Cumin

Isn’t it funny how certain tastes and smells we experience, stay with us throughout our lives?

Standing in the kitchen today, frying up a couple of eggs for lunch, I decided to sprinkle a little bit of cumin powder on top of them.

As I lifted the lid off the cumin powder, I was instantly transported back to Marrakech. Although I long to go again some day, I haven’t been back since my first visit in December 2015.

Moroccans seem to add cumin to everything, including their fried eggs.

The smell was such a powerful reminder of my trip. Other memories came flooding back. Not just the smells, but the taste of the food, and the sounds.

Whilst visiting Marrakech, I heard the Adhan (the call to prayer) for the first time. The first time I heard the call to prayer, I had no idea what it was, but it sent shivers down my spine. No matter how many times I search you tube, I just can’t find a video that does it justice. Maybe it’s just one of those sounds you have to hear for yourself rather than through a video. Hearing the Adhan was like being cast under a spell. I wanted to follow the sound to see where it led me.

Along with the sound of the Adhan, and the taste and smell of cumin, the other smell that will forever remain in my memory, is that of the petrol fumes. If you have ever been to Marrakech, you will know that the souks are a maze of narrow streets full of traders, locals and tourists alike, bartering over the many goods that are on offer. It’s incredible how anyone gets through those markets in one piece, on or off a mode of transport. The scooters and motorbikes somehow navigate their way through the markets, dodging people, animals and other modes of transport in order to reach their destination.

I quickly grew accustomed to the powerful effect Marrakech had on my senses in the short time I was there.

When I returned home a few days later, I opened my suitcase, ready to unpack, and was instantly hit by a wave of petrol fumes, spices and memories of the Adhan.

The tastes, smells and sounds of Marrakech can be overwhelming and powerful to the western tourist. I know people who have visited Marrakech and couldn’t wait to leave. But for me, Marrakech stole a piece of my heart. I will forever remember the excitement that comes with having your senses caught up in the spell that is Marrakech.

There are many other smells, tastes and sounds which remind me of the past and they almost always give me reason to smile.

What brings your senses alive?

Religion, Relationships and Reality

I’ve never taken the easy route in life. God only knows why! Sometimes I would love for there to be less drama in my life. But I would probably be bored without it.

Through my late teens, into my twenties, I moved from one disastrous relationship to the next. Not that they were all bad people. Many of them were lovely. But there just wasn’t enough there to keep my interest. It became a bit of a running joke at Christmas, who will Becky bring this time and how many Christmasses will they be around for?

I’m sure someone out there who is far wiser than me, would be able to analyse this pattern of behaviour and tell me where it stems from and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If anyone knows the answer, I would love to hear from you.

I don’t think I make a bad girlfriend. I just get bored. I had a habit, when I was younger, of going out with any boy who showed interest in me. Not really considering whether they were boyfriend material or if we had enough in common to make things work. Obviously if I had known back then, what I know now, I probably would’ve dealt with things very differently.

When I met my ex who starred in my blog Change Part 2 , I could almost feel a sigh of relief from my friends and family when he joined us for a second Christmas. And then a third, and so on.

But that one wasn’t meant to be either, and was followed by another sigh of relief when I left him.

Shortly after I moved to London, I discovered the world of Tinder. And then Plenty of Fish. And what a mad world that was.

Moving to London was the first time I had a real choice. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of single men in Northampton. But they were all white.

When I moved to London, it opened my eyes to the possibility of dating guys who were from all over the world. And with that, came men who followed different religions.

I met Ali ‘on an app’. We hit it off from the start, although he has never let me forget the number of times I turned him down before we finally met up.

Ali had been living in the UK for about 5 years when I met him. He was originally from Lahore, Pakistan. He was a few years younger than me. And he was muslim.

I had always had an interest in religion, despite not being religious myself. I had however been brought up in a village, and part of village life in the 80s and 90s revolved around the church. I spent many Sundays at Sunday school, but as I got older, I just lost interest and it was no longer important to me.

I had dated a couple of muslim’s and hindu’s before I met Ali. But they had made is quite clear to me that although they liked white girls, there was an expectation for them to marry someone of the same religion.

When I met Ali, he seemed different. Although his religion means a lot to him, he’s not what I would call a ‘practicing’ muslim. Ok, so this is where I hope his family don’t read this, but he drinks alcohol, doesn’t pray (not regularly anyway), and we are living in sin. However, he does eat Halal, and therefore so do I. He also doesn’t eat pork. I no longer buy pork or products with gelatine in, although I have to admit, there have been occasions when I’ve been unable to resist pork, but I would never eat it in front of him or bring it into the house.

He gets incredibly emotional talking about his religion too. I remember a time, not long after we first met, and he was telling me a story from the Quran. He was really moved  telling me the story. It was the first time I had realised how much his religion meant to him.

Going out with someone of a different religion isn’t straight forward.

When I started to tell my friends I had met someone who was from Pakistan, people would ask me if he was a terrorist. They would tell me to be careful, and would tell me to make sure he didn’t try to convert me to Islam.

On top of that, within a year of us meeting, there was a rise in acid attacks in London, with many of those being aimed at Asian’s. There was also an increase in terrorist attacks.

This left me feeling nervous. It also left me worrying for Ali’s safety whenever he left the house. It also made me worry about the reaction of those who didn’t know us. What would people think of a Muslim dating a white non-muslim?

Early on in our relationship, we would talk about whether we wanted to have kids in the future, and if so, what religion would we want them to be? None of the couples I know have had to have this conversation. How do you even begin to talk through that and come to a conclusion that suits everyone?

It’s the same with marriage, if we were to get married, would we get married in England or Pakistan? Would it be full of muslim traditions, or not?

Then we have the festivities each of our cultures celebrates. Whilst Ali doesn’t fast during Ramadan, he does try to avoid drinking alcohol, and other ‘pleasures’ are abstained from. I also try my best to make sure we do nice things to celebrate and honour his traditions. I always encourage him to celebrate. However, he finds it hard, especially during Eid, mostly because muslim celebrations are normally full on family affairs. I often forget, that I am the closest thing Ali has to family in the UK, with most of his family living in Pakistan or America. He hasn’t seen his family for over 7 years. He desperately misses his family and friends.

I am lucky, because he throws himself into Christmas, and loves all the traditional hype that surrounds it. We always get a real tree, and he loves to help me decorate it, and the rest of the flat. We drink mulled wine and listen to Christmas music.

We also have the added complications of Ali going through the visa renewal process, but i’m not going to dwell on that in this post.

I often get asked by my friends and my family if I have regrets over any of my relationships. I can say hand on heart that I don’t. I don’t ‘do’ regrets. I have learnt something from each and every one of them. Whether it has been trying new food types, a new interest, or simply learnt something new about myself.

I don’t know why I couldn’t follow in so many of my friends footsteps by meeting a man, settling down, getting married and having babies. But do you know what? I have sneaky suspicion that a nice quiet life just isn’t meant for me.