With the intention of finding traditional Moroccan weavers whose creations reflect the ancestral expression of their unique culture we landed in Marrakech.
Pushing through the busy medinas and past the tourist potholes we found ourselves dizzied by the sea of deception and thirsting for truth. Endless storefront and speaking with multiple merchants seemed to go in circles. The reality of where the handicrafts come from, how and where they were made and by whome were all still a mystery. Inconsistencies in the origins of goods, canned pitches and methods, insistent salesmen with similar tactics seemed to have all gone to the same sales school.
We left Marrakech and began our journey across the diverse landscapes of this stunning country. With a desire to experience all aspects of heritage we made our way to Ait Ben Haddou. A picturesque walled village, originally restored for some of hollywoods biggest blockbusters, now maintained as a Unesco world heritage site. Hassan, a thin man with weathered skin and wide smile, dressed in a worn jellaba and blue turbin invited us out of the heat of the day into his shady, mud walled trading post. This "store", his personal collection of souvenirs from his nomadic journeys across sands and mountains tells a story of trade and travel, a tradition that transcends generations of nomadic tribes across the country. Hassan was born in the Saharan Desert to a family of nomadic Berbers.
From the land of sand and stars, where the moon is the only thing that electrifies the nights sky, he embodies nomadic desert life in all of its freedoms and hardships.
His appreciation for laughter, story telling and his knowledge of his country it's cultures and the tradition of sharing tea had us fascinated with Hassan. He shared his experience of caravanning across the Saharan Desert to the borders of Timbuktu with his family at 8 years old. He explained some of his seasonal migrations, exiting the desert to sell handicrafts, saving money only to buy supplies in town before reuniting with his family that awaits him in the desert. Salt for the camels and mules, dates, flour, sugar and of course mint tea. He shared how the nomadic game of telephone is used to pass messages, share camp locations and meeting points.
At night camels roam free and in the morning they are tracked and retrieved before moving into the next encampment. Desert caravans often stay in one place for months at a time before moving onward to the next oasis. He explained in the desert, where extreme conditions flower a daily appreciation for life, there are sacred places. Oasis's where you may drink the water and eat the dates, but nothing is to be packed away for the journey. It is a recognition and honor of the resilience of life in the face of adversity. This is the life of a Saharan Nomad. Where you may never see a watch or clock but you always have time; the appreciation for life brings celebration to meals and the sunset gives way to music and barefoot walks on the cool sand. Hassan is a free spirit and to support this freedom he is a merchant, a trader, with a tenacity for life. Even as a merchant, for him it is not about the sale, just as the caravan does not always have a destination, it is the journey, the interaction, the exchange of information and wisdom and laughter over stories and tea. It is the process of negotiation that is exciting.
We shared our vision of meeting weavers and getting to know the real morocco beyond the veil of tourism. He was eager to close his trading post doors and show us a piece of paradise he ironically called the Village of Slaves. We headed south following the ancient trade route nick named the road of 1,259 Kasbahs, to an unmarked dirt road and made a right.
Hassan provided us a window of clarity...
Zaid showed us the door...
Together we hope to return and explore a world new to us but the only way of life for those who have inherited the way of the nomad. Our vision is to share in the humanness that makes us alive, to celebrate life and resilience, dissolve boundaries and cliches.
Zaid, lives in the small mountain village of Imichil. A member of the Ait Addidou tribe, he is the first in his family to settle into a domestic lifestyle. His grandparents were fully nomadic, moving through the mountains and desert planes. His parents were semi nomadic, with a more set migration that followed the seasons but his mum still give birth to him in a top of a mountain. Although he now lives in small mountain town in the high atlas, the nomadic outlook on life and the passion for his people's culture are still in his heart. He is truly a wisdom keeper. He has a small establishment that serves as a meeting place for both tribal and neo-nomadic globe trotters that is dedicated to the preservation of a time almost lost.
Sprouting in our mind, nurturing from the heart, inspired by this encounter : authenticity makes up the roots of our character.
It is the substance from which our thoughts and actions spring. And the integrity of ones creations will only reflect the character of the creator.
Julie's words, whispered to Jordan ... :
"Just as in life their are many layers and veils that we need to look beyond to find our own story. It takes courage, and there is no manual. In courage there is discipline of observance, self critique,
I see that for whatever topics, when I start thinking I come back to a place of spiritual growth. I think this is the path of consciousness."