This is the Morocco travel story: Jemaa el-Fnaa & a broken water bottle.
This must be so-called African time. The train is more than an hour late and I’m sort of done hanging out in the shade of the burning sun. In a couple of minutes, I’ll lose the shady seat because the sun is moving or the earth is. It doesn’t really matter at this very moment. All that matters is that I didn’t put any sunscreen on and I can’t move closer to the left as a girl is sitting there. Might as well start a conversation. Her name is Ella and she’s from Casablanca originally, now on her way to Marrakech for a party. In fact, she was a true angel who helped me find the way to the doorsteps of my accommodation in Marrakech. Beautiful life lesson always approaches strangers with an open heart, you never know why your ways are crossing. Then the train arrives and we sit down in the air-conditioned 2nd class. There was space, both of us take a window seat.
Fields pass on by, it’s all yellow. It’s harvest time. Twenty people are working right below the midday sun in the burning heat. The train passes a couple of villages. Passengers get on and off. A lady with a new-born takes a seat then leaves with the brightest smile. We tell each other good-bye. Her little boy smiles. Seventeen minutes later, we pass a small pond with thousands of white birds resting. I’m not kidding. A cemetery appears followed by a football field made of red African sand. Kids play in the streets. Men walk in long gowns. Trash and plastic bottles along the track remind of the omnipresent culture of always buying the new, dumping the old. Carpets hang on the top of a building. There is a huge clock inside the train, it reminds me of Russia. I count the seconds in my mind. 31. 32.33.
Steve Wilson sings “We had every chance but we just make it worse. The principal of love has no way here. Only above the clouds, I am free.” We pass a factory with three Chinese heads on posters on top of the building. Ella says 5% Chinese living here in Morocco, they copy and produce. Cheap. 21.22. So the day will begin again, take comfort within, that seems to be the message I get from my earphones as well as the mules living in this desert.
The first proper day in Marrakech. I run into a medicine man of the Aquarian tribe who tells me how Ginseng is the local Viagra alternative.
“Does your boyfriend need some help? Put this into his tea.”
Then I go, following the travel vibe coming from my heart chakra. It seems to be particularly loosened here similar to the screws within my sunglasses. The forty-degree sun melts everything together. Shall I continue into the YSL garden or spend these precious minutes chillaxing at the pool? Even on “holiday”, you gotta face those tough life decisions. I can’t deny that I’m a bit sad to not have taken my Canon, and that amazing zoom lens, on this trip. Lesson learned minimalism is not all. I’m slightly lost in thoughts when I finally notice the brown eyes of the boy in the car who has been staring at me for the past eight minutes. They remind me of a stuffed animal. My eyes jump in the form of a triangle between the watery butter on the table, the pencil in my hand and then back to the pinheads which are his eyes. If there is one thing I notice about Moroccans, it’s their beautiful light brown eyes.
I’m feeling like an object. Is that it? Am I a thing rather than a human being in this country? Okay, I get it. I can walk through these alleyways for a certain amount of time. In the beginning, it was pure craziness. It was a completely new experience.
“Wow, I’m in the Orient.”
But soon I realized what was really going on in these streets, namely commerce! I didn’t come here to buy anything and this was really a dilemma. I came to learn about the culture and having conversations with locals was part of the way to become one. Maybe there were too many intents thrown at me to start a conversation but how would you feel when all those phrases are thrown your way?
“Have you checked my latest collection?”
“Are you from Denmark? You wanna buy something?”
“Best leather ever.”
It’s low season and the guys want to make some money. And here I am, a tourist with a minimalist mindset who lives abroad and who could probably pack up her entire life in two to three suitcases.
“Are you from Holland? Germany? Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
Part of me says I should give it a chance, find a way to get to know the locals better. I try to understand how to remove the social gap. So I walk with a smile. I’m not able to talk to all of them but a smile can do. A few instances later a street vendor replies with a smile, ensuring me this is the way forward.
Damn Topshop sunglasses! I’m sitting on a park bench and cry my heart out. It feels so liberating and at the same time, I’m noticing that these dark emotions are all over me again. I’m in a sort of hate-flow if such a word exists. All because of these stupid sunglasses. Why did I pay 18 quit for these? I’m constantly pushing the frame up my nose again. I’m on the edge of dumping them right here. Right now.
