When I close my eyes, months after my journey in Morocco ended, I can still feel the sand of the Sahara between my toes and conjur up the smells of the spice souk in the medinas of Marrakech and Meknes. I can still taste my favorite tagine, a mixture of meatballs covered with fried egg over a bed of spicy tomato sauce. Yet it is the color and the pattern of Morocco that I can most clearly visualize and which I think I will never, ever forget. So many travelers fuss over the colors of India, claiming that the dirt and the grime of the cities will not even faze me for the glory of all the colored saris and vibrant flowers. Perhaps that is why, because it gets less attention, I was unprepared for Morocco.
It began where I began, in the Palais de la Bahia in Marrakech. That’s where I first noted the patterns. Confused, because they seemed more Spanish than Arab at first I slowly began to understand something which I would fully comprehend later. Morocco as a whole has a quality called to my mind the cliche term: “melting pot,” because it has been conquered and ruled by so many different groups of people over the centuries — in its art and architectural details are reflected all of the different cultures that have now combined to be one country.
In Marrakech, there are Moorish, Berber, Arabic and Andalusian details all coexisting together. In the ‘Blue City’ of Chefchaouen, which was once held by Spain and where Spanish is still spoken by residents, there is an undeniable Mediterranean connection that weaves its way throughout the colors of the ocean and sky which permeate everything.
Fez is a very Islamic city whose decorative elements seemed to me to be the most truly Moroccan of any city we visited. In the Sahara dunes of southern Morocco, near Merzouga, is where I felt the most clearly that we were in fact on the continent of Africa because the details seemed more tribal than anywhere else we roamed.
Meanwhile, all throughout the Atlas Mountains, it was the weaving of Berber women which most tempted me as a shopper. Beautiful rugs with colors more vibrant than most women’s eyeshadow palettes and patterns that alternated between overly simplistic and stunningly intricate, called to me and begged me not to be left behind.
If you’re researching Morocco for your next trip, it won’t be difficult to come across advice about the tagines, camels, souks, snake charmers and the best ways to rock a kasbah, but when you do finally arrive in the country — keep your eyes open to the insight you’ll gain from the color and the pattern as well!