Beyond blue jeans and plastic, journeys into traditional Morocco

I don’t blog often enough.  I’d like to.  I write a lot of things…in my head.  They are perfect little morsels, full of wit and truth, that seem to disintegrate by the time I am sitting at the computer.  I get bloggers block often.  Blogger’s blahs.  Since I write with my real name and make only very weak attempts at veiling my identity, blogging makes me vulnerable.  I think about all the people I know from the different spheres of my life reading this, good golly!  Instead of throwing caution to the wind, I wrap it closely around me.  The more people subscribe here or stop by, the more nervous I get about the next thing I am going to write.   (Then again, as my friend aptly pointed out, I’m not exactly Oprah Winfrey, when it comes to audience size).

What makes blogging even possible, sustainable and enjoyable is the feeling that the more I write, the more my true voice emerges.  (sounds so self-indulgent it makes me cringe).  It’s great practice anyway, even if “the voice” doesn’t always show up.  People respond well to true voice, it resonates with all of us.  I may not have a huge readership, but I always feel like you all who are reading this really engage with it and respond in ways that are deep, appreciative and real.  Just take a look at the comments you all leave.

I like to read a variety of blogs.   Some are witty, self-deprecating and sardonic.  Others are excellently word-crafted, obviously written by someone with actual literary ability.  Some contain spiritual writings.  Others are gorgeously designed and well-photographed.  Some blogs have all the bells and whistles, twitter feeds, giveaways, buttons.  I didn’t use to get blogging.   Why would we put so much loving labor into something that, for the most part, we are not paid to do?  But I get it now, it’s about taking a little extra time to savor life and share it with all those who might resonate with our way of seeing.

Now I’ll show you what I actually came on here to blog about.  Believe it or not it wasn’t about blogger’s block.  It was about travelling in Morocco, and how every time I travel I really appreciate this country.  There’s so much I haven’t seen, there is a lot of natural beauty and there are people living the old traditional ways.  Blue jeans and plastic haven’t yet taken over every inch of this planet, and we need to witness as much of the old ways as we can, in my opinion.   A recent road trip took our family to Tafraout (about 5 hours south of Marrakesh).  It’s located right where the mountains meet the desert, and it contains elements of both.

In Tafraout, the houses are built on, under or around boulders.

The landscape is both desert and mountain. The color palette is pretty much earthy brown and sky blue.  The houses tend to blend into the rocks.

A couple of doors.  When I was a kid I remember a lot of doors being made of corrugated metal like this.

See the windows in this house?  We were told how in these type of houses, the two larger windows symbolize parents, while the smaller one underneath is the child.

More doors and windows, the textures are so gorgeous.

On our boulder climbing adventures we found a totally fun mushroom shaped rock.

And managed to climb into it and get a peak of the village below.

There’s not much green in the landscape, the Argane trees are the only prolific shrub.  We saw thousands of them.

Inside one of the houses, the passageways were dark and sinuous…the one below struck me as especially symbolic, full of portent.

Every house had its own storage room for secret stashes of argane nuts.

Waiting to be transformed into liquid gold.  Each family has claims to a certain number of the wild Argane trees on the hillside.  The villagers all respect this code, and the families go out and harvest the Argane seeds when they are ready.  I’d always heard that Argane seeds are collected after goats have eaten them and left them in their droppings.  It turns out that this is somewhat of an urban legend.  The locals we asked assured us that that they harvest the seeds themselves.  The goat way leaves a certain “smell” to the oil and a real connoisseur can tell by one sniff if the Argane has been through a goat or not.

This window is just beautiful.

Funny story about the owner of this shop.  Even though we were 5 hours from Marrakesh in this remote village, the shop owner recognized me, we’d been to the same junior high in Marrakesh.  It turned out to be a serendipitous encounter as he was a big help to us.  He showed us around the area and took us to see the traditional mosque he was in the process of restoring at his own expense.

