While in Spain during 1991, I had the opportunity to travel across the sea to Moroco. It was just 10 days but what an amazing trip!
I remember driving along dusty roads, opening the windows for a refreshing breeze only to be blasted by hot, desert air. Instead of fields of cows and sheep of Europe we sped past fields of camels. It was my first time as an adult in the developing world, we stayed in run down motels, became familiar with cockroaches and were awoken each morning at 5am by the village call to prayer. This is where I learnt to drink a bottle of coke a day to combat the many nasties that result in various forms gastroenteritis (the runs!), it works!
We visited a market in Fez or Marrakesh, I cant recall which, we were taken to the tannery to see how they produced their leather goods. Oh the stench!!! We were each given a sprig of mint to hold to our noses in a vain attempt at shielding the smell of the mounds of rotting animal heads, hoofs and general caracas parts! The rest of the place was a honeycomb of large clay basins filled with various liquids and dies with which the hides were treated in sequence. I don’t think I will ever forget that!
The rest of the market was a labyrinth of tiny streets crowed with stalls of all sorts of goods – beautiful! Some streets would ‘specialise’ in one kind of produce, I remember clearly one that was all carpentry and carving. I received a few offers of marriage too during that day!
During the trip we spent a couple of days high up in the Riff mountains. A few things were significant about our time in the mountains. One was a moment when I was utterly overwhelmed by an intense fear for my life, there was no rational explanation for it, there was some drug dealing happening around the car next to us as we went to our motel, but nothing nasty or aggressive. I have not experienced anything like that, before or since then, and I don’t wish to!
At our final destination in the mountains we stayed with a family, they took us to the local village market where one of the elders was convinced that I was one of his people. I have the same skin colouring and hair texture as they do! Another day our hosts took us to a tiny remote village, several hours walk into the mountains, there we were served a simple but ample meal of beef targine with Moroccan bread by a family known to our hosts. At some point in the proceedings, our host said quietly and in English so that the family wouldn’t understand “this meal would have cost them about one week’s earnings”. I remember feeling awed, humbled and very grateful.
This trip to Morocco was my first to Africa since leaving Nigeria when I was 7 years old. It was my first step back to the continent that my heart had grown heard towards. I remember seeing the women carrying their babies on their backs and being reminded of scenes from my child hood. Something began to stir in my heart.