dry desert heat push many locals at midday to seek shelter from noon to the midafternoon call to prayer when the weather starts to cool.  It is on one of these early evenings, as the sun made its usual journey under the horizon that a student encountered an unknown creature of indeterminate origin.
The story that follows is the student’s account as retold by the guide.  The guide explained in halting English mixed with French how a   bizarre “ghost” shapeshifted to become a terrifying animal – just a few feet away from the hapless pupil.  As the guide whom we will call “Ranif”  led the student to an available empty table, the student breathlessly recounted his frantic run through the empty alley that led out of the university’s walls.  Arabic folklore is replete with tales of “Djinn”, commonly referred to by Westerners as “genie”.  Unlike the famed genie in the bottle from which the American series “I Dream of Jeannie” was adapted, Djinn in Arabic folklore is akin to a demonlike entity that has roamed the earth for centuries with the ability to deceive and shapeshift at will.
The young man was exiting a late afternoon class and had decided to detour to the school’s ancient library.  In order to reach the internal hall that led to the library, he took a short-cut through the darkened alley, pass the courtyard where some students were busy washing their feet in preparation for prayer and darted into a narrow alley.  The young man notice the darkened easement was isolated, but confident of his route, plodded on.  As he reached a darkened intersection, he realized he was lost and made a right turn into unfamiliar territory.  Now realizing his mistake, the student turned and attempted to retrace his steps.  Mystified at the route which had become a maze, he stopped for a few minutes to reassess his location.
Out of the dark, a brakish mist started to materialize like “dirty tobacco smoke” from the periphery of his vision.  The young man did a double take.  Glued to his spot, he sees the mist thicken and sees the shape of what appeared to be a four-footed furred animal.  The first stirrings of fear enveloped him and the young man found his feet.  Bolting down the narrow dark passage, his footsteps echoed as he turned to find a horned creature with the eyes of a cat.  The young man fled as the creature’s evanescent form became more solid and its features attain a menacing look.  Turning to his right, then his left, the young student finally found a light at the end of the passage and upon reaching it, heard traffic to his relief.  It is at this point, that he madly dashed out into the street and afternoon daylight to meet Ranif as he was walking towards an afternoon repast.
According to Ranif, the student since had graduated from the ancient university.  Local folklore claims that the Djinn seeks to destroy anyone who enters their territory or who displays an interest in things evil.   Djinn like isolated, silent and dark areas of the globe, taunting and playing tricks on locals to frighten them and feed on their fear.  This is one case where the elusive Djinn has driven one local never to enter those darkened halls again.

No comments:

Post a Comment