Three hours from Casablanca across a roasting parched and barren landscape of scrubby cactus pocked with walled Kasbahs brought our dusty train to Marrakech and the beginning of a month long residency in Marrakech.
Wandering the maze of alleyways carved between pastel colored buildings, the Medina captivates. High walls and decorative doors protect inner sanctuaries called Riads, from harsh sunlight and outsiders. The configurations of these inner courts, surrounded by walls and rooms create intimate cocoons where one feels at ease and cloistered. The Riad is a contained swatch of nature where humans connect with the earth and themselves.
The narrow alleyways that squirrel between and connect these enclosed compounds are a labyrinth easily to be lost in. Peach, pink, ochre and mauve walls jut up all around you as bicycles; donkey carts and humans vie for a section of path to navigate home on.
Venturing out of the Medina we finally head south towards the dessert to see lots of hot sand and a few patches of green. The green oasis spots cling to any minor water source. The lifeblood leached from a begrudging sandy plain in order to color the landscape with olive and ochre. Around these lush spaces are stone homes of mud and sand.
I am fascinated with the sanctuary of the oasis. Surrounded by nothing but baked scorched sand. Like the Riad these compounds provide shelter and a retreat from heat and dessert harshness. We ride camels and reach our Berber tents before sunset and just in time do experience a real live sand storm. At 10pm we turn in but it is still 40 degrees Celsius and the wind has died and we are not far behind. We languish on mats outside our tents but can’t sleep in this endless dessert oven.
Preparing to depart Morocco, full of colors and images that combine a relaxed form of Islam with encroaching modernity, my senses overflow as I leave laden with paintings that hopefully attest to the dynamic mix of old and new, man and nature, God and all that lies below the sheltering sky.
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