When desire meets belief…
I was a lucky kid. I had an Uncle Lloyd Jr. and he had a periscope to a different and bigger world. “That’s what you can do if you go to college” mom would say, matter of factly.
My family is tiny, but he was the first to have a college education and he had subsequently traveled the world as a navigator in the Air Force. Every Christmas Eve we were allowed to open one present and there was no question in any of the three sisters’ minds as to which it would be. Somewhere under that tree was my gift, and it would be wrapped in a map of an unknown place. Inside it would be a book to a magical world, or an artifact or artwork from across the globe, unlike anything I had ever seen. Lloyd Jr., like his gifts, unlocked a doors to unimaginable worlds.
When I was 14 I took my first flight, thanks to Uncle Lloyd Junior and a trip to Epcot, which featured a “Future World Showcase” with eleven countries from around the world. I can still here Lloyd Junior ask, “Connie Jill… If you can go anywhere in the world for dinner tonight, where will it be?” Its still maybe the best question I’ve ever been asked and considering my answer was a thrill. It was easy to choose the most exotic, far-off, possibly never-to-be-seen again by me pavilion in Epcot: MOROCCO.
In the Moroccan Pavilion at Epcot, towered a reproduction of the Koutoubia Minaret of Marrakesh, a prayer tower of the 12th century mosque, with a flower-filled courtyard surrounded by citrus and olive trees, date palms and banana plants, with Moroccan music, exotic belly dancers and acrobatics. What a preview for – thirty years later – visiting the largest open air market in Africa: Jemaa el-Fnaa.
Dinner was couscous flavored with unknown exotic spices and delicately layered artistic Baklava -I was in love. Like Morocco itself, the Pavilion was a dazzling, opulent display, with arched pillars, pierced metal lamps glinting in the light and a mosaic marble center stage filled with enchanting entertainment by a cadre of inspiring dancers and performers.
Flash forward a mere three decades later I wandered the souks of the Medina in Marrakech, eating everything in sight ( #travelthroughfood ) meeting and working with engravers and jewelers on a very special item for A Nice World. I tried a few of those traditional dance steps and experienced the moment of a lifetime after a dance with an amazing young female dancer, in the square to the live musicians surrounded by candles, lanterns and a live chicken on the hat of a guitar player. At the end of the dance, this little power pack just picked me up and spun around and around and around, till the lights of the marketplace were a distant streak sliding by to the sounds of the musicians and dancer’s bells. A day dance with a traditional transgender Marrakesh dancer ended in blown kisses, tears of joy and a tip jar overflowing from the crowd having so much fun.
I amused everyone including myself with some very rudimentary traveler’s Arabic. Experiencing a traditional Hammem and soaking up the exotic, colorful, rich, amazing culture is a MUST on your Moroccan list. As much as I prefer “Gesundheit” to “God Bless You” after a sneeze, it was oddly lovely to greet, bid adieu and along the way offer phrases boiling down to “It’s in the hands of the universe… the universe provides… by the grace of the universe.” The added fun of French everywhere as a back up was an absolument enchanteur. What is more wonderful than enjoying a pastry with a Moroccan-French twist, bidding bonjour! bonjour! What a treat.
Head to Essaouira to drive through the countryside, stop to meet the ladies of the Argon oil collective, pull in to a beachfront park and see the waves crashing into the ramparts along the long, sunny stretch of white beach. For another side trip, traverse the Atlas mountains to meet a Berber family, learn to make mint tea and Tangine and see a slice of life which has endured for centuries. Take in all the sunrises and sunsets you can from rooftop patios. Soak up that beautiful pink light and the sights, sounds and tastes of Morocco.
I’ll have to write another blog on the Moroccan Synchronicity and continue the story. For now… Thank you Lloyd Junior for exposing me to a the world so far beyond my tiny little town. Nice people, why not take a little time to expose a kid to the great big world. You never know where it might lead.
Photo: Celebrating the Women’s March with three new dance partners at Cafe Clock.