Category Archives: Photography

Fes and Meknes

Advertisements
Tagged ,

En silence avec ton ombre

A friend recently passed on a piece of advice: Fuis ton ombre, il te suit. Suit ton ombre, il te fuit. Flee your shadow and it will follow. Follow your shadow, and it will flee. 

The symbolic meaning of the shadow has been a cognitive presence in my life  since it first came to me in a dream back in 2009. I have never forgotten the power of that dream, in which a voice urged me to beware of my shadow. I have returned to this dream time and again seeking to analyze and re-analyze its meaning. According to psychologist Carl Jung, the shadow represents our dark side and our instinctual self. Though it often appears in nightmares, its presence in deeply valuable. The shadow has been said to represent a goal that you harbor, and its primal energy will help you conquer obstacles. Therefore, my dream was not as I first perceived it–a warning–but rather, it was telling me to cultivate an acute awareness of my inner most desires and goals.

As my friend recounted this tid-bit of Jungian wisdom to me, she explained that it applied in all aspects of life including money, relationships, and your life’s purpose. At first I wasn’t sure if I agreed. How can people succeed if they do not actively pursue their dreams? However, as I’ve pondered this a bit more, I’ve begun to find some logic in her statement. This does not mean that I believe in lethargy, but that I find  something must be said about an unnaturally forced pursuit. Just as we can’t catch our shadow, neither can we chase down something that is not meant to be. If we are forcing something to happen for the sake of satisfying our ego, we will not attain what we desire.  What I did not agree with, however, was the idea of fleeing from our shadow. To flee is to deny, and to deny will only generate negativity. What I believe is that in stillness we gather all the clues we need in order to be fully present and aware in our bodies. If we can sit  in silence and cultivate awareness towards our life’s purpose, our inner most desires and our goals, the universe will naturally conspire to help us attain them. It is when  you are still that you can be one with your shadow, and you are capable of dialoguing with it.

In suit, here are some photographs of the Medina in Salé, Morocco. On the day I shot these photos I sought to capture glimpses of my shadow and the shadows of others.

Amen, Right On, Shalom, Saalam, Namaste,

Liz

Need anything from the hanooot, eh? The little Moroccan conveniences.

One of my favorite local conveniences here in Morocco is called a hanut (pronunciation: hanoot). A hanut is the Moroccan equivalent to a quickie mart, and there are multiple on a single city block, which offer a plethora of quick and convenient buys. I love the idea of the hanut for a variety of reasons, including it’s pronunciation, which I believe is best pronounced by Canadians.

More seriously, however, I love the idea of small businesses in Morocco. Everyone here dabbles in a little bit of everything. When asked, many Moroccans will tell you that their occupation is “business,” which to my American ears sounds as Shady as Slim. To their credit, however, I truly believe that Moroccans have an innate ability to network and seize opportunities; the hustlin’ spirit of entrepreneurship runs in their blood. Therefore, the hanuts, were particularly interesting to me because they take the business concept of a superstore and condense it into one small roadside market.

Image

On our street, we have two juxtaposed hanuts. We began frequenting the larger (super) one due to its relative proximity to our house, though the other one is literally a few steps further. From my doorstep to the entrance I have to walk a grand total of 50 paces. Its exquisite convenience aids my lazy cooking habits and my late night chocolate cravings. Food is not the only thing offered at the hanut, though. If you  so wish you can buy cell phone minutes, cigarettes, cleaning products, bread, toilet paper, shampoo, razors, assorted nuts, milk, propane gas, eggs, vegetables…Everything. Kolshi as they say in Darija.

I love the melange of products, the small local environment, and of course my hanut friends. My interactions in broken beyond repair Moroccan or Berber languages with the hanut boys have become some of my favorites. They try relentlessly to teach me the words for eggs and bread and butter, and then they humor me when I pretend to have understood. They never (openly) judge me when I show up in my pajamas looking for milk or eggs, and they have even gone out of their way to retrieve products from neighboring hanuts if they are lacking. I’ve developed a sense of fierce loyalty to my hanut and would now go out of my way to shop at their store even if it wasn’t convenient, just because I enjoy seeing their smiling faces thrice daily.

Last and least, because I can never resist a good metaphor, I like to think of the country of Morocco as a hanut. Aside from it’s obvious inconvenient distance from home, the country itself if fabulously convenient. Here, I feel like I can have it all with small compromise. Morocco, is a super synthesis of all my interests: Africa, France and the Middle East. Include a big kid job, great roommates, a cheap standard of living, and a unique cultural experience in the equation and I’ve begun to feel like I could stay here as long as the convenience serves my higher learning. How long will that be (surely the question on my parents lips as they read this) ? Time will slowly reveal the Master plan.

Salaam.

Tagged , , ,

In Good Faith; Eid al-Adha

Muslim’s worldwide celebrated Eid al-Adha today by sacrificing sheep.  This traditional Islamic holiday celebrates the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his youngest son, Ishmael, to God. As a result of Ibrahim’s good faith, God allowed him to sacrifice a ram instead.

