Star Date: Mar 2017
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
"Life is a journey. Explore the mystical side of life. I find myself hanging out there more and more as I wander the planet; forced into living in the present moment. Joy is increasing. I envision a large globe with the 'snow' inside, like we had when we were kids. Bottom, our colorful human story line we identify with; but we are not our human storyline. Top, our lighter connection with our Higher Power. Give it a shake and we have our lives. Enjoy the Journey."
Morocco is like opening a book and plunging head long into an exotic labyrinth! The mystical side of life stares you in the face as every tantalizing, mysterious sounds, smells, or sights bombard your senses. Come. Observe. Relish the diversity. Melt into the exotic surroundings and enjoy.
It isn't our job as travelers to critique or judge every country or culture we travel to. Tourists book a tour, get out to take pictures of a sight, and move on. Back home they have souvenirs or photos as memories but did they get to really know the culture they visited? This is certainly better than just staying at home; but even on a tour it is possible to cast off the fear and venture outside your box or bus, as it may be. Take the time to stroll the back alleys, play with kids in the park, chat with the residents, share photos of back home, buy fruits and vegetables in the market, ride the public transport with the locals, drop by at community events and celebrations, taste street food, cook traditional food in the kitchens with the women.
Leave our biases or ideas of 'how things should be' at the door. Enter the country with an open heart and open eyes and ears. Give up trying to analyze everything. There is a rhythm or flow to every country. Jump into the flow and let it carry you along, all the while observing and accepting. Enjoy the moment and be ever grateful for the gifts and blessings life has given you. The people of the west are so fortunate while developing countries often lack even the simple necessities of life. This is all the more reason to be thankful. Yet, the people of the planet with simple lives are content and happy while we are complaining at every little thing. Why?
As we enter our 15th year of continuous travel we try to look for the good and definitely find it. It comes from being forced into the present moment by our life as Nomads. Clearing our heads of regrets from the past or worries of the future, frees us up to enjoy the Now. It leaves us open to realize that there is more to life than our human story line. More than the occasional problems or challenges that we each encounter in our lives. The higher power in our lives becomes more apparent, as when connecting with Nature and watching a spectacular sunset or taking the time to smell a beautiful, fragile rose. And what a great mysterious yet glorious life we have each been gifted! Never take life for granted. My friend had a saying on her mirror: "What if you woke up today only with the things you were grateful for yesterday?" Makes us think!
From the snow-capped Atlas Mountains to the endless sands of the Sahara, Morocco is blessed with many treasures. Stunning beaches, mouthwatering dishes, maze-like markets; you'll find it all there. The first Moroccans may have been cousins of ancient Egyptians, both located in Northern Africa. They were followed by Phoenicians then Romans. The Romans arrived in the 4th/5th century and called the natives, "Berbers" or barbarians. They harassed the Berbers until the decline of the Roman Empire and once they slipped away the Berbers regained power and refused to be overthrown again. In the 7th century Prophet Mohamed's Army had converted most of the N. African Berbers. Convert or die was the norm. This was followed by the rise and fall of many Islamic dynasties, Marrakesh being their capitol in the 10th and 11th centuries. Morocco established its own form of Islam, which to this day is more relaxed than Saudi Arabia for instance. France moved in and faced continual resistance from Berber mountain tribes. In 1955 the king negotiated independence from France and Spain.
Morocco is an intoxicating blend of the mountain Berbers, the Islam influences to the east and the lure of Europe to the North. This blend makes for a contrast of liberal butting against conservative, moderns vs. traditional, rich vs. those struggling to earn a dirham for dinner. Especially far from the tourist circuit the Moroccans are hospitable and helpful.
We loved the hundreds of 'Merlins' walking the street cloaked in hooded 'jellabas', or topped with turbans of all colors. Under the cloaks could be anything from long johns to a business suit. With traditional giving way to modern it is common to see a cloak topped with a Dodgers baseball cap. Modern music plays between Arabic Algerian rai and cell phones ring continuously. The favorite pastime in Morocco is sitting drinking tea, laughing and talking, usually at a sidewalk cafe. Chatting in the local hammans or traditional bath house is common. Each town has one or two.
Casablanca, or Kaza, as it is referred to, is the largest city in Morocco, located in the central-western part of the country bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the largest and most important cities in Africa, both economically and demographically, with a chief port and financial center. Over 6 million residents enjoy the perks of big city life, while many still live in the old, traditional sections, shopping in the ancient medinas or markets. Modern, efficient train stations help keep things moving but most people end up here to revel in the history, culture and pure legend known as Casablanca. Can that name be mentioned without conjuring up ideas in your head of exotic markets and intrigue?
The Academy Award winning movie, "Casablanca", released in 1942; starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, is one of the top selling classics of all times. Set during WWII it focuses on an American expatriate who must choose between his love for a woman and helping her Czech Resistance leader husband escape the Vichy controlled city of Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis. "Play it again Sam" reminds us of finding a moment of calm in the midst of turmoil. Based on the book, "Everybody Comes to Ricks", we went in search of the iconic Rick's Cafe. Resurrected and revitalized,it is still a 'swanky joint', with history seeping out of every corner. We half expected to glimpse Humphrey Bogart in a white dinner jacket as we entered. We dressed up a bit (as much as we can with the contents of our 18 inch suitcases used for a year) and sat down at the bar. Ordering a drink from the 1940's dressed bartender, we soaked up the ambiance and reveled in the moment, transported back in time. 'Boggie' was having dinner in the next room...
Central Casablanca is filled with Hispano-Moorish and art deco buildings. It is a treat to the eyes at every glance. This is a city of extraordinary diversity and tolerance. This is most apparent in the old medina areas where we frequent and usually sleep. In this rich soup of variety cats and dogs share benches, Seik, Arab and Jewish boys are playing soccer in the parks. A school for studying the Koran is next to the Rabbi's office. Jewelers who close Fri and Sat, are next to leather goods shops and spice displays. Come one and all. Explore the narrow alleyways of the ancient medina. There is something for everyone, regardless of faith or creed. Occasional Christian churches are overshadowed by the magnificent mosques, especially the recently built Hassan II Mosque, along the ocean. A place for people to gather in the courtyards and surrounding areas between prayers; it is a hub of activity with people fishing, chatting, and resting. Jump in, flow with the current, and enjoy the ride.
And so it goes....................................Next Tangiers and the otherworldly blue city of Chefchaouen. Until then let's remember to give our lives a shake, mixing up our everyday human storyline with the mystical side of our existence. Take care and Keep in Touch. We love hearing from you!
Love, Light & Laughter,
1 US Dollar equals 9.41 Moroccan Dirham
Ricks Cafe, Blvd Sour. Bar and Restaurant inspired by the Humphrey Bogart movie, "Casablanca". Which in turn was set in the original Rick's Cafe. What came first - the chicken or the egg; 'Boggie' or the cafe?