The fast-spreading Omicron variant cancelled my trip to Morocco in December 2021, when the borders to that country were closed. So, my husband and I postponed our trip to the North African country until December 2022. Three months before we were due to fly from SFO to Casablanca via Paris, I fractured my right ankle on an easy walk around our Lake Elizabeth. I thought I might be destined to never see that country’s mosaics, taste their tajine meals, or ride their camels in the Sahara Desert.
But, when the Kaiser doctors assured me I’d be walking normally by take-off time, we kept our reservations. Between September and December, I hobbled around on a heavy boot, unwieldy crutches, and a three-pronged cane. The week before our flight, I finally walked unaided using an elastic support sleeve to help stabilize my ankle. But I still worried: could I walk safely on cobbled streets and sandy, uneven, and bumpy terrain?
A wheelchair awaited me at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. With my husband trailing alongside, the attendant wheeled me into tiny elevators and through secret pathways to get us to our connecting flight to Casablanca well within the one-hour transfer time. From Casablanca, three of us from our Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) group rode alone on the company’s 46-seat bus to Morocco's capital, Rabat. The next evening, after visiting the city walls and the market, I stood for three hours with thousands of shouting, singing, and flag-waving Moroccans, waiting for their Lions football (soccer) team to drive by on the way to have dinner with Morocco's King Mohammed the 6th. I was moved by how orderly and polite the large crowd behaved. Maybe it's because drinking alcohol in public is not allowed in the 99% Islamic country. My ankle did fine, but I had to join my companions for dinner and be satisfied to view on TV, the first team from an African or Arabian country to reach the World Cup semifinals.
The next 16 days were a whirlwind of activities: winding through narrow labyrinths of the Medinas (central marketplaces) in each city admiring their mosaic, woodworking, and leather handicrafts; learning about their tannery, fishing, moviemaking, and argan oil and olive oil-producing industries; and visiting families (farmers and nomads) in the countryside and the city to see firsthand how Moroccan adobe buildings are constructed and how their free education and medical systems function.
Several of us indulged in a communal Hammam, a public bath where our dead skin was scrubbed off us. Our lodgings were in riads, hotels converted from former large
homes whose high walls and gardens kept the women inside, and in Kasbahs, guesthouses originally placed along trade routes.
In the Sahara, we stayed in tent cabins where the temperature at night was in the 40s. But the days were warm enough for a quiet early morning camel ride and a visit to an oasis where all manner of fruit and vegetables grow. We passed acres and acres of palm trees that produce some of the sweetest, juiciest dates I've ever eaten. The well-preserved Roman city of Volubilis demonstrated what life was like in ancient times -where they probably consumed large quantities of dates at their orgies.
I have traveled and lived in over 100 countries on five continents and written reams about each one. But, Morocco was unique in the amount of art, industry, and walled structures I saw in Rabat, Fez, Essaouira, Marrakesh, Casablanca, and several smaller towns. I delighted in all the new experiences. I walked for miles and miles through shopping plazas
filled with snake charmers and intriguing crafts -and my wounded ankle survived just fine.
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Evelyn LaTorre is a memoir writer living in Fremont, CA.