Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Morocco: Beauty Beyond Bogart and Bergman...

“Play it again Sam…”, “Kiss me as if it were the last time” “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…” Three of the most memorable lines from one of the greatest movies of all time: Casablanca. The movie itself is nothing short of spectacular and most of it plays out in Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco. The only problem however, is that the movie wasn’t based on the city at all and was actually filmed 6,000 miles away in Hollywood. Tourists seeking the Casablanca of Bogart and Bergman have been sorely disappointed for decades… but that doesn’t mean that Morocco is not a spectacular beauty well worth visiting, because it is. Although most people think of Casablanca when they think of Morocco, in reality Morocco beyond the country’s largest city is enchanting and sometimes breathtaking.

Hugh and Angie have just returned from three weeks in Morocco and have once again found it to be extraordinary. Arriving in Marrakesh from Amsterdam, they made their way to a Riad, which is a house or building within a (usually) nondescript walled compound. This wall typically provided families with privacy and protection from the sometimes harsh Moroccan winds. These compounds typically have a fountain or some sort of water feature as well as a garden or small grove of citrus trees. This one had all that and a white cat too!

One of the first places they visited was the Jemaa el-Fnaa, the open market (souq) in the city’s old Medina quarter. There you can find everything from Berber storytellers to snake charmers to booths for Henna tattoos. This souq is also famous for old jewelry made by nomads and a wide variety of unique weavings.

Next, it was over to another of Marrakesh's jewels, the spectacular Majorelle Garden, a 12 acre botanical garden that was owned by Yves Saint-Laurent and where his ashes were scattered after his death in 2008.

They found much to do and see beyond Marrakesh too. They visited Fes, a city in the north central part of the country famous for its museums and exquisite wood carving. Fes was actually the capital city until it was replaced by Marrakesh 600 years ago. (Marrakesh in turn was supplanted by the current capital, Rabat, in 1912.) Fes’ most famous feature is the Medina of Fes, the city’s ancient quarter. Although no longer the capital city, Fes and the Medina remain the cultural center of the country.

Another wonder of Morocco is Volubilis, home of ruins of ancient Berber and Roman cities situated between Fes and Rabat. Although looted in the 18th century, much of the treasure remains and important pieces of the town are now accessible after being excavated by the French in the late 19th century. Among the town’s most compelling attractions: myriad mosaics and… stork nests! UNESCO deems Volubilis: “An exceptionally well preserved example of a large Roman colonial town on the fringes of the Empire”. Well worth visiting!

Volubilis is located about 20 miles from the city of Meknes, another erstwhile capital city. (For a short period during the reign of the Sultan Moulay Ismail at the turn of the 17th century.)  The walled city boasts impressive Spanish / Moorish roots that seamlessly blend the European and Islamic architecture.

Next it was on to the beach! Essaouira is a city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast that has been inhabited for over 5,000 years. The city has been a great draw for centuries because its bay is protected by the island of Mogador, making its harbor particularly attractive, which in turn turned the city into a dynamic trading hub between Europe and North Africa. The Jewish quarter of the city contains many old synagogues as Jews settled in the city and facilitated trade with Europe.

Finally it was on to one of the most unexpected jewels in Morocco, Ifrane. Located 5,400 ft. above sea level in the Atlas Mountains, modern Ifrane was established by the French in 1928. It is a resort skiing town – in the winter – and a refuge from the heat in the summer. Planned according to the “garden city” models that were in vogue in the twenties and thirties, the city has many tree lined streets, chalet style houses and many gardens.

And of course there are the souvenirs... Hugh and Angie brought back a plethora of jewelry from a variety of places around the country.  Some old, some new and all interesting - a few are pictured nearby.  We will be adding to our website over the next month.  Jewelry will even have its own section, and it will include the pieces in this blog!

So the next time you curl up on your couch and watch Casablanca, go ahead and dream about visiting Morocco, just don’t expect to see the black and white images on your screen. Be prepared to be dazzled by the bright colors, ancient ruins and a country full of breathtaking views.

Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh, a 12 acre botanical garden owned by the late Yves Saint-Laurent 

Tajines, earthenware pots which dishes are cooked in and served on

This is a dish that is often cooked in a Tajine, including goat, vegetables and dates

Morocco's open air markets feature a wide variety of spices from across the Africa and Asia

Interior garden of hotel in Fes

Hotel that has been turned into a museum in Fes

Blue Gate into the Medina of Fes - a UNESCO World Heritage site

Another gate into the Medina

Morocco is known for its beautiful tile work

Above are some of the brilliant colors used in tile making and below is a tile being decorated

Morocco is known for its abundant dates

A delicately laced balcony

An Amariya, a traditional wedding chair for the bride and groom and carried by 4 strong men.

This is one of the last leather dyeing facilities that remains in Marrakesh

Volubilis, the ancient Roman city located about an hour west of Fes

Storks are common in Morocco, even taking up residence in Volubilis

Volubilis is famous for its many well preserved Roman mosaics

City gate in Meknes

Beautiful interior of a mosque

Mosque pictured from the door as entering was prohibited

Dromedary camels (the one hump kind) are common in Morocco

If you've ever heard the term "Goats in Trees" or seen the movie... it really happens.  They are searching for fruits in a Argan tree

This path is laid down at the bottom of a canyon carved out of the Morocco desert.  

Entrance to the studio where desert scenes from many Hollywood movies have been shot, including a little movie called Gladiator.  

The view from above Agadir, an Atlantic coast city about 125 miles south of Marrakesh 

A fort in Essaouira, a town about 40 miles north of Agadir

A sea of blue fishing boats tied up in Essaouira 

Interior shot of a riad in Essaouira - riad is a house or garden with an interior garden or courtyard

The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakesh

The resort town of Ifrane, with it's alpine climate in the Atlas mountains.
(Photograph: Trevor Hampel of Trevor's Travels)

A wall featuring a wide variety of local jewelry in Marrekesh

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Beauty, Ideas and Dreams inspired by Veranda

Even in the digital age there are still thousands of actual, tangible magazines printed every month.  Most of them will find their way back to the recycling plant having never even been opened.  Some however, are worth their weight in gold for the beauty they capture, the ideas they generate, and the dreams they inspire.  Veranda is one of those... and below are some great vignettes from the March - April 2016 issue.

Peaceful Kingdom
Interior Design by Ann Holden & Photography by Max Kim-Bee

High Impact
Interior Design Nick Olsen & Photography by Joshua McHugh

Personal Best - Including cover
Interior Design by Jane Hawkins Hoke & Photography by Annie Schlechter

Return Engagement
Interior Design and Photography by Vicente Wolf