"Berbers are the Scots of Morocco."

The Berbers are the Scots of Morocco.  Or so a shop owner told me.  According to him, they resemble the Scots because they wear plaid and drink "Berber whiskey" (mint tea).  I'm not sure how well the comparison holds up.  The Berbers are the indigenous peoples of Morocco and most of Northern Africa.  I had the good luck to go to a Berber village two weekends ago when I was in Morocco.

We drove for hours to get out of Marrakech into the mountains.  One thing that surprised be about the city was how green it was.  The mountains that we drove through, on the other hand, looked more like what I had expected - packed dirt from red to brown held together by by scraggly shrubs and trees. 

Our car dropped us off in Imlil, a small village in the Atlas Mountains, and we hiked up to the home where we were having lunch.  As we climbed, the world opened up to us so we could see a rushing stream and the highest peak in North Africa, Jebel Toubkal, in the distance.  For some reason, this place felt more ancient than most.  If it were a person instead of a locale, it would be a gray-braid weraing woman with tanned skin, and a face and hands as deeply cut with wrinkles as the hills are by the river.  She would be a weaver and a singer and a memory-keeper.

When we finally reached this Berber home we ate the most delicious Moroccan food I've ever had : a chicken tagine with potatoes, zucchini, and carrots, a couscous, tea, and oranges.

My friend Sasha said going there made her feel close to God.  It made me feel close to the earth.
Maybe it's the same thing.

Au Jardin Majorelle

The Majorelle Garden in Marrakech is just what you'd hope for : exotic, lush, and full of color.  Bevies of cacti, ponds full of water lilies, and forests of bamboo coexist among brightly painted doors, pots, and buildings.  Originally created by the painter Jacques Majorelle, the gardens were later purchased by Yves Saint Laurent, whose partner still owns them today.   According to their brochure, "[t]he originality of these places lies in the combination of a luxurious vegetation and architectural elements allying sobriety and traditional aesthetic Moroccan."

Wishing more of my life had that Yves Klein blue.
One of YSL's "Love" posters on display in a gallery at the garden.

Love 2011,

Arriving in Marrakech

I arrived in Marrakech and left it in at about the same time - about half past seven in the morning.  At that time of day, there is something almost soft about the city.  The light turns the earth colored buildings, which look orange at night, to pink.  Some of the hustle and bustle has already started but in a quiet way, everyone going about their lives : getting to work, setting up shop, drinking coffee.  It is not yet the rabid tourist feeding frenzy that it becomes later in the day.

The boulevards are lined with palm trees and roses. Bougainvillea creeps over the buildings.  The streets are already alive pale yellow taxis, cars, and bikes (bicycles, motorcycles, and their country cousin which I can only describe as a motorbike - that is to say a bicycle that has been souped up with an engine).  In many places the flow of traffic is unclear, the motorists apparently making it up as they swerve around pedestrians.

As the sun rises, so does the activity.  The main square in the medina, the Jamaa el Fna, is a giant frying pan on which the city scrambles.  There are juice stands fresh-squeezing oranges, grapefruits, and lemons into what can fairly be called ambrosia.  Women ink henna onto tourists who stand still too long.  Men charm snakes and make monkeys do back flips over their chained collars. 

You can enter the souks from the main square.  They are a beehive of activity.  Every vendor sits outside his little alcove, calling out to passersby.  Most of the time you see in one stall what you saw in the last and will see in the next.  Chinese manufacturing has hit Morocco.  Sometimes you will find shops that have the real deal - turquoise, coral, and lapis jewelry; ancient daggers; teapots, chests and chairs inlaid with stone and enamel.  If the shop owner is named Hassan, you will escape with only enough money for your taxi back to your hotel.

Roccin' in Morocco,