Let us be grateful for the sheep who gave their lives today, and reflect on the moments in which we put our complete faith in the will of the Universe.

Amen, right on, shalom, salam, namaste.

The Agdal Hillbillies

Class distinctions in Morocco are visible on many levels. I’m incredibly aware of my privilege here, and becoming evermore aware of how I fit into the hierarchy of Moroccan class, which I’ve come to find is divided by race/ethnicity, what part of town you live in, languages spoken, and annual income.

Much like in the U.S., or anywhere, really, different socio-economic classes inhabit different neighborhoods; everything from rent to the price of a tomato varies accordingly. During my last visit to Morocco in December 2011, I spent the majority of my time in the Rabat neighborhood, l’océan, which is a working class community. The streets are loud and bustling with kids playing soccer, mechanics fixing cars and small storefronts. It is not uncommon to see graffiti or feral cats or garbage in the streets. L’océan neighbors the old medina, where you can buy almost anything you could possibly need; cellphones, shower curtains, artisan crafts, fresh figs and clothing are all widely available and relatively cheap depending on your haggling abilities. Inevitably I never get the real Moroccan price for anything, but things are affordable nonetheless. In l’océan I definitely stand out amongst the Moroccans, who are not as used to seeing foreigners in their hood. In neighborhoods like l’océan and the medina a young white woman, such as myself, will get heckled, but I’ve never felt unsafe in my surroundings. My roommates, Kaitlin and Shakira, lived in l’océan last year, and they established a rapport with the locals at the souk (market) and the hanuts (small general stores). They have some serious street cred in that part of town, and their Darija (Moroccan Arabic) skills are impressive. When I landed here in Rabat this time around, I spent a few days in their apartment in l’océan, and it was pretty clear to me, that whilst they had l’océan swag, I sure as heck did not.

In l’océan, French is not the primary language spoken, Darija is. So anytime I open my mouth and to ask for something, it becomes rather clear that I have no idea what I’m doing. I have mostly been keeping my mouth shut, while Shakira and Kaitlin haggle for me in the Medina, catch cabs, and buy our vegetables. Needless to say, I need to work on my Darija so that I can do some of these things on my own. I’ve got a few dozen words and can now count to 50, but my accent is rather comical, and if anyone talks to me in Darija I just stare blankly back at them.

Though I’m pretty useless on the streets, my French speaking skills have come in handy for more formal transactions. We recently made our move from l’océan to our new (BALLER) apartment in Agdal. Agdal is what Kaitlin and Shakira call “cheeky bzaff,” which means super posh.  (Note that cheeky is a derivative of the French word “chic”). So basically I live on the “Upper East Side of Rabat.” For the girls, they are also navigating living in a new part of Rabat. Here their street cred is taken less seriously, and I can move around with much more ease speaking the language of the colonizer. My French has come in handy when we needed to turn on the water and electricity and to set up our internet and phone connections for the apartment. It has also helped to make inquiries at the bank about setting up accounts and to meet a few expats from France. But speaking French here is a politicized act, which connotes privilege. Many upper class Moroccans use French as a way to show their socio-economic status, to identify themselves as more “western” and especially to separate themselves from the working class. I am acutely aware of how I come across to different people when I speak French, and often wish that I could speak both French and Darija so that I could move more fluidly between communities. Thus, I signed up for Spanish classes at the Cervantes Language School… I guess it’s my way of waving a linguistic white flag.

Though I can blend much more easily into my surroundings here in Agdal, my teacher salary (which I will not begin see until after my first month of work) leaves me on relative budget. The cost of living here in Agdal is much more than in l’océan, so we’ve been making trips back to Kaitlin’s old stomping grounds to buy food and random household necessities like light bulbs. We bought all my furniture from the second hand market, and Kaitlin and I rode in the back of open bed truck holding my mattress and night stand down. We got honks and stares and laughs as we rolled up to our new place. I joked that we were the Agdal hillbillies, because nobody on this side of town would EVER consider buying furniture for the second hand souk. Though we might conserve money on such items we are also privy to the flip side of the coin. Labor is so obscenely cheap here that we can afford a house keeper/cook to come clean for us once a week. For literally 150dh a day (approx. 17 $) we can have a lovely Moroccan woman come keep us company. She came last week to help us get the moving grime off all of our furniture and carpets and to clean my bed (which I’m still a little nervous to sleep in). We are all so unaccustomed to the idea of hired help that we had no idea what to do with her when she showed up. Not only did we not have cleaning supplies, but we also didn’t know what was appropriate to ask her to do for us. Kaitlin ended up telling her something along the lines of, “do what you do…you’re the boss.” She was surely laughing at us on the inside.

So where do I fit in here? I would say somewhere between the lower bracket of the upper class and the high bracket of the middle class. As a young teacher with a good salary by Moroccan standards, I will be able to afford a high quality of life here with many luxuries. I am not, however, used to living highbrow life styles like those of the people I am surrounded by in Agdal, though I obviously show my privilege by the color of my skin, the languages I communicate with, and the lovely neighborhood/apartment I live in. I am cognitive, however, of this privilege, and do not take it for granted. Humdillah (thanks be to God), I am extremely grateful for the lifestyle I am able to lead here and for all the interesting cultural exchanges I will have.

