Part 2: Making life decisions

Today me and my sister – like the season veteran nomads we have become – finally moved out of our hotel for greener pastures.


Our hotel in the Jemma el Fna was an earthy hotel with a balcony overlooking the square. We were escorted on the first day of arrival by a helpful young gentleman for a modest tip. The hotel was decent with all the modern amenities you could expect in a tourist city like Marrakech.

The hotel was in fact as authentic as you  can get not exactly a ryad but 10/10 for location, and service. The hotel was in fray of it all. A stone away from the historic Koutoubia mosque, and Bahia palais.

For the first few days I was encouraged to share my travels on social media but I was afflicted by something else entirely….anxiety (but back to that later).


What had brought me here was in fact deeper than what people expect a series of torments, questions that have been forming gradually pushing me over the edge like a tsunami.

From the outside it looked like eccentric Ayaan was having another one of her spontaneous trips. The story however runs deeper than you think.

All my life I have felt deeply. Growing up I was a very shy kid. The kid who would only put their hand up when absolutely necessary .You know that kid at the back of the class who only raises their hands to say something something so eye-wateringly deep you pull back  the sting of a tear in your eye. Those melancholic souls that drifts through the corridors unnoticed…yeah that kid.

I always nursed secret passions, deeply held beliefs you know that kid who has the thorough political or religious stance from a young age who you think has got it all figured that one kid who would die for those beliefs.

Parents lament their intensity, teacher keep a cautious eyes out (not all, some are warmly encouraging. I had a deeply intelligent English teacher who encouraged me). These kids are unusually precocious.

I kept to mydelf.

This is where it began the restlessness for something more.



Making life decisions pt.1

This is going to be a bit of a ramble. I know you have all come to know me for my aphorisms and miscellaneous comments etc. But today I’m going to try something new .

Today sat in my hotel room just overlooking the Jemma El Fna square, trying to fight off the inevitable Moroccan heat coming in through an open balcony, the earthy yet rickety wooden door swaying gently. I came to a realisation.

Beads of sweat trickle down my scull.

What series of subconscious triggers led to me taking the decision to leave in such a rush one night. Fly across two continents, soaring above the birds above millions either asleep or going about their lives in contentment, half way between space and and earth. 

What made me so restless? So eager to leave everything I knew behind, so eager to make that final journey that would take others years even decades to muster.

I was dissatisfied with life, I was in the throws of an existential depression, of relentless questioning.

These are some of the questions that swirled around my head for weeks, it was an oppressive thing pushing against the innner side of my forehead, an ache that disabled my usual routine, something was telling me I had no time to waste, I felt the pull of a greater being.


Before I left I was tormented by a lack of meaning or substance to my life. I know we are meant to be grateful, cherish the life that is given us, I am not saying I haven’t accepted my lot in life or whatever was decreed for me or a humble existence for that matter or the selfless obscurity most of us toil away in. It was deeper then this, much deeper.

I had questions….

-What is the purpose of my life?

-what is my calling, when  will it hit me, and how will I recognise it?

-What is categorised as a good life, what will make me happy at the end looking back

My soul was swelling within me, I needed to understand where I fit in, what noble mold, what calling was supposed to seamlessly fit into. I felt I had to contort myself live for bigger things. I felt there was something out there, something I as meant to live for, but I had to deserve it first.

I didn’t want to fail, I felt it was sink or swim, yes it was that URGENT. Something was teasing me, the greater plan of a noble being who wanted to enrich me.

I was being called to SOMETHING it told me not to be content.

To spread my wings in courage, to take the first step the first jump into the unknown.

There was obviously the dual aspect to it. The fact that world events and my personal struggle for meaning converge the personal responsibility to myself was made more potent by my sense of duty to others.

Here in Marrakech

I was not disappointed the surroundings, the whole city was conducive to a kind of soul searching, a soul searching drenched in mystery. Looking over my balcony everything aligned the stars, the square the rhythm of tourist and locals mingling I was on the earth’s edge. The beginning of everything I felt optimistic, this is where I would start my journey towards self discovery.



The Qur’an as the final and enduring miracle.

When the Quraysh saw that the companions of the Messenger of Allah were increasing in number, ‘Utbah ibn Rabi’ah suggested that he go to the Messenger of Allah and try to patch up their differences. If the Quraysh made some concessions, he might agree to leave off his mission. ‘Utbah was given permission to negotiate on their behalf. He went to the Messenger of Allah and sat down beside him.

