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January, 16th, 2020 : Morocco and Updates!

Happy New Year, Everyone! Ok, so we are into 2020 and I am playing catch up as we went to Morroco for New Year’s, returned on the 8th, and since then have been swamped with the worst of the construction yet (new roof for the house and my studio, new front door opening and installing a larger door to the attic) AND I’m leaving for a weekend in Milan with my uncle and his family TODAY! But, I had to write a little about our time in Morocco. If it is on your list and if you love color and sensory adventures, I highly highly recommend Morocco! This was our second time and I’m still just as in love and inspired by the sights, smells and overall aesthetic. The colors, tiles, textures, spices, architecture, doors, THE DOORS! AH! It’s really something else! The first time we went, we stayed in Casablanca, the business capital, more modern and a little less charming than other parts of the country, yet not without its highlights, but we used it as a headquarters for day trips/ private tours to Fez, Marrakech and Rabat. This time, upon my urging (because I fell in love with it last time), we stayed 4 days in a riad hotel (traditional style house with a courtyard) in the Marrakech medina and then drove back to Casablanca (where Simplicio’s family were flying out from) for a few days as well. Marrakech is called “The Pink City” because there is an official standard that all (at least most) the buildings be painted some variation of a great soft, salmon, coral pink. This already brings an interesting color palette, especially with plenty of teal doors and hints of this brilliant cobalt that I’ve only seen in Morocco. Marrakech is a rich, historical city, filled with palaces, wealthy riads, hidden gardens, mosques and a huge, labyrinth-filled medina (ancient walled city) and a glorious souk (marketplace) full of all kinds of colorful temptations. Yes, the city has become a tourist attraction and the unpleasantness seen in any tourism hub are becoming more evident, but its colorful, gritty charm is still available to be taken in just by wandering through the medina alleys and nooks. From Marrakech, we signed up for a desert tour that took us a few hours into the desert, past ancient mountain villages and gorgeous landscapes to have lunch in a berber-style tent full of carpets in the middle of nowhere and then a camel ride (I was happy to stay at the tent and pet the camels while Simplicio and his sister took the camels out, I know I know, pathetic, but I’m a little wary of being so high up on a very grumpy creature!) The Jardin Majorelle and Palais Bahia were two other very notable highlights, but honestly, I loved every minute of it, I was on sensorial overload for the whole time I was in Marrakech; exhausting, but fabulous nonetheless! I probably took about 3,000 photos over the course of the trip. The elaborate doors (even to simple homes), windows, arches, rugs, textiles, everything really made me feel like contemporary design robs us of a wealth of color and detail. In Casablanca, we visited the glorious Hassan II Mosque that is open for visitation (a rare treat for a mosque), we saw some palaces and a traditional souk less frequented by tourists. We also did a day trip to Agadir, a wealthy coastal city with a super Mediterranean feel. There, we went out on the ocean and took in some much needed sun and sights! The whole experience was truly fantastic and I am so grateful for the opportunity! What a beautiful world we live in! Of course, there are a few disclaimers here. I’d say Morocco is “not for beginners” in the sense that there are plenty of cultural idiosyncrasies that must be maneuvered with respect and awareness. Things like an unspoken dress-code, communication not being a direct thing (trying to buy anything can be a very frustrating experience) and just dealing with people that see the world completely different than you can sometimes seem daunting, but with a little patience and humility and a good attitude, all things are possible! I guess we need those things everywhere! If I was having a cultural shock in Portugal, Morocco was exponentially more, but the beauty of the place motivated me to try to see things differently, not get SO upset every time we got ripped off by a taxi driver and just expect a different world view on what is “polite” or “honest”. One thing that stood out to me and made me think a lot was the impact of religion on the Arabic world. It is unmistakable; society is built around their faith and not the other way around. From the calls to prayer to how people dress and even how they complement each other, Allah is always present. We had a fantastic tour guide from Tours by Locals in Casablanca, Issam, who was very informative and open to all my questions, we discussed faith and religion and I learned a little more about Islam and was able to understand the Muslim mind a little more. I think it’s important to understand, understanding is often more important than agreement. And, honestly, I can definitely challenge my own faith by what I observed from theirs. How different would my life be if, 5 times a day, even if for just 10 minutes, I stopped everything to talk to God. It was not uncommon to see men in the middle of their work day, stop everything and going to pray, they weren’t ashamed, they weren’t in a rush to get back to their business, for that moment, they were in full surrender (at least that’s what it looks like) and the whole society runs like that. It was inspiring. I could write a lot more about Morocco and our experiences and funny misadventures (you don’t know anxiety until you get stomach ailments from experimenting with sketchy street food and being on a 3-hour car ride in the desert in a Muslim country!) , but I won’t or you guys will stop reading my blog because I go on too much! Haha! Right now, we are back in our cold work-in progress house, hearing the lovely sound of concrete being cut, drills and hammers and Mr. Diogo’s team (which consists of his 3 very handsome, young sons which makes it even more awkward to be around the house in my sloppy stay-at-home clothes or GODFORBID have to go #2 in the only functioning bathroom which of course is right next to where they are drilling a new door to the attic!). But I am surviving! Surviving the dust and dirt and inconvenience and awkwardness! Italy should be a great little escape and I know we are close to just being able to enjoy the home. SOON

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