Morocco feels like a story with history older than time and a future wider than the never-ending horizon, shimmering with waves of heat and hope and the poetry of life. life. life. I feel like I’ve been here forever, with the words of living awakening beneath my skin, and at a same time like I’m only just discovering what discovery really means for the first time ever. Did you know that they call this land Meghreb? The land of the setting sun.
Even though we’re living quite a way away from the main city centre and the old city of fes, you can’t help but pass life by every corner. Stalls selling all manner and shapes of fruits and vegetables and freshly squeezed orange juice. Watermelons the size of your coffee table, almost bursting with red ripeness sold from the back of an open truck, mud still fresh on the wheels. Honey Dew melons with stems and leaves still attached, varying shades of bright yellow and orange. Baskets with succulent nectarines and desert Hindiya fruits cut open and peeled for you within the ten seconds since you gestured. The bicycle man, riding up and down the side streets in the morning, singing about the fresh eggs stacked at the back, waving precariously with every pedal. Orange, lemon and lime trees frame the main road and the sunlight glints at you through the strands of fragrant honey suckle, and purple pink flowering buds.
And the old city. Where do I even start? There may be multiple gates to start your story from but the ending is completely yours to control – or let loose if you will. The subtle magic lurking at every twist and turn, the multiple adhans echoing off each other, winding through the alleys reaching every hidden corner, every dark nook. and the architecture, mosaics every colour you can think of and then some, oft celebrated, directed too and framed, attracting masses of tourists, unseen until now. But also many unremarked in its wonder, beneath a closed shop front, well-worn against the steady trickling of the water fountain, stairs hidden behind the illusion of a dead end, only seen by those brave enough to step off the marked main path. You feel like you’re in a place that’s half foreign and half familiar and wholly full to the brim with alive-ness. Kids playing around in courtyards splashing water at each other, weaving through columns of shadow and light. Worshippers prostrating and mothers sitting with their children and figures sleeping and friends talking under calligraphy and mosaic art you’ve only ever seen in pictures and wallpaper downloads.
And there’s remnants of the French colonial rule, everywhere you go. Where other lands try to move away from their past, Meghreb seems to absorb it wholeheartedly to make it their own. From their very mothertongue; the smoothness of French and the lilting Arabic entwining flawlessly to create its own narrative of life. to the the wide tree-lined boulevards, tables and chairs spilling out of cafés, groups of gentlemen, all walks of life, all manner of ages, steaming espresso cups in front of them, some content to watch the life passing in silence, others laughing, discussing, playing chess, cards late into the night. Parisian lampposts and balconies, silhouetting against the last golden light.
And sure, yes, at this time of year, the heat is undeniably somewhat suffocating. a blanket enveloping you tight in its grips the moment you step outside of the shaded blue and white tiled stairs, nothing seems to be settling well in your stomach and there are lizards creeping up the bathroom walls, and these people don’t seem to speak anything you understand and look at you blankly with every attempt at language, clumsy in your mouth. We had a few precious drops of rain a few days ago. While a fraction of the heat here was gathering over back in London, clouds were forming in our skies, evaporating before manifesting into grey, again and again, until a few minutes before sunset, the moisture broke free, splashing on our upturned faces, lungs breathing deep, inhaling that intoxicating petrichor scent of dust and earth and water and relief. Then the smiles on the locals faces, the Salaams directed to you as you walk past the elderly man washing his car and the invitation to spend lunch after Jumm’ah lunch with strangers you just met in the masjid, worshippers overfilling across doorways and staircases.
And all I can think of to describe this land is life. life. life. Life thrumming with every pulse of your blood and every beat of your heart. The broken communication which we get by on, the fruits which feed your soul, and the crazy driving that makes you hang on with your very life. The Q’uran recitation passing you by from a corner shop, the mother and daughter walking arm in arm down the street, the rose bushes as you walk your way to Arabic class, and the contrast against the pastel yellows pinks orange dust coloured buildings and the green and the nature planted with weathered hands witnessed through quick peeks of courtyards within metal gated doors.
Ask me how it is, and it’s like I’m at the very centre of living and I’m buzzing with untold possibilities beneath my skin, and it’s a soul deep itching with the urge to photograph everything and nothing at all, to go out without my phone and offline maps, without my camera and watch and just step out into this great big jumble of life, where the magic of the perpetual golden hour is ingrained into the most ordinary of moments. In the most routine of days. The most genuine of Khayfa-haaluk’s and the most innocent of smiles. And it makes sense, for this is the land of the setting sun, where you’re bathed with golden light, the moon glints from within smiling eyes, and the stars come alive with the laughter of the children and you, you feel like you’ve breathed in a week full of noor along with your regular dose of oxygen and all you can live for is