Written by Lucia Cucinotta

Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar, God is Great, God is Great. Breath in and breath out, jump out of bed. I tried to wake every morning with the first day’s call to prayer so I could watch the sunrise over the nearby village. Peacock Pavilions was the perfect choice for the Mystical Marrakech retreat. Set in an olive grove, it is idyllic, calm, and with a beautiful owner and staff that made my job easy. Morocco is a Muslim country, and with that comes the serene call to prayer that happens five times a day, reminding Muslims to fulfill one of the five pillars of Islam. So I used this particularly spiritual part of the morning to mediate over the plans of the day, and the mood of the group, so I could with all my effort make it work in this sometimes whirlwind city. Our itinerary could be described as intense, but Morocco can be a complicated place, and I wanted to make sure they saw it all. Inshallah (if God wills) it was all going to work out.

Upon arrival, Maryam, the owner of Peacock Pavilions, gave us an introduction to her home, her olive groves, and why she settled her family in this small village outside Marrakech. She discussed jinns (genies), protection from the evil eye, and how Marrakech is on a vortex and that we should be open to the possibilities this energy might bring up for us. To say that the Paris attacks was the elephant (or very large and very strange camel) in the room is an understatement. As we set off on our first day in the old medina (old city) I felt that in some way that was on everyone’s mind. We were Americans in a Muslim country, what could that mean? When we stepped off the bus I was quickly reminded why I love Marrakech and why I wanted to share it. The history, the smells, the noise, the colors, the intensity of life slowly dissolved any concerns. All ten participants dove right into the retreat with great grace and flexibility and everyone we met shared their traditions and love of Morocco and their religion with great warmth and hospitality. The most danger we faced were the mopeds speeding past us, stacked with families, fathers, mothers, and children on their way home.

We all saw sunrises, sunsets, beautiful tile work, beaches, dusty villages, handcrafted artisan work, and even Starbucks. We sat in a woman’s home and had tea and cookies as we tried to make sparkle baskets to her exact liking. We toured a Sufi religious school and ate so much couscous we were invited to nap and drink tea until we were ready to move on. We listened to one of the most gifted traditional storytellers in Morocco share a story in Moroccan Arabic, and while many of us did not understand a word he said we were able to feel the meaning, which could have been the vortex or simply the amazing skill of the storyteller. Some participants bought symbolically significant carpets and wedding blankets, some rode camels during a beach sunset, and some got very up close and very personal in the hammam (bath house). But we all got to see and I hope experience love for this beautiful and complex country of Morocco.

At the end of the retreat we bellydanced to a fire pit and threw in a piece of paper where we had written what we wanted to let go of and what we wanted to take away. Letting the smoke billow into the starry sky we released our intention out into the universe. This is when I decided to reveal the biggest and most important surprise, like the bellydancing wasn’t enough! This retreat was not an adventure, it was not something new, it was not meant to change the cycle of life. It was to help wake us up to see the truth. We had the great opportunity to see intense, up close and personal, real and everyday lives from the full spectrum of what exists. Marrakech may be on a vortex and have more mystical energies which allows us to see more clearly, but it is not some far off oriental land with a strange people and a dangerous religion. It is filled with people who want to be seen and who want to be loved. How you are here is how you are in your life and how you will continue to be. So live, breath, wake up, and inshallah (if God wills) no matter where you find yourself allow yourself to see and love the truth around you <3