Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sources of inspiration: Morocco // Country of the warm welcome // pastel landscapes and colorful patterns

Morocco has been on my travel bucket list for a while now. I have always been curious about this multi cultural country with it’s desert and mountains, delicious tagines and of course the medina’s and markets. This September I traveled around this breathtaking country. After seeing a little bit of the world already I was positively surprised by the warm welcome and sweet encounters.

I have always been attracted to Morocco. As you can imagine as a pattern designer I was very curious about the wonderful architecture and mosaic ornaments and decoration. The materials and texture, the craftsmanship. Very interesting indeed. The patterns were amazing, so many of them, so colorful.

It was a truly amazing visit and as you might already know after each trip I write a little piece about the country and share a few things that inspired me throughout my trip. Things you should really experience. This is a top 5 of things to do and places to visit.

1 // Ouarzazate colors
This city in the High Atlas is the gateway to the sahara desert but it also surprised me because it has such a great energy. I loved the small city and its colors. The palm forest and the sand. The blue sky. Most of the buildings are made out of clay and they are one with the breathtaking landscapes. The colors are wonderful. Every few meters there is a minty color pop. All doors are painted in the same minty color. Seriously cute! Travel to this city and plan a morning trip to the desert to watch the sun set. You can also wonder round the sandy dunes on a dromedary if you like. A shepherd will guide you to the most amazing views up those orange peaks.

2 // Fez Medina Magic
All over Morocco you can find Medina’s. Old markets inside of the old city walls. Ok the wall itself is pretty impressive. Lot’s of city walls in Morocco are protected and are Unesco heritage. The clay walls with their castle silhouettes and tiny holes will make you feel part of a fairy tale story book. Well, I was talking about the medina, let’s get back to that one. A medina is a market where you can find anything. Shoes, oranges, party hats, blue painted chicken. A market with a maze of tiny alleys where locals come and shop for their dinner, homes and wardrobe. The Medina in Fez is a little less hectic than the one in Marrakech and is great to wonder around and get lost a little. It also has some gorgeous old pieces of architecture hidden in between these walls. Visit the Royal Palace, go see how they weave those gorgeous textiles and see craftsmen paint their leather. You can also find some wonderful restaurants with traditional food and magical interiors. Oh Fez, so beautiful.

3 // Surf
Morocco is a great place to drive around in a little vintage VW bus put your surf gear on the roof and drive to one of the many beaches. Great waves everywhere. I am a little too clumsy to get the hang of it. Always wanted to surf but well, looked easier that in was. After getting knocked out on the beach, I didn’t even get to the water, I decided surfing, that’s a little too dangerous for me. But if you can manage those waves Morocco is a great place to go be a hippie surf peep! And you can find several surf schools all over the west coast so don't worry about traveling around with your own gear too much. Enough places to rent!

4 // Food on the Jamaa el Fna square
Of course the first thing you would probably think of visiting is this square in the old centre of Marrakech. Go visit the Medina in the early evening and wonder around the little alleys till the sun sets and life on the square starts. Go take a bite at one of the food stalls where they prepare fresh traditional food, tagines, couscous, it is all fresh and delicious and it’s also very cheap. Soak up the energy and watch families on their night out. After you have your Moroccan tea take a walk around the square and watch all performers do their funny things. Fish for soda, join a political discussion or enjoy some music. It is such a vivid and fun night out. Be cautious though. The square is poorly lit and pick pockets take advantage of that. It is the only place in the country where I felt I had to watch my stuff. Woman, prepare and cover yourself a little, those teen boys sure like to grab your ass. Leave your phone in your riad or hotel and watch your belongings. I promise you will have an amazing time!

5 // Jardin Majorelle - Marrakech
This place was the biggest surprise for me. Eye candy! My happy place. I didn’t know anything about this twelve acre botanical garden. The beauty took me by surprise. The use of blue cobalt paint and the lush green are such a wonderful combination. Gigant palm trees and cacti. A small bamboo lane and a pond with fish and turtles. It is a wonderful break from the hectic city. Did you know Yves Saint Laurent owned this garden and after his death his ashes where scattered around? he loved the place and the surroundings. If you are a botanical lover this is really something you should go see.

Morocco is a pretty easy country to travel around. The people are warm and welcoming. Before I left everyone kept telling me to watch my back and my friends and family were a little nervous about me going to visit this country. There are so many preconceptions about Morocco, and even though I travel without any expectations I noticed that I did expect to be harassed or tricked. But I can tell you there are so many countries I have been to where I in fact did feel unsafe traveling as a woman. Morocco wasn’t one of them. In Holland most people assume Morocco is very conservative but in fact the people are very open and tolerant. I was embarrassed by my own preconceptions and happy to feel welcome, just as I am. If you have any recommendations yourself please leave a comment!