Saturday, 15 September 2018

A love letter to London

As I write this I am sat on a train on the way to Exeter. My home for the next 3 years (with a year in Spain sandwiched in.)

It felt weird booking these train tickets. Having my parents and sister buy return tickets and myself only a one way. We haven't even arrived and they haven't even left yet but I'm already feeling like I've been thrown into the deep end. I'm more than capable of spending time alone and away from family- this summer alone I spent a total of 41 days without my family whilst I was away in different places. But actually living and studying alone in a new city feels strange. But this post isn't about how much I'm going to miss my family or even my friends. It's about how much I'm going to miss London. The city I was born in and grew up in and the city that has essentially made me into who I am today.

I'm so used to slating it; calling it a soul sucking and depressing place but as my days in the capital dwindle away I'm starting to realise how much I'm going to miss this place. I'm so blessed to call this place my home, to live in an area where Tower Bridge is a 10 minute walk away, 6 if I speedwalk, an area where I can walk to Covent Garden and Oxford street if I really wanted to and get there in under half an hour, the double deckered busses that have served me for the past 18 years and that I've never had to pay to get on, even that god awful Central line service. The Jubilee and Northern lines which whenever I get on, mean that I'm on my way home. The convenience of everything. On the day of the Westminster Bridge attacks, when all public transport was held and roads were blocked I simply walked home. It's been the only way of life I've ever really known- having everything at my disposable and as I count the days till I'm gone I truly understand a) why my parents decided to migrate here and b) the quote "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."

A few days ago I met up with my secondary school friends for the last time before we all parted ways to embark on new adventures from gap years to Biology at Oxford. We walked around Soho under the candy floss coloured skies as the sun was setting and I couldn't help but say "wow, London is actually beautiful." Covent Garden by night, a place that is usually full to the brim of tourists and locals alike was deserted, with a slight hum of people chattering from rooftop bars and alfresco restaurants. We walked around the cobbled streets and appreciated our last time together until Christmas. And that night, walking back to Elephant and Castle where we would all see where the next leg of the night would take us, with a bottle of Bacardi and a litre of coke in hand felt somewhat monumental.

Those who know me will know that I will defend South London till the day I die but walking over Waterloo bridge at night, a journey that would take us from the North side of the river back to our local South felt so bittersweet- as if we were leaving behind our new memories from that evening in central London and returning back to the reality of home. Home where suitcases are strewn across the floor in a failed attempt to pack for the 'big move' They say that walking over Waterloo bridge at night is an almost euphoric experience. Seeing the cities landmarks lit up and the reflection of those lights onto the Thames. I don't know. It does something to you.

So as I get ready to settle into a new city and start a new chapter of my life, I will mourn my departure from my beloved London. The place that I and my dearest friends call home.


Thursday, 6 September 2018

marrakech | مراكش

I wanted to write the title of this post in Arabic as well as English as a way to pay homage to my background and culture. I was in Marrakech almost over two months ago but the experiences that I went through are still fresh in my mind. Like the rest of Morocco, Marrakech was a huge sensory overload- one that can be overwhelming if you've never visited the country or city before. As a Moroccan native, I'd already visited multiple times before with my parents. Despite this, I had never actually done Marrakech the true touristy way. We would always stay far out of the medina and even Gueliz, the new town, favouring resorts and hotels to the hustle and bustle of the medina. We would subsequently spend our days by the pool and only ventured into the city in the evening before escaping back to the Europeanised version of the city.

I wanted to change this.

How could I, out of all people, continue experiencing one of the most vibrant cities in the country through the watered down perspective? Even the European tourists I love criticise so much were getting out there and exploring more than I was. Katie and I spent a few days smack bang in the middle of the Marrakechi medina in an oasis of calm that was Riad Aya (even though we may have gotten henna on the bedsheets and had a whole issue sorting that out afterwards)

I don't know where to start but perhaps summarising it in some bullet points would be a good beginning:

  • crazy, unbearable heat that drenches your backpack straps (which your friend will then have to feel when you alternate) gross but very effective way to bond with someone lol. 
  • 3 hour slots of pure tranquility on a terrace, by the pool and the smell of spf engulfing you. 
  • orange juice. so much orange juice. 
  • warm tones everywhere. and tiles.
  • lush gardens that I still can't wrap my head around- how are they still so green when they're basically in 30 degree + heat for most of the year...
  • questionable cat calling. seriously: lady gaga and shakira? 
  • early breakfasts in the courtyard.
  • haggling. 
  • someone's sleep talking. to this day I don't know who the missing third person was. 
  • visiting all the historical monuments the city has to offer from ruined palaces to tombs.
  • spending 2 hours looking for a place and going through some sketchy places only to realise you literally walked past the entrance before. I even looked and read the signs but still missed it. 
  • a lost phone in the middle of the medina- miraculously still there and actually got it back.
  • (after paying 50 dirhams because the hustle don't stop) 
  • wild roads. if you don't cross, you never will. those cars will not stop. 
  • a whole load of languages. 
  • random garages filled with watermelons. and a sleepy vendor beside them. 
  • getting the best seat in a restaurant, looking at the menu and realising it's much more overpriced than you thought, feeling too awkward to just get up and leave, pretending to get a call from someone and loudly declaring that you're on your way down just so you can avoid confrontation with the staff. then assuring yourselves that you don't owe that restaurant anything. 
  • 3 hour car journeys to the waterfall (mostly spent asleep) 
  • navigating the souks- thanks Katie. 
  • a nose bleed and banged heads. what a day...
  • the constant drumming in the main square. 
  • finally learning the word for stamps in Arabic (it'sتنابر btw) 
  • going straight up the terrace as soon as we got in late at night to just lay down and talk. 
  • wondering what on earth a group of lads could be doing in Marrakech (?!) 
  • borrowed wonky sunglasses. 
  • cats!!! 
  • buying a ridiculous amount of 1 litre bottles of water. 
  • forcibly drinking mint tea because you don't want your friend to miss out on the experience. 
  • "excuse me miss can I have [your] snapchat?" 
After reading through this bullet point list, I think that it encompasses my time in Marrakech perfectly. A collection of fast paced events that have made this trip one that I'll never forget. 

And I don't know if it's strange to thank the person you travelled with for, you know, travelling with you, but I can firmly say that having experienced Marrakech (and Ouzoud) with Katie has made it even more memorable. So here's to internet friends/pen pals turned travel buddies. I hope we have many more trips together.