I arrived in Morocco the first time at midnight in springtime.
I was traveling with two women friends. We drove the long dark highway to the coastal town of Essaouira, known as old Mogador, and seagulls welcomed us as we walked the dimly lit pathway to our hotel in the wee hours.
We fell into a deep slumber and awoke to birdsong, Moroccan pancakes with honey and the aroma of sweet mint tea.
Instantly, I fell in love with Morocco and that beginning has only been the doorway to which all other delights have spilled.
“When I meet fellow travelers in North America, I ask them,
‘What did you expect to find here?’ Almost without exception,
regardless of the way they express it, the answer,
reduced to its simplest terms,
is a sense of mystery.
They expect mystery, and they find it,”
~ Paul Bowles (author of The Sheltering Sky) on Morocco
When I reflect on this mystery, certain images appear.
A narrow alley that bends in the medina, quiet and filled with natural ligh.
An entire ancient city made of earth.
A riad surrounded by rooms with an open roofed courtyard.
The call to prayer.
Khobz—bread baked in clay oven.
Succulent meats bathed in spices and dried fruit and cooked in a clay tagine.
Old men coming down from the hills, riding their donkeys sidesaddle, panniers full of mint.
Jma al Fna square…snake charmers, monkey handlers, fortune tellers, fire breathers, pyramids of spices and olives in the souks.
Olive gardens, aromatherapy gardens , the lush apple growing valley of Imlil… argan trees and their nuts cracked and ground by Berber women for their life-giving oil.
Goats in trees, goat hair tents.
Biblical fruit trees, mandarins, endless wheat fields.
Every man a musician, every woman a dancer.
Vast starry skies at night, cloudless blue by day.
Various forms of transportation some ancient, some modern—camels, mules, donkeys, old Citroens and Mercedes.
A simple life that goes beyond our concept—a sense of joy and humor, strength and honor and a sense of hospitality that defies contemporary life.
The moon and stars over the desert.
It’s a land of generosity and kindness… of curiosity and contrasts.
There is mystery in the air and it’s thick.
More Peggy’s experiences of Morocco:
Author: Peggy Markel
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Author’s own