“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” ― Augustine of Hippo
Travel has been a big part of my life. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to travel quite a bit. Travel to me is as much a search for the self as it is an opportunity to get to know the Other. There is so much that is disclosed in the process of travel, about who we are, what we think we can tolerate when confronted with ambiguity and the foreignness of a new place, about our capacity to learn and share with others. Travel is a wonderful opportunity for the soul to expand its transcendental dimensions, to reach higher heights and a more encompassing breadth of the world around us.
A lot has been written about travel by much, much better writers than I. That is to be expected. We’ve journeyed around our planet for millennia, with travel logs dating back to centuries past still retelling the modern day reader of those historic voyages to distant and exotic lands. One example of these travel logs is Nasir Khusraw’s Safarnama or ‘The Book of Travels.’ Written over a thousand years ago, it recounts Khusraw’s 7 year journey throughout the Muslim world of the time. In it are captured his memories and recollections of the distant cities he traveled to. One section in particular is quite interesting as it deals with his impressions of a then still nascent Cairo where the Faitmid Imam-Caliphs established their dynasty and founded the city that is still inhabited to this day. To be able to understand and imagine through his words what that city must have looked like, with its high surrounding walls and gates acting as entry points for goods, people, and knowledge, with markets selling perfumes of frankincense and myrrh, dried goods, silver and copperware, the mosques and the Al-Azhar university acting as great centres of learning, with artisans and poets making Cairo the newest jewel in the Muslim world of that time.
I bring up travel today because I was just visiting Morocco for roughly 12 days with Arzina, with a few days spent in Casablanca, a week in Marrakech and a few days out in the plains overlooking the Atlas Mountains. I bring up Khusraw’s travel logs because like him, I would like to be able to recall my experience of this city in the future and to pass on this experience to others.
Morocco is a wonderful country, one I would easily go back to with the right company (I’m thinking my brother and buddy for a road trip at some point in the future). Historically vibrant but with throws of modernity all around, Morocco seems to balance somewhat well the dichotomy of where it has come from and where it is going. Casablanca is a true city, with its large wide roads, restaurants, the Corniche overlooking the Atlantic, with an overall great city life. Marrakech is certainly a tourist trap but one that is worth falling for. The Jemma al-Fnaa square, with its cheap local food in the evenings and the winding souks that line it, the stunning architecture and the unique style of Riad homes, the confluence of old Marrakech surrounded by it’s ancient city walls with the new, posh areas just outside the centre of town, these are all things that make Marrakech unique. Staying in Skoura, a small town outside the (slightly) bigger city of Ouarzazate was a stunning opportunity to lodge in an area where the Atlas mountain served as the backdrop to our quiet last few days in the country. I love mountains. Their immensity baffles me and I feel small next to them. And feeling small is a great feeling, at least it is to me, when you realize the grandness of the world around you. Driving through those mountains as we were going from city to city was unforgettable. The drive was in and of itself an experience of Morocco in its own right.
What made Morocco also special were the people. They are kind and friendly. While there, I had an opportunity to share long conversations with two young Moroccans who seemed very hopeful for the future of their country. Their concerns were very much like my own and our conversations, exchanged in French, were truly a big part of the experience of being there.
But coming back to the broader theme of travel. I’ve met people here who have traveled extensively. The beauty of meeting people like this is to exchange notes and compare experiences. It’s interesting to have something like that to talk about with others. In a city like Dar, with so many expats who all lead a similar transient lifestyle, it’s not uncommon to meet people like you who share similar experiences and proclivities towards certain things, travel and otherwise. But travel can certainly wear a person down. I’m looking forward to planting my feet solidly on Canadian soil for a while.
Anyway, here are quotes on travel by much wiser and more eloquent people.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson,
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain,
“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
― Isabelle Eberhardt,
“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
― G.K. Chesterton
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher