There it is. The much anticipated knock at the front gate. Our son pops out of his seat with the urgency of a firefighter to see if they have arrived. It is the most anticipated day of all with a family camel ride followed by a trek through the Atlas mountains. My husband and I are hoping that the fresh squeezed orange and pomegranate juice from the property's orchard, will make our youngest, who is running a light fever, feel better.
"Which one is mine?" asks our son wide-eyed when our handsome guide, right out of One Thousand and One Nights, arrives. No one answers. While he inspects our transportation my husband and I, torn between splitting up the family on our last day in Morocco and bouncing our glassy-eyed four-year-old through the desert, decide to bundle up our sweetest of cargo and be on our way.
Trekking through unchartered territory...virgin sand dunes...our hair and white linen swaying in the Saharan wind... Not! It isn't as romantic as I had imagined but it does prove to be a unique experience that bonds our family in a way that only travel does. And if it didn't make her feel better, it certainly elevates our daughter's spirit, for she is not about to let anyone talk her into missing out on any upcoming adventure.
"What?" I balk when my husband announces that our transport is waiting. "You didn't cancel it? It's two o'clock in the afternoon! Those roads are dangerous, we shouldn't drive back in the dark!”
I am certain he only hears "blah, blah, blah."
Yes. We are that predictable.
My husband, the one who found himself at age 19 in a Western Sahara refugee camp (but that’s another story) assures me that it's okay. And with the children chiming in for me not to worry, we find ourselves on the ever-winding Route 203 towards the high Atlas mountains.
The trek to Imlil takes nearly two hours. We stop for a quick bite at a restaurant seemingly enveloped in the enormous mountain and pay a visit to a cooperative run by women who allow us to take a stab at making argan oil, which makes our daughter, Gisella, and me feel as though we have traveled centuries back through time, to a slower, less adultered place. Hypnotized by the sublime sound of the call to prayer, we are reminded that dusk will soon be upon us and that it is time to head back to the hotel.
In all of its magnificence, the Indian red sunset casting its hue over the province in one majestic stroke, fails to distract me for more than an instant or two from hanging on for dear life and asking the children multiple times if they are buckled in. The peaceful photos below fail to tell the truth about that treacherous drive down the ridge, inches from plumetting us into the ravine below. I honestly have no idea how we made it back to the hotel unharmed. No need to do that again and I hope my family opts out for life too.
Dare devil antics aside, our family is all the richer for having taken this journey to Morocco. The warmth we received from the Arab and Berber people deeply touched us, shedding light on our understanding of their abundant culture.
Five months later, a bomb destroyed the Argana cafe in Jemaa el Fnaa, a popular marketplace in the very Medina we visited. The title of this trilogy: Happy to be Alive, makes reference to that tragic event.