Revisiting Madrid & Rabat, and a Moroccan Yoga Retreat

First, some news: I am no longer Algier’s foremost lady of leisure. (As much as this city lends itself to leisure, anyway). I have traded my well-worn pajama pants for pants with a zipper and a button as I have again found myself having a real pants-wearing job. This job is both a real, as in substantive, job — at the U.S. Embassy Algiers — and also one to which I will wear real pants. I mean, most likely. I’ve only worked one week, so we’ll see what transpires.

But a few weeks ago, back before I had somewhere to be in that fuzzy time of day where the sun is just settling in to its in-the-sky perch, I took a trip. First, I went to my beloved Madrid to celebrate an English friend’s 40th birthday. I think I’ve been back to Madrid probably four or five times since we lived there in 2014-2015 and each time I’m surprised by how stately, orderly, delicious, and beautiful it is. I always feel like maybe I didn’t appreciate it enough when I lived there. I have vague memories of complaining about things like the country’s aversion to capitalism or too much fried food or some bullshit, what was I thinking? Spain is wonderful. During this February visit to Madrid, I walked a ton — one day I topped 28,000 steps! I ran through Retiro park, visited the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, ate at all my favorite places (seriously, I didn’t try hardly anything new), and drank a good deal of Ribera del Duero wine. It was perfect. Oh, also, remember how I tried shrimp for the first time in 23 years last time I was in Madrid? That happened again. Twice.

Then, I flew to Rabat for a few days. This was the first time I’ve been back since we moved from Rabat eight months ago. And just like with Madrid, I was struck by how pretty, orderly, calm, and just plain nice Rabat is. I stayed with my Swedish diplomat friends in their Beverly Hills style villa, I walked wide beautiful streets, I ran in the Hilton Park, I ate Spanish and Syrian food, and I visited my favorite shopkeepers in the medina. I felt lucky that I got to live in Morocco, even if it was just for 10 months.

After a few days in Rabat, I was off to the village of Ourika, about 30 km outside of Marrakech to do three days of yoga at the idyllic Bab Zouina yoga and nature retreat center. The setting of the retreat was tranquil perfection. Gorgeous desert landscaping, a small swimming pool, a pen with chickens, crowing roosters strolling around, barking dogs, warm in the day freezing at night dry desert climate, all framed by the Atlas mountains. The retreat was organized by Alex of YogaRaha. She was our yoga teacher when we lived in Rabat and we’ve gone to one of her retreats before. When I saw she was doing a retreat in February I was like “Morocco is right next door and it’s not like I’m working yet, so why not?” Glad I did because it was a really wonderful three days. Three yoga classes a day, meditation, lots of chanting (not my thing, but I perhaps I came around to it a little by the end) great fresh and healthy vegetarian meals, and a really nice group of folks I enjoyed getting to know. I wasn’t really stoked that Adam wasn’t joining me on this trip as I’m not a big fan of traveling by myself. But being at the yoga retreat by myself was probably a good thing as I made a few new friends and reconnected with others who remember Adam, our friend Cecelia, and I from the last yoga retreat where we’d gotten lost on a hike and fried ourselves in the sun, resulting in Adam being sick for the most of the retreat.

The feel-good vibe of the retreat has stayed with me ever since. Well, dampened only slightly by the bodily shock of waking up at 6:30am and having somewhere I have to be five days a week.

To retreats,

Emily

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