My Morocco Trip
Being invited to art exhibition I spent in Morocco very intense week.
I had no idea I will queue so many times before my departure. Finally, I found myself on the plane full of Moroccan families. It seemed that more children were traveling than adults. The impression was that I am in one big family and hear constantly cry or little ones. Start got delayed 2 hours, so all the flight took around 5 hours.
I was lucky having a company of Moroccan guy Mustafa who picked up by his family from the airport, offered me a help in getting to the hotel.
It was around nine o’clock in the evening and Fez was alive. People were gathering on the main street, walking, sitting and chatting. The street was shining with colorful lights, enriched by the view of fountains.
Hotel Ibis, depending on the budget for some is affordable, for some expensive but for sure is worth to stay in.
I had a better chance to see the city in the morning while jogging. So beautiful and yet so dirty.
Before I left to Taza, I met another artist, Stella, a painter and her sister, a photographer, Edit.
The organizer Elmadani welcomed us very warmly in Taza central station and soon we were in a hotel. The same day we had two more excursions, climbing toward the old city of Taza. Again, crowded little streets in the evening were not so easy to pass at times. Picasso café was a place where usually artists gather. This evening a potential observer would hear us speaking Arabic, English, French, Polish, Slovak.
The next day we were preparing the exhibition with its opening in the evening. Finding an Internet Cafe in a daytime in such heat was impossible. Even though friendly Aziz, another artist was walking me through all the places he knew, all were close.
Evening hours were cooler and more pleasant in the gallery, where first visitors were showing up to admire the artwork of:
Elmadani Belmadani, painting Moroccan landscapes was also a host for artists. His care gave us all the feeling we belong to one family.
Aziz Ben Massoud, who loves to paint any subject which belongs to Moroccan tradition.
Bounoua Mounir, painter and martial artists.
Stella Velka, whose motives of butterflies I found very positive to a human eye. She was also warm and very communicative, sharing with her observations about life.
Fatima Elharadi, who I didn’t have much chance to get to know closer because of the language barrier. Her art tends to bring traditional qualities of a family and royal life.
Abdelmahjid Elhimass, impressionist and as his friends told me a fast painter. I watched his art with interest, seeing rich imaginary.
Lachochi Mohamed, painting landscapes.
And our photographer Edita Hanzelikova, a very humble person absorbed by the passion for photography. Sometimes on the excursion, we were waiting for Edit who charmed by a flower or view, was somewhere in the jungle of some plants adjusting her camera for the best shot.
"Edit, don’t go down this hillside." Stella was warning, so Elmadani was concerned.
At the end of this list, I put my abstract paintings, so different than the rest. ;)
One of the visitors especially drew my attention. He was looking like a prince and so were his manners when I got to know Ahmed. His voice was like a sweet calming melody. It reminded me of Michael Jackson somehow. His posture and presence made me feel surrounded by peaceful royal dignity.
After the event, it took a long time to prepare a schedule for approaching days. Finally, the hours were settled and we all were about to leave.
"So tomorrow at 10," Elmadani said suddenly.
"No, it was agreed that at 12," I protested.
"No problem," Aziz approached us with a comforting smile. "It can be 11."
"No Aziz, morning!" Elmadani excaimed.
"Or 11.30," Aziz added.
I realized, I was speechlessly observing their discussion, almost bargain, so I tried to ask:
"What is the problem?"
"There is no problem!" Both Elmadani and Aziz said simultaneously, then Elmadani exclaimed:
"Ok, 12! In Morocco, there is never a problem!"
We were walking towards the hotel, but I had a feeling Elmadani was angry.
"You know Joanna I like you very much, but it cannot be always as you want," said Stella.
"You are absolutely right Stella, I will go back now and apologize." I felt quilt and bad enough. Somehow all this situation slipped out of control.
"No!" Stella and Aziz reacted both immediately.
Aziz was quickly by my side, always with a smile. "There is never a problem! Is normal, it is our culture. You will see Elmadani will be happy in the morning."
"But I think he was angry."
"He wasn’t," Aziz was smiling.
"I guess you will tell me now anything to make me happy."
"Of course!" His honesty made me laugh. "You are my guest, you need to be happy." Words were not so convincing as his cheerful aura, a special atmosphere that was around Aziz constantly.
