They say the desert gives you what you need not what you want and during this year’s trip to Morocco I had to dig deep to understand how true this is. Last year I did the same trip through Morocco, taking in Marrakesh, the Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert. It was a dreamy, colourful journey of discovery. I was caught up in all of the imagery, the beauty of the desert, the gentle flavours of the food and the joy of being amoungst a group of like minded people. This year was a very different experience, I hardly got to know any of my fellow travellers, I only caught glimpses of the desert and I didn’t eat properly for days!! The dreaded desert belly caught me hard and fast in its grip and refused to let go. It was my destiny to be trapped in my weakened body, to think about my future and to be encouraged into a re-invention, to adjust the roles I take in life.
The journey into the desert was as beautiful and awe-inspiring as before, the Atlas and particularly the anti-Atlas mountains are amazing structures, the geology and vistas are amazing and I had high hopes for this year’s trip. After 11 hours we arrived in Dar Sidi Bounou, our home for the week and it looked as beautiful as ever and we all soon settled in.
I’m not going to dwell on the sickness, it came during a thunder storm and it was no bodies fault, the desert spoke and we were struck down. It effected different people in different ways and for me it banished me to my room. With time to contemplate I discovered a need to be alone. Quite an alien need for me and only usual when the black dog bites and therefore usualy a bad sign for me and something to be very wary of. But before the trip this desire to be at home, in the quiet had been building for a while. I had noticed small changes, people asking me if I’d been on holiday or poorly because they hadn’t seen me for a while and then a very quickly taken, almost totally on instinct decision to enrol on a distance learning degree.
When the dust had settled and I had realised what I’d done; that I had signed up for student funding and at least 3 years of study it was soon clear to me that the demands of the degree would require changes in my life. I would need to be more disciplined with my time, there would be less socialising and my thoughts would need to be more focused. I am a master of procrastination and distraction, it is no effort for me to waste hours avoiding what I really should and often want to be doing. They say this is bore out of a fear of failure and lack of confidence. Now, anyone who know’s me would say that is not the case for me, but is that just a front I am putting on? Last year I would have said yes, but now things are changing and I was left searching for a way to be comfortable with my growing faith in my abilities without becoming full of inflated ego and executing a cruel abandonment of my friends.
So now I can see that I needed that time in the desert, in pain and desperate to go home. It still worries me that I didn’t help everyone else with their desert experience, that I was so absent and unsupportive of everything that was going on, both good and bad. I was forced to be withdrawn and of course everything was okay, everyone had a good time. In the overall picture of things it was difficult but not impossible. I am still not comfortable with shouting out that I am going to put myself and my studies first, it’s hard for me to say that what I do is important, that I am important and deserving of the opprtunity I have been given to concentrate on my studies but isn’t that a sign of ego too?
In reality I don’t need to be this withdrawn to focus on my degree but if I need to be then I can and I should. I can make plans and decisions that enable me to have time to do my studies, there has never been anything to stop me in the past except my own mind and my own habits. I don’t have the words to explain exactly what I mean and how this trip has been such a turning point for me; it is a shift in my priorities, an opportunity to change my habits and the start of a new phase in my life. I have the desert and my desert friends to thank for that.
Despite the desert bug there were still a few days of gathering imagery and treasures and I’m very happy with my photographs and the beautiful lock and jewelry that I bought home.
The cushions at Dar Sidi Bounou had typical Moroccan weaved designs and the wear and tear enhanced the textures.
At Shtouki’s wonderful and expanded boutique I haggled hard for a good price on a Tuareg lock with an intricate mechanism and 3 keys. The locks were used traditionally on the crates used to transport salt and spices along the old trade routes. I am intrigued by the decoration and the symbols used by the Berber tribes. There is more detail on the cloak weight that I also bought. Finally I fell in love with 2 hairpins, including a beautiful simple ebony pin which is probably from Mali, they made a lovely addition to my small collection of hair and cloak pins.
But it wasn’t all about soul searching and collecting treasures, there was of course also camels!!
The last 2 shots are curtesy of feature photographer Said Himodi who happily swapped me a camel for a go with my camera!!