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Feature Story (PR 535) - Tarik Benfquih
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Feature Story (PR 535)

Driving Through (My) History  

As I reach down and manually crank up the window of my Renault Clio, I tell my cousin to do the same because we’re done driving for the night. With nothing in sight for what seemed like miles, even the sound of the seatbelt unclicking echoed in the distance. Only using flashlights to light the way, it seemed like we were the only two people in the world, as the crunching of the gravel underneath our sneakers was the only thing making any noise. “Ici” (“right here” in French) he says, putting down his bag and setting up camp for the night.

            Unlike a New York morning, I was pleased to wake up to the sound of neither cars nor people shouting. We loaded up the car and I asked him “What was next?” I glanced at the GPS, but it was in French so I couldn’t really understand it. About 2-3 hours later we had arrived in this city that I can only describe as “blue.” The floors? Blue tiles. The walls? Blue brick and mortar, which I didn’t even know was possible. It was like the ocean had engulfed a whole city. Quickly learning this was a city called “Chefchaouen,” we explored all it had to offer. Now it was time for the worst part of the journey, to head south towards Marrakesh.

            The car ride seemed like ages because the only thing we passed on the highways were barren land and some really small settlement villages. I was quite humbled seeing what these people had, and how happy they were to still live life every day with so little. A few more hours elapsed as we arrived to what seemed like the oldest city in the world.

 I had learned that Marrakesh is the oldest city in Morocco and the “souks” (markets) are untouched since the year 1000. Embodying Moroccan culture was important for my cousin and I as people who were both born, but not raised in the country. Traversing the alleys of the Medina, we were hit with smells that we had never experienced before. Fresh tajines and mushmars were being prepared for all to eat from. The medina had everything from rug makers to chefs, all the way to butchers and herbalists. This market was truly ancient.

            Next, we prepared to reach our most sought-after destination: The Sahara Desert.

We were now standing in the birthplace of Berber and the Moroccan culture. It’s not every day I get to see my cousin because he lives in France, so this just made the time we got to spend together that much more meaningful. Sitting around the fire, looking up at the stars in the middle of the Sahara was just as special as I had hoped. What started off as a dream turned into a reality. I traveled from Tangier (North-West Morocco), the city I was born, to the eastern border we share with Algeria (Oujda), and then all the way down to the Sahara Desert. With my cousin asleep, all I could do was stargaze and acknowledge how in touch with my roots I felt. I knew I was born in Morocco, and I’ve visited many times before, but this just felt special. My DNA test says that my family comes from the “Souss” region, which before today, I had no idea what it looked like. You’d never think of how beautiful mountains and the desert could be. I feel like it’s important to find out who you are and where you come from, especially if you don’t have much of an idea beforehand. With a warm feeling encapsulating my body and mind, I went to sleep more Moroccan than ever.