‘Sporty Woman’ Hits Morocco

“Please, you can trust me!”

The line, uttered in broken English, seemed the perfect opener for Taken 4.

I looked at Abdullah—the short, middle-aged man beckoning me to follow him down the alleyway—and paused. A small group of young men chuckled and muttered something, while Abdullah shut them down with a torrent of angry Arabic.

If this trip were a dream, this moment was like marrying a stranger, or being thrust on a stage without knowing my lines. What was I doing?

[On Jan. 18, I came across an amazing opportunity to pilot a Portuguese immersion program in the Cape Verde islands for a very low cost. The trip started Jan. 21. After crazy last minute prep, I jetted off for Africa. This is the story of my 15 hour layover in Morocco.]

sarah-in-garb

Touring Casablanca alone didn’t daunt me. I’m naïve and a risk-taker—a dangerous cocktail—but as of yet, my escapades have been delightfully rewarding.

So then and there, I was tempted to follow my new acquaintance, until an inner voice stopped me. If for no other reason, have some sanity for your mother’s sake, it whispered. Good point, I thought.

I had met Abdullah only ten minutes before, while walking through Old Medina market – a vibrant labyrinth of sights, sounds and smells. He had dropped in step beside me, asked me where I was from and struck up conversation, pointing out notable buildings within the twisting streets. At first, I was annoyed at the unwanted company. And then the whole alleyway situation made me question my lucidity.

market

Although I balked at that, I did allow my guide to continue chattering away as we walked down the main thoroughfare of the market. While the sky grew overcast, I listened halfheartedly as I plotted my method of escape.

Soon, however, I discovered that Abdullah was quite knowledgeable, dropping pearls of insight about Casablanca’s Jewish heritage and political system. He raved with national pride of the city’s grand mosque, of its exports and its economic dominance in North Africa.

When it began to rain, we hurried down a dingy street, sidestepping puddles and dodging poppy red taxis. The skies then poured forth in all their glory, so we ducked into a café for shelter.

tea-2

As Abdullah ordered a pot of Morocco’s famous mint tea, I sat, soaked and smiling. This was nothing like expected. Africa—or what I had seen of it—was cold and wet. My current view of French-inspired Casablanca was a dingy carpentry shop. And here I was about to sip tea with a middle-aged Arab man.

Let’s just say I have come to delight in God’s little twists in my plans.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After learning to pour the Moroccan way and warming up on the strong brew, the rain stopped and Abudullah and I headed on our way. The gorgeous Hassan II Mosque was far larger than I had realized, and its variegated surface shone ever brighter from the sheen of rain. I was mesmerized by the intricate patterns of cobalt blue, emerald green and mustard yellow that zigged and zagged across its walls. While there, we talked a bit of faith and politics (and yes, of Donald Trump.)

After the mosque, I really began to enjoy myself. I discovered that Abdullah knew nearly everyone in the marketplace. When he learned that I wished to buy fruit, he helped me haggle for the most succulent dates and the freshest oranges. (I learned to chuckle at the line “For you, I give the best price!”)

Passing one building, he explained the process of Turkish ritual bathing (Hammam) and pulled me through a little door to see how wood was burned to produce the steam. Inside, stoking the fire, were two of his friends eating a meal from a traditional clay pot. They shared a bite and a smile, and my heart just burst with delight.

A desire to get my hair cut had slowly been welling within me (yes, I was channeling Audrey Hepburn). Kind Abdullah asked his policeman friend to recommend a salon, and we eventually arrived in a little one-room shop manned by a sweet elderly French-African woman. Although we couldn’t communicate, our mutual smiles surmounted the language barrier and my tresses were successfully trimmed.

the-city

In the next hour, Abdullah and I toured the French quarter. We kept passing his friends! One grinned and spoke in Arabic. “He says you are beautiful,” Abdullah explained. Another smiled and nodded toward me. “She invites you for tea this afternoon, if you wish.”

Then he dropped another pearl of wisdom. “Remember when you were afraid to follow me earlier? I would and could never do anything to you, because everyone here knows me.” It was a fascinating thought. Tight-knit community lessens the chance of crime. And these people were so wonderfully hospitable!

As I mulled over implicit biases, risk-taking and friendship, the skies absolutely opened. People stared as we hilariously raced through the streets for cover. Soaked to the bone, I giggled as Abdullah kept repeating: “A sporty woman! Such a sporty woman!” (I’ll take that title any day.)

Finally, we arrived at a tea shop – again, owned by another of Abdullah’s friends. My solicitous guide quite literally took the shirt off his back to ensure my comfort. Seeing I was shivering, he gave me his jacket and took my sweater to his friend next door, bringing it back folded and somewhat dry. Then we told stories, looked at pictures and sipped tea and coffee while waiting for the rain to abate. The policeman even came in and smilingly asked to see my new haircut!

the-tea

By the end of the day, I wondered why this man had spent so many hours with me. Surely it was not solely from the kindness of his heart?

Although Abdullah did ask for a tip in the end, our relationship was not a business one. I left Morocco with a friend.

Had I let fear assail me, I would not have visited Casablanca by myself. I also would not have traveled alongside Abdullah. As a result, I would have missed one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life.

It made me think. And in light of recent political events, I hope it makes you think too.

me-and-abdel

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “‘Sporty Woman’ Hits Morocco

  1. A lovely telling of a great adventure, which by the grace of God ended well. Yes, being cautious may cause a person to miss positive experiences. But that same caution may help you avoid negative ones. Some of those negative experiences may end with your never having another positive experience again in this lifetime. A wise person seeks to hit a proper balance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Sarah,

    I was fascinated by your story, but I think you were stretching God’s grace. Despite your speed and cross-country prowess, you easily could have been pulled in through a doorway and overpowered and then forced into sex trafficking. It scares me, frankly. Please, always travel with a group of people whom you know and trust. You have been bought at a great price. Acts 20:28

    I am pleased that you had a good visit to Casablanca. Was this a special RT plane fare for $199 or something? You mentioned no other travels. Did you father and mother know of your travel agenda? Just curious!

    Anyway, thanks for allowing me to listen in as a fly on the wall as I was reading your blog!

    Lots of love,

    Richard Sent from my iPhone

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s