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Away at Last, and Reflections

December 16, 2021

I write this from my seat on Air France 1277 from Marrakech to Paris. Until the moment I was buckled in I worried something would happen to keep me stranded in Marrakech. But I’m finally on my way home, and the only thing I have to stress over is the flight to Boston tomorrow.

As I reflect on my three weeks in Morocco, the most prominent impression is of the people, so kind, generous, welcoming. Abdou and Zacchariah, of course, who were stuck with me for our twelve-day trek, who taught me “yellelah,” let’s go, and who had to listen to me butcher shukran, or however you spell it. I promise to have more Arabic when I return. Abdou’s sisters-in-law who included me in the traditional Friday couscous lunch, and sister who fed us our second breakfast as we left Casablanca. And his charming parents, who hosted us for tea in their home in Dadès.

Amanda and Youssef, who organized my alternate tour when Lori and the rest of the group were locked out, and kept me posted on flight options. 

Hayat, Hamid and Hajiba at Dar les Cigognes, who so warmly welcomed me and made me feel part of their family, faithfully tucking my hot water bottle under the covers of my bed each evening. Zaida, the wonderful chef at Dar, who introduced me to harira and eggplant salad, bastilla and tajine, and Aziza, who gave me my first-ever hammam treatment. Note to self: Dar has a cooking school.

The earnest Nordine at Riad d’Or in Meknes, concerned that I had only cold water in my sink tap but powerless to fix it. While I never met the chef, I loved his Berber omelet and lamb tajine.

Hajiba, in Moulay Idress, who fed me a sumptuous lunch on her terrace, then showed me how to make Moroccan bread and sweets in her tiny kitchen, measuring by eye and hand and mixing by feel.

Kiki, the tall handsome Berber who led me on a tour of the date farm, fed me the fruit straight off the tree and then hosted me to lunch at his home, prepared by the talented Rakida.

Ibrahim, who built Villa Dadès during Covid, looking after this gem of a hotel in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the guests who will surely come when times return to normal, operating on faith by building what will be a gorgeous rooftop pool and bar.

Jane, the American owner of Riad Baya, whom I only met by phone, but who was very concerned about my well-being while I was her (only) guest. I know we will meet for real one day, as I’d love to see Morocco with her. And what a coincidence that she had lived three years in West Hartford! Fatna, whom I called Fatima for two days, the genius in the Baya kitchen. The huge salad à la Niçoise, and the amazing chicken tajine with green olives and preserved lemon. Avocado smoothie at breakfast, and another riff on Berber omelet. 

And finally, Khalid, the sweet young man at Baya who greeted me with a warm smile each morning, helped print out my travel documents, got wine for me and got me started on my way to Jamaa el Fna, though I got hopelessly lost for awhile returning.

All of these people were unfailingly polite, calm, welcoming, patient and generous, genuinely happy to have me, an American, experience their country. I always felt safe and secure, even in the crowded medinas and squares.

I already want to come back — to see the big part of the west and Mediterranean coastline that I didn’t, to have a photographer guide help me climb a dune in the Sahara for sunset and capture the Milky Way. Spend more time in Tangier eating fish. Take a street food tour with Amanda.

Next time I’ll bring fuzzy socks or slippers against the cold tile floors, leave the bathing suit at home (no need for it in the hammam), bring a sweatshirt for reading in bed. I’ll bring wool socks, not cotton, no matter how warm the temperatures are predicted to be. I’ll learn some Arabic and take pictures of all my hosts. And see again the marvelous people I met on this trip, Inshallah.

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  1. What a trip! I am in awe of the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met, and the sheer amount and variety of food you have eaten! Even more, I admire your ability to adapt and adventure on when everything changed. I knew very little of Morocco and appreciate traveling vicariously with you. Now that you are homeward bound, I know you must be eager for your own bed and familiar surroundings! Safe travels and happy landings!

  2. You don’t know how much I appreciate you coming along on my journeys, Marlo! IU always look forward to your feedback.

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