This weekend, I’ve learned so many different ways of saying “paradise.” The Arabic for it is “jena,” the English ranges from “heaven” to “Shangri-La” to “Eden.” But the universal meaning? A blue city high up in the mountains of Morocco. God’s Bridge stretching over the clearest spring water you can imagine. The air conditioning in a crowded bus on a sticky midsummer day. I have felt more awe in the last couple of days than I would have ever guessed I was capable of, and I wish there was a way to fully capture it, but no words can elicit the same joy that these experiences did. This renews my dedication to studying and practicing the Arabic language while seeming to render it obsolete with the other hand. If such powerful emotion can be conjured without words, why is language necessary at all? Alas, this is a question for another day.
On Sunday, I had the most traditionally patriotic July 4th I can remember (oh, sweet irony), complete with barbecue food, swingsets, and funk music (interspersed with a little bit of ska, just to reiterate the whole “screw Britain” aspect of Independence Day). While that in itself was a beautiful thing, it couldn’t hold a candle to the moment we arrived in Chefchaouen.
The sun was on the cusp of setting, creating a glowing halo above the mountains. The city itself is small and traditional, with gorgeous old-fashioned architecture painted every imaginable shade of blue. By the time we got checked into our hotel (which was incredible), the sun had descended, replaced by a pearly crescent sliver of moon. We went up to the hotel roof and basked in the tangible romance of the place. I’m honestly not sure I can do it justice with my words, but picture this: very Spanish-esque architecture, pottery everywhere, a tent full of pillows and lanterns, a view of the entire town (which included a wall nearly identical to that one in China), an azure swimming pool scattered with stepping stones…and this is just the roof. A few of us were literally moved to tears by the visceral beauty (the word beauty pales in comparison to what Chefchaouen offered).
After a very short night (more on that later), we drove about an hour on a sketchily winding mountain road (I had definitely missed the shoddy, rural roads and street Coca-Cola vendors–it’s so much like Kenya) and began our hike. We were essentially scrambling over rocks beside a river and wading through the clear waters when we could reach the streambed. The cool cerulean water gushes serenely over stones in the river, and at the end, an arch stretches out overhead, draped with vines. Paradise in the African jungle? Oh, yeah.
I had originally begun this entry with the intention of mentioning some themes I had noticed in two of Tom Stoppard’s plays (“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” and “Arcadia”), but I feel I’ve exhausted my wordsmithing abilities for today, so we will come back to that. Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the djinn bite.