What Icarus Learned

Perhaps the biggest charm Rabat has is its border with the Atlantic. There is a Kasbah atop a hill that overlooks the sea, shielding the gardens inside from the elements. There is a lighthouse that almost looks like a minaret; like one, it aspires to be a beacon of guidance and respite to wearied travelers through life. 

The boardwalk at sunset is a marvel. You can walk as far west as is possible at this latitude of the continent and stare out into the distance as the sun sets proudly, blindingly, over the endless rolling waves of the ocean that repeatedly break and crash on the African shores, violently and spectacularly on the rocky side of the boardwalk and smoothly and teasingly on the sandy side. If you wait a while longer, you can see the sun start to lower itself, dangling over the deceptively calm horizon like a teabag slowly being dipped in a cup of hot water. 

The drop is just about imperceptible; the sun will burn your eyes if you stare at it, but it will not descend while it holds your gaze. But the second you avert your eyes, seeking refuge in the coolness of the water or behind you in the golden frontier of Rabat, it will jump absurdly, so that you will know that it has moved but you are at a loss for how, and puzzled at how fast.

But move downwards it does, this fiery orange disk, like a moth is towards a flame. And just as the moth is, and perhaps as we all are, it too is extinguished by that which it seems to love most in this world. One might think that as the first waves lap lazily at the sun when it touches the ocean that perhaps it would recoil, might realize what the water will do to its light, but it neither wavers, nor shivers, nor flickers, and it most certainly does not retreat. It will still not permit you to witness it move, but before you know it, it is gone, swallowed whole by the ocean, put out for the small eternity that is a night. But its last light still peeks over the horizon as the muazzins of the city announce its demise, as the sky fills up with all shades of orange and purple owing to its late presence the way a room fills with moth smoke when a moth does what Icarus did: fly too close to the object of its madness, indulging in its desires while completely disregarding the consequences. 

Hayya ala al-Falah,” the muezzin continues to call; “Come to success!” Leave your worldly engagements for a few minutes and pray, do not be so overcome with the world around you that you lose sight of reality. Take lesson, he means in other words, from Icarus, from the moth, from the sun.