My original travel journals were split across August Phoenix Hats and a few other websites. February 2021 marked the 12th anniversary of the beginning of my travels. To keep myself sane during the pandemic lockdown, I started reissuing my journals as Director’s Cuts, with the complete text and additional photos.
My travels have taken me through Italy, Turkey and Spain. In 2017 I hit the top of my bucket list with a belated birthday gift to myself – a guided trip to Morocco. Today I would become entranced with both a famous kasbah, and a Berber carpet loom.
After spending the morning at the Ikelene Mosque in Tinghir and the stunning Todra Gorge, we drive through some pretty stark contrasts in landscape before arriving in Skoura. We check in to the Ait Ben Moro, an 18th century kasbah that has been converted into a guest house.
The rooms are simple but elegant, with thick walls, reed and beam ceiling and stone floor that echoed the architectural elements of the mosque we had just visited.
There’s a carpet shop next door. Aziz, the hotel concierge, takes me and starts to show me carpets. I select a small blue one. Aziz introduces me to his wife, Manar, who is the weaver. But instead of finishing the transaction, she motions to me to join her at her loom.
What are the odds that I would have a second chance to weave on a carpet loom in Morocco?
After about an hour of working the loom with Manar, I turn at the sound of Mark’s voice. “It figures we would find you here. If we’re missing Heather, we just start looking for a carpet loom.” It’s time to go visit a nearby historical site. I make a hard choice between loom and yet another kasbah, but the kasbah wins. “I will be back to buy this carpet” I motion to Manar. (See the weaving details at August Phoenix Hats.)
Aziz escorts us along the back side of the hotel, past a tomb of a holy person who’s name I cannot remember, and through fields of beans and alfalfa bordered by irrigation ditches and dotted with olive and pomegranate trees. He points to charred trunks of date palms, and says that the farmers use fire to treat a parasite. Mohamed looks up and then starts hunting the ground for things to throw, and after several tries, dislodges a cluster of fresh dates, which he and I knosh on with relish. A little further on, we come to a wide dry riverbed, which Aziz says is their road to Mecca. Beyond the dried riverbed, peeking out from a palm grove, is the most remarkable building I have yet seen – the Kasbah Amridil.
This 17th century citadel is primarily a museum, and one of the most famous buildings in Morocco, even being featured on the old 50 dirham note. Some scenes from ‘Laurence of Arabia’ were filmed here. We meet another guide, who walks us through an entrance in the ornate walls, and starts our tour in a courtyard filled with artifacts which include an olive press, several clay cook pots and lanterns, and a form used for making the rammed earth walls. selects a guide, who starts our tour in a courtyard filled with artifacts which include an olive press, clay cook pots and lanterns, and a form used for making the rammed earth walls.
We return to the Ait Ben Moro through the bean and alfalfa fields, and Doug and I go back to the carpet shop. Aziz assists in finalizing my purchase, and then extends an invitation from Manar to join her for tea in their home. We walk to the one story building that he points out, and Manar invites us in. She shows us her kitchen, an immaculate room with glass-fronted cabinetry and modern appliances, and the bathroom which has both Western and Turkish style toilets.
She then leads us to a room that is the same style as Said’s home – low cushioned couches lining unadorned white walls, a ceiling edged with heavy crown moldings and sporting medallions that support hanging lamps. A low round table covered with two tablecloths is already set with tea and dried fruit. Soon the table is covered with bread, jam, honey and butter, and Manar and her mother Fatna join us. A young woman who is a recent university graduate tells us in flawless English that everything we are being served, was produced on their land. We also learn that in spite of having a modern kitchen, Fatna continues to bake bread every morning in the wood-fired oven in their back yard. “Tastes better,” she says.
t was such an honor to be invited into this home. The rug Manar wove and which I would carry home on the plane (not trusting it to checked baggage), now has special significance and I will treasure it always. I endeavor to start learning Berber so I can speak with her directly when I return to Morocco.
And now I want to buy a carpet loom…
See a few more of my photos on Pinterest.