We returned from the desert to Marrakech early evening-one last night as I was headed for the hills the next morning. It turns out Nina was staying in the same corridor as me so we made plans to meet for dinner. I showered and washed away the sand that seemed to find its way into every fold and crevice of my being. We met at a nice restaurant over looking a nearby square.
We treated ourselves to something nice, which was still inexpensive relative to our standards back home.
We started with traditional Harira soup-savoury lamb broth with a mixture of lentils, beans and chickpeas. Next-chicken pastilla; this is surly one to replicate. Delicate phyllo encasing shredded chicken, onions and almonds-then dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon-delicious.
Nina said that she still has yet to experience the DJemaa el-fnna. Oh!”, I declare, “then we must go!”
The sun set like curtains closing, only to reopen with the illuminated kaleidoscope of frenzy in the main square as we approached it. Night had fallen and the energy of the city lit up like fireworks. “Hey! canada!”, some men call out. Nina looks confused. “Long story”, I say. We neared the center packed with tents, swarming with masses of people “Ready?”, I say. She nods. “Stay close”. “Ok” she says. And it was as though we plunged head first into a moroccan mosh pit.
The sounds of food sizzling, beating drums, hurried vendors advancing on prospective customers. I could hear Nina faintly from behind. “Wow”, she said. “Isnt it crazy!!” “yes” she says-fully entranced. Skewered meats, snails, goats head, and countless other local delicacies filled the centre.
We then exited down a corridor on the other side, making note of our bearings so as not to get lost. We shopped a little, feeling, one last time, the maginfiacnt pulse of Marrakech. We said our goodbyes at our respective dwellings. Nina, I would wager, is destined for an adventetous life. I’d like to dog ear these chapters and one day check in on the various characters I’ve met along the way. Everyone’s life is a story to be told, I believe.
The next morning I said goodbye to my little riad-without it’s friendly foundation I may not have launched into my adventure the way I did. I felt safe here.
I was on my way back up the atlas mountains to stay at the riads sister retreat-Kasbah Africa -to experience the serene side of Morocco. It was a little over an hours drive from the city. We ascented thousands of feet up the mountains-finally arriving at the oasis. I opened the car door and who do I see! Abdul!! “Hello madam”, he says waving with enthusiasm. “Abdul!! You work here too!”. I was delighted to see his friendly, familiar face.
Together we hauled my albatross down the stone steps-he was the first to refrain from commenting on its weight but the sweat on his brow said enough. He is a polite, kind soul that Abdul. As I entered, I was immediately struck by the breathtaking views of the lush mountainside.
Max, the resident dog, lay sleeping. “I haven’t seen many dogs here”. Abdul explains that dogs aren’t typically allowed in the houses. The Koran states that the angels will not come if dogs are present, he says. If you touch a dog you must wash your hands 7 times before you eat. “But I like max”, Abdul says fondly. “ I like him too” and I kneel down and give him a little nuzzle.
He leads me out to my cabin-french doors that open to the mountain line and river below.
My adventure, it seems, has been upgraded to a utopia of sorts. The cabin is beautiful and private. I clean up quickly.
Abdul introduces me to Ibrahim, the cook, who will be giving me a lesson on traditional Moroccan cooking tomorrow. He suggested I go for a walk with Ibrahim to explore the countryside- he didn’t speak much english but we made do. It was my turn to draw on some of the french I should know being canadian. Our walk was more like a small trek through the moroccan forest, merging into small paths occupied only by the odd mule hauling loads of apples and women with shawls carrying baskets.
It was beyond picturesque. We walked for a good chunk of time over the river and into the tiny village that he proudly declares is his home. He conveys that he walks this journey every day and every night to and from work. The very presence of him warms me. “I am Berber” he says placing his hand over his heart, “this is my home”.
The term berber refers to the indigenous people of North Africa. Until now I had not been privy to the authentic berber life high in the atlas mountains that stretch across north Africa. The simplicity and serenity of this way of life becomes clearer with every step.
I marvelled at every stop to catch my breath and wipe my forehead. Clearly my elliptical back home needs a new setting-Moroccan mountain terrain-to tackle a walk like that.
He walked swiftly and I scurried behind, starting at that point to pant a little. On the way back he asks “c’est bon?” I pull from my meager hat of french words “Je suit fatigue” and “Je suis faim”. He looks at me sympathetically and on a small narrow path, he stops a man with his mule and takes three apples from the cart. I devour one before I’ve come around the bend.
It’s unbelievably quiet here. A stark contrast from the buzzing Marrakech. I sat in a small valley below to write. Time in my thoughts that inevitably land in reflection of what is important to me. These moments of pause help to realign with my values.
Its simple really..I thought..invest in those that matter to you and those to whom u matter-invest also in yourself. If it doesn’t feel right it’s likely not right. Be kind and respectful and curious with others but also with yourself. Too long for a bumper sticker but I might screen shot it just to keep me on track when I get home. Our inner sage is much easier to access outside of the noise that consumes us.
I finish my evening with a purée of vegetable soup and tender beef tajine slow cooked with apples-the broth sizzled and spat when Abdul lifted the cone-it came straight from the fire.
My face steamed with sweet aroma. And lastly, some plums and fresh figs. One more sleep until I wrap up this Moroccan journey with a lesson on how to make these exotic delactable masterpieces.