Maybe that’s life.
You have to endure those circumstances. A sort of interplay of various factors. A balancing act in which we would love the one thing (so very much) but we cannot let go on the other end. I’d love to dump these glasses so I wouldn’t get upset about those freaking screws anymore but then I’d expose my teary eyes. Quite a dilemma.
“Mademoiselle. Ca va?”
It’s sweet how strangers talk to you in these moments. Crying may be a solitary matter but it also brings people closer together. Yet those words only appeared as a shrill knock outside on my crystal ball. Eventually, I got over my tantrum and bumped into a Moroccan family who was also on the way to the YSL spot.
Within the garden, my thirty-pound water bottle falls to the ground and breaks into pieces. All my water for the day wells away on the red concrete. Was this a reflection of my situation? A couple of minutes before I gave my emotions all the freedom they demanded and now the water bottle wanted the same? Where’s the nearest garbage bin?! Hell yeah, I can say goodbye. I don’t need you!
I spend a couple of minutes on the cold stone bench. It’s really nice here, such a picturesque place. How the designers laid out the different elements, it’s definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. However, I’m utterly disgusted at the same time. They should have put a sign up saying this could very much be Disneyland. As far as the eye can see, there are phones and cameras everywhere. And sadly I’m no better myself. Maybe this moment is so much more valuable than others, so we want to focus on it. We want to nail this precious memory into our cortex so when it’s November, grey and rainy, and we’re shivering on the way to the office, we can go back to this. So we know that life can offer us something else, occasionally. Is that it?
I’m not entirely sure what I expect from traveling. Yes, traveling is a luxury but I’m completely aware that this high life can be extremely obnoxious. Maybe traveling is about finding those special places before the masses arrive. And I firmly believe this travel from tourism.
Cobras rising their heads to the shrill music. The men belonging to the serpent, or maybe the serpents belonging to the men, are sending me cold shivers down the spine. Obviously, the men are not playing the flute for fun. I’m standing in front of the large cacti and have a good outlook, especially towards those shoe cleaners. The offering of service, or products. Is that the moral of it all? I’m just about to formulate a thesis when life throws me of course. Hundreds of birds are shooting through the sky. I get goosebumps and my eyes are tearing up, it’s so dramatic. Somehow we humans are like a swarm of birds, or? We’re going to each other but still, the occasional outlier exists. I spot a bird who flies on its own and I love it very much.
“You’re good at something where I suck at and vice versa.”
A man comes up and hands me a couple of images. I realize they aren’t made of paint but rather of dead butterflies. What the f*? Is this beauty over here? It’s a continuous up and down and I’m not even sure what I mean by that. Sorrow may not be the right description but there is something sitting within me I notice. I just can’t put my finger onto it. Then they appear again, those hundred birds in the sky.
I get it. I think. A constant exchange, a perfect cooperation.
What crowning glory on this last evening. I went to a restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet but couldn’t dare to sit down.
“I return for my honeymoon,” that’s what I tell the waiter.
It felt better to be outside, to eat with the locals even though it didn’t say that in the book. I was right within the buzz and actually had the best peppermint tea of my life. Here the grandmas and grandpas were smiling, not talking. The kitten was climbing on a chair and stretched like a Cinderella. A man was pleasurably picking his nose.
I understand how difficult it can be for the normal “western” citizen to fully embed themselves in different cultures. I understand the opinion of my mother that she, at least, wants a holiday with the same quality as back home. I understand that she wants to wear her best clothing during those luxurious holy days in the year. But I wouldn’t trade this very moment for anything else. It’s strange but I don’t have to hold on to these matters. Out here I feel so much more like a queen than inside the Mamounia hotel starring at Dior handbags and bottles of champaign. I love wearing a sweaty shirt five minutes after I put it on.
Probably this hustle and bustle in Marrakech is only a reflection of the buzz in every country. That damn beauty of recognizing one’s own pattern but still being trapped within. Marrakech I hate and love you at the same time. Despite all the slaps you’ve given me, you’ve also shown me what it means to be one with the people. Such luxury.
The door of the little mosque opens, men are pouring outside. Time doesn’t exist, it’s only the moment.
Do you think there is truth to a genie in a bottle? If so, what does he do?