What looks like the absence of a plan is actually my plan. Losing myself to the medina, the moment, the opportunity to be caught in the current of a place is entirely the point…entirely my point.

I realize most people prefer a plan. A schedule. A map. People prefer an order in the chaos of uncertainty. Itineraries allow you the allusion of control, of familiarity, in the absence of both. My final day in Casablanca – in Morocco – I lost myself to the medina. Hell, I didn’t even look at a map as I wound my way through the meandering streets of Casablanca. I stopped and asked directions periodically and mostly followed the first hand gesture delved out to me before asking again.

And eventually there it was, emerging quicker than I anticipated. I began to wander. In search of gifts; unsure what those gifts would be. I didn’t bother to track my movements for my eventual exit. Mostly I was mindful of the folks watching; I couldn’t pass any one spot too often or appear too turned around or people might think was in need of a guide.

Frustrated with the lack of inspiration from the more mundane of Morocco’s old medinas (it is more strip mall meets Target), I was headed toward one of the babs (doors) when I spotted a winding path I hadn’t wandered yet. It was the silver souk…one of my favorite areas. I eyed earrings and bracelets of Berber lacework.

And there I found him.

Rihani was still setting up his shop, just off the silver path, when I walked in. he didn’t rush to shadow my every move or show me every little thing there. Instead, he asked what I was looking for, pointed out a few items, and then left me to myself. A few moments later I asked him for sandalwood (this is the first place I’ve ever actually seen the wood) and more than giving me directions, he wrote down what I was looking for in Arabic so that I could show that to people to help me through the labyrinth that is the old medina.

It worked. I wandered toward where he gestured and then stopped and asked. The dance repeated. And there were the vegetables – the spices – the sandalwood.

I wound my way back to the bab but on a whim, retraced my steps to his shop. There he sat smiling at his door. “did you find it ok? Let me see what you got?” I hadn’t bought anything, too rich for my blood at 20MAD a gram, but he offered me a seat and served me tea and invited me to chat in the shade.

We compared travels – he lived in Italy and dubai – and travel stories- he got mugged and beat up in Italy and once found a crying Frenchman in the medina who’d met a similar fate. We talked about morocco in general and Casablanca specifically.  A few moments of polite chitchat turned into hours of easygoing conversation. my stomach began to churn and I prepared to bid farewell. Instead, Rihani asked if I’d eaten and invited me to join him for lunch. A tangine appeared…legumes, potatoes, carrots….and hidden beneath it all, chicken. It was delicious, whether by preparation or company I’m not really sure. We ate with our fingers and laughed about family.

Eventually it was time for me to leave. I rounded up my things and Rihani walked me to the bab, my arm looped through his. He kissed me lightly on each cheek, as is the fashion here, and bid me safe journey.

Morocco couldn’t have ended any better. Mosques with ancient architecture and God’s natural wonder have their place…but being human for a moment…more than dollar sign…more than fleeting foreigner taking up space.

I couldn’t have planned that any better…couldn’t have planned that at all. Which is why I often plan to not plan. show up with a rough outline, some vague notion of what I think I’d like to see. and when it finally fleshes out to true form – sometimes tiresome and scary, often delightful and unexpected – I am reminded of the beauty between timetables and scheduled destinations.

Tags: , , ,

1 Comment on planless plan

  1. sza says:

    this is why i am so excited to travel with you! and i am sooooo glad that morocco ended on a good note! see you soon, inshAllah!

Leave a Reply