A Love Letter to Morocco

Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
Trip End Oct 26, 2010

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living." 

 - Miriam Beard, Author/Historian

 Dearest Morocco,

I have to admit; originally, I was quite scared to get involved with you. You have a checkered reputation, especially where women are concerned. I did not want to become another one of your wounded, another woman hassled for just being out there. I met you at midnight, a sketchy hour anywhere, and was prepared for your worst.  But what you gave me then, and in the days following, was conduct becoming a true gentleman. And honestly, that's all we ask for.

It was an instant attraction, the kind you read about or see in a movie. From the moment I arrived, the courting began with your people’s effortless, "Welcome Morocco." Literally every type of person – shopkeepers, taxi drivers, mothers at the hospital, faux guides, naked hammam women, and countless strangers on the street – happily and willingly reaching out to me.  And it was a genuine outreach of thanks and reception that I can still feel from them, and I am grateful. You were always there for my ego with flattering cat calls and offers of tea. Many simply wanted to walk and talk with me, find out where I am from (“America! Obama!), buy me a Coka, get to know me.  I’ll never forget our first night in Marrakech when I entered the Jemma el Fna; I felt tingly with a perma-grin plastered to my face. It was love at first sight.

You have many personalities, Morocco, which keeps me on my feet. The nighttime you in Marrakech is on fire; the dreamy you in Essaouira is just that, dreamy; in Rabat you are progressive and ready for new things; in the desert you are quiet and reflecting; and in Fes you are old worldly, a suggestion of your family’s ancient roots. In sum, you are an ideal mate with something original to offer each day.

You showed me your caring side at the children’s hospital where I watched your doctors and nurses work with far less than my country has. I watched your exhausted mothers live through their children’s illnesses along side of them as they crammed sometimes nine to a room, 24/7, in the same pajamas day after day.  These mothers took me in, trusted me with their children, and gave endless thanks to me. Their appreciation was more than I could have asked for.

I admit I cheated on you, with a few of your younger offspring.  I could not help it, they stole my heart. You introduced me to little kids who played endlessly on a donated plastic indoor playground.  Older boys who loved the card game Uno. Smart kids who tore through Disney puzzles and memory games. Kids who colored for me with the signature of “Love,” and crossed the room at the end of the day to kiss me goodbye.  How could I resist them? 

If you must know, a few of their names were Osama, Zacharia, Nawal, Abdu, Wiem, Marawane, and bunch of other guys. Like children anywhere, they just wanted my attention, and that felt good. We all need that. No need to be jealous, they only got me for three hours a day, and I was happy to give them what they needed.  I can’t say I’m sorry, and I’d do it again.

To repent, I did what I could to learn about what is so dear to you, your religion, and Islam may be one of your best features. Thirty-four million Muslims living among your borders can’t all be wrong. Islam, or “submission to God,” is how you guide your life, and at the core, you believe that there is only one God, Allah. You believe that Christianity, Judaism and Islam are essentially the same, but it’s Mohammed who was chosen by God to refine His message. You draw off teachings from the Koran the way most in my world draw from things on television. People in the world, especially my world, have many misconceptions of your faith, and it hurts me.  Your entire life is driven by believing in an all-good, all-forgiving being.  What could be so wrong and scary with that?  You make me think, which is what we are supposed to do. We have much to learn from you.

The five pillars of Islam demonstrate your true devotion – shahadah (statement of faith), salat (prayer), zakat (alms), sawm (fasting), and haji (pilgrimage to Mecca). Your call to prayer, sung from minarets five times a day, ring through the Islamic world as a reminder to be Godlike. It takes a special type to take the time out of their day and stop, remember, get on their knees, and pray to something else. I like that about you and I’d like to be more like you.

I tried to speak your language, but it was a challenge. I learned a few things in Arabic to get me by – shukron (thank you), sweena (pretty), mumtaz (excellent), mezian (good), mashi mushkil (no problem), naam and la (yes and no). You also helped bring my French back un peu, which was fun. It was rough going, but we made it work through sign language and smiles.

