Category Archives: Travel & Culture

Lessons learnt in Morocco

Trekking along the Atlas Mountains.

Earlier this month I decided to take a break from teaching. I felt that students’ demands and my obligations as a teacher were not giving me enough time to focus on my writing career. It was a tough decision, mainly due to financial reasons. Finding markets to write for is easy enough, but penetrating them is the hardest task for any writer.

I wrote a few articles and applied for some online writing gigs. And then I waited, and waited a bit more, until the day arrived for me to pack my trekking gear and head to Morocco. Overwhelmed with anxiety and anticipation, I swallowed my travel pill and hoped, for the umpteenth time, that I had done the right thing. This was the first time that I was travelling outside of Europe, away from the metropolitan cities that I had grown accustomed to.

My trip to Morocco has been an eye-opener on many levels. I was pulled out of my comfort zone and thrown into a completely different culture. But for the first time in months, I felt awake. I was acutely aware of anything going on around me; the bustle of reckless driving, the stench of sewage merged with the poignant aroma of spices, the cries of old beggars, and the silent suffering of overloaded mules. Strangely enough, I found beauty in desolate huts, grimy cafes, arid landscapes and the rural shanty towns.

My trekking experience in Morocco has boosted my spiritual growth.  The highlight of the trip was my attempt to climb Mount Toubkal. That day arrived, and with it came one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I hadn’t imagined that traversing the highest mountain in North Africa was going to require so much physical strength and endurance.  The high altitude sickness, the strong wind gusts and the biting cold pulled me down.  The path was never-ending. I contemplated turning back, but even the way back down seemed disheartening. It was too cold to stop for a rest. My only option was to carry on, semi-conscious, towards the summit.

The day I stood on top of North Africa was the day that I realised my true potential. For years I had underestimated my willpower, put a limit to every single thing I did and never dared to venture beyond those boundaries. But the mountain spoke to me. She watched me scramble up the rocky slopes and getting battered by the dusty winds. Her words were stern and they lacked empathy, but she is after all an ancient mother endowed with unmatched wisdom.

“Keep going,” she said, “You’ll have an amazing story to tell.”

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Earth Garden Festival 2013

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One of the many colourful stalls at the ethnic market
Daniela Frendo Photography

When it comes to attending local cultural events, I always try to predict the amount of pushchairs that will be bumping into me from all possible directions before deciding whether to go or not. It seems to be a local phenomenon how most parents find nothing wrong in taking their screaming kids and colossal pushchairs to every ‘child-unfriendly’ event that takes place on the island. They’re there at rock concerts, beer festivals, and in the scorching summer sun, clogging the passages through the crowd and creating more traffic.

Nothing, however, not even the fear of encountering an army of ‘Pushchair Transformers’ and an anarchy of spoilt kids, was going to stop me from attending this year’s Earth Garden Festival. On arriving at the venue, a wave of relief washed over me. Instead of the usual riff raff, I was in the company of comely, eclectic individuals, whose positivity radiated feel-good vibes throughout the park.

Strolling through the flamboyant ethnic market felt like a surreal experience. I made sure I stopped at all the stalls ensconced amongst the trees, admiring the colourful display of all things exotic. Some of the stalls were curtained by an array of beautifully crafted Indian throws, and showcased a collection of symbolic accessories and ornaments from various cultures. I ran my fingers over a Peruvian velvet painting which depicted traditional rural life, with peasants rearing their lamas against a background of straw-thatched huts. The softness of this handmade artifact, along with the sense of nostalgia that it conveyed, was enough to propel me into buying it.

When our feet had done about fifteen laps around the market, my better half and I decided to sit down and continue absorbing the blissful atmosphere. We nestled under a tree, sipping green tea and munching away on a giant chocolate cookie. The iridescent lanterns hanging on the branches above us danced with the cool summer breeze.  Meanwhile, a mix of psychedelic beats, live jazz music and the primitive hum of didgeridoos reverberated around us. But that pleasant background music was just the warm-up for the night’s main attraction.

At around 8, the amphitheatre located at the heart of Malta’s National Park in Ta’ Qali started filling up.  I am proud to say that I was part of that enthusiastic, vibrant crowd, who had congregated at the Greek theatre for the night’s star performance; Tribali. As the name connotes, the band’s music is a celebration of love, spirituality and peace, conveyed through a diversity of ethnic and oriental rhythms. Tribali’s pulsating performance, with their uplifting beats and breathtaking visuals, never fails to send the audience into a state of spiritual ecstasy. Hopefully it won’t be long until their next performance.

This year’s Earth Garden has truly been a magical start to Summer 2013.