Here are some photos of the new abode and my roomies!

Aix en Provence

A pictorial glimpse at my weekend in Aix.

Stay tuned ! bisous !

Moroccan magic

Everyone, Morocco is where it’s at….

I landed in Casablanca Airport on January 16th and traveled that evening to Rabat to settle down in Kaitlin’s apartment. After catching up on the events of our lives during the past three months, we set our minds to planning my 15 day stay. The first stop on our map, coincidentally, was Tarifa, Spain. Kaitlin, risking being an illegal immigrant in Morocco, has to leave the country every three months to renew her visa. So we hopped a train to Tangier, took a space ship looking boat across the Strait of Gibraltar and spent four hours in the cute port town of Tarifa. We gorged ourselves on paella and drank a pitcher of Sangria, laughed at our pitiful knowledge of the Spanish language, hit up a local bar for some live music and a few drinks and then to the boat back to Tangier. We spent the night in a beautiful Moroccan riyad, and woke up the next morning in order to make our way to our second destination, Chefchaouen.

After a terrifying bus ride up the side of the Rif Mountains, we arrived in Chefchaouen, the most picturesque little town on the face of the earth. Built into the side of a mountain, Chaouen is known for its beautiful blue medina. The people of Chaouen are the most laid back in the world… perhaps because the town home to Morocco’s leading producer of hashish. We met some characters in Chaouen to say the least. A cool artist who invited us to share a tagine for dinner. We met “Hat Man,” who sits in a little shack all day smoking hash and knitting brightly colored hats, socks, and mittens. We bought up a great deal of his socks to use as stockings for Christmas day. We also bumped into a British man named Simon, whom we’d actually also met in Tangier…small world, and he recounted to us his incredibly original idea for a recipe: 2 tortillas, sprinkled with cheese and spices, grilled in a large pan. AKA a quesadilla. We had a good laugh at his expense. Maybe they don’t eat a lot of “Mexican” food in the U.K. The rest of the time we spent hiking in the Rif Mountains and exploring the little blue enclaves. Chaouen was a dream.

We were sad to leave the little blue city, but it was necessary to get back to Rabat to prepare the house for the arrival of Kaitlin’s family. We took an early morning bus to Fez, briefly explored its world class medina and then caught the train back to Rabat. We had an incredibly early morning departure to pick up the fam in Casablanca. As soon as they arrived in Casa we got in a cab and made a 3 hour journey to Marrakech, where we were scheduled to meet our guide to take us on our Saharan desert trek.

In order to get to the desert we had to pass through the snow capped Atlas Mountains. Safe in Jamal’s 4X4, we screamed up and around the twisty mountain pass. It took a day and a half from Marrakech before we made it to the sand dunes. Upon arrival we took a sunset stroll atop our dromadaires (one-humped camels) and we sang christmas carols–as it was christmas eve.  That night we sat by a huge campfire as our Berber hosts played the drums and sang us traditional Moroccan songs. They taught us to identify constellations under the most magnificent snow globe sky. I saw Taurus for the first time and a slew of shooting stars!

We parted early Christmas morning on camel back heading for more sand dunes. Bigger sand dunes. Enormous orange f-ing sand dunes! We made it to our next campsite late in the afternoon, and we set out to climb the highest dune we could find. Making it to the top was a magnificent accomplishment and I watched the sunset with a feeling that I was on top of the world. The desert was humbling and powerful; a place where the wind erases your footsteps.

Leaving the desert took us a full day of driving (half of it was off-roading) to get back to Marrakech. We met up with a bunch of Kaitlin’s friends in the city for dinner in the tourist trap main square Djemaa el Fna. We ate enough food for 16 people. The next day we spent exploring the medina and buying souvenirs. Then we set up the apartment we had rented for a dinner and a fête. Buying alcohol in Morocco is shooma (shameful)…but it’s a key ingredient to any Locascio party 😉 so we went to the big super market to stock up.

We ended the voyage back in Rabat, and the reality of going back to France hit me pretty hard. I felt at ease in Morocco. Not only was I in the best company, but something about the country felt right. For me, Morocco is the perfect mélange of my studies and interests. I loved having the feeling that I was in the “Arab world” while also being able to communicate at any given moment in French. Traces of French Colonial identity are still very prevalent in Morocco and that fascinates me to no end. It was hard for me to leave, but I feel like I’ve been motivated to commence studying here in France. I don’t mean I’m enrolling in school, but I’m starting some projects. It’s been 7 months since I’ve done any sort of research, and I think that it’s about time that I start again. I’m in the perfect place to learn about French-Maghrebian identity politics so I am going to take advantage, while I’m here.

As for Morocco, I’ll be back. Insha’allah.

Mal de mer

Quelle belle chanson de Rupa & the April Fishes.

Une beauté discrète

A few snap shots and a tour along the canal:

Panoramania

A nice little hike to top of Sète for an epic panorama of la belle ville et le Mer Méditerranée!