Deborah found this piece by Ava Mohsenin, aged 15, “very engaging; the first few paragraphs puts you right in Morocco and you can imagine the sensation of uncertainty but excitement at being out of your comfort zone then gradually learning to relax and enjoy the experience.”
Ava wins a 2-hour private, customized city tour by award-winning Context Travel.
It was two in the morning as I walked through the labyrinth of narrow streets and dead ends that was Fes, Morocco. Our nervous laughs and cautious questions of where we were going didn't quite register with the cab driver – he merely directed us to the two men who had loaded our suitcases in wheelbarrows and taken off with them into the depths of the city. We were supposed to follow them. We were supposed to take that leap of faith and trust that they weren't going to run away with our valuables or direct us the wrong way. So we did, we trusted, we followed.
Our safe arrival at the Moroccan riad called for a sigh of relief. Excitement kept us from sleeping that night and I felt an overwhelming sensation of wanting to explore and eat and discover and laugh – all with my family, all right now.
We embarked on our journey the next day, the heavy air and crooked streets not hindering our progress in the least. It was spring break and I could name the day of the week, yet my sense of time and place was distorted. How did I end up looking through the Arch of Bab Boujloud into the medina? How did I end up dodging donkey's carrying gas tanks? As we walked through the medina with the blazing sun and ribbons of smoke coming from various chimneys, we periodically took refuge in shops and under roofs. I could stand in one place and have a million things happen – smells wafting in and out of our range, people scurrying across roads, cars honking, donkeys crying. I couldn't help but smile at the organized chaos that engulfed my senses. But suddenly it stopped. People stopped, cars stopped, the medina as a whole froze. The call for prayer erupted within the next few seconds and we made our way to the centre to watch it all unfold.
It was a sea of people, all in silent accord. Bending over and praying, chanting and singing. The foreign stream of memorized verses left me standing in awe. We were speechless, yet had so much to say. Our amateur commentary seemed insufficient to the locals – not only were we out of place, but this was their way of life, this was their home. I merely watched humbly.
A similar experience occurred while visiting one of Fes’ most renowned sites of all. The tannery is a place that no matter how many times you see in photos or read about in travel journals can never be the same as if you view it in real person, when you can smell the different leathers and feel the different hides. I couldn’t fathom the unbearable extent to which those men and women work in the tannery – I stood watching them for five minutes and couldn't help but imagine doing that all day.
I found myself feeling like I was assembling a puzzle with inadequate pieces, finding pockets of culture throughout the medina or even the city but unable to grasp the Moroccan lifestyle; I couldn't understand how these people lived. But that's the thing about travelling I love – exploring a place outside the reality of your daily life, being stranded without your native tongue or getting lost in the depths of a labyrinth. So the question is now, where will I get lost next?