Months ago, when Maryam headed off to Egypt to study Arabic for a year at the AUC, we promised her we’d go stalk her in Cairo. She taunted us with “Maryam is in Cairo” gstatus messages (this screenshot is from late September), and finally, around October or so, Aisha and I decided we needed to get serious about this. “How’s the job hunt going?” Aisha kept asking me. “Don’t forget, you need money so we can go to Cairo in December or January!”
I emailed Maryam: “Please for to arrange a camel to pick me up from the airport, thanks.”
Her reply: “I’ve got a caravan of camels booked to pick you all up from the airport at 6pm, don’t be late.”
Jokes notwithstanding, I never expected any of this would really happen until the afternoon – a mere 2.5 weeks ago – when Aisha took my breath away by delivering the following late-breaking news, completely out of the blue, “Yasmine, Maryam’s actually going to be traveling around North Africa and Portugal and Spain during her winter break. Let’s go to Spain.” I stared at her, wide-eyed, at a loss for words. At random moments throughout the rest of the day, I just kept jumping up and down and shaking my fists in the air in a gesture of SUCCESS!
So. Spain it is. There will be four of us, and we will fly into and out of Madrid. In between, there’s a week in Spain (Madrid, Cordoba, Seville, Granada) and another week in Morocco (Tangier, Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh). Beautiful Barcelona that I keep hearing so much about deserves another trip of its own, another time.
I’ve wanted to go to Spain ever since I was 13-14 years old, when I used to sit around in the behtuk reading Naseem Hijazi‘s overly romanticized historical fiction in Urdu – re-reading the books so many times that the delicate pages would fall away from the spine and I’d have to continually glue them back in. To say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement. The only reason I’ve barely even talked about it to friends and family is because I still can’t believe it’s happening.
“But why would anyone want to go to Spain?” asks my father incredulously.
“For the history and culture!” I shoot back.
“History and culture? Why don’t you go to Saudi Arabia, then?”
And: “Why Morocco? It looks just like Rawalpindi, of all places.”
And then there’s my sweet mother, to whom I explained that Spain is in Europe.
“Europe,” she said slowly. “Are you going to be near London? You should stop by and visit [the relatives] in Bradford, too.”
“Ummy, I’m not going to England. I’m going to Spain. It’s a completely different country.”
She continued anxiously: “They’re going to be so upset that you didn’t stop by. Maybe you should fly into the Manchester airport.”
“But I’m not going to Manchester or Bradford! I’m going to SPAIN AND MOROCCO.”
Because I myself really know nothing about Spain and Morocco, I turned to the rockstars who do. Zana, Shaista, Lil Baji, and and A proved to be rocking in that department. Brimful directed me to her lovely musings on three weeks in Spain last year, and Baji re-posted her travelogue for me. Between the two of them, I had enough articulate, amusing, and invaluable writing to occupy my train commute for a day.
And an email that – if things had been otherwise – should have been a part of that exuberant ‘We’re from Barcelona’-subjectlined GMail thread:
I’m going to Spain! I never would have thought it’d actually happen so soon. If you were around, you probably would have been the first person I’d have emailed for recommendations. Like, where’s a good spot to sit and write in silence? And how can I ensure that my attempts at photography even do justice to the country and its beauty? And where can I find the best tortilla espanola? Someday, we shall compare notes.
H requested I remain on the lookout for hot Spanish and Moroccan men for her. Somayya demanded presents. The sister asked if she could sleep in my room while I’m away. And J offered nothing but flattery:
Don’t fall in love and get married to some bali star over there in the Mediterranean, okay!
Also, avoid natives who propose in the first 3 minutes of meeting you, because there will be many!
So, my internetS buddies, I shall eat bajillions of tortilla espanolas for you all. Meanwhile, you can help me out with a couple of questions I’ve been taking a poll on:
1. Laptop or no laptop? (Carrying around a laptop would be annoying, and worrying about it getting lost or stolen would be nerve-wracking, but the idea of no regular access to GMail – and okay, okay, flickr – for two weeks is already making me twitchy.)
2. Carry-on or check-in? (I hate the idea of checking-in my bag and having the airlines potentially lose it. But carry-ons come with TSA liquid restrictions and drama. I shake my fist!)
I leave this Monday morning, by the way. It shall be grand.
(Also, I’ve not even begun packing yet.)