My life on the road: Marrakesh

In my experience, the beds in Morocco are generally hard. Bounce a coin on one and you’ll lose a fucking eye. They are also cool and pleasant to sleep on. It was still dark when I first heard it: a single voice assuring observant Muslims that prayer is better than sleep. Other men soon joined the call to the first prayers of the day. I felt a smile fall on my face as I strained to make out individual voices. In under a minute, so many mu’azzin had joined the call that what once could be made out became a melodic din.

It was not a message meant for me. I drifted back into the black as the undulating prompt to pray continued.

After being awake for close to 24 hours the day before, we slept in until 10am, our internal clocks synced, through misadventure, with Moroccan time. As we stumbled downstairs, our host made us breakfast. The features of the meal were ones that we’d come to know well over the next three weeks: A single scrambled egg, served with fresh-squeezed orange juice, an an assortment local breads and a pastry. Using my questionable Canadian French, our host Basal’s Belgian-accented French, and a smattering of assistance from Google Translate, we hash out some pleasant conversation about the surrounding area. When asked where we could find a local SIM card and where the nearest bank could be had, Basal threw on his shoes and offered to show us the way himself. Read the rest

My life on the road: Morocco

This past September, I discovered that I had a heart condition that could have dropped me dead at any time. An 80% blockage of some fairly important plumbing and, as an added bonus, heart disease caused by shitty genetics and aggravated by the anxiety and frequent panic attacks I get down with thanks to my PTSD. My cardiologists told me that I was lucky: normally, this was the sort of thing that folks typically don’t find out about until after they’ve suffered a heart attack. My medical team got invasive. They plopped a stent in me.

Finally, a piece of metal in my body that I actually want there.

I was awake and hopped up on fentanyl during the procedure. During the course of the angioplasty, the surgeon bumped up against the inside of my heart: it caused the first angina pain that I had ever experienced. I was filled with fear of not having more time with my partner; that I hadn’t finished my novel; I had not traveled far enough to understand the world in a satisfactory manner. I had always wanted to step foot in the Sahara. Angina pain removed from the equation, I found my heart absolutely aching for it. After they got me settled into the hospital’s CCU for the night and leaned on my groin for 30 minutes to stop an arterial bleed that was definitely trying to kill me, I told my wife that I wanted to go to Morocco.

“Why?” She asked.

“The desert. Read the rest

Travel Tunes: Tinariwen—Kel Tinawen

The RV might be winterized and staying put until the spring thaw, but we're not. Now that I have the all clear from my cardiologist, my wife and are are planning a 20-day trip to Morocco. It'll be the first time that either of us has set foot on the African continent: With its French colonial influence and their King's tourist-friendly policies, it seems like a great place to dip our toes in the continent's waters.

Plus, it's cities, country side deserts and mountains are absolutely stunning. With out tickets purchased, we're now in the throes of planning our itinerary (which we always tend to keep a bit loosey-goosey.) I'm brushing up on my mediocre French. My partner is taking Darija lessons. I'm taking a HEAT course to polish up my already existing skill set, given that Morocco's neighbors have been a little rambunctious of late.

Perhaps most important out of all of our preparations, is the fact that my travel playlist is slowly coming together. I find that having the right music while moving into and out of an adventure helps to set the mood for the whole thing.

Tinariwen is a band that's been around for decades. Maybe you've heard of them. They only showed up as a ping on my radar within the last year.  originally hails from Mali,

From Wikipedia:

Tinariwen is a group of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. The band was formed in 1979[2] in Tamanrasset, Algeria, but returned to Mali after a cease-fire in the 1990s.

Read the rest

Three medina kittens waking up in Marrakech, Morocco

Hugo Van Tilborg, a Boing Boing reader, pal of mine, and an avid photographer, shares this image of three kittens waking up today in Marrakech. Hugo lives and works in Morocco. What did the kittens look like last night when they were sleeping? Why, so glad you asked... Read the rest