it’s morning in Fes

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Written on March 21st

I am perched in a sunny, open window writing and sipping rich coffee that was delivered to our hotel room doorstep in a thermos with two mugs. I hear sounds of early morning in Fes, though all I can see from the window is the interior of the medina’s wall.  So I crane my neck to find a sliver of the street below.

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We arrived in Casablanca and took a train to Fes last night. On the commuter train from the airport to the Casablanca train station, we met an elderly man in a pilot uniform with an impressive moustache, who Mimi took an immediate liking to. She made faces at him, and he made faces back. He put his fingertips to his lips and blew her a kiss while saying “God bless,” a culturally appropriate thing to do, and Mimi responded by blowing him a kiss back, which he thought was the funniest thing. After a few rounds of peek-a-boo, the pilot asked Sheikh in Arabic how old she was. He was pleased to find out we were American and immediately told us how much he loved the American people. The people, he said again, pointing his index finger in the air for emphasis. I acknowledged his meaning and my own distaste for our current leader.

The pilot was from Saudi Arabia and was married to a Moroccan woman. He had traveled all over the world and said that his favorite people were Americans. He had been back to the States many times since his first visit in 1976, and had been on road trips from New York to Florida and from LA to Canada. But after 9/11, he said, it became much more difficult to get a visa as a Saudi Arabian citizen, even though he was a pilot and even though Saudi Arabia had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks. The pilot said he believed he only got his visa because his wife was Moroccan. Our train lurched to a halt at the station, and we had to abruptly end our conversation with the pilot. Sheikh and I both regretted that we weren’t able to talk to him more. We said goodbye and got one more “God bless.”

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A man with a shiny black Mercedes came to pick us up, dropped us at the edge of the medina, the largest pedestrian-only area in the world, and a porter walked us the rest of the way. We are staying in a riad, a building with beautifully tiled rooms surrounding a central seating area and fluidly connecting with the intimate, beautiful outdoor spaces: a terrace off of a library only steps from our room and a garden café with hanging rose vines and a large hammered metal plate where they made a fire every afternoon and kept it burning into the night.

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When we arrived, Sheikh and I had mezze platters for dinner full of tahini dips and salads with beets and tomatoes and baba ganoush and chapatti – a flavor profile I could indulge in forever. We chatted with the manager about Moroccan culture while Mimi happily and methodically moved broken tiles from one flower pot to another.   We bathed Mimi and put her to bed in the duvet-lined hotel-provided crib, plucked some books from the library shelves, had a drink on the balcony while we read more about our surroundings, and planned the next day’s activities.

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On the plane ride over, when Mimi was especially cozy on my lap, we looked out the window together at the cerulean Atlantic Ocean below and I told her that we were going to Morocco, that I had always dreamed of going, and that I couldn’t wait to share the experience with her. Sitting with my coffee this morning, listening to her and Sheikh sleep, writing in a window with sounds of children playing in the medina below, I feel an overwhelming peace that comes with getting away for a while.

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