‘nephew’ he said, ‘you know your standing among us, but you have brought a matter of grave concern to your people. You have divided their community, made fun of their customs, criticised their gods and their religion and declared some of their ancestors to be unbelievers. Now listen to me. I will make some proposals for you to examine and perhaps you will accept them.’

The Messenger of Allah said, ‘speak Abu’l-Walid I am listening.’

‘Nephew,’ Utbah continued, ‘if you want money by this business, we will collect some of our property and make you the wealthiest among us. If you want honour we will make you our chief so that every decision is yours. If you want a kingdom we will make you our king. If you are possessed by a ghost of a jinn that you cannot drive away from yourself, we will find a skilful doctor to help you. We will spend our wealth on it till you are cured.’

When ‘Utbah had finished the Messenger of Allah asked ‘Have you finished Abu’l-Walid?’
‘Then Listen to mee.’
‘I will,’ said ‘Utbah.

The Messenger of Allah recited some verses from Surah Fussilat. ‘Utbah listened intently, putting his hands behind his back and leaning on them. When the Messenger of Allah reached the place mentioning prostration, he prostrated and then said, ‘you have heard what you have heard Abu’l-Walid. It is now up to you’

‘Utbah returned to his companions who commented ‘Abu’l-Walid’ came back with a different expression on his face to the one he went with.’

When he sat down beside them, they asked him what happened.

‘By Allah!’ he said, ‘I have heard words of the like of which I have never heard before. By Allah it is neither poetry nor magic nor soothsaying. O men of Quraysh! Obey me! Leave this man alone with what he has. Be considerate towards him and don’t interfere.’

‘By Allah,’ they said, ‘He has bewitched you with his tongue, Abu’l-Walid’

‘This is my opinion about him,’ he replied. ‘You do as you see fit.’

Zadie Smith’s 10 writing rules

1 When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.

2 When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

3 Don’t romanticise your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4 Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.

5 Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.

6 Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.

7 Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.

8 Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

9 Don’t confuse honours with achievement.

10 Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

8 Writing Tips from a budding writer

  1. Seek inspiration. Whether it be a long walk by a near by lake, or an excursion through a Moroccan desert, or sleeping under the stars in a remote village at the foothills of the Himalayas. Nature taps into the spirit, it switches on your light bulb.
  2. Solitude. We live on the surface, scatter-brained, clicking from one tab to another. Try slowing down. Try and digest information and experiences, let those information synthesize.
  3.  Become vulnerable, let your self open up to others, discuss your feelings, reach a new understanding about yourself – and new ways of looking at the world.
  4. Meditate, let positive energy flow from your body. It will help with centering the mind and making firm decisions .
  5. Read. Read. Read. Get inspiration from both the great and contemporaries, this helps the mind click into a writing mood, it helps also with mental dexterity, and keeps you young.
  6. Expand your vocabulary not just through reading but also trying
  7. Learn a different language. The novelty of stretching and inverting phrases and meanings, will bring a facility and an added dimension into your written and spoken words.
  8. Write, even when your hand is heavy and your in the throws of a writer’s block. Writing a few hundred words a day  will ensure that you extract ideas daily and give birth to new ideas. No matter how hard won, you will find nuggets in these chunks to save for later.

Paul Bowles – In Tangier

“Like any romantic, I had always been vaguely certain that sometime during my life I should come into a magic place (Tangier) which in disclosing its secrets would give me wisdom and ecstasy-perhaps even death.”

Paul Bowles, An Invisible Spectator – Biography

Writing Routine of Famous Writer’s Series (no. 1): Philip Larkin

“…it’s much better to leave it for 24-hours, by which time your subconscious or whatever has solved the block and you’re ready to go on.”

‘I work all day, and get half drunk at night,’ Larkin wrote in his 1977 poem “Aubade”. A few years years later he described his real life (and not so dissimilar) routine to Paris Review

My Life is as simple as I can make it. Work all day cook, eat, wash-up, telephone, hack writing, drink, television in the evening. I almost never go out. I suppose everyone tries to ignore the passing of time-some people doing a lot, being in California one year and Japan he next. Or there’s my way-making everyday and every year exactly the same. Probably neither works.

Larkin worked as a librarian for almost his entire adult life, realizing early on that he would never be able to make a living from his writing alone. “I was brought up to think you had to have a job, and write in your spare time, like Trollope,” he said. Although he admitted to wondering what would have happened had he been able to write full time, he also thought two hours of composition in the evening, after dinner and the dishes, was plenty: “After that your going round in circles, and it’s much better to leave it for 24-hours, by which time your subconscious or whatever has solved the block and you’re ready to go on.”