We are living in uncertain times, 2020 has begun as a year full of unrest and shock as the global pandemic, named COVID-19, originating from the SARS-CoV-2 virus is sweeping the globe. In this situation, many people in the world are placed under quarantine, some not in their own countries, because of the restrictions placed by airlines, deterring incoming or outgoing flights from other countries, or stopping them completely.
This global lockdown is changing the daily routines of many, but I’m here to share a story of discovery and cultural exploration in this uncertain and wary time. I am a Swedish/American, currently in Morocco. I lived in Los Angeles this past year, while there, money and power were driving this city and with a high speed of life, I found no time to slow down, and just breathe.
My husband and I flew to Morocco at the beginning of March 2020. Upon landing in Morocco, I was greeted with smiles and kindness from strangers that I didn’t know. I saw genuine love in people’s eyes when speaking to them. No matter who they were or how much they had, they offered to locals and tourists, I saw and felt their genuine gratitude and love for their country and people. Their willingness to give, even if they didn’t have much themselves.
This country opened its arms, its heart, and flavors to me. Moroccan food is cooked with love and passion for hours, as every spice is marinated into the meats and vegetables, and time is taken to eat and indulge in the flavors. Nothing is rushed. Neither the time to cook nor eat, as meals are focal points throughout the day and the focus is placed on enjoying meals to the fullest with loved ones. With only the freshest ingredients from markets and local farmers, being used in recipes. Moroccans focus on family and flavor, speaking about stories of the past and hopes of the future as they gather around the table. Their genuine love and hospitality radiate as you are welcomed into their homes.
I am rediscovering the beauty in the stillness of life once again. No longer am I waking up to an alarm with a to-do list waiting for me in the morning by my bedside, but instead to birds chirping outside my window and the sound of ocean waves crashing into rocks at the beach. A warm and crispy French baguette breaks in my hands with olive oil and fresh cheese being spread on top for my petit déjeuner. A Tajine, the traditional Moroccan dish which originated from the Berbers, the native people of Morocco, which has been cooking for 4 hours, awaits me at lunch. The beef so tender it falls off the bone, the vegetables so flavorful they melt in in my mouth, and the earthy herbs and spices like ginger, cumin, and turmeric, create harmony as they dance on my taste buds. When I taste this food, I feel connected to the earth. In the afternoon we have a traditional Moroccan tea, called Atay, which can be dated back to the 17th and 18th centuries, made with fresh mint leaves sugar, to cleanse the palette.
This has been a time of rebirth for me, a time to slow down, to breathe. To reconnect with nature, food, family, and the simplicity of life. Although it is scary, unpredictable, and even difficult to understand the chaos that has taken ahold of the world in this time, let’s try to see the beauty in this time of stillness and appreciate all the simple things that life has to offer us, meanwhile cheering on those that are out there fighting this virus for us, every single day.