Plan A was to relocate to the Dominican Republic. After months of preparation, we landed in Bávaro where we were effectively based for six weeks as we traversed the country looking for a place that felt like home to us. Lo and behold, we never found such a place and after a short month and a half we were ready to leave the island entirely. It just didn’t click…at least not for us. Plan B was to try our hand at Costa Rica as it’s relatively close to the DR, seems family-friendly as well as ecologically minded and doesn’t have a military. The eastern part of the country has plenty of Caribbean coast so it seemed like the next best thing. We booked flights and shifted gears. A week later, we learned that the country had been hit with heavy rains and extreme flooding which had caused major damage leaving hundreds of people homeless. Of course the area we wanted to go to had been hit the hardest. We canceled our flights. It seemed like we were hitting dead-ends. We considered Honduras, Panama and even Mexico but none of them really lit my fire.
Revisiting several web sites listing the “most affordable countries in the world to live”, a call to my travel agent in the U.S., and the next thing I knew we were on one-way flights to Morocco! Morocco has been on my top 10 list for years so I was ecstatic to not only have a flight aboard Royal Air Maroc, but to be heading to Africa for the first time in my life. I have had a fascination with Africa for as long as I can remember. I have African friends from Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya. Hell, I even had a child with an African. I used to daydream about the day my feet would hit African soil and I hoped it would happen at some point in my life. And here it was, coming into actualization, must faster than I ever imagined. I could hardly believe it. In this life, anything is possible, and when your dreams come true in unexpected and spontaneous ways, it is truly nothing short of magic. I was giddy as a school girl filled with both nervousness and anticipation. We certainly hadn’t prepared for this but we were ready to take the leap. I never knew where I would start in Africa – it is after all the second largest and most populous continent on earth – and I certainly never thought North Africa, but I believe Morocco is exactly where I am supposed to start. In four months I will be 40 years old (gulp) and here I stand on my fourth continent. Insha’Allah.
So far, I am completely enchanted and captivated with Marrakech. Marrakech is Morocco’s fourth largest city after Casablanca, Fez and Tangier. It is a former imperial city, a major economic center and trading hub. In its center lies the medina (the ancient walled city) that is packed with winding, narrow passageways much like a maze or labyrinth. Medina quarters are found throughout cities in North Africa. They were built to keep invaders out so it is very easy to get lost in them because the passageways are narrow, most of them unmarked, and they all look more or less the same. Today, Marrakech’s medina is filled with souqs, mosques, palaces, restaurants and riads. At the center of Marrakech’s medina is the Djemaa El-Fna, or main square, rumored to be Africa’s biggest and busiest. Here you enter a time-warp where both the ancient and modern world collide and coexist. Part Berber, Arab, African and European, on any given day there are four languages being spoken – Darija, French, English and Spanish – as throngs of people meander the square taking in all the stimuli. There are fresh orange juice stalls, horse drawn carriages, traditional water sellers, acrobats, fortune tellers, Barbary apes, snake charmers, musicians, Chleuh dancers, magicians, apothecaries, henna artists, cafés and food stalls. It is a true feast for your senses!
I have only just scratched the surface of this city and this country. From Moroccan design and architecture, to bargaining in the souq like a Berber (I’m told I drive a hard bargain), to finding the best spots for traditional hamman and stuffing my gullet with all assortment of tajines – this is magical Morocco! It has truly enthralled and captivated me in a way I haven’t been in a long time. The blend of Moroccan, Arabic and French culture, the internationality of this city with both its medieval history and modernity and the sheer diversity of people is truly magnificent. Not to mention, Morocco is a photographer’s playground. I’m so grateful and delighted to be here! I feel so fucking alive.