In search of dépaysement
And because the circumstances
Were appropriate
–A long weekend and cheap flights–
My Bulgarian friend and I
Decided to visit our
Unknown neighbour
With no hostels booked in advance
Night railway would be our means
Between cities
Besides our thrill
To meet “the exotic”
And maybe practise some Arabic.

From the other side of the Mediterranean
Andalusia appeared near yet far-flung.
In Tangier, a feline city,
All seemed serene
Scenes from Delacroix paintings
Combined with dusty modern buildings
And teens doing parkour
Among rowdy traffic.
On the Avenue Pasteur
By chance I came across
Librairie des Colonnes
Where I bought Le premier homme
By Albert Camus.
That evening was the most gratifying
Of the whole trip
Walking among markets, observing the looms
We felt welcome, and we chattered
On a street bench with two kids
Who enjoyed drawing on notebooks and
Learning origami.
Already exhausted we reached the station
And tried our best to sleep
In the overnight train

Which took us to Marrakech
Where we had a delicious breakfast in open-air
With the most savoury tomatoes.
Avoiding touristic places
With presumed charmers of snakes
We found quiet luminous spaces
With murmuring fountains
Of pellucid water
And on the highest minaret
A stork
Near the madrasa
As a symbol of birth
Or a long trip.
No luxury, no Yves Saint Laurent
But on the streets we appreciated
The colourful geometry
Of vaults or on the walls
Turquoise on clay or the faience
Were a reminder of the fresh tiles
At my grand-mother’s house.
That night we wrote a postcard
To our beloved professor
Who keeps it on her cork board
With our probably childish Arabic calligraphy.

The transition to Fez
Was not exempt from some moments
Of fear and uncertainty.
It seems that night walks
–Or even morning walks–
Are perilous for women travellers.
One does not escape from the regard
Of the other
And on the street space does not belong
To a lady
One does not escape from the regard
Of men
Of an adolescent male
Whose hand touched the derriere
Of the Spanish maiden, me.
My Bulgarian friend performed karate positions
To scare the boy
Who was beaten by two men who
Had witnessed the haram
While I shouted, in weeps
“Don’t hurt him! Don’t hurt him!”
Our spirits were low all day
We were chased too in
Fes el Bali, Medina of Fez
But the magic of the word “oхлюв”
Kept us safe and smiling.

Nador meant the end of the trip
The return home
An avenue of palm trees
Fishermen on the coast
Or in silhouettes of rowboats
Were silently giving farewell
With a huge pictorial sun
Perhaps these last images
After the aghast episodes
Meant a hopeful look
To a radiant country
Far-flung yet so near.


Tagirem Gallego García

Tagirem Gallego García

Tagirem Gallego García is a predoctoral researcher at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain. Her areas of interest and research are Comparative Literature, Travel Literature, Multiculturalism, Geocriticism, Imagology, Orientalism, Postcolonialism and Language Teaching. Her PhD is on the image of India for English-speaking and French-speaking female author travellers.

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