Monday, 18 April 2016
It will not surprise you that I had no desire to come back to London, or more likely, to work. All my zen has gone within three short hours of being at my desk. The process is, as I coached myself, in the middle of the Atlas mountains, to recall that calm, to grasp the meditation I learned (for all of eight hours) and try to remember why I had such an amazing time.
So let me tell you the story of Ouzoud. Ouzoud is Africa's second largest waterfall. I didn't even know it existed, that's how closely I paid attention to the Lonely Planet Guide. We went right down to the base of the falls, felt the mist on our faces, could almost touch the water as it thundered down over mountainous rocks. On brightly coloured boats, paddled by men in hoodies, who helpfully took our photos before the falls, we touched life. I'm feeling better just thinking about it.
And then, when we were half way down, and the falls opened up to us, in all its magnificent glory, a woman came down with her friends, and she burst into tears. It was that kind of sight, it would make anyone cry - and to be fair, several people, myself included, were deeply moved. Because I'm a walking pharmacy, I handed the lady a tissue, and returned to my boiling hot seat, underneath a moustache print scarf to protect my gradually bleaching hair (it's gone brown. It was black. It's now almost the same colour as my skin, because smarty pants here forgot her Topshop straw hat...)
While I contemplated the falls, and how it would be there, many thousands of years after I had gone, the woman approached me. She thanked me for the tissue, once more, and just as I was about to tell her it was nothing, she spoke again. She said, "My dad died three years ago." My stomach dropped for her. "And he used to come here all the time. I'm just overwhelmed to be here. Where he was. So thank you."
Gobby as I am, I didn't know what to say, except, "God bless you." She gave my hands a squeeze and went off to see the rest. I so very nearly caved to my own tears, which had been threatening since I arrived in Ouzoud. To hear how far that woman had travelled - not just physically to be at the falls, but emotionally. I wanted to find her and ask a thousand questions, and I stopped myself. It was her journey, and she allowed me to know enough. Anything more was not my business. But it's stayed with me. I think it will every time I look at the photos of the falls. How precious life is. How important it is to see the world beyond our own small borders. To not be afraid to see Africa in all its beauty, naturally, awesome, incredible beauty, wary of repercussions from small minded, Godless people. To take that leap not only for yourself, but your family, your history and your future.
I thought Morocco amazed me the first time I went. Now it has my complete and absolute awe.