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Everything is possible in Africa. Exploring Morocco (EN version)

If reading in lithuanian is more comfortable for you – try lithuanian version of this text here.

In Morocco, it is easier to buy hashish than a bottle of cold Prosecco. Hashish is offered on every darker corner of a street. Can’t be angry. But believe me, no drugs is necessary to feel here like being in some kind of a parallel reality. Forget everything you have heard about Morocco. Everything is different here compared with what you are accustomed to, but this is the key reason for the development of addiction: some are afraid of otherness; others enjoy new experience and get inspired. If you let this country in, it will welcome you as you are and you will never wish to leave this place.

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I want to tell you about one thousand and one nights which fitted into me and my soul mate photographer Lina Aidukė‘s holidays. Time is not a dimension here. Like in fairytales. One thousand and one nights redolent of mint and saffron, full of changing faces, oil, dark eyes drowning like honey, the piercing blue of indigo, sand, mountains similar to halva, heat of the Sun and fullness of the Moon, twilights and black hair, carpets telling stories, hands, unexpected, burning, ephemeral touches which accommodate lifetime novels, fish in a market, camels in the dessert, skin, almond blossom…

A beautiful, magical country, open up your djellaba, reveal your secrets which I have buried in the desert sand when the night was pierced by the fool moon. Give me all of them except those which are about to be burnt in the flames of hell, spread the poison of my cognition. And if they help to convey at least a piece of my sweet, drowning Moroccan happiness, these words and pictures will reach their goal.

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The most important rule: never, never be a tourist. Be a traveller. 

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It starts to seem that all the Moroccan adventures took place about a year ago. The heart mourns in cold and grey evenings. I comfort my heart with the allusion that at the beginning of autumn we will pack our backpacks and return to pick what I and Lina have mindlessly scattered. Holidays are destined to prevail from thinking, whereas journeys are destined to lead to cognition.  “Best school is travel”, even without a blink in his black lashes says Mohamed who we met in the streets of Essaouira.

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I had to write down that natural wisdom voiced by a philosopher from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. He has never attended any educational institution but makes himself understood in a few foreign languages, plays a great number of musical instruments and sends out such a cultural level that more than one university graduates definitely lack. “Take it easy”, Mohamed jokes, “before you go crazy”.

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In one or another way, here it is easier than easy to go crazy. There is so much of everything and so strongly. I don’t know on which day of our acquaintanceship I asked him what his biggest wish was. Our new friend answered that he did not have one: “I’m living a dream”. And you are not allowed not to believe him because the answer didn’t need a second to consider and he was sincerely smiling…

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So, these were the lessons that we together with Lina had. But of course, these were not the only ones. We integrated to this culture successfully with the help of the locals and those who live longer. If you didn’t enter into stronger relations with any of the locals, you can bury a hope that you familiarized with this land. Consequently, you definitely don’t know where to taste the most delicious tajine which is eaten with hands, where to buy wine after 8 pm, where to get fresh bread and fish, you don’t know what is truly worth seeing and what is only a lure for tourists.

One evening my most careful surf instructor Rachid helped us to organize dinner.

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Hanging about Moroccan markets is naturally a peculiar experience. I highly recommend having at least a brief visit in the main market square of Marrakesh when it is dark: cobras, street food, monkeys, musicians, various entertainers, and again even more street food, acrobats, freshly squeezed juice, spices, djellabas. I don’t know any item we could not find here. Actually, shopping in Essaouira that late evening left the deepest impression on me.

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We decided to eat chicken. Well, we followed Rachid to the part of the market where chickens were calmly squawking, meat gobbets were hanging, and we could smell animal droppings and so on.

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We chose one of the white feather chickens in the cage. It was still standing on both legs and was calmly squawking. RASP. A big knife in hands of a swarthy young man cut the chicken throat. Lina immediately occurred at the other end of the market and, it seemed to me, was meditating with her eyes closed, maybe was mourning for karma points, but this is it, all the steaks are born this way. I was standing next to the miserable head of the chicken because I wanted to undergo all the experiences till the very end even if they were not prettified. Whereas Rachid, having spoken beautiful Arabian (“it is like mountains”, Rachid described this language on the first day of our acquaintanceship), gave us a wave: let’s go. While the guys were plucking feathers from our dinner and disemboweling hoses, we bought vegetables, bread and so on. When we came back, our chicken was clean and chopped. We brought everything to an unknown place, Rachid passed the products, we sat for a while on the second floor of this “institution” chatting about this and that, and voila, dinner was ready, packed in foil and waiting for us on the counter. It was one of the most delicious dinners in Morocco. And the most impressive, for sure.

We lost some karma points bringing into the streets of Essaouira a bit of Lithuanian drama, but no one can get angry on us because the whole Morocco has a magical effect. Those waves wash your head, thousands of those winds blow off all the worries.

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This town is called a town of winds not in vain. And every morning you drink life from the handfuls at your table in a favourite cafeteria. You are watching the people migrating in the sunshine. And then, it gets so natural to spot Mohamed’s curls and see him approaching to the cafeteria. His curls, illuminated from behind, give him a halo of divinity.