Every evening after closing gallery, artists from abroad were accompanied to the hotel by Aziz and Bounoua. It felt good to have almost bodyguards by our sides. Still every evening Ahmed somehow was joining us on the way. Then I spent with him a little bit more time in a hotel bar where we could sit more comfortable.
It was getting to noon and I had to get to the gallery. No ways, I won’ walk in this heat. I tried to take a taxi. So I stood on the road waiting for someone to stop. Eventually, a taxi stopped.
"Gallery Mimosa," I was hoping it will ring a bell to him. Perhaps it is the only gallery in the city.
"Ha?" The man wasn’t speaking English. I heard only expressive exclamation in Arabic and French. Before he continued driving without me, I quickly sat down and started the same expressive exclamation with a smile in English, showing him a way with my hand.
"Go straight, I will show you the way! Haha! Great! Just take a left here."
Prepared enough to not ask him how much I must pay I gave him already prepared 5 dirham.
It is important to know the prices especially for tourists. If you ask yourself how much something cost, you will here double or even triple price.
I was punctual at 12 in the gallery. We suppose to leave for lunch, invited by Monsef and his parents who expected us at 14. I found myself chatting with all, teaching Aziz salsa and all of sudden it was almost 14.
"We close now." Elmadani decided. "Is no problem, we will take a taxi."
Sitting in a taxi with Aziz was somehow of feeling joy, easiness of life. I looked at him and was wondering for the first time, how comes this man is always smiling, although living conditions here must be difficult. Aziz looked back at me with sparks in eyes.
"That’s here, old city."
"Monsef lives here?"
"No!" Aziz laughed loud. "We have to walk down. Cars cannot get there. You better get yourself a hat, otherwise, you will get burnt by the sun."
"Let’s make a photo with a donkey." I felt such easiness to be in a presence of Aziz that I simply was enjoying my time.
"You can take a donkey now as a taxi." Aziz loved to joke.
Indeed it took us a long walk to get to Monsef’s parents' house. The view on the way, however, was beautiful.
There was actually “no problem” that we got there 2 hours later than planned. I was surprised by the way they were living. Still many people in Marocco live in little houses made of clay and stones.
The father, then Aziz was playing instrument named bandir in Moroccan language (addif in Arabic) and Monsef was dancing. Then I found myself singing with Aziz who played and sang too. I sat closer to Aziz to learn how to play. There was something charming about him. I noticed so much happiness in Aziz’s eyes. Through my mind again passed quickly the thought: I wish this man will be always happy in his life.
We were sitting on pillows around the roundtable when the delicious meal was served. So many salads, cold, warm, prepared different ways. Freshly baked bread. Even chicken was looking tasty, although I don’t eat meat.
And for the desert fresh figs and nectarines. For the first time in my life, I ate so delicious figs. All the food was from Mosef’s family farm and field vegetable.
We had enough strength to go back taking another longer route to admire views of Morocco. Sun was almost frying us although it was around 18 and 19 o’clock.
After this excursion, I really needed a shower first, so I got back to the hotel and then to the gallery where we all stayed till closing at 22 or perhaps 23, according to Moroccan time.
I entered the gallery and heard loud discussion of Elmadani, Edid, and Stella.
"Joanna! Tell him that I will give him photos when I collect them on a folder, I won’t give him my camera card, cause I have there personal photos." Edit requested.
"Joanna, what is the problem? Why she doesn’t want to give me a camera card? Just for a moment. I would like to have these photos too." Elmadani complained.
"Elmadani, don’t worry you will get the photos. Do you have a memory stick?" I asked.
"She will make a folder and copy photos from Morocco for you."
"But why she can’t give me camera card?"
"Joanna, I think he understands but doesn’t want to accept." Stella interrupted.
I lost the direction of this talk cause it turned into expressive Arabic between Elmadani and Aziz, so I started to sing. They stopped talking and there was no problem at all. The subject was changed. How can I understand this culture?
Elmadani made sure his artists have every day a different attraction to see. Other local artists were not accompanying us, except for Aziz.
In the heat, we were climbing toward a special taxi that supposes to take us to see the cave. I sat with Aziz in the back of the vehicle and all would be great, if not the speeding up driver, slaloming through the tricky, curvy roads of mountain terrain. My imagination was working intensely, I already pictured all of us falling from one of these roads, as no even little barriers were put along the way. Aziz was smiling, giving me the music to listen.
