I’m not sure when I first noticed it. It started out as a feeling or subtle awareness: a déjà vu sensation. As I’ve traveled more and more over the years, this awareness expanded in both depth and intensity. I began to think, in my mind, about what was going on.
Travel leads me ‘out’ of myself and into the world (most recently, Morocco). The more unfamiliar the environment, it seems, the faster I seem to want to go. Morocco, or ‘Maroc’ as the locals refer to it, felt like one enormous Souk: a dazzle of sensory experience that was a kind of non-stop seduction further and deeper into the ‘heart’ of whatever city I was in at the time. Most larger cities in Maroc have multiple souks (narrow, maze-like caverns of goods for sale), and medinas (more like a city square).
Following a souk is exactly like the story of Alice, in her Wonderland: your curiousity propels you in your very first step forward, to see what further delights might lie ahead. There’s no point in looking for markers or street signs – there aren’t any; and the scenery changes constantly, so it’s impossible to get your bearings. Spices, leather goods, clothing, fabrics, jewelry, food, shoes, crockery, rugs, metal crafts…just a partial list of ‘sections’ within each souk. New wares are constantly being delivered, by donkey or scooter, throughout the day; so walking a souk means paying attention to shouts of “Aihtaras!” (Move! Now!). For Moroccans, this is Life: vital commerce that extends from about 9 in the morning until midnight. It’s very possible to become disoriented in a large souk: there are so many people, so many things that draw your attention, moving your feet forward, trancelike. Deeper in wonderment you go.
At some point in my life, travel began leading me ‘into’ myself as I explored the world. Just like in a souk, I abandon any worry of becoming lost, and give in wholeheartedly to the experience. I trust that, when I need to ‘exit’ that exploration for a minute, to process and integrate what I’ve learned, I’ll find the right resting spot.
With this trip, I soon realized that Maroc has been a part of my inner-self exploration even before the trip was planned. Returning to the States, as soon as I walked through the front door to my home, I saw with fresh eyes – and astonishment – that my décor is actually very Moroccan. It has been, since as far back as my first apartment. But I needed to go to Morocco, to wander souks with total abandonment and trust, to be reminded of what was already in my heart and a part of who I am. “Shukran, Maroc.” I will return; and in the meantime, continue to carry you in my heart.