It was nearing midnight. We’d been on the road for close to nine hours, having left Mandawa at three in the afternoon.
The deserted highway, smooth and wide, was sheathed in golden desert sand under a pitch-black sky. Our drive constantly interrupted with herds of prancing wild camel, stoic buffaloes, and abandoned cattle which merged with the darkness of the night. We were on our way to Jaisalmer in the north-west frontiers of Rajasthan.
I will never forget the calm words of my 22-year-old driver, Budharam Bishnoi, the first time an animal sneaked in front of our speeding vehicle: “Jitna aapki suraksha karna mera dharam hai, utna hi inn jeevo ka suraksha karna bhi mera dharam hai. Aap chinta mat karein.” [Just as it is my duty to protect you, it is also my duty to protect these animals. Don’t worry.” Continue reading →
Marrakech is my last stop as I travel through Morocco.
What could be a better way as well, to end my Moroccan series, than a blog post on the city after which the whole country was once named.
From medieval times right until its independence, Morocco was known as the Kingdom of Marrakech. Till date, in both Persian and Urdu, the word for Morocco is Marrakech.
Whichever nickname you choose to refer to it by—Red City, the Ochre City, or the Daughter of the Desert—Marrakech brims with stories. But a little more than the usual. Some told and recounted again and again through guide books and travellers’ words. Some a little less obvious. Did you know, even the UNESCO-listed status for its vast medieval square, Djemaa el-Fna, is based on its oral traditions of story-telling. 😊
There is a reason I travel solo. I tend to get lost when I travel. No, not physically. That would be impossible in today’s day and age with Google Maps and diligent service providers busy at work with their mobile phone tracking systems to keep you connected. What I mean is I get lost in the experience. I lose track of time. Which is great for me, but, have come to realize, is not so great for others. 😀
This post is about one such lost-in-the-experience day I spent at a place called Volubilis in northern Morocco, in the foothills of Mount Zerhoun. And how you too, if you wish [that is], could lose yourself in its magic!
Volubilis was a large Roman colonial town on the fringes of the Empire. Though dating back to the 3d Century BC and occupied till the 11th Century AD, its hey-day lasted from 44 – 285 AD when it was capital of the Roman province Mauretania Tingitana.
It was a wealthy town—fertile grain and olive oil-producing lands surrounded it—and its 20,000 Romanised Amazigh inhabitants lived in fancy villas lining broad avenues. Today, the archaeological site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Continue reading →
A high-pitched Amazigh love song is playing on a loop in the car stereo. Abdul, my cab driver decides to give it company with deft dance moves from behind the steering wheel even as he swings the car around hairpin bends. He does not speak English. I don’t speak Arabic, Amazigh or French. We are high up in the High Atlas Mountains in Southern Morocco.
Should we crash down the rock face would anyone be able to trace us, I ask him with hand signs. He signals I should not worry, and grins. These mountains are his home. I tell myself I should be afraid. Instead, I have a huge smile plastered on my face as well.
Oh, how I love these blood-red, barren mountains spread all around us, till as far as the eye can see! Majestic, mysterious, and millions of years old. There is no other sign of life under the ultramarine blue sky, except for our car and glimpses of a green oasis which ribbons its way in the plunging valley below.
I am on my way to Telouet, a crumbling mud-brick Kasbah [palace] 5,900 feet high up in the mountains. I had chanced upon the name when reading up for my Morocco trip and though outside the tourist circuit, I just knew I had to visit it. Continue reading →
One of my favorite travel images. Taken in Yazd, Central Iran in October 2007.
I was at the Ateshkadeh (Zoroastrian fire temple) in the new city when a group of five young girls placed themselves in front of me. Five girls, with five different personalities. Five different emotions. At the same place, same time, same age, validating the richness of human expression and thought.
Clockwise: The imp, the assured, the serious, the shy, the open laughter.