For the last two weeks, my family and I ventured abroad to the country of Morocco. Now, I'll be honest, when I told people I was going to be vacationing there, I was often met with puzzled (slightly concerned) expressions and a lot of "oh-why-Morocco?"s. (I imagine they were just picturing white girl in Northern Africa and immediately jumped to Liam Neeson and Taken.) I'll admit, I thought it a bit of a strange destination myself at first, but now having seen what a vibrant and culturally rich land it is, I would recommend it to anyone!Now, like many of those who travel to a distinctly different environment, my first concern was...what the heck do I wear?? I had done my research, and there were two things I knew: Number one- Morocco is an Islamic state (if I remember my statistics correctly, about 98% of the population is Muslim); not wanting to seem insensitive to their way of life and also not wanting to draw unwanted attention, it was decided that knees and shoulders should be kept covered while we were there. Number two- (and this was the tricky part) the average temperature in Morocco in July is about 37 degrees Celsius (ooor 99 degrees Fahrenheit)! So there was my challenge - how to stay cool and comfortable in a place where shorts, tanks, and sundresses are not looked upon all too favorably. The solution? A lotta linen and a lotta scarves. (And maxi dresses, of course!)
|I loved these big beautiful doors!|
|Our guide, Hassan, navigating us through a medina (the old part of the city where the marketplace is).|
|The family posing in front of a bab (or a city gate).|
|You can't go to Morocco and not ride a camel....His name is Othello.|
Once I got over my own fashion dilemma, it was fascinating to observe Moroccan women's own unique fashion style. Initially, in my Westernized view of Islamic fashion, I was hung up on the fact that women seemed limited in their style of dress...it appeared they were all obligated to don the same costume: long kaftans, pants underneath, robe-like garments that cover the whole body and are worn when going out (called a djellaba), and head scarves (hijabs). While these are the key components of a Muslim woman's dress, I could not have been more mistaken about them all being the same. From Fes to Marrakesh to Essaouira, I never saw two women wearing the kaftan or djellaba! I learned that most women custom design their own kaftans and/or djallabas. She will hand pick her fabric, usually silk or cotton, and then take her design to a male tailor (men, not women, make the clothes), which is then followed to her specifications, right down to the embroidery. In fact, I rarely saw a woman in a full black burqa. On the contrary, Moroccan fashion is filled with vibrant colors and patterns, from pastels to rich jewel tones, every color on the spectrum is proudly represented.
|This was taken inside a souq, a large marketplace. (I do apologize for the blurriness, but a lot of times people expect a little money if you take their picture, so I had to do it on the sly...my first stint as a paparazzo!)|
|So much to choose from!|
On our first day out, our guide Hassan described to us something that stuck with me for the remainder of the trip. He was explaining to us that many homes and neighborhoods within the cities are hidden behind walls. He said that is because beauty is kept on the inside so it is protected from the Evil Eye on the outside; he called them "Veiled Cities." I found this not only particularly poetic, but also a useful paradigm for understanding this remarkable culture that does truly revere beauty - made clearly evident in the hand carved marble and mahogany and the tiled floors and walls of their mosques, riads, and homes, as well as in the elaborately patterned and brilliantly colored designs of their fashion.
I hope you have a enjoyed this little glimpse of Morocco; come on back tomorrow where I will give you a taste of the cuisine (there might even be a recipe for you, if you are feeling adventurous)! Until then....