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Peace be Found

When walking through the endless maze of Djemaa El Fna, a marketplace in the Medina Quarter of Merrekesh, Morocco, you will easily find yourself lost. Meandering through the souks and stalls, alleyways and dirt paths, time seems to be lost along with you, trying desperately to find a route out, without success. Its soon realized, much like a childhood corn maze, that to get out, you’ve got to keep mindlessly wandering wherever the winding trails lead you.

The one and only time I had been there, I was twelve years old and on a spring vacation with my mother. I’ve always been an ambitious traveler, ever since I can remember, however my father was extremely worried of me being kidnapped by terrorists or pirates, not that I really cared; as long as I could set foot on the African continent, prudence was out the window in my book. Approaching the time we would depart Seatac Airport, I studied the internet and unbought books at Borders, trying to memorize the foreign names of the landmarks. Koutoubia mosque, Djemaa El Fna, El Badi Palace, El Bahia Palace. I became fascinated. The history, which was ever present, seemed to be everywhere. Ancient palaces and monuments were often times frozen in history.

Arriving there, I fell in love with the landscape. We touched down from our JFK to Casablanca flight, and all along the runway was this tall brown grass. We didn’t stay in Casablanca, though, and later in the day flew straight to Merrekesh. I was mistaken several times as a French girl in the airport, which was under construction (we later saw the completed Merrekesh Airport in the movie Sex and the City 2). We rode a stuffy bus from the airport into town, giving us a short tour of the city from the grimy window. From this, I saw many huge adobe buildings, reddish pink in color. There was a huge wall with many holes in it, what for I still do not know. There were palm trees everywhere, but they weren’t like the palm trees in L.A., but short and fat at the base, with thick cascading tops that sat relatively low to the ground. Traffic was very unlike anywhere else I have ever been: I was loud, and vehicles were swerving in and out of each other, ignoring any lines painted on the street. “Vehicles” is perhaps the wrong word to use, considering the incredible variety in modes of transportation. Besides the basic pudgy cars, there were and cattle, bicycles, mopeds, donkeys, motorcycles and buses. I was surprised nobody seemed unsettled by the reckless driving. Well, come to think of it, a few tourists on the bus (my mother and my self included) were a bit overwhelmed of it all.

Miraculously, we made it to our hotel alive. After settling into our hotel, and grabbing lunch, we decided to check out the marketplace, Djemaa El Fna. Finding a way into the main square was a hassle, to say the least, but once we were in, we were in. Little did we know that we would be endlessly wandering there for hours, but the overwhelming sights we beheld there made the time pass quickly.

My mother and I continued walking, for hours on end. We stopped at several leather shops, with colorful leather “Aladdin” looking leather shoes hanging from the walls. We viewed the fascinating spice stalls, with mounds of spices piled several feet high in little colorful cones. One particular shop I entered was that of a spice man named Abraham. He offered us mint tea (also known as Moroccan Whiskey, although there is no alcohol content), showed us the uses of many of the spices in his shop, curing everything from kidney stones to acne, and some powders that seemed extra colorful that, when mixed with oil, turned into a thick paint used to paint some of the naturally pink buildings orange, green, blue, or red. He showed us a photo of his grandfather, who was still alive at age one hundred and five. “The spices,” he claimed, “Preserve life for many many years.”

On that day, wandering, we were exhausted. After all, four hours or so ago, we were on an airplane. So while trying to find a descent eatery, we can across El Badi Palace. I had read about this place!

In short, it is a 16th century palace once inhibited by kings and princes. Now, its a sandstone crumbling structure, with underground dungeons, some tile floors, and giant walls still accessible. Huge storks rest on top of the walls, and vegetation and orange trees now inhabit the once-fountains. Walking around on the palace grounds, there is a sense of mysticism, of calmness.

I found a separate room just off of the palace. Some older French men and British college students were there, taking pictures and soaking in the history. The room, with an open roof (just as the rest of the palace), was surprisingly dark. Thick grasses grew at the bottom of the staircase leading down the the main floor of the room. Graffiti in all kinds of languages were crudely painted and carved onto the walls, and blocks of sandstone snaked its way back and forth across the room. The walls were very tall, much too high to ever climb. They were about the height of twice my two-story house back in Tacoma. As my mother made her way, panicking, over to where I was (she couldn't find me for a second, god forbid), I made my way back and fourth along the courtyard of the room, taking in the mystic beauty and calmness all around.

I sat there, even kicked back and lye there, for what seemed eternity. The feeling was impeccable. Suddenly, in the quietness and serenity of this ancient palace, I felt absolute peace. It smelled of lush, wet grass and dusty sandstone. The shade of the tall walls made everything cool and humid. Although I knew I wasn't alone, a sense of blissful incoherentness swept over me.

In retrospect, this event should not have meant as much as it did to me. If one to describe it simply, I was lying on dusty old sandstone in a room, of which’s purpose I know not, alone with a few Brits, my mom, and some Frenchmen. But, oh! What beauty and peace I had felt there, among the grass and messages left rebelliously by foreign correspondents I may never meet. I was surrounded- submerged- into history. I was a part of it, if only for that moment. I did not scratch my name into the wall, and the only proof that I was there was that of a picture my mother took of me looking at the towering barricades. However, I will always remember, that when someone, at any given time in the future, will look upon those ancient walls and wonder of some of the great people that stood there, viewing that beauty, I will be one of them. They will be thinking, in addition to kings and princes, my mother, some Brits and some Frenchmen; they will be thinking of me.



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