At sunset we went out to see the famous Tafraout painted rocks.  It turned out that “painted rocks” wasn’t meant figuratively, like Arizona’s painted desert.  No, these were huge boulders painted garish blue and pink.  It hurt to look at them, and I refused to photograph them, except for whatever showed up in this photo.  Apparently some Belgian artist came along a while back and went out to the middle of nowhere and started this massive endeavor of painting boulders, you know, like a huge ugly art installation in the middle of God’s glorious creation.  This had the effect of drawing tourists to the area, and since that time, the locals have kept up the tradition by repainting the rocks when they fade.  My husband and I were speechless with dismay.  The rest of the landscape was really open, sandy, quiet, expansive, much like hubby’s native New Mexico.

After spending a few days in Tafraout, we went somewhere very different, Merlift beach.  Since it wasn’t tourist season, we had the town and the beach practically to ourselves.

Oh, and by the way, for those of you who read the Beirut post and this one, do you prefer to look at photos in a slideshow or just like this?

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Southern Gem

Our family of five recently took a vacation down to the south of Morocco, Agadir and the region called Souss.  It was special to be together and discover parts of Morocco we hadn’t seen before.  The kids are now at a great travelling age so there may be more and more travelling in Morocco posts on here, insha Allah.

There were a lot of gems on the trip, but as I was going through my photos this set jumped out at me.  It’s the tomb of a woman called Lalla T’ezza Semlalia.  We just came upon this in the middle of a pretty remote, deserted stretch of highway 2-lane road, and I was immediately drawn to the fact that such good care had been taken of this tomb.  In fact there is a  very large, lushly ornate mosque there that serves as a traditional center of Islamic learning.  I was heartened (in the very literal sense of the term) to see that this sort of center does indeed exist in Morocco.  We were told that anyone who wants to study intensively is welcome and will be given food and a blanket.

The Souss region is largely arid, mountainous, empty and open.  It’s gets more and more desert as you go south.  The Islam there is very traditional and strong, and seeing this tomb/mosque/school complex I got a feel for why this region produces many fine scholars.

What a jewel in the rough, no?

I’ve never seen anything quite like this, certainly not in the countryside.  A beautiful place to remember God and ask Him for a measure of virtue, mercy and nearness to Him, as He granted this woman.

The Arabic inscription on her tomb and also on the wall reads “every soul shall taste death”.  Although some may not choose to dwell on death, I appreciate any reminder, as one of my main goals in this life is to work towards what is called “husn al-khatima”, a good ending.

And then there was the mosque, with a large prayer hall inside and a very nice school and dormitory.

The serene interior, quiet now between prayer times.

I don’t know anything about Lalla T’ezza Semlalia, and didn’t manage to find anyone to ask in our short visit.  I’d be thrilled if someone who read this blog actually knows a story or two or about her.  Please share!

 

Road trip snapshots

Road trip in Morocco means roadside cafe tajines.  The best ones are prepared in the morning and slow cooked on charcoal for a good 3 or 4 hours.

Onions, meat, veggies and olives.  My favorite part is the caramelized/burned onions that you scrape off the bottom of the tajine.  When I was pregnant with my firstborn I craved nothing more than one of these beauties…alas roadside tajines are not common in California.

Agadir is one of Morocco’s newest cities.  An earthquake in 1960 completely destroyed the city.  Since then it’s been rebuilt, and it’s retained a newish, cleanish aura.  We went there at the end of December and found the resort town eerily empty, not the usual bustle of sun-seeking tourists.  Welcome to the worldwide recession folks.

I love a good stone/adobe wall.   Solid, real, beautiful.  Whenever I see one I get a good look, because this building technique is fast disappearing, giving way to the fast, cheap and durable cinder block.

