A year that began on in South America, in a hammock on the Colombian-Caribbean coast, will now end in North Africa with a triumphant return to Morocco.
Some time last year, I wondered what adventures I would take in 2016. The thought crossed my mind that since it was 15 years since I studied in Prague and Morocco, perhaps I would try to return to both places. I quickly dismissed the idea as impractical, as I had no idea how it would come about. But dharma shapes direction, and my journey through memory is complete with my return to Morocco.
I return to Rabat after 15 years since I studied there. I arrived to Morocco on the Spring Semester of my Junior Year abroad, on the heels of the 9/11 attacks. It was that period of living and studying in Morocco that most shaped and changed my perception of the world for years to come—forever giving me the enduring belief in the power of cultural exchange.
I lived in the Medina with a lovely Moroccan Muslim family, the Toufiks. I had a slew of host brothers, including Yassine who was my own age. We spent days eating long Moroccan lunches between class-- watching the world from a different perspective on the satellite channels, and late nights talking about the world, about family and about faith. I saw that this wonderful family was no different than my own family. I will never forget the smiles as they tried matzah, and I attempted to explain its significance. We slathered it in butter and jam, and everyone thought it made a fine crackery thing.
I will never forget seeing my host mother, unveiled in my presence at home, for the first time outside of the house in her hijab; with it came the realization that this piece of cloth really meant nothing more than a simple veil covering hair for a bit of modesty's sake.
I loved that semester in Morocco, with all the adventures therein. I would wander through the medina of the Moroccan capital, trying to find new alleys to get myself lost down. Or I would sit in the casbah and sip mint tea and eat sugary cookies while laying on pillow divans as I stared at the Bouregreg River and the city of Salle across the divide.
I traveled all over Morocco that semester and visited cities like Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fez, Tangier, Chefchaouen, Tetouan and Essouira. I ventured into the Sahara, and got vertigo starring at the endless desert stars. I saw what still constitutes the grandest sunrise of my life across the Sahara sands, as the sands turned pink, then gold then orange in the sun's morning rays. And I adventured all the way down to the Western Sahara for an independent study project on that forgotten conflict, in what was a trek that gave me the initial confidence to venture forth into parts unknown.
Now I return for about a month's stay in Morocco as I retrace my steps in a journey through nostalgia and memory.
“Nostalgia plays lurid tricks with the memory”