Keep moving

Depending on who you talk to, the word Marrakesh has different meanings.  The one I’ve heard the most is that Marrakesh comes from an old Arabic saying “mur kush” which means “pass through quickly”.  Apparently Marrakesh was renowned for highway robbers, so visitors were advised to move along quickly.  And I suspect this is good advice for current times.  To me Marrakesh is sticky, if you don’t move quickly you wake up 8 years later, still here.

Why do so many foreigners decide to live here? The sum of the parts doesn’t seem to add up to the whole: when you break it down, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly amazing or unique about Marrakesh.  Ok, the sun.  Well it’s sunny in California, and in Spain, and I’m sure in a few other places as well.  What else?  Yes, schools are good and if you get your kids in early they will learn Arabic and French.  I certainly am appreciating that, but really, the teaching methodology is somewhat archaic.   There is nothing in Marrakesh like the Waldorf school of my dreams.   And yes, life’s affordable, but if you’re looking for third-world, i’m living on a dollar a day cheap, this ain’t it.

So why are we here, because I don’t know about you but I find that covering life’s basic needs in Marrakesh is a challenge.  Oh to be sure, not like the challenges this woman bravely faces in India.  It’s not, I-haven’t-had-water-in-three-days type of hard.  But is it really necessary to bring in a newly issued birth certificate for each of my kids every time they start a school year?  And because I lived in different houses when each of them was born, that means trips to 3 different “Muqata’as”.  I clutch my pink “family book” along with all other parents there and when it’s my turn, i peer in at the clerk through the dingy glass and realize that this is taking so long because they have to look up each child in, and i’m not kidding, a giant black ledger.  Computers, anyone?

It’s not that it’s not doable, it just takes all day more often than not.  But it begs the question, is this really necessary?

So, why indeed are we here, or should I say, why are you here?  Because I was born here, I’m a second generation ex-pat, if that’s possible.  Why do we choose to stay?

Because there is something intangible that makes it all real.  Because there is “baraka” or blessing in the smallest of interactions.

Because the man who reads our electric meter also gave my husband and I each a date.

Because God’s name is mentioned all the time, a new task is begun “in the name of God” or “bismillah” and ends with “praise God” or “alhamdulillah”.

Because people here love children, and they find joy in engaging them.  Because when my kids were little wigglers, waiters at restaurants would hold them while I (frantically and gratefully) ate, clerks in shops would hold them while I tried on clothes and shopkeepers would and still do give them a sweet.

Because people here still haven’t forgotten how to be human, how to be families, and it teaches you how to be human, and families, if you didn’t pick that up growing up.

Because you will find just enough of what you need here, enough of what you’re missing from back home.  Whatever your thing is, whether it’s sushi, golf, holisitic healing, organic food or what have you, chances are you’ll find it, not necessarily in the yellow pages, more often by serendipitous happenstance.

Because there is enough latitude in people’s thinking here to be a little different and still get along.

Because if you didn’t keep moving from day one, chances are you belong here.

Getting my feet wet

As I said, I’m a total blogging newbie.  So here it is, my first photo upload.

Those are the Atlas Mountains, as seen from the Ourika valley, outside of Marrakesh.

I am expecting a new camera, arriving from the States soon.  I can’t wait.

What would you like to see pictures of?

And so we begin…

Bismillah,

Welcome to my blog.

Hmmm, I’m a little nervous, starting a new blog and all.  This is not as easy as it looks.

Why a new blog?  For the challenge of a new creative project, to share a little of what my life is like, as woman, wife, mother of three, teacher, and seeker of beauty, living in the bustling city of Marrakesh, Morocco.

I hope that this blog will eventually provide an answer the question I am asked by so many “What is there to do in Marrakesh?”.  Although (I hope) my answers may differ from the guide books.

Whether you are in Marrakesh for a day, a week, or a lifetime…whether you love it here or have been unwittingly held captive…or a little of both…this blog will have a little something for you.

So let’s start it off with a list.  The best things in life are free, but as a visitor to Marrakesh, you may feel like everyone wants their cut, whether it’s that snake charmer whose picture you snapped when you thought he wasn’t looking (believe me he was), or the friendly kid who shows you the way back to your riad when you get lost in the old city labyrinth for the 17th time.  But surely there must be something you can enjoy that does not leave you an Accidental Consumer.

Top 5 Cheap Thrills to Enjoy in Marrakesh:

1-The Sun.  Let’s face it, that’s why there are so many direct flights from Europe to Marrakesh.  (and so many rather red looking tourists blinking in the Marrakesh sun).  Today, in the middle of January, while Londoners worry about whether there will be enough grit for the icy roads, Marrakshis worry about forgetting the sunscreen (or not, since most of us don’t actually use any).

2-Getting High.  ODid that get your attention?  Good, but I’m not talking about “that kind of high”.  One of the best ways to see Marrakesh is from a rooftop.  Gaze off across the Great Sea of Sattelite Dishes.  The palm trees remind you that you are in the desert.  And during the winter months, when the Atlas mountains receive their regal mantle of snow, and the haze is chased away by the cold, well folks that’s postcard material right there.

3-Tea. It’s the fuel that keeps Moroccans going.  Available everywhere, whether its the rug seller you just sealed a deal with, or the Moroccan family you are just dropping in to see, your presence will be honored with tea. Ingredients: green gunpowder tea, mint and SUGAR.  No, it’s the not the mint that makes it sweet!  Just looking at a pot of Moroccan tea might give you diabetes.  However, one taste of this sweet nectar, and you will succumb to its addictive powers.

4-Hospitality.  Should be so lucky as to be invited into the home and hearts of a Moroccan family, take notes my friend.  They will host you seemlessly, graciously.  A tajine simmering in the pressure cooker, another round of tea, and the expansiveness of time unhurried.  It is an experience in slowing down and enjoying the good company of loved ones, it is soul food for us westerners, it is heart expanding.

5-The Hammam.  I will post more on where to go and how it’s done, hopefully, later.  How does having the top layer of your skin scrubbed off sound?  Painful?  Au contraire, nothing could feel better, it’s totally relaxing and invigorating, and it’s the cleanest clean you’ll ever be my friend.  If you do nothing else in Morocco, go to the Hammam.  (but wait for my in-depth “how to” post).

What are your favorite cheap thrills in Marrakesh?