Saharah: new friends, dance and fire…

The desert tour was a mixed bag…
It was get me out of this car, off this camel, away from this wind. And also, leave me by this fire a little longer so I can soak its warmth deeper into my skin, let me linger by this view, let this continue, this; conversation, sensation, amazement.

Beautiful companions always full of laughter in the atlas mountains
Beautiful companions always full of laughter in the atlas mountains

We drove through the Atlas Mountains and stopped at ait Ben haddou- an ancient village where game of thrones and gladiator (among a dozen other movies) were filmed, it was unbelievable that people continue to live there and they have to rebuild the buildings annually using dirt, straw and, for some parts, stones.

Ait Ben haddou
Ait Ben haddou

A tasteless couscous was served for dinner at a big hotel in the valley of roses, in which we saw many signs for rose water but no actual roses.

Another day of driving and by sunset we had arrived at merzougha: the door of the desert.

Is was bizarre. Impressive but not overwhelming, I believe my words were “oh wow, it’s actually quite pretty”. We were lost in a lack of communication, our guide made us laugh uncomfortably until we realised he was actually aware of how inappropriate he was being (“my bed will be cold tonight, won’t you join me?” -No. No we won’t.) the whole group lead to their camels except for us three Aussie girls and a Japanese couple. We weren’t told why as they started putting our bags into a car.

They had run out of camels.

This didn’t really phase us as the others had been on camels before and it didn’t appeal to me anyway. So we sped through the dunes on the roof of a 4×4, sailing the orange sea. They waves curved over on one side, lit by the setting sun, and hollowed out on the other, casting deep shadows.

We arrived at last light and were determined to run up the biggest sand dune we laid eyes on. It was huge and tiring. Foot cramps and coarse throats we complained and laughed our way to the top, feeling accomplished we turned away from the dune to look over the desert only to look into never ending darkness. Still, I felt alive. Wind on my cheeks, my baggy pants blowing in every direction.

Running down was my favourite part of the three day trip. We bounded down, sprinting and landing on darkness. It was how I imagine it would feel to jump on clouds… Surreal and limitless.

Camp for the night
Camp for the night

We met an Aussie guy and after dinner everyone went to bed save us and the Moroccans working. Together we made music, drums, cymbals, clapping and song. They asked us to dance so I obliged (happily) spinning in this tent full of noise… They know how to create a beat, and laughed at my drumming attempts.

We shared jokes which surprisingly overcame the language barrier. We played the memory game ‘when I went to the desert I brought…’ And when they asked for Australian songs we sung ‘we are one’ the quantas song and our national anthem, followed with enthusiasm by avril lavigne and spice girls.

The guys lead us out into the dunes. “Are you sleepy?” They asked, “yes, very” I replied. “No! Let’s make a fire!”

Fire in the Sahara
Fire in the Sahara

So we gathered sticks along the way, passed the camels and found a spot well away from camp. The fire raged in the wind of the Sahara. There were no stars, a light, misty rain set in. The fire died and we warmed our feet on the sand thrown over the coals.

We laid out blankets on the sand and snuggled together in the open. We had the desert all to ourselves it felt.

Before first light we rode camels (somehow more camels appeared overnight.) back to town. Waves of sand eventually rolled into the light of the sun rising by our backs.

Camels!
Camels!

My legs are still aching from that camel ride.

We had a 12 hour drive home. We drove through flooded rivers because our driver asked us to vote wether or not we should go. We had sing alongs and ate our way through a tub of peanut butter on stale corn cakes.

It wasn’t my ideal way of travel, I doubt it’s anyone’s ideal method when it involves so much time in transit and basically no freedom. But the company was incredible and kept my spirits high, the desert was intriguing and I felt I lived out a little bit of my personal destiny shown to me by the alchemist… Haha.
“The desert will give you an understanding of the world; in fact, anything on the face of the earth will do that. You don’t even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.”

“He had lived every one of his days intensely since he had left home so long ago.”

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”

-Pau Cohello, the alchemist.


 

So in England a few days later: I meet a girl on a bus and we share an uber home, we happen to be staying around the corner from each other. The driver stops me before I get out, “now you are a traveler, everyone you meet is an angel to help you along your way. Kate helped you just now. You’ve seen this haven’t you?”

Yes. 100% I have witnessed this. People coming into my life at the perfect moment, and leaving me too.

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream,”
-Paul Cohello, the alchemist

I feel like the Shepard right now… Hunting for treasure, finding it all around me. I could surely turn myself into the wind if need be, I feel so capable.

Am I the Shepard yet?
Am I the Shepard yet?

First hammam experience

The four of us, 3 Australians and one Canadian, just recently aquatinted wandered through a colourfully tiled hallway into reception of hammam mouassine. We paid 100MAD (10€) and were directed by gestures to go into the next room and strip. Giggling at the situation of getting to know each other so quickly, we stumbled along to the next room. It was warm and steamy and filled with Moroccan women splayed about on mats on the glistening tiles washing themselves (the entry for this was about 50cents, a lot of houses in Morocco don’t have showers so it serves as a communal one). In the centre of the ceiling was a dome pricked with multi coloured holes, poles of light fell through sparking upon contact with the wet floor.
We sat and observed as buckets of water were placed around us. Warm water was thrown violently over us and one by one we met our personal… ‘Scrubber?’ (For lack of a better word). We were soaped up with black Argan oil soap and scrubbed down with mits. We were shown to lay down on the floor were we slid around and relaxed, feeling our layers slowly come off. The women pointed, laughing at all the black skin rolling off us.
They scrubbed our every inch, stomach, feet, our underarms and… Well everywhere!
They then washed our hair and I was brought right back to the bathtub I sat in as a little girl, my mum pouring cups of water over my head. It felt amazing, a sensation id forgotten. I felt completely taken care of being cleaned head to toe, the women took on a strangely maternal role.
A quick rub with something that looked like mud and another wash down we were picked up off the floor and wrapped in towels and lead out to drink mint tea.

