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.

11 thoughts on “Keep moving

  1. Hafssa says:

    Congrats on the new blog Nora! Actually, now that I know what it’s like to be a busy mom, I should say congrats on MANAGING to find the time to write this blog!! Between endless nursings and diaper changes, I hardly find the time to check my email these days…
    I guess Jamil and I followed ” Marrakesh” meaning literally and we moved a little too fast. That’s why we’re here and not there! But honestly, Marrakesh’s stickiness is like “super glue”,we left, but part of us is still stuck in there! That’s also why we yearn to go back everytime.

    • Thanks Hafssa. Yes it’s hard to find time, especially time that I feel creative. But the babies are growing and a whole new life is opening up for me once again. Love to you and the little guy.

  2. Abdurrahman says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for doing this. There is another theory of the origin of the name which says it’s Berber for “Land of God” (see the Wikipedia entry). Could they both be true, depending on who you are?

  3. i so hear you loud and clear on this one…
    i was there with my husband and daughter last year and found the warmth really overwhelming…people would randomly stop me and want to connect on the basis of islam and say things about how, they are in marrakech and i am in london but despite this i am still their sister. one beautiful weathered old berber lady was so desperately happy to meet muslims from abroad walking around jamaa’ al fana, but she spoke no french, only berber and so i didn’t know how to communicate. she felt increasingly frustrated and was swelling with ‘something; her release came when she realised that we could both share salawaat to the prophet (peace be upon him) and she had joyful tears in her eyes as she took my hands and recognised that we share a sisterhood across boundaries and continents, mashAllah. needless to say i was very teary too.

    this happened a lot during our 2 weeks there, and it took me around 6 months to get over the warmth of spirit in the many people we had the good fortune to meet. holidays are usually recalled by how physically beautiful the destination was or the good times one may have had but my trip to marrakech was marked by the islam i found in people’s hearts…

    thank you for sharing, nora :o)

  4. Perhaps the Land of God is a place where all the fleeting and unimportant – the dunya – does rush on, like gale force winds, dusting out the corners where one gets complacent and bored and clearing the way for reality. Great blog Nora!

  5. Esalaam Nora,

    What a wonderful blog you have ;.. I am american living in Algeria now about 4yrs… your life is so much similar to mine here in algeria. I understand everything you are writing about. my life thinking proporties mentality have changed since coming here completely. I have bookmarked you and looked forward to more posts enchallah!

  6. Hi:

    My name is Aziz.I’m a new teacher joining CLC’s staff.Well congrats for :1- being nominated and I definitely believe u will take the lead.2- for sitting down and writing(It sounds easy,but since I’ve started blogging and tasted it,I admit it’s challenging).

    Cheers,
    Aziz
    http://www.hellochichaoua.com

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