SOMEWHERE BETWEEN CHAOS AND GRACE
MARRAKECH, JULY 2019
In a somewhat Moroccan daze, I suspected that this essay wouldn’t make it out today. But some 36,000 feet above the planes of Faro, words came to me — or at least, feelings did.
Which is a bit of an understatement in all honestly. Feelings poured out of me. As I was strapped to the seat of the aeroplane taking me across continent, towards home — emotion, elation and a lightness that weighed upon me like a ton of bricks overcame me. So much so, had I inhaled just a fraction of a depth too deep, the welling in my eyes would've surely turned to drastic weeps. All I could do in that moment was whisper to myself I am changed. I am changed. I am changed.
I have spent the last few days exploring the North African city of Marrakech, in the country of Morocco, with my best friend. We have been the guests of a traditional Moroccan Riad — the most colourful you could possibly imagine, with loose leaf mint tea on tap, a bed draped in grand golden embellished curtains and birds that dive-bomb down through the roofless courtyard just to say hello. We took to the entanglement of streets that lead to souk after souk after souk and joked we’d need to leave a breadcrumb trail to find our way out. And we road-tripped far out of the city, through to the Waterfalls of Ouzoud where we took a dip in the natural pools that did exactly what I know large bodies of water to typically do for me — they purified this Westerner’s overwrought mind.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s classic Eat, Pray, Love she talks of how every place inhabits a word that is representative of its streets and its people. Rome, she writes “is SEX”, the Vatican “POWER”, that New York City is, of course, a verb — “ACHIEVE”. I’ve been trying to decipher what I believe Marrakech’s word to be.
I have never experienced a place as chaotic as Marrakech. The mental energy simply burnt walking down the street — dodging very-nearly colliding mopeds from every direction. Constantly questioning whether people are staring because your skin isn’t covered up enough in this Muslim-populated town or instead because you are simply white. Or indeed the street-hasslers wanting you to spend your Western-wealth on the myriad rugs, slippers, ceramics, Burba jewellery and spices for sale. Marrakech requires a lot of concentration. In which, I’d be inclined to say my word for this pink city is be CHAOS.
But I’ve equally also never felt more at peace than I have on this trip. Only a few streets back from the main hustle and bustle of the markets and snake-charmers, our Riad sat in perfect harmony. Silence. Whenever we sat in the courtyard, sipping our tea (always sipping our tea in Marrakech) all you would hear is the delicate trickle of the rose-petalled fountain in the centre of the room and the light sounds of ambient music drifting along with the endless supply of burning incense (though one night, Nourddine, a Moroccan man who worked in our Riad, was particularly insistent on playing us Shakira and Enrique Iglesias)…
The same could be said of the rooftops from homes that the souks (which we were invited to view the city from on numerous occasion; with more tea of course) — they were a stone's throw from crowds upon crowds and utter mayhem, but from above provided a calmness that cleansed my soul from the inside out.
And so ‘CHAOS’, though entirely accurate, can not be the word I assign to Marrakech. It would be one, but not the one. And I say that quite confidently. My life has always been somewhat chaotic and unstructured. I’ve always either been unravelling completely or occupying something to that of non-conformance. My Sun and Venus are both in Gemini, which is to say both my ego and what I desire most is fuelled by the walls of the unstructured.
Which, for me to find this city so, is telling of how chaotic it really is (though I ought to note I am not hugely well-travelled to have a large compass for comparison).
What I would say is telling though, is that there really can be peace found amongst chaos. If somewhere as sharp as Marrakech can also be a place of inner harmony, kindness and inspiration, then there can also be nuances in my own life that counter the chaos.
I realised somewhat dramatically on that journey home — where I had my heart in my hands and the sun glistening onto the tears that were trying to escape my eyes, I think, what I would most like to seek in life. Which is — grace. A counter to the extreme chaos of constantly working like a dog, of frantic pursuits and rushed decisions. I want the grace of Marrakesh — a place that knows what it is and finds harmony around itself anyway.
When the plane landed in Manchester a few hours later, I whispered to myself again. This time, thank you.
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