Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Morocco: Impressions

(all photos by Laini Taylor)


The mountains.

The coast.

And the vast, arid stretch of earth sweeping away to the Sahara,
studded with palm oases and crumbling kasbahs. 

Beauty and desolation, camels and cats, mystery and, sometimes, mystery not so much. Two weeks was scarcely enough to form the most basic of first impressions. It was an experience, with the usual travel travails and triumphs and happy sighs, and it was a bit of a comeuppance too. While I was planning the trip, I was so sure I would love Morocco that when I heard or read anything unpleasant, I more or less ignored it. These things will not apply. You know? Well, they applied, and then some. Which is not to say I am not in awe of Morocco. 

It is just to say that it had its difficulties. There were ... moments of travel remorse. 

That is hard for me to admit, that I was at times uncertain if the trip was a mistake. It wasn't. Emphatically, it wasn't. Already it is taking on the retrospective photo patina and becoming a series of stories and pictures. You know how it is after a trip, when you select the best photos and sort of recreate the journey for posterity, and that selective, recreated memory becomes the trip? The new reality? That impulse is strong in me, to make it shiny, pretty.

It was shiny. 

It was pretty.


It was challenging, too. Often not pretty.

Not always friendly.

The air in Marrakech sometimes felt toxic to breathe, so that we wanted to put a gas mask on Clementine. There were the sharp-toothed souk boys giving intentional wrong directions, and charging for the service. There was the misery of the haggle, of never knowing the value of anything, of feeling smirked at after every transaction, so that it was hard to enjoy any purchase. Oh, the smiling liars! And getting so lost, lost at twilight with Clementine asleep in arms, while the muezzin call fills up the alleys and men dart left and right, doffing shoes as they hurry to evening prayer. 

Of course, mishap stories are the soul of a journey; I would never give those up. How boring would a trip be if your camel didn't spend all its time licking the other camels' delicates? If you weren't once attacked by a crazed lemon vendor, or led a wild goose chase through the back alleys of a strange city, imperiously commanded to take photos of garbage by your self-appointed guide? If you didn't absolutely wear yourself to exhaustion trying to entertain your car seat-hating child on the entire drive over the stunning (but who's looking?) Atlas Mountains?

Okay, that last one, I could have done without :-}

But how about some more pretty?

Lanterns and candles. A lesson for my own life: that it be illuminated with more mystique.

Roses and the soft plash of fountains. Or, to Clementine: so many lovely little swimming pools!

The coziest room I have ever been in. Ever.

Modern style mixed with classic. A stunning all-white home by the sea.

A whole town of blue doors. Heaven.

Shy lovelies.

Unexpected company.

Hark. The shmoo awakens. More to come, as naptimes and bedtimes allow :-)

Be well!


Heather said...

Thsese photos are STUNNING! They make me want to see the world.

Rachael said...

I'm loving all these photos! So gorgeous!

David T. Macknet said...

Truly awesome photos! Travel is always an adventure, if sometimes also that classic, "a learning experience."

We just got back from Iceland, where we learned that it's possible to get by in a culture whose first language isn't English (yet most do speak English), yet it's not possible to really be at home there, as the locals converse first in Icelandic. We also learned that "hours of daylight" doesn't tell the whole story, as it's far darker in Glasgow, Scotland, despite having twice the number of "daylight hours."

Looking forward to more of your pics!

paris parfait said...

Lovely photos, Laini. Am glad you saw both sides to Morocco - its complex beauty, as well as its far-flung chaos. xo

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Wow, breathtaking. Also the sense of how vulnerable you must of felt with babe in arms. Just gorgeous, tho.

Anonymous said...

When we took our wee toddler girlie to Italy, she toddled off into the hotel bathroom. When we went to see what she was up to, she was sitting IN the bidet trying to figure out how to fill up her new personal swimming pool with water. ;)

Laini Taylor said...

Thanks, all! Glad you like the photos. I'm working on it :-) Took MANY pictures, but not enough. Never enough. So many occasions I itched to raise my camera, but it would have been rude -- so many people I would have loved to "capture.* I would like to be an invisible, floating photographer and have no barriers (well, not no barriers, you understand) to what pictures are kosher to take.

David: Iceland! Interesting. It's featured in the Lonely Planet magazine this month. Did you blog about your trip? Pics?

Laurie: Ah, bidet stories! So funny. Clementine was fascinated with them too, relentless in trying to turn them on!

tone almhjell said...

I love this post!

