Garrett Harris noon, March 10
- Community Blog
How I ended up in Marrakech the first time
My path to this journey began in 2004. I was on my way to work in San Diego, California on a commuter train “The Coaster”. I had noticed a girl sitting in the same car as I normally sit, and as many of us do, we smile hello each afternoon at each other. On this day, it was crowded, and I selected a seat across from this girl. She told me her name was Jamila, and she was a traveling bookseller from Marrakech. She was here studying English, and today was her final day before she returned home. She told me about her book project, and as she departed the train she handed me her name on a piece of paper and said “Google me”.
In the days or months ahead, I did just that. I found many articles about her in many languages. I looked at her website, I told my friends about my encounter with a girl from Morocco. I had lived in Sydney Australia from 89-94. One of my boyfriends during this period was a Moroccan man named Omar who was a wonderful cook. He was from a village outside of Casablanca, his father a Berber and his mother from Persia. Omar’s business partner was a man named Henri, also from Casablanca, but a French man. Omar used to create dinner parties every Sunday afternoon where we and all of our friends feasted on his Moroccan concoctions and tea.
In 2010 I made a decision to take a cruise in the Mediterranean out of Barcelona. I figured it was time for me to travel in a herd, so that if I go missing, someone might notice. When looking at the cruise route on the Internet, I saw that Morocco was very close, and very cheap to fly to, from Barcelona. I managed to find the email for Jamila, and sent her a note asking her if she remembered me, from that one conversation years ago, and told her I was considering coming to Marrakech for a few days after my cruise. She responded quickly, and said “come on down”. I booked my airfare from Barcelona to Madrid to Casablanca to Marrakech. I think I had only 5 days left of vacation.
I was very happy to escape the cruise and fly to Morocco. Jamila had assisted in finding accommodation at a riad near her home for me at a very reasonable price, operated by a couple from France. I used my iPhone translator to communicate with this couple and book. The woman and her friend picked me up from the airport and drove me to the riad. It was after dark, and I was amazed at the wide streets, and modern looking hotels and fountains on the way. The riad was very beautiful with tiled walls, built around a central courtyard and a terraced roof for lounging and breakfast, which at night was covered by a canvas roof.
I discovered that the caravane du livre for 2010 was beginning the day after I had to return home, but that many of the participants were staying at the same riad. Jamila’s friend Francoise, who spoke some English, was arriving on my second or third day. The others spoke only French or Italian, so I looked forward to her arrival. I hung out with Jamila, went to the library (bookstore), and to a clothing designer who did custom djellebah including very elaborate gowns for weddings and formal dress. Jamila also found a driver for me who drove me out to Imlil, a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains for a day so I could wander around. I spend another day with her friend Malika, a French/Arabic language teacher, and we shopped and made a tagine at her apartment and became friends. I had a magical few days before returning to Barcelona to fly home. In Barcelona, I discovered that the volcano had erupted in Greenland and CNN was reporting all airports in Europe were closed down. I wished I could accompany them on the caravane, but my vacation time was over, and my money was gone.