I will be perfectly frank. I’ve been apprehensive about this part of my trip. Of all the countries I have traveled solo, the idea of exploring Morroco, northern Africa, on my own worried me a little. Why did I choose Morocco then? Well… it has been at the top of my list of places to experience food-wise. Couscous, Tajine, Harira… I could go on. But it seemed most people I spoke to warned me of the potential danger of travelling alone in Morocco as a woman. A few men I knew told me of incidents of having their girlfriends grabbed and swarmed in their presence. One man grabbed the girl and put her over his shoulder until her boyfriend demanded he put her down. Another friend said “I heard they try to trade you for camels”. But I didn’t want my fear to overcome my drive. I don’t ever want that to happen. “Just make sure you don’t go out at night alone… don’t get in a taxi at night… don’t look like you are scared or lost”. All reasonable comments of those who were less skeptical.
As we approached our decent the plane bounced slightly… skipping above the clouds that began to break like cracking ice, providing glimpses of what lay below -an unknown land for me. Both intriguing and a little terrifying, all the same.
The dichotomous interplay of light and dark started before my feet even found its bearing. Clouds hovered ominously behind the brilliant rainbow that softened it’s threat.
I landed on time. I went to gather my luggage quickly so as not to miss the driver who would take me to the Riad. But after several spins of the baggage carrousel, my albatross didn’t fall. I watched the rubber ribbons from the back hoping the next would be my albatross. I felt like Tom Hanks with his volleyball. Where was my albatross- guilt flooded me. I fretted in natural mother form. I would remain behind with my albotross if need be. I would not abandon her. Then finally during the final run – the very last one- she came bouncing down – I swear she glared at me.
I grabbed her and exited out of the airport and scanned at the dozens of men with Riad signs looking for their pick-ups. Mine wasn’t there yet. I worried that I took too long and missed him. Evening was befalling… I had no way of calling at that point. I remembered my advice “don’t look worried” ha!! My chin was starting to quiver as I really didn’t have a plan b and trying to hide it made me want to weep. A taxi could only get me as close to the old city entrance – there was no way I could navigate the veins of the alleys within. I felt like I was standing in a semi-circle of attentive bystanders with my body turned inside out. Hold it together, I thought.
I looked to the stone wrapped in leather around my wrist that my friends gifted me before I left, for protection. Then finally my driver arrives. I hopped in his van and returned his friendly smile with my own, leaving the film of terror at the airport. Fresh start.
I was driven to a city centre where I was then met by another man who put my albatross on a wagon. I followed close behind as he briskly made his way along the narrow roads lined with venders.
We arrived at Riad Africa. Riads are traditional houses or palaces with interior courtyards converted into B&B’s or small boutique hotels-more authentic than staying in a hotel.
The doors opened and immediately I was struck by the grand white pillars that guarded a small square pool… joined by magestic drapery with vibrant red tassels.
I was guided to a quaint lounge area and presented with mint tea and crumpets. I felt like I was resting at the bottom of a genies bottle-I immediately relaxed.
Younes, attentive and affable, provided me with a map and then guided me to my room adorned with wooden cabinets and eclectic metal fixtures and a middle eastern hand painted table.
In no time I was out again climbing the narrow staircase to the terrace, admiring the small berber tents that protected the romantic sunbeds.
Within seconds, the light drizzle turned into a powerful rain storm that blew the drapes around me and for a minute I felt that I was in the eye of the storm itself. The thunder competed with the loud religious chanting from below. I actually didn’t want to leave, I was captivated.
But the wind grew stronger and the rain heavier, spitting at me forcefully to leave. I fled down to the main landing and took refuge in the lounge for dinner.
Abdou brought the ceramic tagine and slowly lifted the bell shaped cone to reveal the slow cooked chicken with olives and preserved lemons that gave birth to a delicate alluring aroma. “Enjoy Madam”. He said sweetly.
If there is a heaven, I do believe I found it.
Goodnight from Marrakech..