The snow capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains glimmer in the afternoon light. Mimicking the ritual I’ve seen others perform, I pour a glass of tea… pour it back in the pot… and fill the glass again. The sweetened mint tea warms my throat and chest as I swallow. My body is tired. A good kind of tired, but tired nonetheless. While I don’t consider myself to be particularly weak, I was definitely taxed on our hike. Perhaps it is the thin air 2600 meters up. Or maybe the air where I live. Or my physical fitness. Or my fear of heights. Or no greater meaning at all beyond the circumstances of the day. But I labored on the side of the mountain more than I wanted to admit, finally accepting the offered hand at the rockiest portion of the steep descent. Sitting here surrounded by the village that was a distant speck below for most of my day spent in the mountains, the sounds of the children playing soccer in the dirt road nearby are the only break in the stillness.
As if on cue, the speakers at the village mosque click on and the melodic chant of the adhan (call to prayer) begins. Heard throughout the day, starting in the early hours of the morning, it has become the background music of my visit to Morocco. One can set her watch by the call’s timely precision. Lying in bed each morning, awoken by this invocation, I admire the devotion and reflect on my own beliefs of the intangible and my connection to spirit.
Wandering north allows me to see much of the country that I am soon to inhabit. Relishing the serendipity of being assigned to a country just days before a planned trip there, I view my surroundings with a slightly different lens knowing that I will be living there in 15 months. We traverse much of the country arriving finally in the northwest.
As the folklore goes, the women of Chefchaouen started painting the buildings blue in the middle of one night. Without ladders, they paint as high as they can reach. A building owner, upon discovering his new paint job in the morning, decides to either paint the rest of the way up or leave the blue paneling just as he finds it. These rituals create a community with steep winding pedestrian roads lined with buildings illustrating the many hues of blue.
A short drive from the city is Parc Talembole. An afternoon hike to Cascades d’Akhour is a sweet way to usher in my new year.