Today marks one month outside the United States. Many find it ironic that a search for freedom would require leaving a country that, among its many mottos, claims to fight to secure ‘our freedoms.’
This is my first morning in Marrakech. It’s a city stretching out as if to infinity; being in the center – the medina – is like standing at the entrance of an ant colony. I imagine an ant becoming self-aware and stepping out of line, standing and watching the waves of life flowing by, crossing at every opportunity, crawling over one another – a stampede that is both harmony and chaos. The thin alleyways split, and split again, and again…the labyrinth curving toward a dead end or back onto itself. Walking past ornate doors and under archways, the sky opens up above and then disappears under bridges that are bedrooms or hallways connecting homes and shops; empty spaces and unassuming museums of wood carvings and iron lamps and plastic airplanes with flashing lights. Brick paths are shattered, filled with cement; up two steps and more cobbled walkways, a little asphalt, some pavement; down one step, a slight grade down, the steps back up, some glass and trash and cats and cats and cats, tearing into plastic bags, laying at the corner where the sludge of civilization meets the walls that contain it.
Paris, it was decided during the 19th century, needed to tear off some bandages and rebuild with sites on the future. Marrakech is still building on top of itself. Building blocks, some aligned, many set as if dropped and left at some offset angle yet permanently placed, waiting to be filled in by a new need or discovery, the equation factoring in only one constant variable – life.
It is truly beautiful here. Patterns contain patterns that together create combinations, intended and accidental, with colors that clash into kaleidoscopes of tiles and plaster. Everything contains a detail, a relief, an etching – an artistic contribution because there is always room for a little more; there is always a space to be filled in; and it is, truly, beautiful.
Now…into the city; into the heat; into the sun; into the chaos; into Marrakech.
Everyone spells Morocco differently. Is it Marrakech or Marrakesh? But that’s the thing of it – how things are, what they cost, how authentic it is – everything is relative. And as a tourist, there is a veil, a separation; I’m no more than a fly that doesn’t know there is an impenetrable, transparent barrier between me and the real world. And every time I bump into that pane, it makes me more annoyed (to put it lightly). But we are in a different world – one where some still consider a photograph taken of them to rob them of their soul, or at least a privacy they hold sacred.
Sitting on a rooftop in the medina in Fez (Fes, Fès, Faz, Fas) at noon on Eid, the city is quiet. You hear the conversations of families, not the squawk of merchants and the clank of carts through narrow stone paths they call streets. It feels more like the true Morroco, not the one transformed by the awestruck, wealthy, discombobulated tourist.
I don’t think I’ll go to a tannery. The art that was so advanced and unique for its time is now like grabbing a burger at Johnny Rockets and thinking somehow you’ve been transported to the 60’s. The true spirit of Morroc is what you see, and though romantic, it is not a honeymoon. It has been formed, not transformed, by the industry of travel.
I think we’ll spend the rest of the week here. Moving through Moroko has been draining – the desert devours the weak – we’re holding on. Life is beautiful.