Most of you i am sure, have picked up a postcard while travelling, the image--cheesy, iconic, captivating, or otherwise--making you think of someone at home with whom you want to share that exact moment with. You take said card to a little table outside a little cafe and order a little coffee and start to write, only to find that the little space on the back of that card is just too little (so is the coffee, for that matter...). There is just too much to say, and where to begin is as much an issue as where to end once you have started. Soon you may have filled in six postcards (and downed four little coffees and a too little pastry), and still do not feel as if you have recreated any of it. That is what i am prepared to do right now: send you all a right stack of postcards knowing i cannot possibly do justice the wonders that Cindy and i have seen, created, been a part of in the thirteen days we have spent so far rocking' Morocco:
(ps, most of this is directly from my journal, at points in time when my head was a little more clear)
DAY1 (and 2, actually, as they really blended together into one 39 hour day of airports):
Im sitting in the plane waiting to take off from Vancouver to London. It just started to rain. See you later Canada...
Im achy from sitting for so long like some crumpled up receipt for too expensive airport water, then standing around the Gatwick airport in London with my thirty pound bag of things you would never think could weigh thirty pounds until i could check my bags and get on another plane to sit another five hours to get to Marrakech. Yet here i am sitting in a bar while i wait for said plane. Not just any bar, Jamie Oliver's bar "Union Jack's" where they have sparkling wine. Now, Morocco seems only, not still, five hours away.
Morocco is no longer five hours away. It is right now. And it smells like cumin.
Sigh. The Medina of Marrakech is in so many ways like a mall: vendors selling much of the same thing for the same price; it feels contained, not lifeless but substance-less. I wonder at the honesty, the artistry. The forceful haggling can be too much, the "magical" facade to sheer.
Then again, it is a wonder to turn a corner, and come to an open-air square encircled by pyramids of glistening olives, jars of the tiniest preserved lemons, the smell briny, and, admittedly, refreshing. Down another alley is a quiet cafe where the lights and furniture are made of recycled tins and sacks serving espresso with crema so thick you could spread it on the hot mssmen (doughy, oily, pancake like street bread) we find down a very not-quiet street. Wandering further we are pursued by a French-speaking gang of young boys, clearly saying things they might not dare say if they thought we understood them, only to be chased away, laughing, by a man who gave us a knowing smile. Other cat calls include "Japon! Arogotto!" a discrimination against Cindys, whose parents are Chinese Canadian. I lost it a bit this time, only to have the vendor laugh and say he meant me, because i was "camera crazy." Touche. Finally we end up in an enclave of handmade lamps, all silver and iron, illuminating the alley and giving a bit of peace from the souks. I have never felt more relaxed being completely lost.
Hiking is a slow and contemplative process made slower by my stomachs failing to cooperate with digestion, and slower still for my deciding to "take the road less travelled" and ending up clinging to the side of a mountain, tearing out larger chunks of gravel to have somewhere to stick my feet and crawl up. For the next hike I would stick to the path. Really though, this is a much slower way than i am used to travelling, and entertaining myself as the scenery remains unchanged is at once frustrating and peaceful. I don't know exactly what i anticipated, but there is something missing from these wanderings.
It is very cold at night...i expected Morocco to have more fires. And more teal.
I did not, however, expect to be teaching yoga to our tour guide, Yacine, on the rooftop of a humble gite in the Atlas Mountains. Its a story i cannot fit even on a figurative postcard, i can only say it was as nurturing and satisfying as any of the number of tagines we have eaten (and easier to digest).
On the last day we picked garbage in the village, got scrubbed down in a local Hammam (i could have lied on that fire heated floor for the rest of the rainy day), and had our last round together of "Berber whiskey"--mint tea.
Now it really begins. Back in the Ville Nouveau of Marrakech, Cind and i set out on our own for the day, and begin really kicking ass at this travelling thing. Not only do we find the cafe we were looking for (at this point, finding anything not at random is a pretty big feet), which is a hip little spot that serves honey and yogurt (very important detail) and is refuge to travellers past abandoned books, but just around the corner is the restaurant we want to hit for dinner the next night, plus a patisserie that to date serves the best gazelle horns, and a french bistro called CHEESEme. The menu is entirely of cheese (tasting plates, warmed cheesy appetizers, tar tines) save for a lime tart with kiwi sorbet--which i wanted to order if only to see such a green dessert. Even the owners sense of humour was cheesy, and the menu cover read "Veni, Vedi, Vi-Cheese"--"i came, i saw, i cheesed". Our first taste of wine in six days. We picked up more at the grocery store on the way home.
For the next four nights, Cind and i are staying in paradise. This riad is such a surprise: each room so detailed thematically or by colour, the orange tree growing in the centre a canopy hung with recycled coffee tin lanterns and the home of a family of tiny birds, the managers Italian leather shoes impossibly shiny. It quickly became a sanctuary. Pictures when i get home.
Other things that make me smile about Morocco:
- the toilet paper here.
- how the dried fruits, especially figs/dates, sometimes taste just like a banana
- how not only can you get freshly squeezed orange juice for five cents canadian, but banana, apple, grapefruit, pineapple, lemon, pear, or avocado juice too. I also recently discovered you can add orange blossom water to your orange juice--its a whole new, kinda fancy juice.
- sesame cookies, the size of a quarter, plump and lemony. They are my perfect sweet.
- Lebanese food in Morocco
- Being witness to a festival that brings together seemingly every person in the country for a day of gratitude and feasting (despite the smell of burning sheep bones, and piles of hides.) Canadian thanksgiving's got nothing on this one.
- The populations unanimous love for Bob Marley
- $3.50 omelette dinners
Day trip to Essouira where we shopped a much more calm medina full of art galleries with working local artists. For dinner we picked our fish and had it grilled over low coals right there by the sea. Free exfoliation from the sand whipping in the wind at us.
But a day mostly of farewells: to our Italian oasis and the days of cake for breakfast, to the couple and their two year old whose connection to in the last twenty four hours was kind of unreal, to Marrakech, already familiar, but exhausting and exhausted.
Fes is home for the next three days, and we have already learned this:
- we are going to spend the next three days very very lost (we may cave and hire a guide...)
- we are going to spend the next three days very very wet (i already bought an umbrella; may buy gumboots if we have to wade through the twenty five mm that is supposed to fall tonight--it is currently leaking through the roof that the wind is threatening to rip off entirely).
- meals are eaten backwards here. A pursuit for b'ssar--butter/fava been and garlic soup--came up with begher-- a semolina crepe i have been searching for for breakfast since we got here. Apparently, the soup is a morning thing to keep you full, the crepes come out at night, with honey, after you have feasted. I feasted on crepes.
- indoor activities: cooking classes (hopefully hand rolling couscous or learning to make those incredible sesame cookies) and more regular blog posts so that they are not so disjuncted with past/present tense and more alive with "I just saw/ate this and am way to damn excited to even try to fit it on a little postcard which would take to long to share it with you anyways!" (and less full of made up words like disjuncted).
Ciao from Morocco