The Adventurous Architect: Morocco
I love to travel! It is one of the things that makes me come alive. I love immersing myself in other cultures, tasting exotic foods and meeting interesting people along the way. Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Morocco and although I’m back in New York for a few weeks now, my mind is still partially there. Trudging through the New York City snow, I try to feel the hot sand of the Sahara under my feet, see the incredible views of the Atlas Mountains and the vivid patterns and colors that are embedded in its architecture.
I began my trip in Fez, which has one of the oldest Islamic Medinas in the world. The streets in that part of town are very narrow so the only way to move through the city is by foot or scooter…and it is not the easiest to navigate. Unlike our tidy grid, Fez is a real life labyrinth in which you are guaranteed to get lost! The exteriors of the homes are very simple and keep a uniform look. The most interesting part of the exteriors are the doors. Each entry way featured a Moroccan archway uniquely designed with gorgeous details such as wooden hand-carved patterns or brightly colored tile. The simplicity of the exterior often disguises a lavish interior courtyard and garden. The courtyards are decorated with magnificent tile work inspired by the Islamic culture. Sipping a delicious Moroccan mint tea soaking in the beauty of those hidden courtyards is one of my most vivid memories of the trip. It was here within the riad – a traditional Moroccan home – that I really got a taste of the heart and soul of the culture.
Next stop – the Sahara desert. Riding a camel through the Sahara definitely goes down in my book as the best experience so far! The calmness of the desert coupled with the welcoming company of the locals made the trip unforgettable! While the accommodations were not lavish, the wonderful people, authentic cuisine, local music, bon-fire and dance more than made up for it. I highly recommend visiting and spending the night in the Moroccan Sahara! You won’t regret it.
From the desert, we headed through the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech. The ride through the mountains is extraordinary and the ever changing landscapes will take your breath away. After a long drive through the winding roads of the mountains I approached what turned out to be the most chaotic city I’ve ever explored! From the moment we entered the city it appeared as though there were no traffic rules being enforced, crazy colors, snake charmers chasing us for taking their pictures, countless good and services being bartered for…even a city girl like me was overwhelmed by its energy. I finally found some peace and quiet in the ruins of the El Badi Palace and the colorful Jardin Majorelle… both, a must see.
My final but brief stop was Casablanca. There I got to see the third largest mosque in the world, Hassan II Mosque. It was magnificent! Every single detail of this colossal space was hand carved by some of the best Moroccan artisans. It is also known as one the most innovative Mosques in the world. Even though the complex itself is enormous, the roof slides open on bright days to allow the sunlight to enter the interior of the space.
The journey through Morocco allowed me to familiarize myself with yet another culture and way of life – its detailed and colorful architecture was so incredibly inspiring. Not only does the spirit of a place like this stay in your heart but it’s shape, style and artful beauty can’t help but inform one’s work as a designer. I can’t wait for my next adventure!