I’m sitting in the back of our taxi as we drive, looping inland and then back to the Atlantic coast heading north from Essaouira. We’ve just begun the seven-hour drive to Salé, where we will spend our final night in Morroco. The sky is overcast. Forests of thuya wood stretch from both sides of the road, as far as the eye can see. As always, Yvonne is sitting in the front seat so that she can talk to the driver in French. I am half-listening, half writing.
The trees become scrub as we get closer to the sea. Unburdened donkeys graze by the road, no work this morning. Small herds of sheep and goats populate the hillsides, their keepers always nearby. Low stone walls make corrals for the occasional horses or cows. We mount a rise in the road, and suddenly the ocean appears, calm, the beach an endless stretch of sand.
After two months here in Morocco, I leave with very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m glad to be going home: To our son returning from his first year in college, to our cats, to our beautiful back yard and to our friends and family. On the other hand, my time here has been life-changing. For as long as we’ve already been here, I could stay longer.
I’ve tried to describe in this blog how life has been for me while visiting Morocco for so long. But I don’t know how to describe the richness of living in a different culture, of becoming accustomed, as best a tourist can, to a very different way of living and thinking. It’s interesting to look back at my previous posts and see what stood out that now is normal: The ways that women dress, the ubiquitous minarets and calls to prayer, boys of all ages playing soccer at night in the streets of the medinas, the innumerable cats. I will miss the people who, with few exceptions, have been amazingly hospitable. And the fresh-squeezed orange juice.
We learned here in Morocco that we can be very comfortable spending a lot of time getting to know a place. But staying for a long time in a place you’ve grown to love makes it much harder to leave. We have other trips planned or dreamed of, to different parts of the world, and we want to keep travelling as long as we can. Right now, I’d rather just stay here!
I think one of the things I’ll miss the most is the hauntingly beautiful singing of the Quoran from the minarets. Often it was on a Friday afternoon, but not everywhere, and never exactly the same. It was always an unexpected joy for me. I recorded this song echoing in the mountains of Chefchaouen, but no recording can capture the power of hearing it when you’re there:
I’m not Muslim, but every time I heard that singing from the minaret, something very deep was touched inside of me: The hint of a lost memory, the longing for a beautiful, half-remembered dream in the moments after we awaken.
Yvonne’s work will almost certainly bring us back to Morocco one or two more times. Whether it does or not, we now have friends all over Morocco: Tangier, Casablanca, Merzouga and Essaouira. I hope to see them all– and Morocco– again soon, inshallah!