Morocco invites one to enter and explore, but not too far. The mosque doors in the medina are unlocked. Visible inside the unmarked door is a pile of shoes and a simple protective wall. In the more spacious areas, the mosques are full of arches and shadows, water pools and tree lined paths. They are clearly oases in the endless brown surroundings. No signs, but for all the invitation to rest and peace that can be glimpsed, it is understood I as a woman, non-Muslim, am not allowed.
The medina beacons with meandering narrow alley-roads that curve tantalizingly, promising a great discovery just around the corner, but a few steps off the path in an unknown direction and the noise of the market disappears. The walls are painted cooling whites or blue and doors are uniquely decorated, but shut tight. Windows are high on the walls and covered with black grill, allowing no casual peek at the life inside. Life and noise are in the walled garden and patio, but only the family enters.
The women chatter and giggle, haggle and shout, link arms and cling close in the market, but most heads are covered, a few even veil faces. Even the young girls cover elbows and legs in the hottest weather. For all the universal female traits, the Westerner gets the sense of not belonging.
It is mysterious and exotic, a little exclusive and off putting, with a touch of dark and frightening. Inviting, curiously compelling, completely unknowable.