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.