Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Morocco my darling...

I have been travelling a lot recently, and the last "big trip" abroad was to Morocco for the New Year's Eve. A big group of 5 girl friends, gathering from all the corners of Europe into Marrakech of a few days travelling and celebrating NYE together - although I was the only European one. So along with three Singaporeans and one Japanese, off we went...
Morocco has a big appeal to me. First of all, my dad was born there in 1954, and I had never set foot in Morocco apart from in imagination. I've got children stories going as far as I can remember, my father and his 7 siblings trying all kind of jokes and adventures together or one onto the other. Sometimes funny, such as swimming under the sea pier and ending being tetanos injected by a big black guy pursuing them with a huge seringe in a hospital, or dangerous, trying to force black scorpions to commit suicide by surrounding them with fire... Somehow not the upraising all parents have had from growing up in France, so very appealing to my kid's eyes!
My grandparents have lived in Agadir for 15 years. It looks like after WW2, when everything had to be done in Europe and in Morocco, my grandfather who had fought throughout Morocco during the war with the "forces fran├žais libres", did not want to stay in France and took the job to supervise the building of the dam in south Morocco. So they moved to Agadir, and lived a happy though hectic expat life in Agadir, having 7 of their 8 children born there, including my dad and his twin sister.
In 1960 though, an earthquake happened in Agadir. It was a major one and killed 60% of the population in the Medina, but only 10% in the expat quarters. Intensive building and overcrowds in the Medina would have explained the big gap in such numbers. My grandmother's story is part of our family memory.
A few weeks before the earthquake, she made a dream that she couldn't really understand: she was on the beach in Agadir with all of her most precious jewellery. Suddenly a big wave comes, and she finds herself up to her neck with water, alive, and with all of her jewellery floating around her. So she gathers them, and that's how the dream ends. Compelled because that dream seemed to have a significance, my grandmother told the fatma that was working at the house about it. The fatma explained that an event of big importance would happen shortly, and that my grandmother would lose everything, but not her most precious items: her children.
Some time later, the earthquake happened and I remember my dad's story, who was only 6. He woke up with my grandfather knocking at his room's door, and can recall seeing the stars through the roof which had fallen off. My grandfather gathered all 7 children, all alive without a scratch, even the yougest daughter who had a cupboard fallen over her, but with the doors open. All safe and sound without an exception, as the dream had said, including my grandmother 7 months pregnant with the 8th and last child of the family.
My grandfather had them moved to Marrakech and proceeded to help those who hadn't been so lucky, trying to save those still under the fallen houses, for at least 8 to 10 days after the quake. My uncle was born in Marrakech one month after the quake, and the family stayed in Morocco for another 4 years, until they left the country at its independance.