Image by Britrob
Three words. That was all it took. Three little words and I was utterly besotted. With Morocco, I mean, not the tall dark stranger who uttered them. The words were simple; the effect was powerful. As I shuffled along in a slow-moving mass of tired travellers, it was made clear to me that the short sail from Spain had taken me a whole world away from home. His words slipped in to my ear with a whisper:
‘Welcome to Afrika…’
His tongue moulded every syllable into a rich, resonating beat, his husky voice seeming to embody the mysteries and magic of this womb-continent, the birthplace of mankind.
I didn’t see his face; he was nothing but a shadow looming on the edge of my vision, swathed in a dark cloak. Later I would wonder if he was even real – our encounter had been so fleeting – but those words continued to echo in my mind for the next four days.
Image by Rhurtubia
Africa certainly welcomed me, or at least, gave me a quick wave before scooping up a basket of bread and a bedraggled-looking goat and getting on with its day, a chaotic blend of colour and motion, heat and noise.
Marrakech is like a heart: a bloody mess. It is fierce and forceful, dynamic, yet not always pretty. The veins of the labyrinthine souk spill life into the streets, as vendors fight to make a sale, chickens – necks swiftly snapped – are plucked and displayed and dusty-faced children play with the discarded bones.
Image by Ahron de Leeuw
Money, then, is the blood of this city. It floods Djemma el Fna square with energy, a relentless force. A chain of transactions links the bustling multitudes, flowing incessantly; a handshake, an offering of a cigarette, a palmful of coins in exchange for a bag of terracotta spices, a wink and a smile. Hand to hand, bowl to mouth. It’s rhythmic. It’s visceral.
Image by Dave Massie
In Marrakech, life permeates; it vibrates. Colours blaze in the sunlight. The adhan booms from the minaret of Koutoubia Mosque five times a day, calling the faithful to prayer. The animated atmosphere is host to a thousand voices, each tone and inflection contributing to the buzzing din. Exotic utterings intrigue me, the crafted blend of Arabic and French sounds smooth yet staccato, syncopated in its unique style.
Every breath brings new delights. Mint tea swirls in a glass, sweet and fresh, tempting you to take a sip. Traditional shisha fogs the air and leaves you light-headed. A feast of flavours awaits you on every corner, from melt-in-the-mouth coconut biscuits to warm, gently spiced tagines, all prompting eager nods of the head and contented frowns of satisfaction. All of your senses are seduced.
Yes, Africa certainly welcomed me. I was enveloped in the musky haze of Moroccan markets, enthralled by the snake charmers and enraptured with the routine chaos. I fell in love instantly.
I can’t help but think that my whispering welcomer knew I would, all along.
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