It’s 2004. I am 37. I have survived the roller-coaster ride of being a single mother, a failed long term relationship, a failed business, and have finally come out at the other end.
My daughter is thriving. My advertising business is growing. I buy a property in the South African bushveld to build a getaway. I buy a magnificent coffee table Rissoli book on The Great Hotels of Africa. The opening pages are magnificent Riads in Morroco. I have to go.
Best of all is that I have a new partner in crime. I have recently made a new friend who is quite a lot older than me, is well-traveled, funny, stylish. She owns a decorating and accessory shop and is always up for an adventure. I take on the planning. I haven’t been abroad outside of work travel for more than a decade and I’m beyond excited. We check our schedules for where we have a gap and July is it. I book our flights. I find 3 magnificent Riads – one in the old city of Marrakech where we will start our holiday, I in Essaouira on the coast, a 3rd in the Palmerai outside Marrakech, and finally 1 night in the Hilton in Casablanca on our way home.
Off we go. And so the journey begins.
We have no idea of what we’re getting into, but are so very excited. Johannesburg. Dubai. Casablanca, and a train to Marrakech. And that’s where the fun begins. We have to get off and swop lines along the way, and we’re anticipating a wonderful stop where we can stock up on a few local magazines, have a tea … but we have to walk across the railway tracks to get to the other side for our connection, and there’s nothing other than a water seller. We wait in the baking sun, hysterical (exhaustion and nerves) at our naïveté.
Madness. A traffic circle so big and so busy that the car lights blur as they race around. We’re in a tiny Fiat Uno. I don’t look up. Dragging our suitcases we cross the extraordinary square of the Djma el Fna to meet our host, our eyes as big as saucers. We follow him through a warren of alleyways, wondering how we’ll ever find our way on our own. It’s hot, dusty, busy. We’re assaulted by smells, colour, people, things.
We stop in front of magnificent, tall wooden doors, step over the threshold, and fall in love.
We make friends of the shop owners as we wander through the Medina. Shouts of “Afrique de Sud” greet as each morning and evening. I’m like a child in a sweet shop. We buy 27 carpets on our first evening out. 4 days later, we have bought enough goods for a container to be shipped home. We can’t get enough. It’s a frenzy. We’re high on life. laughter and great food.
A lesson from a sage companion.
But…. I am impatient. There’s so much to see, to do, to compare, to buy. But that’s not the way things work. I need to greet slowly and respectfully. Sit and drink endless cups of peppermint tea (that I really don’t like at all) to discuss a price and barter. I’m getting infuriated at the slow pace of it all.
My wise friend, on the other hand, is ambling along, laughing and enjoying herself as she drinks the endless glasses of peppermint tea. Her eyes dance every time a storekeeper engages with us because she sees my irritation coming. Give me a price. I will decide if it’s worth it or not. If it is – I’ll buy. If not, move on. I am totally switched off to the joy of the dance. The clock’s ticking! I try to hurry her along the winding alleyways and she totally ignores my fast pace.
Slowly I begin to realise that I don’t need to rush.
We can take our time. We have plenty of it. I slow down and try to enjoy the dance – but definitely not the peppermint tea!
We head off to Essaouira – I’ve booked a “limousine with air-con” to get us there. An old style Mercedes Benz pulls up to collect us at the edge of the medina. The windows can’t wind up – that’s our air-con. We are beside ourselves with laughter as we fly along to the coast, driving through areas that look untouched since biblical times. We arrive. Blue water, the magnificent fort, our perfect little hotel. We are constantly filled with joy, surprise, delight at each perfect detail and experience.
We’re back in Marrakech, arriving in our “limousine” at the Palmerie. Rose petals are scattered at our feet as we walk to reception. More hysterics as we try to be polite, sophisticated, used to being treated this way. We’re film stars, living life in the movies! We eat the most delicious breakfast ever, honey dripping from the comb, beside the most beautiful fountain in our courtyard. We never want to leave.
A journey home.
Suitcases laden, container confirmed, it’s time to head home via Casablanca. We check into the Hilton. It’s a let-down after the splendour and exquisite attention to detail of the Riads. Do we or don’t we head out into the medina? We look out of the window over the sprawling old city, minarets gleaming in the sunshine and decide we’ve had our fill. Room service and an early night in our sterile hotel room.
A new, shiny, black Mercedes Benz takes us to the airport and we begin our journey home. Elated yet sad. We leave knowing we’re forever changed. And by the time we board our flight, we’re already discussing where to travel next.
Back to reality. Bringing 2004 into 2020.
I hope you enjoyed my “trip” to Morocco. It changed the trajectory of my life and made me realise one of the reasons for working hard is to afford the pleasure of travel. The joy of travelling with friends is one of the reasons I so strongly believe that we have to make sure we are independent, fit and active, able to enjoy the adventures life has to offer. Our world – whether close or far – is full of extraordinary opportunities to learn, grow, be expansive and appreciate the splendour of people and the planet. Every adventure I’ve been privileged to enjoy have taught me valuable life lessons – about others, and myself.
A year later, my friend and I headed off on our next trip. I can’t wait to dive into my albums so that I can share the joy and fun we had in Spain and Paris with you.