Sea Peoples

Restinga Beach

Five years ago, I was on a beach in Restinga on the Northern coast of Morocco near city of Tetouan. As I lay on the sand admiring the shells, I thought “this is what it was like when the ships came home.” And the ships were clear to me, dark wood with white sails, and I thought “Phoenicians.” I wrote a blog post about the experience. I did a little research on the Phoenicians. I largely forgot about the strange visual quality of the day dream experience.

Tanit, Astarte, and the Sea Peoples


Moroccan Mosaics – Anonymous Masterpieces

Water fountain in Fes, Morocco

Geometric patterns made by Moroccan zillij, mosaic materpieces, capture attention and mesmerize. For me, the facination with zillij is so overwhelming that it makes me love Moroccan artistic traditions. It also drives me to write and produce this blog. More


Metropolitan Museum’s Moroccan Court

Moroccan Court

I can’t imagine another way to bring the art of Morocco into a museum setting other than to have the artisans construct the setting, which is what exactly what the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York did in its new Islamic wing. Now, I have a new reason to visit New York. There’s a video showing the construction of the court that I tried to embed here, but it didn’t work.

The examiner wrote an article about the Moroccan Court including the following information on color symbolism:

  • Black and white – good and bad (soul)
  • Blue – land
  • Green – water
  • Honey – air

Hmmm..green is water and blue is land? I’m thinking that’s a typo. But I do like the interpretation of black/white being soul, a balance of good and bad forces.

So what do you think? Would you visit – did you visit – the Moroccan Court in New York?

Also, you can tour the new Islamic Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art online.


Itinerary for a friend

So, my colleague is going to take a trip around the world and Morocco is one of his stops. I woke-up day dreaming a Moroccan itinerary, not sure if its for him or for myself. Yes, I admitt. I’m jealous. But, I am happy for anyone who gets to enjoy a bit of Morocco in their lives. Below are my travel suggestions for a short and simple (albeit, not quite budget) visit. More


Moroccan Design Wanted

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People leave comments across this site asking for contacts who know how to build or craft traditional Moroccan furnishings and interiors. I can’t blame them. Check out the great post and pictures “Four Riads in Five Days.” I wish I knew architects versed in Moroccan design. I wish there were more Moroccan design in America, which is where I’ve been stuck for the last few years.

I feel bad for neglecting this site. Morocco is never far from my mind.

I’ve been doing lots of custom painting, stencils, and lighting at home. I appreciate the peace Moroccan design brings me, even when I’m so far from Moroccan sunlight. There’s no substitue for sunlight.

There’s an empty bank building in Washington, DC, near where I work. There’s a closed Hann’s Shoes story on the street level. I wish, I dream, I see a space inside of it, renovated with a riad’s interior and a fresh produce vendor on the street level shop. We live so much better together, or so do the two cultures inside me.

Moroccan design makes the best use of light and space. The rooms waste nothing. And everything is an extension of the space. No pre-fab. No standard. Custom everything.

I want this bathroom so bad. Where are you, Moroccan design?

bathroom2


Moroccan Short Story

From “The Bull” by Ahmed Ziyadi
Moroccan Short Stories, translated by Jilali El Koudia

“Night is a tent without a central pole or pegs or supports. It opens up horizons and connects earth with sky from whose remote holes a faint light twinkles, hardly illuminating itself. The larger hole, in whose orbit trail smaller ones, has disappeared or perhaps closed up tonight. Some holes are better kept open than patched up, since the patching gives the illusion that the hole is restored to its normal state, only to be revealed still torn someday. Thus the mender realizes that he has been deceiving himself and others as well. It is said “cure your wound before it gets larger.” No, let it get larger and larger until it consumes the whole body, and a new one will be born.”


Volubilis Visitor Center

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The Volubilis Visitor Center was designed to leave a minimal imprint on visitors to the Roman ruins and UNESCO World Heritage site. The new buildings fold themselves into the hills and the ruins take center stage.

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The project was completed by Kilo Architecture. I appreciate the intention of clean, considerate, and lovely architecture. If I were in Morocco, I would go to Volubilis to see the new as well as the old.

See the Achitecture Review article for more details on the project.


Moorish revival

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I never heard of Moorish revival architecture until I saw the Bloomingdale’s home store in Chicago. It is housed in a restored Masonic temple built by architects Huehl and Schmidt in 1912 for the Shriners. More


Zillij inspired jewlery design

In the above video, Paloma Picasso discusses her for zellige-inspired jewelry collection made for for Tiffany & Co. I’ve noticed lots of designers playing with Moroccan mosaic patterns as part of their jewelry collections.

leeangel

The above piece is designed by Lee Angel (www.leeangel.com and reminds me of some of my favorite tile work. I bought the one in the picture on sale at bluefly.com. If this discount were deeper, I’d buy the red and white one too. I hope I love it when I meet it in person.