Along a dusty alley in Southern village I discovered this giant bag full of Argan shells.  Once you go south of Marrakesh you see a LOT of Argan trees and the oil is sold everywhere.  You’ve heard this all before, but let’s give a recap on why Argan oil is such a high-profile oil.  For one, the trees only grow in Morocco and in some areas of Mexico.   And it’s supposed to be great for you, whether on your skin or on your plate.  I use Argan oil on my skin on a regular basis and the thing I like most about it is it’s a dry, non-greasy type of oil, unlike olive oil for instance.   It’s good, not miraculous, but good.

The Poetry of Plastic

Plastic is everywhere, and if you live in Marrakesh, you are constantly reminded of that fact.  I don’t in fact think that Moroccans consume more plastic than elsewhere, but for some reason our trash is just more visible to us, it’s not all neatly hidden in landfills.

For me, plastic is just another thing on my list of things to feel guilty about.  I always forget to take my shopping bags with me so I end up lugging things home in micas.  On the rare occasion I refuse a plastic bag, the shopkeeper will get this amused look on his face .  This unconventional foreigner is going to walk home with her loaves of bread all exposed to the elements and to people’s curious eyes.  What a rebel.  At home we have a special cupboard whose sole purpose is to house all the plastic bags we bring home.

So when I stumbled on an art show under the theme of MICA (plastic in Arabic) I was intrigued.  I was walking in Casablanca, which is a highly unpleasant and yet energizing experience.  I happened to walk by a place called Villa des Arts and dropped in to see what it was all about.  Why am I bothering to blog about it?  Well for one, I don’t get out to many art shows, so I found this inspirational in its pure playfulness and freedom of imagination.  Granted I prefer classical beauty to this type of art show, it’s nonetheless creative and funky.  This post fulfills the artsy cultural quota for this otherwise straight talking, plain Jane blog.

If you are an artist and you ever run out of inspiration, don’t panic!  Grab the nearest thing to you: a flip-flop, some pencil shavings or a plastic bottle cap.  Now multiply times a million.  Voila!  Instant art show!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If plastic could talk…it would be singing this ditty:

See above for instructions for instant art show.   The commonplace item reproduced here for shock and awe effect is none other than tofita, the world’s cheapest candy (1 dirham  or 10 cents will get you 10 of these).   Don’t quite know how this relates to plastic, and I think I don’t want to know. 

As hard as I try to appreciate the random beauty of this, and not apply my bias against trash, I just can’t.  Can you?

 

I do appreciate that someone took a fresh look at trash bags washed up on the beach, I really do.  It’s still gross.  I’ve walked on these beaches. My kids swim in this.  

 

 

Something else to discover:

 

Then again, maybe it’s all a matter of gaining the right perspective:

 

Feel free to share your own feelings on plastic, trash, art shows, art shows made of plastic trash, beaches, or gaining perspective, in the comments!

Essaouira, Morocco: a Sanity Break

Marrakesh is a bustling, energetic, beautiful city, no doubt.  I find I appreciate it most by escaping on a regular basis.  A mere 3 hours southeast lies a sweet little fishing village by the name of Essaouira.  It’s as charming as the guide books say, because in Essaouira you can:

  • Eat fish so fresh it basically jumped out of the ocean and onto the grill.
  • Walk fearlessly in the traffic-free zone of the old city and markets, so liberating when you have precious young ones with you.
  • Speaking of young ones, ours spent all day in the ocean.  They only came out for food or, with great reluctance, when the sun went down.  It’s a famous surf spot too.
  • Shop with very little hassle.  This means a lot to me coming from Marrakesh where the shopkeepers’ persistence is more of a deterrent than an invitation to buy.

