First, find your Mohammed

Tantalised by Claire’s delicious story about a Moroccan chef called Mohammed making a tagine, I realised I had my very own …

May 2005, I was at Can Serrat Artists’ and Writers’ Residency at the base of Montserrat near Barcelona. From my memoir Digging for Spain:

When the original twelve Norwegian art students bought the crumbling casa … they needed a bricklayer immediately, to start shoring it up. (Moroccan) Mohammed, their man for the job … finished at Can Serrat, and was heading off for a new job in Tangiers. Someone at the residency cemented a lock of his hair into a brick wall to ensure his return. The hair did its work, the new job fell through, and Mohammed has been drawn back again and again

As a young boy he took the family’s produce to market in the donkey cart. Noted for his intelligence and aptitude, he was trained from youth as a muezzin. A couple of times we cajole him into singing the call to prayer. The resonant wailing, the glottal stops where silence pours in, and the sense of ancient authority reverberating from such a slight body, make the hair stir on our scalps.

… Mohammed now lives in the local village, fixing from scratch an old shop into a cafe restaurant where he’ll serve the wholesome vegetarian food for which he’s famed.

He turns up most days at Can Serrat, often with a basket of his handmade organic bread, dense, moist bricks with a hint of aniseed flavour that he sells for two euros apiece. He sits and talks with anyone who’s around, and makes himself available as taxi driver for which he won’t often accept payment.


… one afternoon, he flits home and brings back a chicken that he cooks up in an earthenware dish on the gas ring with garlic, chickpeas, raisins and cinnamon. This late lunch on a sun-drenched balcony is preceded by chilled melon, and served with unshucked basmati rice and strips of roasted peppers and aubergine. Mellowed by sun, wine and his own superb food, Mohammed tells how much he enjoys his weekly stints with the mentally handicapped at a psychiatric hospital in the city. We take another serving of chicken. This guy is unbelievable.

Okay. Quick change of topic. Are you stressed? No? Are you sure? Try this simple test.

3 responses to “First, find your Mohammed”

  1. C: Archetypes, deities, devas … d’you think one day we’ll catch a glimpse of the whole moving tapestry behind the more obvious construct we call our life?

    K: Well, thanks for your people, too – the characterful relatives, and the inspiring ones.

  2. Yes, ‘first find your Mohammed’ – the promised one. After our conversation about Islam at the Yousson D’our movie the other night, I’ve been wanting to learn more about the spirituality of those communities… Wikepedia being the most obvious place to look. Did you know that the angel Gabriel is supposed to have appeared to him during one of his many meditations on Mt. Hira. This further convinces me of the one-ness of our world’s different religions. If we dream and draw from the same collective unconscious, share symbols and archetypes, etc… then it must surely follow that our different understandings of god/dieties are nothing more than culturally-specific expressions?

    I’ve just had a glass of wine (on top of an afternoon amongst the volatile fumes of varnish and bison wax) so might not be thinking all that clearly…

    Lovely to re-read your Mohammed story, thanks. x

  3. Boy! I am SO stressed! 😉 And yes what an amazing person. We need to hear about such ones so that we keep believing this world is a good place.