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SARAH AHMAD | 7 MARCH, 2017

That Whimsical Travel Tale


In the almost cold, dark, not so foggy December day I left the frenzy of a Delhi tale to sail, or rather fly to Casablanca, Morocco, that city many have understood through images, reels and a flick. Here it was, the ocean traversing close to the streets, competing with the coupé we were in; we - my husband and I. Though this had been his city for more than a decade now, I happened to see its nooks, corners and cronies right after we wed. Like most other cities, there was the shopping edifice, and like most others, there was good food and warm people.

I had couscous in that incredibly large sharing pedestal, tagine clay pots of chicken and peas, staple prepared with forbidden substances in our part of the world, suppers and souls, most conversations I never fathomed, yet appearances that held many sentiments; seaside bistros, brasseries, exotic homespun food made by the locals, the sprinters, labyrinths, and that eternal slumber of a drifter.

For me this North African country was all about commotion, infusion, revelries, and that never to be forgotten mystical land; azure, indigo, uphill, downhill - Chefchaouen. We left the shorelines of Casablanca, propelling past coasts, lush topographies and mounds to the blue city of Chefchaouen, now driving past it’s blue-washed houses and mesmerizing routes to the docks in the city of Tangier, on to a ferry carrying us and our car to the Southernmost City in Spain - Tarifa.

A freeway flanked by windmills, olive trees and deserted cafes brought us closer to the bewildering centre of the Spanish city of Sevilla. It was Christmas eve, while a few carols echoed in the winter air of Sevilla, the streets got quieter at nightfall. Moorish architecture, cobbled streets, horse carriages, the Cathedral, quaint cafes; the avant-garde alleyways were intermittently interacting with fragments of history.

Memoirs of graphic metaphors, avenues illuminated with the colours of sangria and spirits, reverberations of twirling artistes, flamenco, the flamboyance, took us further in our Spanish voyage, to the capital city of Madrid. Madrid was all about meeting new comrades, sharing chambers with strangers, flashes of letting our hair down moments and pirouetting intoxicants.

From the city of Sobrino de Botín- the oldest restaurant in the world, the railroads soon took us to Barcelona, the vivacious, arty and light-hearted city, with its Gothic quarters, Gaudi’s architectural magnificence, Camp Nou, the pa amb tomàquet, a distinguished dialect and a Catalan legacy.

The year was winding up, the darkness was not, hence one night I chose to take on the illuminated walkway, I walked close to stories, like that of the homeless man who firmly held a tea cup abandoned by the bourgeois- the irony screaming his silent bid for dough, the valiantly bedecked yard windows and streets, that waitron whispering his anecdotes on the phone, silhouettes of shrubs and selves; love, agony, ecstasy, melancholy, pacing down the passage of promise, that one last night before the shades were drawn.

New Year’s eve was about sharing a universal chant of wishes, dishes, spirits and those hallucinated dancing warriors. And here we were, the newlyweds, us, as wanderers, this was our memoir, from that cold December day, to a November when we said our vows and a New Year when we escaped under that billowy Catalan sun.

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