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Later, he will be angry for calling him God. He will say that it hurts his religious beliefs. But we will talk about it next time because in spite of differences in religions, both of us admitted that basically the core of all religions is one and the same. And all the visited places, all the people have even more of God than the largest churches or mosques.

One morning, I went to that cafeteria alone. I wouldn’t have done so on the first day. It must have been too much for alone redheaded to experience that active attention. But that time I felt almost local, or maybe I was still under the influence of a great amount of impressions from the previous evening. I even dared to put on the only “Offon daiktai” dress which found some space in my backpack. Well, with my strong steps I was crossing the streets of that eternal market, in my hands I was holding a book which I didn’t open during my journey (I had two), and was wearing sunglasses on my nose. All taverns were opening, goods were being placed on the counters, and I was smiling, waving back to the locals who recognized me after three days and instead of offering their goods they were saying: hello, Lithuanian! Our two-seater table is partially occupied, I find Mohamed having his breakfast. He has almost become a friend. He is everybody’s friend. If you do not know Mohamed, I dare say that you haven’t been to Essaouira. We are sitting, I order an omelet as always, coffee with milk and natural orange juice because it is dirt-cheap here. Vitamin C should satisfy me till the end of winter as much as Vitamin D – my face is as suntanned in Morocco as a real piggy-wiggy’s. A guy from Scandinavia who somehow has been staying here longer joins us. He has a guitar. Mohamed starts playing the guitar. Soon, one more guy, who appears to be the first guy’s cousin, joins us. He has got a little guitar. And a mouthorgan too. Then they are exchanging the instruments, I am still drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette, the unopened book is lying on the table. “This song is dedicated to you”, Mohamed says. And they start improvising here and now. The sun is shining, some kind of rain is drizzling, and once again I understand that OMG, life is so beautiful! I am texting to Lina: “you must get up and come here because magical things are happening.” But she is late for the concert. People are migrating through the side. It all happened as spontaneously as it disappeared. While Lina is having breakfast, Mohamed shows me a “hole” which makes good avocado cocktails. He says that it is a charge of energy for the entire day. Oh yes! It is as tasty as ice cream cocktail. We share it like brothers. I would have never ever experienced this morning if I had been only a tourist travelling under the schedule or a pre-planned route. Oh, Essaouira, how on the earth to come back from you…

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One more of better decisions of this journey was my resolution to try surfing. Yes, it is not the same as longboard, yes, I did not become a pro during those few days, but this sport is for me. Of course, when you have such instructor you don’t want to learn everything very fast…

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Moreover, without having any activity except for hanging about, our town may look a bit boring because it is not big at all. But it is full of people. I don’t want to imagine what is happening during the season. On Sunday evenings you cannot crawl in those streets, it seems, that all the locals go out to do shopping for a week what is very similar to our mid-class doing shopping in a bigger supermarket “Maxima“.

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Well, the morning starts with yoga, afterwards – breakfast, the walk to the beach, lunch but not necessarily and dinner in an outdoor terrace. You can only dream about these goodies at the end of January or at the beginning of February here in Lithuania.

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Or live music because this place is full of it. I am not going to argue over the professionalism, but they do it so sincerely. And those Berber dances and their bops… In the dessert, I was able to show how it’s done. While in one of cafeterias we were drinking that sweet drink consisting of sugar and mint, even a waiter started to dance and one of the guests joined the musicians and started to play and sing.

Let’s go back to the dessert. The trip to the dessert was the worst decision that we had ever made. Once we arrived, at least a few people said, that it was necessary to go to this place. I was waiting for that trip like the whole universe had been promised to me. The number of stars is said to be impressive there. Directors of a riad in Marrakesh said that 95% of people ordering this trip truly like it. It means that we were from those 5 % of people who did not like it, so we spoiled the statistics. Oh where you! I am unconscious, how I dared to say yes to a two-day trip by minibus with around 15 tourists from all corners of the world. And then, it took one more day to come back. Of course, some people like socializing in such an international pioneers camp on wheels. For this purpose I have Facebook.

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You see everything through the window. The bus, God bless you, stops at a few points to urinate, to smoke a cigarette or so. At one of those points, I and Lina were considering an idea to find a bus station and get out of there back to our paradise with the locals, the waves, the sun, the music, the breakfast cafeteria, the market where heads are cut for dinner… But we placed our hopes in the dessert. Both of us are very crazy. Lina had collected lots of good music. I was reading Tereshkin, Rumi’s poetry was used like Oracle and it really helped.

While still in the cage of your being

Behold the spirit bird

Before it flies away.