I know what you mean about journeys changing in the telling. The bad parts mostly become funny, or at least transformed by eloquence to dishes that can be served at any time. The good parts can really never be done justice, unless it's in photos if you're a clever photographer. You're so lucky to be good with the camera! I want to hear more about the cosiest room, and the all white home. Who lived there? Why were you there?

In some ways, I'm sorry that Morocco wasn't as you had dreamed it to be. But now, when you write of Morocco or places that share its qualities, you can keep the dream, but deepen and darken it with real memories and impressions. I bet it will be spicy, and quite, quite wonderful!

Shveta Thakrar said...

I'm glad this trip was eye-opening, both gorgeous and horrible. It sounds just right.

Your pictures are fantastic, Laini. Thank you so much for sharing them, along with your realizations.

Katie Anderson said...

Oh Laini, I just recently took a trip and felt these same emotions. I found myself praying about it the last night, so confused and saddened by what I thought was going to be the PERFECT trip. And then I woke up so excited to go on the best vacation ever - the one home to Mississippi. So, sometimes I think the silver lining is in feeling the deep appreciation for what we have already. But I can't wait to read about all of the little nuggets of wonder you no doubt collected on the way :)
Love the new blog!

Kate said...

Thank you, Laini, for your photos and your honesty. Love the new blog, too!

andalucy said...

Laini, what a way you have with words! Not that I'm surprised. I know what you mean about the souk jerks. One pushed my son out of his shop. PUSHED him! I think the guy was mad at me because I commented to my husband (under my breath--good ears they have) that the stuff was overpriced and not very nice. Another guy seemed to get upset with us because my husband talked him down too far on a tea pot and then we didn't buy anything else.

And the poverty. So heartbreaking.

And yet would the "perfect" trip have really been perfect?

Btw, I picked up one of those gorgeous Aurelia Fronty books in Rome. I'm going to try to find some of the other titles in Spanish and French. Thank you so much for posting your finds! We discovered the German illustrator Atak--hilarious, crazy retro. My kids love his books.

Anonymous said...

yes, what i said about morocco upon leaving was "it was a valuable cultural experience". at the time, i was SO tired of the constant male commentary, having to be conscious of covering my arms and legs (not a problem for you guys in winter!:) ), having to always be on the watch for being scammed by people, etc. i actually grew to enjoy the haggling--such a fun sport!--but the first couple days it drove me nuts in my jet lag and in its unfamiliarity. i speak french, or enough french to function well in morocco, and i felt like that really let me get closer to the people. the vast majority of moroccans were SO wonderful, so helpful, kind, everything; it's a shame that so few annoying people cast a pall over the whole experience. but i second what people are saying--the longer i have been back from my trip, the sunnier it looks in retrospect, and it was pretty darn sunny and fun at the time! :)

Amber said...

But in the end, what is better than having had adventure?

And, um. That is a really fat cat. What do they feed their cats?! Camels?


Amber said...

Oh, and this reminded me of what Kory felt about his trip last month to India... He will have to go again someday, but is not excited about it now. Kind of sad.

I would still liked to have gone with, though! Not that I didn't have a ton of adventure with the laundry, mind you. Wild times, I tell you. ;)


Tinker said...

After seeing that fountain full of roses, I want to float roses in my birdbath now. Guess that will have to wait till it's warm enough for them to bloom again, though. Love that cozy, colorful room with the window seats too.

Selective memory is probably a good thing in the long run, else there would be a whole lot of great stuff we'd never get around to trying or doing again. (And without it, most of us would probably be only children, too! ;-)

Debbie Faith Mickelson said...

Laini, your pictures are beautiful and I enjoy viewing Morocco through your eyes. I lived in Spain when I was 12-13 yrs old. I met a few other American kids from Naval bases around the area. That gave me a bit of a feel for Morocco. At that time, we could only go to Morocco if we went via The Rock of Gilbralter. I remember being in Spain looking across to Gilbralter and Morocco thinking of the wonder close at hand. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make the trip due to my dad's work. So I'm thrilled to see your adventure here - good and not so good as you might say. Thanks for sharing.

kathleen duey said...

I spent about ten days in Morocco (Rabat and Fez)--because of a school visit there. Next time you choose a destination, consider looking for international/American schools online and contact them. Spend one day at a school--free or paid--an
d gather advice about the place,ask what is worth seeing, about any pitfalls--- a couple of teachers' phone numbers is nice if something goes weird...? And they will often tell you about places you might never have found on your own...

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