“Tomorrow is another day”, this one liner has come to change the way I live my life. We spoke at length for the first time, one warm afternoon at a quaint café just outside Rabat railway station, while sipping on nous nous, a Moroccan coffee, after a long and tiring walk. Tariq our tour leader was playing Country Roads on his laptop, a song quite unpopular in the Arabic speaking world, which made me stop by in curiosity. Patting a chair nearby he gestured me to sit, “So you are an Indian girl. Do you see Shahrukh Khan movies?” he asked me with a twinkly in his deep set eyes. His disarming demeanour immediately struck a chord with me and we delighted in eachother’s company. A Moroccan man of Arab and Berber descent, I soon found Tariq to possess a variety of knowledge and interests. He gave up studying law, a highly paying profession to pursue his passion in adventure and travel. I once asked him if he regretted his decision. “No”, came a strong reply, “This is my job, I love it.”
With his raspyvoice, deep laugh, misplaced English and keen sense of humour we learnt a lot about Moroccan culture, history, architecture and way of life from him.
My best times with Tariq were our fascinating conversations over sheesha. We talked late into the night, I was curious about his life as a travel guide and he about India. He spoke about his life in Marrakech, how he started to work at a young age doing odd jobs to support the family, how grateful he is each morning for the good health he enjoys. His eyes light up each time he talks about the friendly people he meets in each group, who take him around the world with their stories. I hear him rattle off sentences in several different languages he has picked up over his years as a guide to travelers from across the world. He plans to continue as a tour guide for as long as his body can take this very demanding profession, and on retiring will set up a painting school, another one of his many hidden talents.
With Tariq around as our translator we spoke to many local berber women and wandering nomads attending to their flock. While exploring Midelt situated in lush green plains, amidst fruit orchards between the High and Middle Atlas mountain ranges, we visited a berber family. The family lived in a small one room stone house with two thin mattresses, a wooden centre table, and an old television set in the living room. Whiel I sat cross legged on the mattress the mother warmly welcomed me with sweet mint tea, the traditional Moroccan greeting and colourful cookies freshly baked. Taken aback from these insanely delicious cookied, I had to ask whether they were home-made or fetched from a nearby bakery. “I made them yesterday”, came a soft faint voice from the corner. I turned to see a pretty girl of around 16 years in age peeping out from behind a faded yellow polka dotted curtain, a shy smile on her face. Curious to know more, I asked the girl what she does. “She helps me with household work, picking apples from the orchard, soon she will be married and will move to her husband’s house,” said her mother, years of hard work and harsh weather evident on her wrinkled face. In Morocco’s countryside, once a berber woman gets married she moves to her husband’s house and may come home to see her family several years later depending on how far she lives and her family duties as a wife and mother.
As the light began to fade out and we got up to leave, I could not help but wonder at this family’s contentment with life out there in the Atlas, far flung from civilization. The lady herself admitted to never having been to Fes or Marrakech, and hoping to go there someday, while her husband goes there often for work. While a progressive country on many accounts, Morocco continues to be a patriarchal society, similar to India in many ways. I gave the lady a warm hug, knowing exactly what she meant. Our eyes met, hers lined with kohl, mine with kajal, two of us from very different worlds yet sharing a common bond of womanhood.
I often wonder about the people we come across, who share in our lives for those few minutes. The moments are special, the lessons are invaluable and the memories will never fade.
As I study his face, I see the fine lines around his eyes, his hardened hands and years of experience behind those pearls of wisdom. In Tariq’s exciting life, I saw a bit of my own; while worlds apart we are still trying to choose to the things we love, over money. The difference though is that he had the courage to pursue his happiness…….
Do you have any such memories, where you shared a few happy moments and laughter with people you hardly knew, but touched your life? I would love to hear your stories and experiences.
I travelled through the magical country of Morocco for 2 weeks on the Best of Morocco tour by Intrepid. I absolutely loved the tour and would recommend each of you to take this tour to get a feel of life in Morocco. Views expressed here are purely my own.
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