Centennial poetry is perfect for this trip. We were also learning poems by heart. When I returned home, with the help of Google I realized that E.E.Cummings writes a lot about love. But nothing similar to banality, I should add. Not at all.

may i feel said he

may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she

(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she

(let’s go said he
not too far said she
what’s too far said he
where you are said she)

may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she

may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you’re willing said he
(but you’re killing said she

but it’s life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she

(tiptop said he
don’t stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she

(cccome?said he
ummm said she)
you’re divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)

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One day I will go to that dessert. Without a crowd of tourists. And then I will touch the eternity because basically the beauty of the dessert is impressive. I and Lina were hiding somewhere in a few-hundred-meter distance from the main camp with personal stereo and were meditating in front of the full moon that lit up the desert with some metal light. The only wish was to be in silence and enjoy, but… Those tourists seemed to be screaming in every possible language very close to my ears. Oh God, I think I am getting older or I got mad in Morocco more than I thoughtJ. The night in the sands was so cold that I had to sleep with my jacket on. Under the Berber blanket I was curling myself into a ball and was trying to fill the space with the breaths to make it warmer. In tents there is electricity, but what concerns warmth, it is bad, really bad… I forgot to mention that the Berber camp could be reached only by poor camels. After one and a half hour’s sway on my butt I thought I would get corns. And my camel, as I suspect, was rather dizzy: everybody was travelling in tandem whereas my camel was the last, was swinging to one side, then to the other. With its 10 cm long lashes and gutted it was looking at Lina riding ahead, I was pressing my thighs being afraid of falling off this dizzy guy. Lina had two oranges inside her backpack, I am sure that you don’t want to learn how much of foamy slaver covered it during the trip. I think that she did not want to learn it eitherJ. At 6.30 am Berbers are waking us up: wake up, wake up! It is still dark outside the tent. Despite it, we, Lithuanian girls, are the first who are standing at the caravan and trying to recognize our animals in the darkness. It seems that if we are the first to pounce on, the caravan will move sooner. Good morning, brothers – says one of the Berbers gifted with a good sense of humour. At night we were teaching him Lithuanian, whereas the Slovenian tourist – swear words. And then we were swinging 1.5 hours until we reached the village. I was screaming in the dessert: why, why for me! Perche!

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At 11 o’clock the trip back to Marrakesh was also “something special”. We were dreaming about a shower. I am almost convinced that I was smelly. At least it was a smell of camel. Once I entered the riad, I told Matteo and Alberto: never, never do that again for nice people! We were not angry. It was a peculiar experience. Never go there with a group of tourists, rent a car or something, please. But in reward for that, later we were eating Italian dinner in the warm riad, drinking Moroccan wine and listening to good music. Our room was perfect. Life became better and the sweetness of holidays came back.

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In the end, I want to say one thing. A journey is not kilometers you cover, views you see, and sightseeing you register. A journey is something we find in ourselves; it is a specific inner growth. And if you do not learn to drink new experiences, “digest” them by your filters, it can be said that you stand in one place during your journey. Like stagnant water.

And one more thing, I have always been thinking that on one corner of the world I should meet a man who could teach me to move forward and progress. But on the first day of this journey I experienced enlightenment that this was possible with the right friends. Well, my friendship with Lina in one way is also selfish. It is a self-evident fact that travelling with a photographer is as wonderful as this photo story. But actually, she is always full of ideas, books she has read, movies she has watched, people she has met, and she shares this with me. Even Morocco came to my life through Lina.

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Not a single person is met in vain; every person we meet is a lesson. All of my lessons have been learned. I am thankful for the teachers. For those adventurers who may accompany you to the edge of the world. To discover. To enjoy. To collect. I still want to show this land to a few guys.

My special thanks go to our friends in Marrakesh, Italian Mafia members (I am joking), Alberto, Simone and Matteo, to Essaouira – to be more precise, to the best, most careful and handsome surfing instructor Rachid and to my soul mate Mohamed. Best wishes go to our first friends in Marakesh – Luca and Sean. Guys, you put a tone on our holiday. As Luca was joking one night: „exploring Morocco. Maybe too much.” We followed ths program until the end.

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You all have created our Morocco very special. And we will definitely come back.

  P.S. Well, I do think that sharing some practical details could help you in Morocco:

You know that you have to nagotiate everythere there, I suspect?

If you want to know safe and realy nice place to stay in Marrakesh – write to our beloved italians. They have three riads, we stayed in all of them and two I can recomend for sure:

Riad Bamileke

Riad Rokech

When you get tired of Moroccan cuisine – also contact them, because there is posibility in the evenings to get the most excellent Italian dinner. And even wine. Hallelujah!

Practivally everybody speaks english in Morocco. We haven’t taken our french vocabulary from a bag during all the trip.

We know a very nice five sleeping places apartment in Essaouira also –  Dar Madlene – home away from home.

If you decide to try surfing, kite surfing or some other water sport – spot is nearby Medina of Essaouira. There are couple of places you can eat also. Even children from 8 years can start to learn how to do surfing and ect. It’s not su difficult. You will pay 30 Euros for 2 hour lesson with all equipment included. No big waves, sharks, no rocks.

If you decide to go to Essaouira from Marakesh with a bus – better choose „Supratours”, not „CTM” company. Both of them are good, but „Supratours” stops nearby Medina of Essaouira, so you don’t need a taxi to reach port or some other place of old town.