The port at sunset (to take this picture I had to actually turn away from lifeguarding the kids as they frolicked in the waves.  They survived my momentary neglect):

The view from our hotel window.  Riad Mimouna.  At high tide it felt as if the whole place could just float away.  The sound of the ocean is purifyingly primordial.

morocco blog essaouira beach view

One little sunburned monkey smiling with all his might:

essaouria morocco blog

Most of the remaining photos are organized under the theme of, wait for it, arches.  I came up with that.

essaouira morocco blog

Outside the hotel.  The bicycle made this snapshot worth taking, for some reason.

essaouira morocco blog

The hotel courtyard…

morocco travel blog

The cart used to transport luggage through the narrow street.  This one is especially festive.  I love when attention to detail is put into the simplest things, like this:

morocco travel blog

The hotel courtyard again..

morocco travel blog

Essaouira “roofscape”:

morocco travel blog

This next photo is a nod to the cliche photos of the Famous Blue Doors of Essaouira.  What you don’t see is the hoard of tourists behind me taking the exact same shot.  Pondering these doors got me to thinking of Leonard Coehn’s moody song from the ’70’s Famous Blue Raincoat.  The mind wanders.

morocco travel blog

A week

This last week I was honored by a visit from Christina.  We had met in Amman where we were both attending the Danish-Arab women bloggers workshop.  Christina and I found that although we were from very different worlds, we both had similar curiosity about the world and each other which inspired many conversations.  Luckily, the wonderful Danish organizations that funded our workshop also funded the bloggers to spend a week in another city.  So Christina and I were able to continue our conversations, this time in Marrakesh.

Coming from sub-zero temperatures in Denmark, Christina appreciated many things in Marrakesh that I take for granted.  Birds singing in the morning, smells of lemon trees and the daily appearance of the sun.

We did a little site seeing too.  Made more interesting (in my opinion, and I think hers too) by the fact that we took between 1 and 3 of my kids with us wherever we went.  The children have a way of bringing a place to life and interacting with it in new and creative ways.

At Jardins Majorelle for example, the boys set up their playmobils in different places.  A few people spotted them and promptly took photos of them (the playmobils, not the boys).  It was like a happening.

jardin majorelle marrakesh blog
jardin majorelle marrakesh morocco blog

Group photo of the now famous playmobils:

marrakesh majorelle gardens

Group photo of Christina, Amin and Yousef:

marrakesh morocco majorelle jardinsThank you Christina for sharing this fun, chaotic, sunny week with us.   You can visit Christina’s blog here, she also blogged about her visit…in Danish.

PS: last day or so to vote for this blog over at www.moroccoblogs.com I also voted for Itto’s Living Faith under Best Culture Blog, and for The World is her Playground under Best Expat Blog.  Thank you for all your support.

Edited: Ok I guess the voting is closed.  Thanks for trying.

A tour of Marrakesh

I had a chance to go on a great tour of Marrakesh a few days ago.  We hit all the major tourist sites, which of course I almost never do, but I should because it was an enriching and beautiful experience.  It renewed my connection with this city that I’ve called home for so long.  I’m sorry I’m not great with dates and history, if I don’t take notes then it evaporates almost instantaneously off the surface of my brain.  Not to mention the late, late hour that the blogging itch strikes me, which is not a peak time for cerebral activity.  I’m going to have to fall back on good old “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

But let me just say this, these places are beautiful in and of themselves.  And if you can find a great guide to connect you with the richness of Moroccan history, so much the better.

These first two photos are at Medrasa Ben Yousef, which was one of the first examples of governmentally institutionalized learning in 1550.   Before that, students would simply find a teacher and learn what they wanted to learn.  This Islamic college was hailed by some as a positive initiative, and decried by others who felt the government should stay out of the business of education.  I guess the home-schooling debate is not as recent as we think!  Anyway, this college fell out of use in 1960, after the French had installed their own educational system in Morocco.  Sigh.

Marrakesh Morocco blogMy mother, who is an artist and has studied Islamic art, points out that this following picture contains four out of the five elements of Islamic art.  And they are (from bottom to top): complex star polygons, arabesques, repeat linear patterns and calligraphy.  Brownie points if you can name the fifth element of Islamic art, not in this picture.

Marrakesh Morocco blog

The Menara basin and pavilion…used to be an swimming school…and now is a great place to catch a view like this with the Atlas mountains as a backdrop, or feed some of the colossal fish that swim in the murky waters.

