Saturday, November 10, 2007
MAGIC CARPET MOROCCO : KNIT COLOR IN ITS NATURAL HABITAT
BOOK NOW: A VOYAGE TO AUTHENTIC COLOR
MARCH 21st-March 27th, 2010
Now taking registrations
Book early to secure your spot
A stack of pure color in the souk
My Berber jacket is an optional project
KNIT/CROCHET COLOR IN ITS NATURAL HABITAT WITH JANE & AMAL
MARRAKESH, MOROCCO— March 2010
In Morocco, color still survives in its purest form, richly hued in shades born of natural dyes perfected over thousands of years by the Berbers, the indigenous peoples of Marrakesh, and other desert tribes. Brewed under the African sun, this symphony of saffron against crimson, ochre blending into rosy terracotta, deep citrus flanked by a magical indigo can cause color lovers to go weak in the knees. Think mood indigo dancing with sunshine, of jewel tones sparked with light and contrast.Step into this country, my fiber-loving friends, and you will arrive in a land where magic still exists. It's everywhere: in the friendly smiles of its people, in the rich wonder of the culture, the beauty of the land and its ancient mythology.It's no wonder so many designers have second homes near Marrakesh. The light alone is enough to inspire creativity. Amal and I itched to get knitting these shades into fruition!
This trip is not just for knitters but for anyone with an artistic nature yearning for inspiration. Painters, writers, beaders, and photographers would be welcome and comfortable along this excursion (they've been coming to Marrakesh for decades so why not you?). The riad is designed with multiple nooks and crannies to accommodate both solitude or group interaction and creation is never an exclusionary activity. Maybe you just want to read in the sun for an hour or two? Being close to the souk also means that you and your companions can easily trot of on shopping forages without us but after the first few forays, most of our group felt comfortable going alone. Marrakesh feels safe and friendly.
If you're ready for a little exotic travel melded with creative enterprise feuled by an incredible environment in the company of like-minded travellers, this is your trip. The accommodations are luxurious and very safe, the food selections delicious and carefully prepared and all tours, drivers and guides scrutinized. Men welcome! We always have four or five joining us so please come along.
Amal and I await you…
Knitting by the Pool
An excursion to Marrakesh with Amal and I will be a voyage into the exotic, an introduction to a culture described by the Rough Guides guidebooks as one of the 'most genuinely hospitable peoples in the world'. Everywhere we went, people would ask where we were from and, when we answered, they would smile saying 'Welcome. Good people here.' And that's what we experienced everywhere we went. Good people surrounded by great color and extraordinary texture in a country so beautiful it will take your breath away. This is an excursion into the authentic.
Beyond the embrace of our riad guesthouse, the vibrant streets throb with color and life. Time and centuries intermingle as the donkey carts clop along beside the mopeds and a cell phone rings a jaunty tune inside the pocket of a Berber's robe. Moments of pure time travel deliver you deep inside the ancient medina where life goes on as it has for centuries. Here, the carpet dyers can be seen melting liquid color into their yarns and hanging them to dry overhead in the traditional manner amid stalls selling every kind of imaginable artisan craft— leather, cashmere shawls, beads, jewellry, lamps and candles. Try out a Berber pharmacy for an adventure in wonder. These pharmacies sell everything from henna to yarn dyes, the famous Moroccan rose and argon oil, Frankencense, and jar after jar of wonders.
The Spice market: powdered color
And this is the land of true color. Here manly men think nothing of wearing bright yellow slippers under saffron robes or a pair of crimson babouches (shoes) with their jeans. The women swathe their themselves equally, often doning western dress under a flowing shawl. Only the 'fashionable' young do black, it seems. To everyone else, color is a right. Viva le coleur!
Amal and I will take you on guided forays into the heart of the souks to explore color in all its glory while also providing opportunity for free time should small groups want to return to certain areas for a more concentrated shopping. Be warned: temptation is everywhere! We purchased cashmere shawls for the equivelent of $25 each and authentic silver and stone Tuareg necklaces intricately crafted for $30. Leather slippers go for from $3-7 each and I purchased THREE handwoven rugs for $100 all together. A souk shop exists for every imaginable kind of ware from antigues to beads. Several exist selling nothing but tassels. It's difficult to extract yourself from each stall when so much exists to intrigue the eye. Be prepared for temptation while still keeping to your budget. Or not.
A Tassel Souk
Workshop in progress
Ilham (our hostess last year) wears Art Knits by Amal
This itinerary is subject to change according to weather, desires and inklings of the group, and serendipity. Many knitters were drawn to the souks over and over again putting their knitting on hold. We design this excursion to be flexible so the day's activities are often yours to decide.
