There is a very, very good chance that I may regret sharing this, as it’s rather personal, and was never written with the intention of being seen by others – let alone “published.” But perhaps that is simultaneously why I feel a desire to post it here, for the handful of individuals that might be interested.
Those that know me well know that I am absolutely obsessed with Morocco after a magical trip just over two years ago. They would also know that I am adamant about keeping a journal – atleast when I travel. In addition to compulsively logging little details that will tragically escape us as time goes on, the process is tremendously cathartic. My vacations alone are always wonderfully therapeutic. And fun!!
Perhaps I feel a desire to share this, as it was recently such a wonderful experience for me to revisit this day. I commented in my diary, and it is absolutely true – I will look back upon these moments when I am an old woman, assuming, of course, that I’m lucky enough to live to a ripe old age. I remember trying with all my might to account for every sensation around me, in an attempt to make the memories as vivid as possible – that way it would take them longer to leave me. At any rate, here is a snippet. Again, it is not necessarily the most articulate, as it was only intended for myself. Also, I can never locate the accents on this computer, so apologies for the French grammatical errors. But if nothing else, I hope this inspires someone to be adventurous and to find the courage to experience such life-changing beauty.
We got dressed and headed out. We went to what I’d call a local bodega to get sandwiches adn drinks, and hailed a “cab” – read, a horse-drawn carriage, to the beach.
It was stunning. It was the local’s beach, and it was mostly barren. I ran in the water for a bit – the Atlantic is freezing! I came back, and we laid in the sand under the sun.
The sun in Africa is brilliant, so much brighter than back home. Things seem to be amplified somehow, and it was intoxicating to lay there for a few hours.
Eventually we left, took another carriage, and Hamouda took me to the bus station to get a ticket for later that evening. I am still overwhelmed by the kindness of these strangers, and how they took the time to take care of me and to make sure that I would be ok. I’m writing this, incidentally, as I am sitting at a cafe in the airport in Casablanca, and I am feeling a strange sadness that I was not anticipating.
A part of my heart and soul is here now….
Another carriage ride to the Medina, and we went to visit dear Salah at his spice shop.
He made us ‘royal tea,’ an intricate and exotic mix of fresh herbs and spices. Verbena, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, there is no way that I can remember exactly what it entailed. It was one of the most exquisite drinks I have ever had. He showed me various spices, perfumes, and natural pigments made from herbs and crushed shells. A special treat from Essaouira, le pourpre feminin, was a green powder that turned a gorgeous shade of magenta when mixed with water, made me think immediately of Laura, so I picked some up. La musk gris, a solid perfume, was purchased for myself, and sacks of glorious spices for Dan.
Hamouda offered to get me fish as I drank more tea in the spiceshops with his friends, as prices double and triple for tourists. I had no sense of how much to get, so I gave him 100 D, or $13. He came back with a feast for 4. Which reminds me – the other night, when I was awakened by Salah and pals, we all shared this gorgeous fish tagine that he’d made me. It was delicious, and so nice to enjoy such a delicious meal with my new friends.
Salah took me to a tiny derb, where locals go to have the fresh fish grilled on the spot. Sardines, shrimp, calamari, and some big fish-fish were handed over, and we went for a walk through the medina and to the beach as it cooked.
I should mention, Hamouda had something to do that afternoon, so this would actually be the last time I’d see him. Funny, huh?
I just adore Salah, I couldn’t stop laughing. We go into a tiny shop in the derb where you bring your dinner, and I felt totally ridiculous. Salah would go between his shop and the restaurant to hang out with me, and we invited his friend Camel to join us.
Oh! PS, when we first arrived, some guy was smoking a pipe, and they passed it to me. It was some Moroccan herb that gets you a little stoned, but it burned like hell. I coughed SO hard, it was a riot.
After stuffing myself silly (it was, hands down, the most amazing seafood I have ever had), Salah and I took off for a Riad, Le Coin des Artistes, and smoked some hash joints inside with Hamouda’s brother. I feel like these people have been my friends for ages.
Salah and I take off again to see the sunset. He takes me to a spot where the fishermen are preparing to head out, and again, there are no tourists.
To be with a local is totally liberating. The strange cat calls and hisses cease completely, and I feel myself relax so profoundly with him. We can’t stop giggling and making jokes, and I find him totally fascinating.
He is a Berber from Mali, raised in the Sahara desert, that’s also a musician that speaks 4 languages. Jesus.
He explained that, since they were so secluded, the family would speak French one week, English another, etc. It’s just amazing. He also wears a traditional headwrap, and it is the first time that I learn about a culture where men must cover up as well. It is removed only when they make love.
We keep going, to a tiny bar on the seaside. The port seems ancient (well, it is), and we have a few beers and the giggles come on stronger. I have a bus to catch at midnight, and precious little time, but I know that I am well taken care of and that I will make it.
We have to race back to Hamouda’s so I can shower and grab my things, and he grabs my hand as we run through the medina, laughing like children, dodging people and donkeys and merchants and God only knows what else. It is so simple, but I swear, I will never forget that moment for as long as I live. It’s the kind of experience where, I am certain, I’ll reflect when I’m an old woman and rejoice in the memory of feeling so free.
We came back, another hash joint, I take a shower with a bucket of water over a Moroccan toilet, and grab a cab so that I may check my bags at the station.
Only one hour left.
Still hand in hand, we head back to the riad to hear his friends play live music. They are magnificently talented guitarists, and we, sadly, are only able to stay for but a moment.
He takes me to one last special place, a beautiful bar overlooking the sea. We have one last beer together, and I feel so genuinely tragic that I must leave.
As we’re walking to the station together, always holding hands, he tells me something that may always haunt me (sigh, and in French). He says that he must tell me something before I leave, and whether I feel the same or understand or not, he must tell me before I’ve gone. “Je pense que je commence a tombe amoureux de toi. C’est fou, je te connait pas, mais cet connexion est rare; c’est comme je te connait depuis toujours.” (I think that I’m starting to fall in love with you. It’s crazy, I don’t know you at all, but this connection is rare; it’s like I’ve always known you)
I don’t know what to say. I, too, feel a deep connection to this exotic and wonderful person.
He says that he’s been searching so long to find someone like me, and now I must leave in half an hour. “C’est triste, mais ca ne peut pas rester le fin de notre histoire” (it’s sad, but this cannot be the end of our story). It’s like the first installment of a movie, he says, he cannot wait to see what happens.
He tells me that he loves my spirit, my kindness, my sense of humor, everything, and I really do feel like this person appreciates me profoundly.
He asks me if I feel the same way. I feel almost anxious – do I?? If I do, what’s the point, he is SO far from me! But I do…………..so I tell him so.
I feel so well taken care of, he is a true gentleman in every possible respect. And I feel very strongly that I will see him again.
He told me that after I leave, I’ll be all he can think about, and I find that I’ve been thinking about him sans cesse. I actually cried when my plane took off this morning. Saying goodbye to this person really hurt, even though he has only been a part of my life for but a brief moment…but I feel like he enriched it so tremendously. I was already in love with Morocco, but now it’s like a second home, and I have someone that genuinely cares about me there.
“N’oublie pas que, quand te es a New York, il y a toujours quelqu’un qui t’aime bien a Essaouira.”
(Do not forget that, when you are in New York, there will always be someone that loves you in Essaouira.)