But the word I loved most was “Inshallah.” It’s meant to indicate hope for an aforementioned event to occur in the future. The phrase translates into English as "God willing" or "If it is God's will". The term in and of itself does not denote a religion, but simply brings optimism to all those who say or receive it. You spoke it to me numerous times as I left new friends here with the belief we would see each other again. 

And even with all of this, I am leaving you. It’s not for a lack of love, but for the typical selfish reasons of needing to see more, experience others, and eventually get back to responsibilities I came with and didn’t tell you about.  We knew this day would come, but I denied it for a long while.

When I think of you after I am gone I will think of color, kindness, the sheer volume of your wares, friendship, your sweetness in the form of street doughnuts, Ewok-looking clothing on men, and the wrapped heads of women, sand, leather, mosques, and the enveloping call to prayer that still stops me in my tracks.

This morning I woke to the most beautiful call I’ve heard yet.  At 6am, just before the sun rose, two neighborhood mosques called out at nearly the exact same time, creating a call in stereo out my window.  What an incredible way to start my last days.

I will miss you dearly.  You have made an impact on me that many others, most others, have not. You are up there with the two other great loves of my life – Italy and Argentina – great company. And there is still so much of you to learn and explore and fall even deeper in love with.

There is no doubt I will be back, I know I am invited. Inshallah.

Love, Love, Kristin

Morocco faves: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=296926&id=633950714&l=84debf3f19 


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Jordan on

You have a gift with word, my dear.

Kelly on

I got chills. You must continue to blog - your writing is beautiful. Sorry you have to leave...but we'll be happy to have you back in your Colorado home.

Auntie on

Kristin, your writing has touched my heart just as Morocco has touched yours. You have a gift - thank you for introducing me to Morocco. I feel I have gained an understanding of this place and its people that I did not have before. It's always sad to leave but we are all looking forward to your safe return and, of course, to your next trip so that we can continue to travel by your side and see another part of the world through your eyes. Safe travels. xoxoxo

Nico on

You left me speechless. You are such an inspiration! See you soon!

Stacy on

You have moved this destination to the top of my list! Although I know you belong there now, I cannot wait to have you home!! Enjoy Egypt...

cleo2471 on

I brought Inshallah home with me from Morocco last year! I enjoyed reading that it became your favorite word as well. It's been great to relive the CCS Morocco experience through your voice. Shokran bezzaf!

Mary-Ann Buxton on

Kristin, I only know you through your Dad, who's very proud of you - and I can ready why. You have a remarkable insight and a great big heart as well as a wonderful way of expressing yourself! You would be fun to travel with! All the best to you, and as my Mom used to say "sleep with the angels, sweet dreams, God bless."

Nancy Berenato on

BRAVO!!!!!!!! Wow...great letter.

Dad on

Kristin, In reading your letter for the second time this morning, I remembered my friend, the carpet merchant, Salith, in Istanbul, who I saw the second time this summer with Emery, telling me the word Insallah. I liked it so much I actually wrote it on a piece of paper so I could remember it.

Sasha on

I saved the best for last... I have been waiting for a day when I could curl up in bed and read your last posts from this trip. After all, you are my favorite non-fiction writer these days ;-) WOW! What a treat. Kristin, this is a love letter like no other and I am not being coy when I say, I truly believe that the Board of Tourism should read this and model a campaign in its spirit. This is meant to be shared and I will forward this on to a few friends knowing that they may benefit from understanding how rich and rewarding travel can really be. What a romance. And, I am thrilled to read your tender appreciation for a much maligned and misunderstood group (the Muslims.) Apart from the thrill of adventure there is deep education and understanding that takes place when you visit the land and lifestyle of other cultures. Your accounts remind me of mothers who burry broccoli in the bowls of their children's macaroni and cheese. There's really good, delicious, healthy, beneficial stuff below the surface. Just take a bite and you'll see... THANK YOU!

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