Crossing over the Atlantic Ocean and into the lap of the Atlas mountain range lies the magical land of Morocco. As the flight touched the runway, my mind was running amok with all the magazine photographs I had seen of this country. Marrakech was my first stop into this wonderland.
As I landed and on the runway, I ticked off one from my bucket list. On the baggage belt I realised I had lost my bags in transit. I panicked about my night creams and toothbrush and change. But as I got into the taxi with Arabic speaking drivers, I was greeted by desert land, cactus gardens and camels looking lazy and nonchalant. I was tired yet something told me Argan oil would suffice till the bags would come. Because I knew the universe would conspire to not screw up my trip. The bags arrived the same evening from Casablanca. I was relieved but still applied the organic Morroccon Argan oil on my face like God’s elixir.
Our family holiday is generally twice a year, when we three travel from our seperate spaces of work, studies and come together for few days to catch up and share our goals, dreams, disappointments, all brimming with love, excitement and also the unspoken hurt and resentments of the past. A family that binds, bonds and also gags in equal proportion.
For few mercies of unified opinions, we three love trying out new cuisines, new cultures and with time our economic ability to experience more has increased. This helps us become more familiar with diverse countries and cultures. It sounds smart in social gatherings to know the distinct difference between Hummus and Tahini, and Pita, Khobz and Mahrash (types of bread) and the various regional variations of each! Travelling is truly the best education for culture and of yourself.
I put up a post of my photo in Morocco on Facebook page and my friend from Calcutta Whatsapped me and told me I must meet her friend Gloria. I decided to take a break from the family scene and called Gloria.
I was greeted with an impeccably polite voice with a lovely British accent, inviting me to her home in the old town of Médina inside Marrakech.
I booked a cab that evening and embarked on my journey to find Gloria and have a cup or two of Moroccan coffee (a wonderfully spiced, sweetened type of coffee) with her.
In the taxi ride I felt liberated to soak in the sights alone. I chatted with my taxi driver. He knew India for Sharukh Khan & Salman Khan. No one asked me about Taj Mahal or India Gate. Bollywood was our national identity in Morocco. I felt glad he didn’t know any political events back home. He was handsome and flirting unabashedly. It helped he had grey eyes with a twinkle.
As Gloria had directed I got off at the Jewish cemetery at the edge if Medina and was greeted by Frida, her Moroccan man Friday and what began as a walk to Gloria’s home is a memory that will last me forever.
The narrow cobbled lanes meandered into narrow lanes with brick walls with the yellow light and the Muezzin with his clarion call at dusk hour. It was ethereal. The horse carriages passed me by like a trip out of time travel. I was soaking in & couldn’t speak. The lanes of narrow desert landscape opened into more lanes with the lone hijab-wearing women passing me by.
It seemed like time had come to a standstill till I was broken out of my reverie when we reached a white door. Frida brought out a bunch of keys and opened the door to let me in.
The house was beyond beautiful with art, furniture, books, vintage photographs and warm lighting. Each nook & corner was artistically and aesthetically done up. I had to keep my jaw from dropping in that sight of aesthetics combined with Frida’s good manners and the aroma of good coffee.
Frida gently knocked on a door. And out emerged Gloria. Grey hair, gorgeous beyond words and with warmth that lit up every space around her. A woman in full reckoning of herself and the years she had lived.
She began by asking me if I was an actress. I told her that I had acted all my life to fit in, got short in stature in the process, and now I’ve given up acting and I am as real as I can be. We chatted for hours on end. We began the evening by Gloria setting the stage for a heart to heart conversation. She said “let’s talk of marriage, lovers, children and travel”. By now I was completely swinging, in her vibe.
She reminisced on her life with a faraway look. She mentioned she was married to a painter. I looked around and her home was full of his art. It was all encompassing.
In between sighs and sips of coffee, I noticed the glimpse of a woman finally liberated from roles that bind and gag most of us. We spoke of love, marriage, death, children, deceit and everything that one wouldn’t at the first meeting. To me it was friendship at first sight with Gloria.
Gloria and I were women bonded & bound by conditioning that told us if you wish to be free, STOP, if you wish to express, say what others like to hear, or STOP, if you fall in love, STOP.
Anything that makes you defy what is laid out by social rules, STOP! STOP living for yourself.
As I got ready to leave finally after cups and cups of coffee that ended in glasses of wine. I was heady with the narrow walls of Médina and my new found bravery to realise that time & age is just a number. You live your life full at every stage. Carpe Diem at its best.
From Marrakesh to India. The narrative of women remain alike. Yet some shine like a diamond with their truth. Gloria is one of them. I can’t get over that sparkle. I wonder what the heart of the poor Moroccan men would endure after meeting someone as stunningly beautiful, inside out like her.
Gloria is old world charm, beauty that is brave is most inspiring to me. Her coffee table had photographs of her children and one postcard that stayed back was of the Taj Mahal that read “Via Agra”. Man’s greatest erection ever. It was fitting to the girly evening with Gloria and me.
Marrakesh with its bazaars with camel leather goods, heads of deers, snake charmers not-exactly-charming and the Moroccan sun over the museums, galleries and rooftop restaurants is what romance is all about. I want to return soon to soak in more of the Moroccan sun with their coffee, dates, and unique people.