A hard copy of a calendar sits on the counter top in the kitchen, days being marked off, to do lists on each day carefully printed and crossed out as tasks are completed. It is April 12 and I am packing for Morocco. It is 25 degrees outside and snowing in Klamath Falls.
This trip has been postponed three times since April 2020 due to COVID. In 2022, travel, especially preparing for travel outside the United States, is a PROJECT for me. For the first time in my traveling experiences I have had the help and support of a wonderful travel agent, Barbara D. Allen, who has coached me through the planning process. CDC approved COVID-19 tests are ready to pack—one to be done 48 hours before my first outbound flight, one to do 48 hours before leaving Morocco for the return flight, and an extra one just in case I make a mistake. There is a whole telemedicine procedure for taking the test, waiting online for a few minutes for a QR code returned online to the traveler (me). That code is scanned like a digital boarding pass at departure from the US, upon arrival in Morocco—perhaps multiple times, as I understand it, along with passport and Covid vaccination card and a health affidavit required by the Moroccan Department of Health. Honestly this test business is the most stressful part of the trip. God forbid that I get detained in Morocco because I didn’t do the test correctly.
All that aside, there is a magical fun part. This is a bucket list event, my first step onto the continent of Africa. It’s never too late. It’s quite a long journey from Klamath Falls to New York—longer in time than from New York to Casablanca given it begins with an hour and a half drive to Medford, a flight to Seattle, and on to JFK in New York on a red-eye, so with respect for both age and a still healing leg my travel agent planned to break up the flights with a rest day in a New York hotel before boarding Royal Air Maroc for Morocco, another six and a half hour leg of air travel.
Our flight from JFK to Morocco lands in Casablanca at 8:30 AM Morocco time, Wednesday April 20, seven hours ahead of West Coast time. I do hope my body forgets that and resets itself to Morocco time. Our hotel is within striking distance of Hassan II Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world. We arrive during Ramadan so will have a full-on immersion into the call to prayer by a muezzin at sunrise and sunset. We (some of the participants for the culinary adventure in Marrakech, who are arriving a couple of days early) will be in a beautiful coastal hotel in Casablanca for two days, during which I expect we will go to Rick’s for the requisite drink and toast to Bogart and Bergman. (John Runyan—a nod to you.)
On Friday a driver is taking us the three hour drive to Marrakech, where the culinary adventures begin. So stay tuned for the food magic that will take place in the gardens of a Riad hotel, Jnane Tamsna, Jnane, under the tutelage of Chef Joanne Weir and the hotel chef. We will shop in souks for spices, condiments, and souvenirs, explore the sights and sounds and aromas of Marrakech and its environs. Plus watch for our side trips to the Atlas Mountains and the coastal village of Essaouira, with its blue doors throughout and fish fresh straight out of the sea.
I have always loved Moorish architecture and the beautiful colors and shapes of tiles from Morocco, so visiting museums and architectural buildings and gardens is high on the to-do list. One of the spoken languages there is French. Between English and French I expect to communicate with ease.
And on a shelf in the refrigerator here in Oregon, ready for preparing tagines and salads when I return, are two pints of lemons preserved in salt and spices that I prepared before leaving for Tucson in February.
The first post I will actually send from Morocco will be after we go through customs, meet our driver and arrive at our hotel by the sea in Casablanca. As I tap ‘publish’ on this post, I am waiting to board the flight from Medford to Seattle on Monday evening, April 18. Very excited!!!
A Book Recommendation and some other connections
Those of you who know my history know that hiking is barely in my repertoire of experiences, running not at all. Many of you will find it amusing then, that I am writing a recommendation for a book by a Scottish lady who ran a world class marathon in the Sahara and published an exquisitely written book not only about the run, but about her time in Marrakech preparing for it. She immersed herself into Moroccan culture, is so respectful of people and cultural norms while telling her stories with a wonderful sense of humor as she found her way into the rhythm of days in that complex country. Her eye for detail and precious moments is captured in colorful prose. AND I loved the British ‘isms’ that were laced throughout her story, familiar after having lived for a few years in England, sometimes traveling with dear Scottish friends. In the three-year wait for this culinary journey to begin, I’ve done a lot of reading about Morocco—its history, the culture, and some strange adventure stories. Far above all others that I read is Alice Morrison’s book, Adventures in Morocco: From the Souks to the Sahara, which provided me with the kind of knowledge I was looking for. Reading it enabled me the permission I personally needed to delve into places I might otherwise have not explored on my own. Alice Morrison
Chef Joanne Weir, our culinary host, https://www.joanneweir.com/about has just advised us that she and her team will post videos of some of our cooking and adventure sessions on Instagram. If tagines and a spice called ras el hanout pique your interest, check out her instagram pages beginning around the 22nd of April. https://instagram.com/chefjoanneweir?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=
And from reading a blog written by an American woman who married into a Moroccan family and lives in Marrakech, I’ve tried wrapping my tongue around a few words in Arabic. I first learned of her blog during a Netflix episode of “I’ll have what Phil’s having” filmed in Marrakech. She and her husband hosted Phillip Rosenthal of the Everybody Loves Raymond television series for a portion of his culinary adventure. Check out MarocMama
So from Brightly She Goes, I will say ‘Shukrun’ for following along with my travel adventure.