Morocco has always been one of the top 5 countries I wanted to visit. It started when I read the little prince by Antoine de St Exupéry. Like him,I always thought I’d explore the Sahara, sleep under the stars and write a memoir of my own. While that didn’t happen, I spent two weeks exploring Morocco from Rabat to Marrakech. What I Learned from my trip was probably better than having a revelation in the middle of the Sahara desert.
In the course of two weeks, I visited Rabat, then made my way to Fez by train and finally to Marrakech. There were several highlights on this trip, let’s explore them through these visuals:
2. Exploring Rabat on foot
4. Ryad in Fez
5. Day trip to the blue city Chefchaouen
All in all, I enjoyed my trip and after spending 3 months studying for finals, it was a great way to relax and forget about my responsibilities. So naturally, I wanted to end my trip on a good note by going to a Hammam.
Hammam’s are spas for both women and men in the Maghreb and even some countries in the middle east. It sometimes involves, relaxing in a sauna, a full body scrub, body mud mask, and a full body oil massage. Needless to say, after traveling around the country for 2 weeks, I was ready for some me time. I arrived at the Hammam and was greeted by a woman possibly in her late 30’s. She explained that I needed to get undressed and wear a “disposable thong” before getting in the sauna. I nodded then stood in the dressing room waiting for her to give me some privacy but she kept gesturing for me to undress. So I took off my clothes, then my prosthetics. As she was organizing my belongings in the locker, I took off my shirt and my tights exposing several scars throughout my body (from my failed hip replacement & amputation)- I turned around to find her weeping then crying uncontrollably at the sight of my body. First couple of thoughts that quickly came to mind were:
“Maybe she knows someone with similar scars and it’s bringing painful memories”
“Maybe she thinks I’m in pain”
“Maybe she’s trying to imagine what I must have gone through to earn these scars”
All these thoughts brought me back to senior year in college when a new friend asked what happened to me. I started with tales of my diagnosis, being in the hospital and some failed surgeries and right away she started crying. Before I knew it, I was comforting her and assuring her that I was not longer in pain and that I’d been in remission for a while.
(Now back to the hammam-) In a split second I wondered what to say to comfort this woman. So with a firm voice I said “If you’re gonna cry the whole time, please send someone else in here!”
In both cases, somehow, I felt as if it was my duty to comfort these two women. In college I acted without regards to my own feelings. In the Hammam however, what I learned that day was to stop holding myself accountable for someone else’s feelings. Through my journey of cancer diagnosis and dealing with the aftermath I’ve shed a lot of tears (enough tears) but most importantly at that point I decided that my mental well being was more important than anyone pitying me.