Marrakech, Morocco | December 29, 2015
Work by the sun and the moon. Laugh by the sun and the moon. Appreciate by the sun and the moon. This is a different world to me. Marrakech, Morocco is an amazing place. I have never seen anything like it.
Dried mud is kicked up constantly by donkeys as they pull loads of “poofs”* down the worn streets. Unapologetic vendors barter and beg for a sale but send you wishes of respect even if you do not buy. Tannery businesses fill the air with fumes from cutting, drying, coating and dying animal skins to meet the consumers demand of more and more leather. Monkeys with chains around their necks smile and squirm as their masters show them off to the paparazzi tourists. The contrast between rich and poor is as clear as the bright blue African sky above. But by the sun and the moon everything is beautiful.
I have been around Europe, Canada and the USA so this is a whole new adventure for me. My eyes are wide trying to take in as much as possible with all of my senses. The traditional Moroccan homes, many of which have been converted into stores or restaurants in the old city of Marrakech, are awe inspiring because of their interior detail and beauty. Seeing a woman hand make an enormous Moroccan carpet on the loom is something I’ll never forget. It is a culture where one works and works and uses charm to get what they want. The poverty subjects them to work very hard, but it’s how they live and how they function. Marrakech is buzzing with life, hope and appreciation every minute of the day.
EditMain square in Marrakech
Having blondish hair, bright blue eyes, and very fair skin, I stick right out. I round the corner and people gasp because they are so surprised to see someone that looks like me. But truthfully, I feel safe because I am aware of what is going on around me. Yet at the same time it’s such a different culture. The way the men look at me like I am an exotic animal that they’ve never seen before is so strange. Who knew I am worth 6,000 camels?? Even in Spain, Morocco’s incredibly close neighbor, the value of women is very different. That’s one thing I really have come to appreciate about the States. Because of the way the American culture has had to evolve to meet the changes of the progressive economies and foreign policies of global society, the way men treat women is different. There is a long equation to the way society works in various cultures. So it is very interesting to experience especially if it helps to understand the culture.
On a lighter note, traveling here has been one of the most amazing experiences. It’s fortunately only the third day! The food, the vivacious vibes of the city, the beauty- it’s all something I’m lucky to experience.
Poofs* beanbag chair/ stool made out of fabric or leather and stuffed with newspaper or old dress.
Merzouga, Sahara | January 1, 2016
Camels, camping and drums oh my! For NYE my family and I took camels out into the Sahara dunes to camp out under the stars. It was like a dream. When we walked out on to the dunes, one of our guides handed me a snowboard. In broken English he told me to buckle up and “sandboard” the dune. So my first experience in the Sahara was riding a giant dune- it was incredible! (Until I had to walk back up it…) About thirty minutes later four camels approached us with a Berber man leading them. We all gathered our bags and climbed aboard our camels. Their names, according to us, were Norman, 2016, Moose, and Sassy. Sassy was a mischievous camel- always out of line and talking back. We journeyed to our camp site right at sunset which was one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen.
Upon arriving at the campsite we met some interesting people and had a great dinner. We all sat around on our low benches and ate Moroccan soup and a tangine of chicken and vegetables. After dinner, my cousin, Jo, passed out the goodies she had brought along. Who doesn’t love some chocolate covered Oreos during New Years? We built a fire- my aunt taught the Moroccan guys how to do it right- and we watched the stars become brighter and clearer with every minute. There were constellations I didn’t even know existed out. We were out there for so long we saw changes in the sky because we could tell the earth was moving. We listened to traditional drum songs and celebrated a Spanish New Years at eleven (an hour earlier) because we were all a little cold and tired.
We were awoken at six am to the bitter cold of the desert without sun. We climbed out of our tent and back on to the camels with groggy eyes. Soon enough the sun rose and we were back in our car on to the next adventure. I never would have imagened waking up into 2016 in the Sahara desert. I’m a lucky girl.
Berber v Arabe | January 4, 2016
I am on my way home from Morocco and I realized how much I’ve learn about this country just from traveling around for six days. For one, this population consists of some hard working people. Sure, it is a poor country. But everyone is on the hussle. Everyone is trying to turn a dirham into 100 dirham. Between tourism, crafting goods, and agriculture people are always working. And they make some beautiful, creative things.
Traditional Moroccan slippers for babies
I learned a lot about Berber people. According to what I was told while speaking to people in the country, Berber people are the mountain people. Of course nowadays they don’t all live in the mountains but that is their identity. When the French invaded in 1911, the people who ran for the mountains to preserve their culture and heritage became the Berber people. The rest of the people, who assimilated French ways into their culture and became educated in a European style, are now considered the Arabe section of the population. The Berbers are typically less wealthy and work in making goods, agriculture, tourism. They are hardy and simple in living style.
Berber village built in the side of a mountain close to Dades
I saw two women scaling down the top side of this mountain with loads of Thyme on their backs that were bigger than them. They are a kind people. Hardworking and most of the time very honest and good. The Arabe section of the population is typically more educated therefore wealthier. To be honest, I didn’t interact very much with non “Berber men” because that’s just not who we were around. It seemed to be that the Arabe sect lives in bigger cities like Casablanca and is more European in character.
Tiled floor in Meknés
Of course, the two sects share a long history and culture together. Their architecture, food, and art is all one. And it is incredible. Morocco is a country full of interesting people and fabulous culture.
Monkey forest near Fes