Everything is Three

I’ve been thinking about the number three lately. Not unusual if you consider how much three pops-up in our collective psyche: three cheers; red, yellow, green; the Holy Trinity; birth, life, death; three primary colors. Three expresses the tripartite wholeness of our universe. We instinctively recognize it. Three is a group. Less is nothing much really and more than three is excessive or redundant. More


Travel Journal: July 2008. Home is where the forgiveness is

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My mother in law is a helpful person, which is to say that she isn’t very good with people. She full of information on the right way of doing things; the right way to eat, the right way to clean, the right way to pray. She is there to remind you to turn off the light, air the bed linens, and say “Bismillah” before eating and “Hamdullah” after burping. Her knowledge of Islamic practices and Moroccan superstitions is vast, which is to say that she doesn’t know or care much about what people want to hear. She is the harbinger of “hashuma.” More


Travel Journal: June 2008. Hay Riad, Rabat, Sale.

Meknes

People smile at me as I walk with my daughter through the medina, my thumb and index finger wrapped around her billowy wrist. These standing witnesses seem like the collective soul of the world, yawning, like a baby awakened with a gentle rub on the back. When my daughter and I are together playful and chatty, we become a catalyst that causes a deep, dear memory to show itself as a smile on the face of strangers. This floating memory is so primal that it cannot enter the conscious mind as a coherent thought. Instead, it enters the semi-toothless mouth of a fruit seller who, in broken English, asks my daughter if she wants some melon. More


Travel Journal: June 2008 (Hay Riad, Harhoura)

l'ocean

There was a group of Americans at the tapas reastaurant where we I ate with two girl friends on a Saturday night. I had grown accustomed to not hearing my native language around me and gravitated towards their words. I knew they must be part of an organized group, perhaps a conference or fellowship of some sort. On my way back from the bathroom and after a second bottle of wine, I stopped by their table to ask. More


Missing Chefchaouen

chefchaouen

If you are lucky enough to travel to Morocco, don’t miss a visit to Chefchaouen. It isn’t an easy spot to travel to – there are no trains – but it is well worth the effort. When I think back on last summer in Morocco, I miss Chefchaouen the most. More


Fes, the car-free city?

Fes medina

When I read articles about Fes being a car-free city, I reflect on my experience in Fes last summer. More


Aid to Artisans: Building Profitable Craft Businesses. Notes From the Field

Artisans in Fes

Its frustrating to see Moroccan-design products, such as Safi-style dinnerware sold by Pottery Barn a few years back, that are manufactured in China. It signals to me that the Moroccan economy isn’t benefiting from centuries of design traditions. But, issues of capacity and quality control need to be addressed before Moroccan artisans can reach out directly to consumers, let alone big retailers.

More


Saving the River in Fes

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Up river some boys rinsed gold tea pots with an acid finish. Down river, a group of men pound animal skins in the water. The river that runs through Fes serves many purposes. None smell or look particularly beautiful.

Maybe that will change soon.

More


Morocco, Reggae, and Revolutionaries

What do Bob Marley, Abd El-Krim El-Khattabi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. have in common? Darga, a popular Moroccan music group.

More


Sketching Fes

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Interesting blog post on Gurney’s Journey, a daily weblog for illustrators, et al. Includes photos of the artists sketches of Bab Boujeloud in Fes as well as YouTube video of Fes pedistrian life.

Gate into Fes.


Rural Tourism

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Magharebia.com wrote an article on Morocco’s efforts to promote rural tourism. The article fails to mention USAID-funded efforts to identify and establish Moroccan rural tourism projects. The report which was completed by Chemonics for USAID has some lovely photos.


Something for the Virtual Tourist…

A quick trip to Fes from your desktop.

I wish I knew about the “double barrel mint nostril device” when I went to Fes. Luckily (?) each time I’ve been to Fes my sinuses were so congested that I couldn’t smell anything.

Note how the price of a lantern dropped from 80 euros (over $100 dollars) to 200 dirhams (closer to $20). In other words, shopping in Morocco takes time.


The Spider

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“This pattern is called ‘The Spider’” our guide said excitedly while gesturing towards a zillige-covered wall. “The Prophet Mohammad was hiding in a cave from his enemies when a spider came and built a web over the entrance. His enemies believed he couldn’t be in the cave because the web was unbroken. This is why it is haram (forbidden) to kill spiders and why this pattern is called named after the spider.”

The Story of the Spider


Moroccan Mosaics from Indonesia

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Gene Turangan was kind enough to send me some photos of his workshop in Indonesia. He makes Moroccan-style mosaic tables and vanities using his own technique. More


Moroccan Contemporary Art

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I’ve become a fan of contemporary Moroccan artists such as Mohamed Hamidi, born in Casablanca in 1941. You can see a few more of his paintings online at the Shashoua Gallery although my favorites aren’t featured there. A friend of mine had a book and the book had pictures of the paintings and the paintings aren’t online. Perhaps I will time to scan those pictures so I can share my favorites with you. I found a reading list online, but with the holidays coming I don’t think I will find the time or budget to buy or read any books. In the meantime, I will hunt for inspiration at the Gallery of Marseille and Art-Maroc.co.ma and whatever else I can find online.

MOHAMED_HAMIDI_OEUVRE_BIS


The Train Station Boy

Train

I pull up to the Agdal train station and the attendant tells me the lot is full. I wait in the car for another car to leave. I pull into a too-small space. A passerby motions which way I should go as I drive back-and-forth to nudge into the opening. I ignore him. Frustrated.

The Train Station Boy


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    Sarah Tricha

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