Dancing around Ben youssef madrasa
Dancing around Ben youssef madrasa

I don’t think I have ever taken the time to be so thoroughly cleaned. We all agreed we felt like new born babies and couldn’t stop touching our new skin with huge grins.

Reflecting on Essaouira

Looking back on my time in Essaouira I feel so nostalgic. I bathe it in a light of perfection, air brushing flaws. Truthfully I didn’t like it to begin, I thought I would leave after a week. Thank goodness I didn’t because the love and lessons presented to me there are unparalleled…

I stumbled upon what I wrote when I arrived to Essaouira, how I felt being in the town and compared it to what I wrote after a few weeks and also just yesterday, everything I feel for the place now in hindsight.

Some things take time.

 

A few days have passed in Essaouira:

There is some part of me that feels lost here. Focussing inwards would surely help, easier said than done. I want to learn but am uncertain as to how. I need to move my body more, inspire growth through this movement- inspire joy! Go ahead: Wash your clothes, make real food. Meet a local, form a real bond. Open yourself up and give yourself over when you can. Be real, be alive but be you. Focus. Do yoga, go surfing, walk lots, listen too.

Be still and reflect then dance and forget.

The time is now. Now or never! Respect that you haven’t chosen this- it is the universe who has created this path of events to place you here with all those who surround you. If you feel the need to leave, that too is the universe guiding you. Either way, make sure you take time to listen first. Really allow yourself the opportunity to hear the voice of the universe. Hear its plans- however unseeable.

I am yet to see the point of this stop. That, for now, is enough to tell me I am not finished here. I am not ready to accept that the lesson here is that I don’t fit in everywhere, that my social skills are still so messy, that I am still so uninspiring (To myself and others). Wait and see. What an exciting prospect that something awaits you now. That you are on the verge of discovering something that will make you look back and go “wow, it all makes sense…”

Stay excited.

 

Nearing the end of my stay:

The hostel had emptied and it was nearing 10pm, but I couldn’t let the day finish with this boredom looming over me. I head outside.

The streets of this city were always hiding friends, whether i knew them already or not didn’t make too much difference.

I ran into Imad, and he was with a bunch of other guys i knew. We crowded around buskers (who I also knew by now) where an elderly Moroccan guy danced. One of the breakdancing buskers who’d been in Essaouira for a while now ended up joining in along with a female tourist. A hilarious show proceeded into the night. These new friends welcomed me, joking around, making me laugh.

Imad walked me home where I found my other friends, “let’s go! Ali is playing!”

Ali is a drummer at a nearby beach bar so together we piled in the taxi. We danced a few hours and wandered home around 2am, along the beach the wind blowing a gale the guys piled us girls up with their layers claiming to be warm.

Felafel sandwiches and mint tea before bed.

My last morning I went for one last walk around this city. This home. God I love this place. I ran into Imad and we walked along the beach together for a couple hours. “Religion, marriage, love, travel…”

Ibrahim invited me for one last coffee.

Anna prepared one last feast of many types of bread.

Hugs and tears, the bus pulled away and my heart hasn’t quite left those white walls and blue doors, those kittens hiding in winding alleys, the wind has captured my heart in its chilling tentacles. I’ll be back.

Wow, I am grateful. I can’t believe the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met. Thankyou, Thankyou, Thankyou…

I have learnt not to waste time. Call people you want to see. Do things always, don’t waste spare time. Do head stands, learn, learn, learn. Make new friends, invite them over to eat. It will be okay. Give in. LOVE.

 

one month later:

I miss Morocco.

I am resisting England with all of my might, which I know is the totally wrong way to go about it.

But I can’t help it when no one meets my gaze walking down the street, where the streets are emptied of friends and music and fish guts and kittens…

The coffee is good but the company is nonexistent. How I would love to go back and accept every invitation for coffee I ever received in Essaouira. Oh and the roof tops. And the cheap food that was, most importantly, shared. The sugar laden tea that surely my teeth are cursing me for. The peace of mind that allowed me to truly practice yoga. The dancing in the street.

The friends. The love.

I will move on, let it go. It’s over now, I realise this. My friends are now dispersed across the country. Still, I can’t help hearing this cry from within that I left too early. Did I live out the experience to its full? Did I learn all I could?

Then again even in leaving early I have learnt. I have abandoned so many relationships on the cusp of real, lasting connection. If I had of pushed them that inch, that mile further… What could they have become? Try that next time.

It helps to be recognised as a tourist (sometimes)- it’s a conversation starter. You’re interesting. They’re interesting. You are united in you differences. You are both experts in things the other probably knows very little about.

It just felt so FREE! And now I feel locked in chains, the streets here push in in a totally new way. Before it was anonymity I was after. Now they’re telling me to keep my head down, to accept anonymity. And now that I’ve known such recognition I can’t BARE this solitude.

I want crazy back. Salsa, Spanish, camping for the hell of it, neck massages as I walk the streets by moon light, strangers approaching so openly.

All in good time… Insha’allah.


And it does… It all makes sense.

let the cycle begin again: change, resistance, acceptance, adoration, change.

Unbelievable musicians, kind, funny, dancing friends
Unbelievable musicians, kind, funny, dancing friends

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Surf girls
Surf girls

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Post surf
Post surf