Recently I visited Marrakech. In a local bookshop I found an article a traveller had written in the 70’s about some beggars he had seen sitting In the square.
He described six beggars that sat together on a bench. They sat with begging bowls outstretched crying 'Allah, Allah, Allah'. Each time they uttered the cry it seemed as if their anthem scarred the air around them. The cry pierced the air.
Once in a while a passerby would drop a coin in the bowl, the man who received it would take it in his hand and roll it between his fingers, feeling it for size and determining its denomination. He would then pass it along the line where the same ritual would be repeated until it reached the last in the line of six who would put it in a small leather pouch. They would then give a blessing to the person who had given the coin calling on God on the givers behalf they would cry out together 'Allah, Allah, Allah'.
It is said the poor will go to heaven 500 years before the rich, and so those who place a coin in their begging bowl buy a little of those years and cling to the feet of the poor as they lead the way.
It turns out that, as Morocco is a Muslim country, many Moroccans make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Mecca is the Holy place of the Muslim people, and some save for their whole lives to get there, at times going hungry to afford this journey.
Seeing Mekkeh, being in the most holy of all places, leaves some people with an image that they never want tarnished, or polluted by any other sight, and so they blind themselves and spend the rest of their lives crying out 'Allah' again and again.
More curious than ever I went in search of the beggars described by the author. In the square I found the bench, and on it sat four men gnarled by age, all of them blind. They sat with a begging bowl outstretched, I stood for a while listening for their call to God, but they had long since fallen silent.