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Time to Moroccan-Roll

Updated: Apr 9

Nothing excites a greater sense of childlike wonder that being in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Staring at signs of Arabic letters that seemed nothing but squiggles, we were all 5 years old again. Even crossing the street seemed a bit daunting—dodging carriages, mopeds and taxis all going different directions. It was a little awe inspiring to be in a place where even trying to order a meal was just a series of interesting guesses as to what would actually arrive on the plate. We arrived in the North African town of Casablanca (a city of white in a country of red) and before long we were on our way to the old city of Marrakesh, built in 1062. The drive there was an endless sea of red dirt and rocks. Broken only by the occasional shepherds in traditional djellabas watching herds of 15 or 20 sheep next to small rock huts. Each town we passed was also built of red stone or clay and they all would have their own mosque in the center. It's easy to see why Winston Churchill told Franklin Roosevelt “You cannot come all the way to North Africa without seeing Marrakesh.” Marrakesh was amazing. I'd go back to visit in a minute. But it's the only place I've ever been, where I truly don't think I could live. Hard scrabble isn't harsh enough to describe the surroundings. I don't know how anything grows, or farms. I've never buried sheep as skinny as the ones grazing the hot rocks in Morocco. There must be a bit of farming though, for we passed one of the largest loads of hay, I have ever seen on a 2-ton truck. Whoever loaded it, must be a master Jenga player. Passing under 19 foot, red clay walls, we entered the heart of Marrakesh. A place known for its snake charmers, acrobats, magicians, monkey trainers, herb sellers, storytellers—and pickpockets. From the square is a labyrinth of streets filled with souks, selling everything from rugs to lamps to herbs and spices. We wandered through tight, little streets, we toured mosques and palaces. I took almost as many pictures in Morocco as I did the other 9 countries on our trip combined! Every street we walked down was like turning the page in some Persian manuscript illustrated with colorful embroidery. Farmer’s Fate Time to Moroccan-Roll We took the kids for a Moroccan restaurant for lunch—and that experience provided them with more than just a full stomach. We sat at a table surrounded by low silk and brocade couches. The walls were a mosaic of tiny tiles and mirrors. There were no menus, but we did our best to explain to our host that we wanted a vegetarian meal. The appetizers were unusual sauces and bread to dip. We had a good time eating spices we'd never tasted before. Then came the main dish, a traditional tagine stew cooked in a clay pot, with spices like cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and Ras El Hanout. When we lifted the cone-shaped lid it was filled with cous cous and vegetables—over a big hunk of unknown meat. Our host smiled and pointed to the bloody dish saying “vegetables.” We didn't have to look at our bleeding vegetables long though, for soon the lights dimmed and we were treated to traditional belly dances for the rest of our meal, and delicious mint tea. As the sun was setting on our day in Marrakesh, we went searching for a bathroom. Finally finding one in the back of an open-air store. As with most, there was a man collecting money before one could enter. We didn't have the correct amount—whatever the correct amount was, as there was no sign, and we couldn't speak the language. We emptied our pockets and held out the miscellaneous coins while the man vigorously shook his head and muttered. We finally stepped aside and began going through the kids' pockets for money. The robed man, must have taken pity on us, for he finally motioned the kids to go without paying. I looked at my littlest—and then the long hallway and a set of stairs to where the bathrooms were out of sight. I shook my head. I think the man must have recognized my Momma Bear concern, even if we couldn't understand each other. For he then motioned that my husband could go as well. While they were gone, the man came back to me, and presented me with an entire handful of Moroccan coins. Through a series of hand gestures, I surmised it was for the boys. When the boys came back, that same man pressed a small wooden camel into the hands of my youngest, saying “Free. Free.” Then bowed low to us, and went back to his post. We have always told the kids to fill their life with experiences, not things. Marrakesh filled us with both. Memories, bathroom coins, and a wooden camel to forever remember the kindness of a stranger. As we climbed into our coach that evening, I couldn't help but hum a little Louis Armstrong. “...and I think to myself... what a wonderful world...”

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