What is it about traveling to certain new places that catches our heart? The people, the food, the architecture - all of these elements play into our first impression of a new city. But there is something deeper, something visceral that also happens when you fall in love. Some places - like Paris - the affection is as immediate as it is intense. The light clinging to Mansard rooftops, the cobbled streets, the cafes overflowing with delights. It is almost lustful those first feelings you experience in such a place.
Then there are others. Those that fill your chest with aching - those are the slow burn. There are few places in the world that I would pass on traveling too - my curiosity and wanderlust always getting the better of me. But Northern Africa was not a place that topped my list, if the opportunity presented itself, wonderful - but there were too many other places I had my eye and heart set upon. I've known Maryam for some years and when she offered to host our first Instant Love Retreat at her Peacock Pavilions, the opportunity had suddenly presented itself, and I will be forever grateful.
We spent out first days before the retreat began in the heart of Marrakech in a quiet Riad just off of the main square in the Medina. I found that first day a shock to my system. Wandering through the souks and through the Djemaa el-Fna - filled with aggressive shopkeepers, snake charmers and monkey handlers - it was so much to take in at once. Not until that evening when we found reprise in a quiet rooftop restaurant outside the square did the city begin to cast it's spell. Above the city we stood, over rooftops dressed in colorful robes on laundry lines - the Atlas Mountains looming in the backdrop - the call to evening prayer began. It came from several directions at once and as the sun set, the almost haunting sounds snaked it's way throughout the Medina and I felt myself uncoiling a bit from the intensity of our first day. It is a moment that brought tears to my dusted cheeks and a memory I will forever recall - it was the match that set the slow burn.
Africa presents almost clichéd juxtapositions and Morocco is no exception to this. I saw things I would like to forget, things I don't want to forget - and the truth - all of these things I will simply never forget. It opens your heart in ways that are difficult to put into words to those who have not experienced the alchemy of this part of the world. I am forever changed by the experience and hope that ultimately what I can share with my daughters and those I love is a heightened awareness. And one day, I will take them into this land where I hope they feel that small match ignite in their own chests and see the land for it's unearthly beauty, it's generous people and the hypnotic sounds and sights of the desert.
I fell in love with Morocco - but I also fell in love with the wonderful women who joined us on this adventure. There was no drama, no angst - just 13 women experiencing all of this together, recording our adventures on instant cameras and creating bonds that will last for years to come. Thank you ladies - life changing indeed.
p.s. a new post over at Nectar about the soul of the Moroccan gathering - Kesra, Moroccan flatbread.