What a trip!
I have been thinking about visiting Morocco for a long time. Country Walkers recently made my dream come true... Thank you Country Walkers!
Morocco is a marvelous territory, with good people and yummy cuisine (if only they properly pressed their olive oil!!) and a very complex and interesting culture. The first day I met up in Fez with Saida, our tour guide for the week, and a very good group of “travelers” and Saida. After a brief introduction to our journey, she led us into the Medina (the old city center) around the corner from our five star hotel. In a flash we were all swallowed up into the most intricate medieval labyrinth that one could ever imagine!
The Medina of Fez and Marrakech are like an ants’ nest. They are very busy and crowded with everything imaginable - full of colors, voices and smells: animal urine, spices, perfumes. Men and mules cross and push along narrow allies carrying any and all sorts of items.
Real life is here. The area is full of artisan laboratories with black smiths, carpenters, rag makers and many others. Beyond them is the souq selling fish, meat, vegetables, drugs and spices. Each stand specializes only in one item. The tannery of Fez, by the way, hit the spot! After climbing up a narrow staircase at the end of a leather shop, a view opened up down below of a tannery in the heart of the town. The site left our group speechless. Time seemed frozen in the middle ages, when this activity first began. Bare handed workers were deep in large amounts of leather. The leather was being placed in colorful vats with colors naturally made from saffron, poppy seed flowers and indigo. The soft leather created here is so famous that it is called “Morocchino”.
The country is full of striking contrasts - between small towns and rural areas as well as in within the larger cities. Just outside exclusive hotels, restaurants and swimming pools a different world coexists. On the streets ordinary people beg and try to insistently sell things dressed with dirty torn clothes and black teeth. All of this reminds me of the story of Prince Siddharta when he first stepped out of his golden castle and it is probably what Europe was like at the end of the 19th century.
Beyond this aspect Morocco is an attractive country where the beauty of nature (the desert night sky!!, the mountains with snow) combine with the kindness of the people. In spite of being very poor people enjoy sharing - even if just a glass of green mint. These magic moments left me with a feeling much more “real” than sitting on a warm sofa in a chic hotel.
This is a part of the world where the artisan handicraft tradition still exists. And for now it resists, far from a fake junk market! This is the reason why many Europeans like to come here to buy furniture, lampshades, pottery, carpets etc. And it is also the reason why others have chosen Morocco as a place for their second home. We should learn some thing from these artisans. Handmade work should never be left to die out since human society dies with it. Where are our artisans and artists nowadays in more developed countries?
I have come back to Italy with the desire to create my ceramics again.... Traveling always opens the mind and in this case it has also served for something more than browsing.
- Posted by Angelica