Marrakesh Morocco blog "Menara gardens"

Marrakesh Morocco blog Menara pavilion

The Koutoubia mosque, which I talked about before:

Marrakesh Morocco blog mosque islam

And here are some of the storks that live on the wall of the Bahia palace.  Stork in Arabic is “laq-laq”, and if you’ve ever heard the sound a stork makes, you’ll understand exactly where the name comes from.

Marrakesh Morocco blog Bahia palace

PS. Voting is still ongoing over at www.moroccoblogs.com If you can spare 30 seconds, please hop over there and vote for this very blog “Life in Marrakesh” under Best Overall Blogs.  Thank you, shoukran, merci.

Eva Longoria and the Billboard Bandits

Eva Longoria is no stranger to attention, no shrinking violet.  I do not even know who she is, and yet I know who she is.  Maybe because her perfect bronzed effigy looms over me at the supermarket, singing a siren song of miracle dream creams, secret potion lotions from the Oracle of L’Oreal?

(Thank you, but I think that  for me to look anything like the image on that poster, scientists would have to splice actual L’Oreal genes straight into my DNA.  After that, I’d have to morph into a body that is 10 feet tall and 6 inches wide.  I’ll pass.)

So when Eva showed up on the side of the road outside of  Marrakesh, well it’s no surprise that her presence caused a bit of a stir.

Imagine you are driving through peaceful Berber country, passing mud villages, olive orchards, and farmers harvesting their year’s supply of wheat.   Men and women’s voices rise through the sleepy sunlit air, singing traditional harvest songs, sheep roam in search of shreds of pasturage, an old man in a jellaba rides by on a donkey.  Nothing could mar this bucolic serenity.

Then, all of a sudden, why it’s Giant Eva Longoria.  Weird.

Wait, there she is again.

Oh, it’s just some kind of real estate thing.  Bah!  Gentrification!  I turn my nose up at you.

No,  you’re kidding me, I’ve been driving for 20 minutes, and I see ten billboards of Eva?  Because I missed the first nine.  But the tenth one really drove it home.  Why if this condo development is good enough for Eva, then what are we all waiting for?  Hurry up good people, and sign on the dotted line, because there are only 1,000 apartments and 400 villas left, and they’re going fast.  (I googled it, those numbers are factual.  So if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live in a beehive, give it a whirl).

Am I the only one who finds these adds in poor taste?  Folks, it’s plain old cultural insensitivity.  Berber culture is very traditional.  Cleavage, as shown in the photo, is considered a private part of the body.  Ok, I realize that for most of my western readers, and even my Moroccan urban dwelling readers, this photo is very tame, it’s ho-hum in our flesh-image saturated world.  Female bodies remain the go-to advertising commodity, with less and less left to the imagination.  (In fact, these same adds, along with the rest of the ladies from Desperate Housewives, are plastered all over Casablanca, and they don’t seem to have caused any ripples.)

But try to look at it from an Other perspective.  Imagine your eyes have not yet filled with such imagery.  Imagine that someone put up a giant billboard in your neighborhood, showing body parts that you consider private.  How would you react?

Eva Longoria billboard graffiti

Would you, say, sneak out in the middle of the night with a can of black paint and go on a crazy daredevil mission demonstrating your community’s protest against said billboard?  Because that’s what someone did to Eva.  All ten of her.

And if you are the advertising mastermind behind the Eva adds, would you get the point, and go with something a little more culturally appropriate?  Or would you photoshop 2 inches more tank top onto Eva’s cleavage, and pay for another 10 slightly more covered Evas to be re-plastered onto said billboards?  Because that’s what someone did.  Improbable, but true.

Eva Longoria billboard Marrakesh

(You can see the next billboard not too far off).

So everyone is happy, right?  The advertisers still get to associate their condos with glamorous, glorious Eva, and the locals can stop making such a fuss now that her shirt is hiked a few millimeters in the front.  End of story?

