Morocco, an enchanted country where magic takes over one’s perception and the imagination is set free. I wouldn’t be surprised to find Aladdin’s oil lamp, where the genie is waiting to be released and grant the 3 magical wishes to whomever rubs the lamp.
I wish… and before I have the time to finish making my wish I hear Xerazade whispering in my ear an invitation to engage in magical adventures and fantastic trips. And I find myself assuming the identity of different characters in stories of kings, adventures flying on magic carpets, defying the Sahara desert riding a camel, opening the doors to a world where anything is possible.
Jemaa el-Fna, a world heritage, is one of my favourite places. A big animated square, with thousands of people. Personal interests and preferences make people gather and form smaller groups. Here and there we find isles for storytellers, isles for snake charmers, an improvised boxing ring, food stalls, carts with clothes, umbrellas blocking the setting sun with women painting tattoos…
Locals and tourists alike sit on the floor, with expectant dazzled looks. The sound of the storyteller’s voice wraps invisible chains round the audience’s bodies – despite most tourists like me don’t speak arabic – and stamps new and undiscovered destinations in our imaginary passports. Sounds become words, words become sentences… and the story begins. I wonder if everybody hears the same story. Meantime in another isle (or group of people) a snake charmer puts a big sleepy snake around a tourist’s neck. And in another one people seat to enjoy a tagine or drink a famous orange juice. And in another one a tourist puts on a pair of boxing gloves to get his chance of having his faced smacked by a local teenager. The audience raises the bets.
From Jemaa el-Fna square we enter the Medina of Marrakech, a maze-like medieval quarter. Beams of sun light cut through the boards of the walls and ceilings of the souks drawing blades of bright dust particles. I bread in all the magical particles and smells and sounds and views. The atmosphere is so strong that all the senses unite as one. And I probably float unaware that my feet are not on the ground, although I’m moving in the direction that my eyes are pointing.
Sleeping in a Riad inside the Medina is another invitation for another stamp on our imaginary passport. Not to mention the adventure to find the souk at night, when shadows are stronger than people, where the next turn can take you winding in the opposite direction.
Morocco, I simply don’t have enough words to describe it. The diversity in Morocco is immense: the maze-like medieval quarters like the medina of Marrakech or Fez, the tanneries in Fez where the smells are so strong that before entering we are given a sprig of mint and we have to cover our noses with the leaves to breath (not recommended for the faint-hearted, I’m afraid), Ouarzazate, the door of the desert, the Atlas mountains, the sweeping deserts, the ruins of ancient kasbahs that look like toy cities made of sand and straws, the surfers paradise in Essaouira, the unforgettable cultural festivals, the Riads, the world heritage we can find in buildings, in people, in traditions.
A trip to Morocco is a dream vacation.