When I arrived in Morocco I was newly orphaned and emotionally detached from everyone around me. Detachment was one of the many ways my fiancé Ayoub said I had changed after my mother died.
It was in the welcoming embrace of my in-laws, Fatima and Aziz, that I immediately felt a comforting peace in my soul. Their constant prayers for my mother and my family were felt across two continents. And without a word or any translations, I knew they understood my pain. From that moment on Fatima and Aziz treated me like their daughter. And it was an acceptance that my heart so painfully needed.
Fatima concentrated on loving me with food. A love language I'm all too familiar. Every visit to her kitchen flooded my senses with aromas as colorful as the spices that created them. Her kitchen consisted of the Moroccan essentials: a clay tagine to make the famous dish of the same name and the metal kettle that poured liquid gold, mint tea. On Fridays, she spent hours preparing couscous. It is a tradition throughout the country to have couscous and Fridays and I quickly learned to look forward to it.
Aziz was a protective father figure. Very protective. He was concerned that I would be taken advantage of because I was American. Of course, this was a fact I couldn't hide no matter how hard I tried. Anyone could see I was American. Aziz told me that nothing gave me away more than my white skin. And for that, he was always instructing Ayoub to keep a close eye on me and never let me be alone. In my "strong-feminist-woman-power" young adulthood, I would've viewed this behavior as controlling. But it gave me permission to relax and let my guard down. I enjoyed the art of just living without having to be on heightened alert as a solo female traveler.
Except for Khawla, my sister-in-law, the rest of my family did not speak English. It was the ultimate crash course in the Moroccan Arabic dialect, Darija. Communication consisted of various gestures, body language and referring to my knowledge of gender roles in an Islamic country. Fatima and Aziz encouraged me to practice my new vocabulary no matter how many times they had to repeat themselves. They were so patient and kind, much like the description of love in the Bible.
"They were patient and kind, much like the Bible's description of love ."
It is because of this love, I experienced complete heartbreak the day I left Morocco. I had no idea I would feel this way about Ayoub's family. I was hoping they would accept me, but to feel this unconditional love was overwhelming. In front of a very humble airport, Fatima cried as Aziz took my hands. He focused on my gaze and told me that they would always be my parents. They wanted me to remember that I have a home and a family in Morocco. In that moment I felt like I was losing my parents all over again, and I wasn't prepared.
Somehow I managed to get on the plane to continue my journey. Tears in my eyes and a prayer in my heart that I will soon return to the love of my Moroccan family . . . Inshallah.