"Don’t worry, they know their road very well, listen some music."
The coolness of the cave refreshed us all.
We were going slowly down the stairs that were reminding me a bit of Dutch way of building with steep stairs in every apartment. Down there was an opening to another cave, where if we would enter we would end up dirty in clay. Elmadani wanted to go back, Aziz was eager to enter the little cave. I didn’t interrupt their discussion and we went up and back with the same taxi.
Now I wanted to sit with Aziz and listen to the music with him. There it was, a song of Patti Austin and James Ingram. “Baby come to me”. Was it the song that made me so happy, free and expanding in my loving feelings toward the world.
"I wish you go with me to Fez." I said seeing Aziz's eyes were reflecting my mood. I was leaving tomorrow.
"I wish that too. But I can’t." He smiled but didn’t say why. I knew.
"Let's see a beautiful natural source of water." Elmadani led us again.
All of a sudden my mood dropped.
"What happened? You are not as happy as before. Tell me." Aziz picked that up. I couldn’t say and didn’t want to. I decided to solve it myself. "I will pick you up from the hotel and we go to the gallery," Aziz said when we were approaching Taza back.
He was surprisingly punctual and said: "Don’t worry, I am going with you to Fez. I can."
Elmadani and Bounoua were painting the portrait of Stella. We did some more photos, packed my paintings as I was going tomorrow morning back to Fez, but with Aziz.
On the way to the hotel Ahmed joined us. One was carrying my paintings, other gift from one of the artist Lashushi.
On the stairs to the hotel stood a manager that was hoping to show me the city, as he mentioned once when I was leaving a hotel.
"Well, well," Stella made an observation. "Two of them walk with you and third is waiting here. Very well Joanna, don’t you decide for one? I wonder how you solve it."
"Please," I almost whispered, "stay with me downstairs." So the sisters stayed. I had no idea what to do. Royal Ahmed was peacefully chatting with cheerful, heart open Aziz and manager was leaving, so I took some photos with him and thank him for all his assistance while my stay.
We all were sitting downstairs. I was close to Aziz, who turned to me and with a smile said: "I’m gonna miss you so much."
I felt sudden emotional string moved within my heart.
"I have to go now, we’ll see in the morning." Aziz left.
It was almost midnight. I decided I pay for my hotel now, not in the morning. It was the right decision because the bill surprised me so much that I reacted very expressively, perhaps even as Moroccan would.
"Excuse me! The bill is for 2 nights more."
"But the coffees are also included here."
"I paid for every single coffee I ordered."
"But nobody told me. This is the price for the room."
"No, is not. Elmadani said is different."
"Who is Elmadani?"
"Don’t you know?" I was almost screaming, so the manager. Ahmed approached me, took my hands and started to talk comfortingly.
"Let me talk, you just sit and relax, ok?"
I agreed. It didn’t take long, wasn’t so loud conversation when the manager came back and asked me very politely. "So how much would you like to pay?"
Was I dreaming? Where in this world, the client is asked this way?
"I pay exactly as it was settled before."
"I really apologized I was not informed."
"Me too, I am sorry, but it all surprised me."
"It is lack of communication and nobody told me you paid these coffees. They should come downstairs and make a note. After all don’t forget that prices in Morocco are very movable." Now we both laughed as if it was never a problem here.
"So I can count for morning coffee tomorrow?" I asked charmingly.
"Of course." His smile met mine.
Ahmed who saved me a headache was peaceful and now when I thanked him and held his hands, he said: "You are so strong woman." I didn't argue.
Aziz arrived early and found me with Stella and Edit enjoying breakfast. Last hugs and we were ready to go.
Elmadani, waiting at the central station gave me a certificate of participation in exhibition and gift, his own painting. I thanked him with a hug before I remembered that Moroccans are so reluctant about it.
The train was delaying. Standing alone with Aziz I realized: we actually don’t know each other. Two birds were chasing each other, landing finally one on another and making lots of noise. So easy to laugh with him and be around him, I thought yet and said: "I'm glad you accompany me a bit further."
"Me too." His eyes were saying more and I couldn’t stop smiling.
The train was full, but we found 2 places to sit. Once we started to listen to the music, I got sleepy.
"Aziz, I will miss you very much," I knew I won't see him again.