Wrong, this was just the first battle in the war that was waged between these two parties, whom I’ll call Ad Machine and Billboard Bandits.

The Billboard Bandits strike again.  No paint this time, but the billboards are in tatters when they are done.

Next move by Add Machine: a new add featuring a somewhat bizarre looking couple, meant to be Moroccan, each looking in the opposite direction.  (subtext: these condos are for couples that are drifting apart?)

Billboard Bandits, it’s your move.  Sure enough, the adds are again shredded.  Methinks this is no longer about cleavage.

Last attempt by Add Machine, this time they go with the most benign and forgettable add possible.  So forgettable that I can’t even remember it, see?  I think it’s a photo of a balcony, with of course, the snow-capped Atlas rising majestic in the background.

Soon I will take that drive once more and see if this last billboard has survived.  I can’t stand the suspense, can you?

But first, lets take a moment to analyze these events.  Because it would be wrong to think that this issue is just about showing the human body in ways that the local population finds degrading to women.  Certainly that is a mistake on the part of the advertisers, who should not use the same concept on a dusty country road as in the heart of a worldly metropolis.  However, I believe that the thorn runs deeper than that.  It’s the juxtaposition of two completely different realities that is so unsettling.  On the one hand, we have this world of image and fantasy, of unimaginable riches and luxuries, of ersatz culture that attempts to package and commodify the Moroccan experience with no soul whatsoever.  All of it a vacuous Orientalist version of a Morocco pandering to the every whim of the upper crust.  A vision of Morocco that would not hesitate, for example, to introduce alcohol to a valley that has been dry forever, with no thought given to how it might destroy the lives of the locals.

On the other hand, we have the traditional lives of the Moroccan Berbers.  Berber families that are still connected to the natural cycles in the most primordial of ways.  Whose actions and intentions stem from a deep faith in God, enjoying the contentment that ensues.  Whose meals are bread from their own land, olive oil from their own trees, served in clay dishes from the Ourika river, sitting on rag rugs they’ve made with their own hands from scraps of old clothes.  There is nothing more real, beautiful, spiritual, sustainable.  They, and all the traditional peoples of the world, are the original “organic, local and slow” ways that we crave and long to return to.

So Eva Longoria et al, you are more than welcome in this old and beautiful world, but on its terms, not yours.  If your goal is to use and plunder, then you will be met with resistance.  Bring with you the best of what your culture has to offer the world.  Then take the time to learn about Morocco, its beautiful people, its old ways that are still alive under the strain of globalization.  Peace and grace are yours for the finding.

Photography tips by Moroccomama

Tip #1:  There’s never a bad time to take a picture.  Let go of perfectionism.  I used to think that the only time to take a picture was early morning or late afternoon (when the light is warm and very yellowy).  Certainly never at high noon.  I used to hold back from taking pictures, because someone’s face wasn’t washed, or because we were in the car and it would be blurry or have a glare.

But you know, I’ve never regretted taking a picture, no matter how harsh, messy, blurry or glare-marred.

For example: on our trip to the desert, I was somewhat despondent because the sky was hazy, in fact it was the exact same hue as the asphalt ribbon that unspooled before us for hours.  I also kept thinking, let’s wait until we stop and I’ll take some pics.

However, in the end, I realized that I’d better just go for it.

I’m thankful that I took these pictures, even from a moving car, even with the ashen sky.

Tip #2: Pictures of people are always interesting.

Tip #3: Get some perspective, and a focal point. I like photos with some lines that draw you in and take you somewhere.

Tip #4:  Find something incongruous. Like this Dodger’s fan on his moped, about to drive through an elaborate gate in the desert town of (I’m guessing here) Rissani.  Ok, I know he’s not a real Dodger’s fan. Judging from the things  I’ve seen written on shirts here, I’m guessing most people don’t know what their shirts say.

