Thursday, 22 January 2015

Into my bones - (Marrakech & beyond, Part I)


We returned from Morocco days ago, but while we were there, the sun seeped into my bones and made me slow to return to daily things.  It felt good to be away from routine, packed lunches, and the internet. I need this - to be on my metaphorical island - with just D and Chotto-ma every once in a while. To cut-off of from everything, focus on nothing. Morocco, or Maroc, could be a metaphor for many things.



I wanted to give D a surprise for his birthday, so Chotto-ma and I crept around our crafty piece of planning for weeks. Choosing the place, booking tickets, looking for a place to stay, and impossibly, keeping mum. Finally, we had Morocco.

Of all the gin joints in the world, I had to choose the one that would be saddest to leave.


For anyone from India, Morocco, especially it's cities, would feel instantly familiar. But look a little closer, and you see the little things that make it its very own person. It's a country where you need to peer past cliches. As a local told us with a sad shake of his head - Marrakech is more famous than Morocco.


Yes, Morocco could be all about Marrakech's souks and snake charmers, but if you stray away for a while, drive down emptier roads, the rewards are even richer. Hunker down for a conversation in a little village, talk to local women as they prepare lunch, or turn the other way and walk around the modern, residential areas of its cities where urban life unfolds in wide, leafy avenues.

The country then begins to piece together into a more complex, layered whole. Where the old and new change lanes seamlessly, crisscrossing each other without a crash. Much like the traffic on its street. Much like the way in which the locals shift smoothly from Arabic to French to English, switching tongue without thought.


We travelled from Marrakech to the valleys beyond. To villages that had been at the mercy of a ten-year drought, useless bridges arching over rivers that had dried into roads. When the rains finally fell, it grew from a trickle to a gush so great that the dry riverbeds filled up and bulged out, crashing through houses on its way, breaking walls, homes. On these roads, steep and sharp, rising through Berber villages and into the Atlas, life is hard. Physical and spartan, amidst the beauty of its red earth. But this is also where you find the resilience, and rosy-cheeked children, and an optimism that can curve mouths into wide smiles.


And as one day ended and another began, and we went from losing ourselves in the apricot-coloured alleyways of Marrakech, to wounding our way around mountains, to walking through miles of beautiful moonscaped valleys, we found something that made this journey stretch and linger: good people. They were everywhere we went - on empty red roads, little villages, and in the crazy circus of Marrakech's Jemaa-el-Fna. They were there with kind smiles, big hugs and many kisses for Chotto-ma's forehead. We've brought those back with us, along with bowls and tagines and bags of spices.


Apart from the people, there were some things that stood out, things that made our time in Morocco soar above every expectation we had had of it. Amongst them: The riad where we stayed; a home of such beauty it made us stand still. A hike that had me sore in places I didn't know I had. And a few meals that I will never forget. I'll leave those for my next post. Do come back.


19 comments:

  1. Such a nice destination to be! Beautiful pictures, the places are so unlike the usual places we see. This must have been like a breath of fresh air, weather-wise for you.And I love the idea of just family, an awesome destination and most importantly, no internet! Waiting for more updates on your experience in Morocco!

    I live in Kerala and went to Kolkata during peak winter this year, to spend time with my father, to roam around the places I used to as a child and to feel the chill. It was so refreshing! Best part being my husband tagged along and could almost live my entire childhood there.

    Hope all of you have settled back and are well after the trip! :)

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    1. How nice to know we have Kolkata in common, Meera; I didn't know you grew up there :) Winter is really the best time to be in that city, and it's wonderful to get the chance to take your spouse back to a bit of your childhood. D and I always wanted to go back to Assam, where I spent a year living with my grandparents and studying, but somehow never got around to it. Some day soon.

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    2. Oh, let me make a small correction, I lived around 6 years of my childhood in Kharagpur, have visited Kolkata a few times. But when saying, I always say I was in Kolkata so that people understand easily! I forgot you are from there!

      But trust me, I felt really good travelling in that all yellow ambassador pre-paid taxi from airport to Howrah Jn. I purposefully took it to relive the feeling, the driver with paan in his mouth, a lemon and lot of chillies hanging from the rear view mirror - much had not changed in 11 years.

      And you should definitely take your family to Assam some day, its a strangely good feeling to revisit the past, literally.

      PS: This is the same Meera, don't worry. I accidentally commented from my blogger account last time, which I don't use anymore. :)

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    3. I've just been to Kharagpur once, for the IIT Fest, Meera.
      Yes, the yellow ambassadors, the lemon and chillies :) It's nice to go back to familiar things.
      Assam too is on the cards.

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  2. Gorgeous, stunning pictures as always Pia!
    And then there is Chotto-Ma in her yellow purple green-ness staring out and taking all of it in, as an upside down pitcher perches along and gives her company....I love that picture the most. It's kind of beautiful :)

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    1. Diya, you noticed the green shoes too :) I'd borrow it if I could!
      I love that photograph too, and the way you describe it xx

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  3. lovely pictures and lovely post so refreshing and soothing...looking forward to more
    take care

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    1. Thank you, kind girl. Yes, it certainly was a refreshing break, and much needed. I hope you enjoy Part II too.

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  4. Morocco looks, and sounds, extremely beautiful. And very much similar to India.

    What is that place with colourful sofas and the stream gushing by? Is it a restaurant?

    Your post reminds me of a book I read some time back - A House In Fez. Maybe you'd want to check it out?

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    1. I've read A House In Fez - wonderful! You'll love the riad in my next post then, restored much like the the riad in Fez.
      If you liked A House in Fez, you'll love The Caliph's House, by Tahir Shah.

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    2. I picked up The Caliph's House recently, at your recommendation, and am reading it now. Liking it so far. Thanks for the suggestion! :)

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  5. As always, lovely. As always, thank you. Such wonderful words and pictures.

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    1. Thank you, Melissa, for being here to share my thoughts and journeys. You kind words are always appreciated.

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  6. I love your travel adventures, you really do paint a picture so well. Gorgeous photographs as ever, can't wait to visit myself one day now! :)

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    1. Thank you! You'd love it, Emma - there's such warmth packed into the place. And it's an amazing country to travel with children to - it's a cultural that instantly mothers them.

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    1. Thanks, Denise. Given half a chance, it's all I'd do.

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  8. I can't wait to see what's next!

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    1. I seem to be getting very little done these days, Tracy, so the blogpost, like me, is taking things slow. I hope it'll be worth the wait still xx

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