In my mind Morocco has always been shrouded in mystery. Encompassing the fabled cities of Casablanca and Marrakech, and the setting off point for the renowned trans-Sahara route to Timbuktu, Morocco drips with the exotic; with countless oases, kasbahs, and mystics. Throw in camels, snake charmers, genies of the lamp, and flying carpets of Arabian folklore, and the kids’ intrigue peaks as well.
Pre-arrival I was filled with emotions, a mix of excitement and anxiety, as partial images constructed out of the incongruent information gathered from guide books, fellow travelers, and my unbridled imagination, floated in my head. I didn’t know what to expect and I braced myself and the rest of the family for the inevitable changes in language, culture, dress, and food. Everyone seemed to warn of the “intensity” of Morocco, yet I remained uncertain as to how it would present itself.
We had been advised by a fellow traveler back in South America that a good introduction to Morocco would be the Medieval city of Fez. In an effort to reduce one-night stops, we avoided spending time in the boarder town of Tangier, instead opting to travel from Algeciras, Spain to Fez Morocco in a single day. To my relief the high speed ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco was a breeze.
Wanting to be easy on ourselves for our first day in a wildly different country, we opted to purchase 4 first class tickets for the 4.5 hr train to Fez. Our travel day was lengthened by a few hours of waiting in the simple yet somehow elegant train station for our train’s scheduled departure.
Like most things in life, the cause of my declaration can be attributed to the culmination of a complex combination of elements. Now with almost 3 weeks distancing me from the event, I can’t deny that the accumulation of my pre-arrival anxiety, as I led our family into the unknown, played a factor. There was also the the relatively long travel day, which tired and bored the kids. Then there was the indisputable build-up of frustration with the children’s increasing lack of interest and seemingly constant complaints of anything that Kiko and I found remotely worthy of our interest as far as daily travel. “We don’t want to." "Not another church/castle/market." "We want to just stay "home"”, were some of the lines we heard repetitively over the last few weeks. But the main culprit, the real straw that broke the camel’s back, was the repeated inability of one child to do as asked. I don't think its necessary or fair to the child to go into the specifics but simply put the necessary authoritative relationship between parents and young child was no longer functioning.
I just couldn’t do it anymore. How can a family travel around the world if one or more of the children can not be trusted to do as a parent tells them to; with blatant refusals on multiple occasions? It isn’t safe and isn't fun. The whole thing felt too much like pulling teeth.
My eyes were filled with tears and all my energy was just sucked right out of my body the instant I came to the halting conclusion and subsequent declaration. I wouldn’t talk it over; my decision was final. I was crestfallen. The walk from the train to the taxi and the subsequent taxi ride and walk through the Medina to our Dar was done as if I was a zombie. I could vaguely make out the kids trying excessively to be “nice” and do and say all the things they knew I wanted them to do for the last 5 months. But I wasn’t willing to engage.
Even the arrival at our Fez accommodations, Dar Benares , which was something so spectacular that I had chosen to keep it a secret from the kids just to see their expression upon entering, was bittersweet.
Luckily I had had the foresight to realize that we wouldn’t want to go immediately out to dinner after a long travel day so I had pre-arranged for Nabella, our host’s sister, to cook our first dinner right in our Dar. That arrangement also had the added benefit of having someone else in the house upon our arrival, sparing me from having to have “the talk” for a few hours. I collapsed as the lovely aroma of dinner filled the house.
But to my complete and utter surprise, when faced with the early termination of our year long trip, our child, who up to that point seemed simply not to have a disposition well suited to long term international travel, changed tunes entirely. It was an “aha" moment and I am just relieved it occurred and the dynamic shifted. Honestly, and thankfully, I can say the whole thing, although earth shattering at the time, seems so distant now following so many wonderful experiences here in Morocco. As I write this we have every intention of finishing our RTW year long trip but only because this event changed the status quo.
I struggled with whether or not to include this incident in this post, but to be fair to our story and to the other traveling families or would-be nomadic families, I felt like I had to include the main gist of it. I feel like I have more than hinted in past posts as well but here it is in bold, long term travel is not all smiles and good times. You don’t run away from any of the dynamics that existed at home. If anything they just are more intensified. Travel has been a magnifying glass on our family dynamics. But the positive side to this all is that I believe we are addressing things that could have gone on years unexamined, which would have been to our possible detriment in the future. From where I stand now, I fully understand the preciousness of this family experience.
Throughout my life I have experinced a feeling of rejuvenation from travel to exotic lands.
I embraced our time in Fez as if it may in fact be our last destination, savoring the brilliance of being able to experience literally being on the other side of the world.
On our first full day in Fez we had prearranged for the recommended tour of the Medina, the medieval labyrinth streets, in which our Dar was situated. It was a treat to be guided so as not to have to worry about finding our way back, letting all our attention fall on our new otherworldly environment. I couldn’t help think of Star Wars as I saw the men wearing the hooded jellabas.
Our daily adventure was simply to go out and explore. It seriously felt like we time travelled as we shut our door and wandered the labyrinth of alleys that make up the Medina, the most complete Medieval city of the Arab world which has been continually occupied since the 8th century.
We returned to the entry room and toweled dry and got dressed. The other women put on shirts and pants very similar to mine but when I finished they proceeded to don the customary over-dress and head scarf as well. When they were fully dressed only their hands and faces showed. How interesting that the women so accustomed to being covered from head to toe in public were so remarkably comfortable being nearly naked, or totally naked in some cases, in such close quarter together. I find the opposite true at home where it is quite normal to go nearly naked in public, clad in minuscule bikinis, but it is not necessarily typical to be comfortable being naked amongst a group of women.