Best birthday ever

Feeling stork-y

Warning: I gush in this post, which may inspire wanderlust in some…

My 29th birthday will never be forgotten and goes down in my books as one of the most memorable days ever. If I live to be 99 it will be hard to top this.

Marrakesh was magic.

It’s a city of ridiculous contrasts, elevating each experience above and beyond expectation. It’s an oasis in the middle of a desert with intense colours, smells, flavours, people, animals, frenzy and tranquility all rolled into one. I’ve never felt dirtier and I’ve never felt cleaner. You could have the best time of your life here or the worst. It’s a place where if you weren’t already in love, you would fall in love. It’s an unforgettable place. Having Mark to share this with me was priceless.

Moroccan breakfast

The 1st day of my 29th year started out waking up to birds chirping and natural daylight streaming into our riad courtyard and into our room. What is a riad, you ask? A riad is basically a Moroccan B&B. They’re typically ordinary looking mud brick homes on the outside, tucked away down some narrow alleyway, with the inside being an oasis of mind-boggling beauty surrounding a central courtyard. For less than what you’d pay for a Holiday Inn in North America, Mark and I ‘splurged’ on Riad Carina. It must have been the nicest in all of Marrakesh, with only 5 rooms and the most pleasant of hosts and tastiest of foods. We proceeded up to the rooftop terrace and found a spot on some wicker chairs in the sun with views of the nesting storks on the old medina walls. Our host Amin served us a fresh breakfast of crumpet-like pancakes, Moroccan tortillas, fresh bread, fresh squeezed o.j. (so thick you could chew it), a pot of coffee and a smorgasbord of local jams and honeys.

After waiting a few moments to digest, it was time for another amazing shower. Normally having a shower on my b-day or any other day would be no big deal, however a good western washroom is difficult to come by in Morocco. Our Riad washroom was heavenly, complete with such luxuries as toilet paper, a shower head and hot water!

In the souks

All clean and fed, we left the calm oasis of our Riad for the mayhem of the souks (markets) and the Djemaa el-Fna, which is a large square where exotic performers gather, as well as hoards of people to watch them. There are musicians with drums and all sorts of interesting stringed instruments, cross-dressing belly dancers, men with monkeys, woman with henna, potion makers/healers, snake charmers, you name it. We started by visiting a museum, an old water reservoir and an old Koranic schoolhouse. We got lost in the colourful maze of the souks, and I haggled for a new pair of “high quality camel” sandals for myself.

After working up a good sweat in the heat, and feeling quite exhausted, we headed to a hammam for a good cleaning and massage. Since showers are hard to come by in the deserts of Morocco, most people visit a hammam a couple of times a week instead, where they get thoroughly scrubbed down by a stranger. They start by applying black soap, which looks like a gooey amber paste. They leave the “savon noir” on your skin for 5 minutes and follow up with a deadly scrubbing using a coarse fabric mitt that feels like sandpaper but leaves your skin squeaky clean and smooth. You would not believe how much skin and dirt is removed — you can actually see it pile up on the mitt. I had no idea I was so dirty, nor did Mark, who shed just as much. I lost so many layers of skin that I felt 25 again. It was quite the experience. I have never been that clean…ever. To top the cleanliness off, I also got to enjoy a very relaxing massage whilst Mark sipped mint tea and watched the sun set from the rooftop of the riad, overlooking the city.

While up on the roof and getting my massage we heard the evening call to prayer reverberate across the city from the hundreds of mosques scattered below. The call to prayer is broadcast so that no one could possibly miss it, on speakers pointing in the 4 cardinal directions from the tops of the mosque towers. Combined with all the other noises of the busy city below, it felt like we were in the middle of a surreal humming cloud of sound hovering just above it all.

Something more to celebrate. Mark received an email from my mom with good news from home. He has officially finished each and every step of his architectural internship. So with Mark now a fully fledged architect we went for celebratory drinks on another cool rooftop terrace, and enjoyed some of the tastiest olives yet .

Dinner at Riad Carina

We went back to our riad, which just might be one of my favourite places in the world, for dinner. A perfect little table had been set for us on the terrace, complete with a handwoven Berber tablecloth and rose petals scattered atop. We feasted on a succulent tagine of chicken with preserved lemon and olives, and the most flavourful gravy ever to have delighted my tastebuds. It was nearly as good as a thanksgiving dinner back home. I’ll cut myself off from rambling by reiterating that the day was perfection and magic. I already can’t wait to go back to Marrakesh.

Thanks everyone so so much for wishing me a happy b-day. Reading all the greetings helped make it the best day ever. Internet rules! I’d love to write everyone back but I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t get a chance as free WiFi is sometimes hard to come by.

Comments

    I’m glad you had such a great birthday Meghan! Reading your post was so enjoyable. Never in my life have I met someone who can describe food as well as you do. Keep up the great posts!

    Your birthday sounds amazing!! I’m so happy for you. Can’t wait to see Marrakesh photos.
    And congratulations Mark!

    Nice stuff guys!
    Living life good.
    Peace.

    I’m so glad to read that you had an amazing birthday, Meg. What a memorable day for your 29th and for a lifetime. Lots of love to you and your brilliant architect. Safe travels.

  1. Leslie Shier

  2. I loved Morocco as well in the 70’s, also would like to go back. Our Turkey trip went well, I had a haman and lost lots of skin too. Turkey is waaaay better than Greece. Congratulations to Mark.

  3. Mother Goose

  4. Meghan, I’m so happy you had the best day of your life. Wait til you have kids, they will be the only events that could possibly overtake turning 29 in Marakesh. I love your stories. Keep them coming… Love Mom

  5. Bruce the Moose

  6. Meg – I am so glad everything came together in Marakesh for your bday. Your writing was the best yet and I felt I was there reading it. I am so happy for you – Mark too.
    Dad

    Better late then never-happy belated-Marekesh will have to be on my list of places to go.

    Reading your birthday blog almosts matches the Twilight series story ;)
    Sounds like a beautiful day.

    Aw thanks dad! It was pretty swell.

    haha, now I definitely have to read Twilight! If only I can get my hands on an English copy.

    Thanks man! I must hear all about Japan. Hope you’re finding things.

    Haha, I was wondering how much it may have changed in the past 30 years. We met a man who hadn’t been since the 70s and he said it hadn’t all that much. Except that more people were wearing western clothes. The cars were probably the exact same – they were ancient! I couldn’t believe the hammam. I really hope we get a chance to see Turkey now. Thanks so much for the rci stay in Spain – we’re loving it. Happy Birthday to you too!

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