From the ferry, Morocco looked like a sleeping giant on the horizon, its mountainous body floating on the Strait of Gibraltar. When I arrived and stepped foot on the shores of Tangier, a happy taxi driver drove me to the train station. From his radio, the voice of Najat Aatabou provided the perfect soundtrack as we sped through the streets of the city.
The train station was an unexpected surprise compared to the dilapidated streets of Tangier. Decorated glass, spotless mosaic floors and the most delicious shawarma sandwich kept me company as I waited for my train to Marrakesh to arrive. It was a long nine-hour journey to Morocco’s red city. For the first part of the journey a young Moroccan boy sat in my booth and was thrilled to speak English with me. He got off in Casablanca and for the rest of the journey to Marrakesh I shared the window with a father and son who quietly napped, dressed and dreaming in their djellabas.
It was around 10 in the evening when I arrived in Marrakesh. A taxi took me into the old Medina walls. He could only take me so far before I had to walk the rest of the way with a man who carried my bags in a wheelbarrow through the winding streets of the old city. It was pitch black except for a few amber lights streaming through small terracotta windows. The streets were noisy and filled with hooded figures and foreign tongues. Adrenaline ran in my veins as I blindly followed the young Moroccan man to my riad. Upon entering Dar Hanane, I was greeting by a tall smiling Moroccan dressed in white linen. The riad was beautiful and their generous hospitality more than anything else braced my awareness that I was more East than West.
Marrakesh was a magical phenomenon. I felt like I was walking among the pages of Scheherazade’s stories in A Thousand and One Nights. Exploring the souks and little streets of the Medina was a sensory adventure. New and exotic spices filled my nose with each step. When I turned the corner a different kind of stench coming from the butchers and the leather stalls made me walk the other way. Daily life was bustling all around as I followed colourful djellabas and hijabs to Djemaa el Fna square where acrobats, fortune tellers, musicians and snake charmers charmed every coin out of my pocket.
As addictive as Marrakesh was, the Atlas Mountains were beckoning. On a Monday morning the call to prayer called me to breakfast and after two dates, a bowl of yogurt and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, I started my journey southeast to Aït Benhaddou. With each passing minute I left the cosmopolitan scene of city life and ascended higher into the world of the Berber.
Natasha Kozaily is a local singer-songwriter and painter. She recently released her debut album Between Shores and currently resides in San Diego where she continues to create and perform.
Natasha recently completed her bachelor’s degree in music from Cardiff University where she wrote her thesis on Caymanian folk musician Miss Julia Hydes. For more information please visit www.natashakozaily.com