Tip #5: Don’t discount the obvious. When I was in the desert, everything was so picture perfect I didn’t know where to start.  So, this captures the basics: some full-length palm trees, the sky, the dunes, the tents.

I don’t have a tip for this one.  Maybe something about shadow and light.  These were all the camel guides in their tent eating breakfast.  Remember that while the rest of us rode on camels for 1.5 hours, these guys walked it.   Sometimes they make the trek several times a day.  The camels know and follow only their own guide.

Tip # 6:  Closeups are good.  And don’t be shy. This young man was dressed in a jellaba and turban, selling some pretty geodes and necklaces.  Living in Morocco, I have an aversion to many of the people trying to sell stuff to tourists.  I always check out the person’s vibe before approaching.  If he is too eager or aggressive, I don’t bother.  I look to the person first, merchandise second.  This guy passed my very stringent judgement of character.  We weren’t looking to buy anything though.

I hope these tips are useful.  In full disclosure I must add that I only came up with them just now.

Do you have any tips to share?

El Jadida: the mo’rockin beach

Eight years ago, give or take a few days, was the most amazing, painful, spiritual, mind blowing experience of my life.  It was the day, or night, that my daughter, Karima was born.  She was born at home, in our house in Marrakesh, after 38 or so hours of back labor.  If you know what that means, then you know.  If not, then ignorance is bliss.  I’d like to say I had an amazing, natural, birth, with lots of candles and self-empowerment…But the home birth was actually pretty old school.  My 70 year old Swiss midwife, arrived with, I’m not kidding, a small black leather bag full of medical equipment, a la 1800’s doctor making house visits.  She settled in the next room with her knitting and said to call when I needed her…

But really this is not the story I’m telling now.  That whole story was amazing and deserves its own post, perhaps.

What I’m trying to set the scene for here is…it’s Karima’s birthday!  And how do you celebrate an 8 year old girl’s birthday?  Do birthdays simply get more and more elaborate?  More goodies in the goodie bags, more complicated games, fancier canapes (junky enough for kids, yet still appealing to adults), more expensive presents?  It’s hard not to play the game of up the ante.  It’s all pretty overwhelming, for the parents, and especially for the birthday kid.

That’s why I pre-emptively suggested the following to Karima right after her 7 year old birthday party: “hey, next year, what do you think, instead of a party, you could pick one or two special friends and have a really cool experience?”.  She was into it…and so, this year, I’m happy to say, we had the best ever, beach weekend birthday celebration.

We packed our kids in, along with a couple more that we borrowed from neighbors and friends, and drove two/three hours towards the coast, from Marrakesh to El Jadida.  Some friends of ours have a cottage right on the beach, and while it’s rented during the summer season, it’s empty now.  Score!  How lucky is that?

El Jadida beach, or Sidi Bouzid, was still quiet at this time of year.  Somehow, it’s not a touristy beach, we saw only Moroccans there.

The kids braved the pounding surf, dug holes in the sand to see the water come up.  Then there were the kites.  When you have five kids, who are maybe a little cranky from a long day, trying to fly a kite is an impossibly stressful activity.  So much expectation, such unsatisfactory flying experiences.  Nevermind.  There was still the sunset over the Atlantic, the excited joy the kids had in sharing everything together, the rocks and shells they reported back with periodically, the pleasure of eating together out of one big plate (lunch was a veggie platter, a giant omelette and a fruit platter), the showers and hopeless battle against sand everywhere, the sheer craziness of spending 3 hours in the car together.

As a parent, so much of your own happiness derives from your children’s happiness.  For me, it’s seeing my kids being kind to each other, spending time outdoors, finding creativity, sharing willingly, engaging the world and being engaged by it.

And once again, it’s my midnight blogging hour, rushing to post before postponement happens once again, and although I’m never quite as expressive or careful with my words as I could be during normal hours, I guess it’ll have to do.

Karima, still a little sleepy:

Pure beauty:

An overcast morning:

Some jewels:

The kite was in the air for a nanosecond, everyone was elated: