Sunday, March 15, 2015

Climb every mountain

We have tried to, in Beni Mellal at least.

Today we went up some stairs, climbed a small mountain, looped around to the next mountain through a lush valley, and down again through a muddy grove of olive trees.

At the top, the sun warmed our backs while  a breeze cooled our faces as we rested and enjoyed the view. Can't wait to do this again tomorrow.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Commencing again?

Idriss and I are back in Morocco; we landed this morning and came straight out to see his family in Beni Mellal.

The heady air is extraordinarily fragrant with orange blossoms and trumpet flowers. The night sky is so clear and starry, and the mountains behind the city are still snow-capped from a cold winter. Baby lambs abound and fig trees are beginning to grow lush leaves.

In the morning, we will climb one of the foothills to a castle, beyond which we've discovered a lush and stunning valley. Then we will come home for lunch. And then we will take a long walk to the souk in town.

What I mean to say is: I am so happy to have this home away from home. To have the same mountains calling my name when we visit, to know what we are going to do every day while in Beni Mellal, to know that  these walks and hikes and  rituals are freeing of the mind rather than constricting.

I will be back soon with more about our trip.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ending and commencing

Since we arrived in Morocco...

Barren fig trees have grown resplendently leafy and luxurious.
Snow-capped mountains have melted away, leaving endless shades of green and dirt.
Ripe oranges, plucked, have given way to orange blossoms, whose fragrance delicately scents the hot, heavy air.

And me?

I've gotten to really live somewhere different. To linger in cafes. Luxuriate in a country where time feels slower. Experience a new culture from an insider perspective. Walk in the deep plush sand of the Sahara. Meet artisans carrying on ancient traditions in their crafts. Dip my toes in chilly ocean waters. Binge on pastries that cost just a quarter each.

To learn what I love in Morocco, and where I want to spend more time.

I'm lucky.

And yet. If only.

Six weeks is not really enough time to "find" yourself. That phrase I always hated, finding it so self-indulgent. I felt like big ideas about life really started flowing, but only the last few days. Or maybe it's the pressure of something ending that started them, rather than the whole amount of time away.

I'm not sure.

And so on.

Back in NY, we're starting to re-settle 3200 miles from where we lived before our trip. I'm from here, but it feels new after a decade on the West Coast. It's scary...but also exhilarating. We've got a lot of exploring ahead of us, and I'm hoping to write about it here.

Because something I did learn is that I like writing in this blog.

Mirages and Oases

Pretend you're driving through a desert. You see a small pond on the right side, but as you drive by, you realize it's just a mirage. But it looks so aren't sure now. A little further on, you see a sliver of a huge gorge. In the gorge is a river, and it's surrounded by an epic number of palm trees, lush green grasses and mud houses. You blink your eyes. Drive on, and it's gone. Two minutes later, it's back...and bigger. It's not a mirage. It's a date oasis, and down in the oasis it's as lush as Kauai. of the coolest things ever is to drive in a brown desert and come across and oasis. Next time we come back to Morocco, we're going to stay in one and hike for a few days. In the cool, shady air down of an oasis.




I'm not sure you can even tell how deep this gorge is. The oasis goes on for miles.


Above are all pictures of the Ziz Valley oasis, on the road to Merzouga.



Here is the oasis at the town of Tinghir, where the Todra Gorge is located. Stunning, huh? There are lots of them in Morocco - if you have any tips, please share them in the comments.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Staggering cliffs at the Todra Gorge

On our return from Merzouga we got to stop (briefly) at the Todra Gorge. It's stunning and gorgeous and we want to spend more time there and in the entire region. I'm nearing the end of my trip (sniff, sniff) and will write out the whole itinerary, with potential routes and places to stay, when I'm back in the US next week. I will also show you some incredible date palm oases!

In the meantime, take a look at the staggering heights of the gorge.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Sahara

Fleshy. Apricot. Peachy. Tawny brown. Taupe. Golden rose. The Sahara is all of these colors depending on the light and which way you look. But mostly, it's a glimmering rose gold. We arrived in Merzouga today and rode camels into the Sahara to see the sunset from high on the dunes. I'm pretty sure the Sahara (I keep writing Sarah) is one of the most beautiful things I've seen on earth. The wind causes ever-shifting ridges on the sand and constantly changing dunes. It's sensual. Exotic. An ocean made of sand. An endless ripple of rose gold as far as the eye can see. It's the Sahara. I just like saying it. When I sat down to write this post, a Berber band came out onto the terrace playing Sarahian music. So, I've got a few pictures for you, but have more to share in a later post.

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Different colors whichever way you look.

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Idriss and Amy on top of sand dunes. I think that's my favorite picture ever of Idriss. He looks so happy. We were all in such awe of this wild place.

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Our camels and guide. More to come!

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I love this picture, too. I can't overemphasize the giddiness we all felt playing in the sand dunes. I can't wait to share more.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Back in Beni Mellal

We're back in Beni Mellal for another visit with Idriss's parents, and Amy is with us so we took another walk into a hilltop village. The air is already pregnant with heat, and it's just the end of March. I can't imagine what it's like in the summer here.

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We walked through a valley somehow feels both lush and dry. There are baby animals everywhere - chicks, goats, lambs, kittens.

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This little dude cooperated for his close-up.

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We stopped to buy a kilo of sweet peas from this man, who grows them in his family's garden.

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This is the bridge over the small river, which we walked over to get from one hill to another. Although we've been to this village before, we took a different route today and saw completely different places. It's fun to explore a place from many angles, isn't it? Like getting to do all the different trails in a park and really getting to know it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On bougainvillea

I. just. can't. stop. staring.

It is too luscious and vibrant. A painter's palette. I want to jump into it and inhale it even though I know it doesn't have a scent.




Hopefully there is some bougainvillea nearby that brightens your day, too.


p.s. My sister is visiting. Welcome to Morocco, Amy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sounds of surf in Essaouira

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Gulls soar through the sky. Steady waves crash dramatically on cliffs and rocks, sending ocean sprays four stories up to the terrace of our guest house, wetting the camera lens and fogging up my sunglasses. Peals of laughter. The cries of birds as they dive for food.

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The sounds of Essaouira, a little old Portuguese walled village on the southern coast of Morocco, are surf. And gulls. Festive Gnaoua music. And the haunting, furious wind. And the ocean. Did I mention the ocean?

Without a doubt, most chill place I've been in Morocco.

We even extended our stay to continue our relaxing meanders through town and on the beach. Having such a lovely little guest house helps too, I can't recommend La Casa del Mar enough. I'm in love with the hospitality, beachy-white look and delicious breakfast.

In terms of sights, we're just kind of kicking it. Every day, we walk through the medina, we walk by the ocean, we have coffee, we walk some more, and so on. Somehow this little battered village by the sea is just transfixing. Come see (and relax!) for yourself!

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Crumbling buildings in the Mellah, the old Jewish quarter.

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Idriss on the balcony of our pristine hotel.

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Scenes of the ancient medina.

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The fishing boats on an afternoon too windy to head to see.

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And old gate to the medina.

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The interior wall of the medina on the left, renovated houses on the right.

Pictures can't quite capture the true spirit of the medina though, come and check it out!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


So, we found this lovely little shop in the Marrakech medina with excellent quality tunics and such, made from linen and superbly tailored. In chatting with the shopkeeper, Nadia, we learned that her sister is the tailor. So we ordered a couple custom tunics, well, actually, by the time they're done they'll be dresses, but the point is, they're super cute and so well made. And, they'll be made custom for me to my size and specifications.

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But how does this relate to zeitoun (olives)? Well, Nadia (pictured above, with the model of tunic I'm getting) is so warm and friendly that she insisted we come for lunch at her family's small olive farm, just outside Marrakech.

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So buying a couple of dresses resulted in an incredible lunch of couscous in an unforgettable location. With Nadia's generous and hospitable family.

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Nadia's little niece.

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The view from our table, in the deep shade of an old olive tree. I can't tell you how luxurious it seemed to us city-dwellers to get to eat under a tree. It made us wish for a small farm ourselves!

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The farm from the end of the property. The green area is food for the animals - cows, lambs, a horse and so on.

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We had olive oil made from the olives of these beautiful trees.

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A fig tree is just starting to bud.

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Funniest of all were Nadia's nephews. The little ones are rascals and were so excited for our visit - they asked if we could stay longer. Sometimes the best times of vacation are the unplanned occasions.