Day 1 —Arrive in Marrakesh.
- This will be a travel day with all of us arriving at different times and on different flights into Marrakesh. A driver will pick you up at the airport and take you to the Riad (Moroccan guest home) where you will be welcomes by Amal and I (with our respective spouses, Anis and John) plus servings of traditional mint tea sipped beside the pool. Every bedroom is a little different but each features rich tiling and the intricate architecture for which the country is known. Washrooms are modern though the rose petals scattered everywhere will still make you feel as though you've transformed into a sultan's princess. Expect magic after dark when the candles are lit and every niche and cranny casts a luminous filigree through the lanterns.
- That evening we'll have a welcome feast on site.
Night Magic at a riad: believe
Day 2 — A morning tour of Marrakesh and workshop
Breakfast on the terrace
- We'll begin our day with a breakfast on the roof terrace after which a licensed guide will ease us into this North African city so we can gain a sense of place and time. We'll take our first foray into the souks, visit the beautiful tombs of the princes and tour a palace.
Dinner at the Riad
Color a Birthright
- Upon returning to our riad, we'll begin the first of our workshops as we indulge ourselves rich colors and textures. Inspiration will already be strumming your strings and we're certain your urge to knit will be as strong as ours—Marrakesh exudes creativity! Our project? Choose either the Berber jacket/vest (PDF pattern will be emailed to you in advance) or work with Amal on crochet techniques or one of her ruanas or wraps. Maybe both —the option is yours.
- Dinner tonight is on your own. Choose to eat at the riad or at the neighbouring Masob d'Arabe, known for its innovative Moroccan cuisine.
Inspired stitchery Amal knits in Indigo
Local color: the Water seller
Day 3 — Morning workshop
After breakfast on the terrace we'll continue with our ouevre d'art (works of art) as we bask in the sunshine on the terrace or under the tents provided. At noon, you'll have free time to investigate the souks further or return to any location that piqued your interest during yesterday's tour. Maybe you'll want a nap (no shame: the locals advise it for health). Lunch and dinner will be on your own but we'll provide options that are both safe and reasonably-priced.
Day 4 —Stroll Ives Saint Laurent's Garden
The gardens of Marrakesh are justly famous. Not only is this the land of some of the most exotic natural perfumes on earth (rose oil, orange oil) arising from the abundance of fruit and flowers that grow here all year long but the landscape has inspired artists since the turn of the century. More recently designers such as Yves Saint Laurent have fashioned exquisite gardens that would thaw a statue's marbled heart. Stroll through these perfumed paths this morning on the garden tour.
A garden awash
The afternoon will feature more free time for exploration with suggestions and opportunities to follow specific interests such as museums, art galleries or even a camel ride! It is even possible to take a day excursion into the countryside for a Morrocan cooking course that is very well recommended by those who have participated.
That evening, we'll take dinner at our followed by an evening excursion into the famed Jemaa El Fna square for a spectacle straight out of the middle ages—fire dancers, snake charmers, storytellers, strolling bards!
Day 5 - Full Workshop Day
Amal's colors pick up the tones of an antique Moroccan door
Lace and Stone
Today, we'll continue our project with an emphasis on combining color and texture to stunning effect. Offering both crochet and knitting techniques, you'll have the option to continuing working on your project or explore a new technique with Amal. But, since the souks are right around the corner and the wonders of Morocco only a siren's call away, many knitters choose to shop until they drop while others join us on a day of relaxation. Our riad offers massage services so there's another option.
Textile Inspired: part of the Riad's collection
The High Atlas Foothills
Journey to the High Atlas Mountains
Day 6: Full day excursion to the foothills of the high Atlas Mountains
Time to explore the land beyond the city. This trip will lead us across beautiful countryside deep into rural Morocco as we climb the foothills towards the high Atlas mountains. Here, you will see kasbahs clinging to cliffs, Berber folk about their daily lives, and have an opportunity to peruse the local artisan shops. Itinerary will depend on the weather but we will try to aim for a sunny day.
Local color for sale
Modeling Amal by the pool
Local transportation (we'll take a bus)
After exploring the riverside town at the end of the road in the foothill town of Ourika, we'll wind our way back down towards Marrakesh and to our riad where we'll have the option to knit by the fireside.
Day 7: A feast of Options
Our last day in Marrakesh will be a feast of options. Perhaps you'd like more time to plunge into the souks or continue with your creation at the riad. Maybe this will be the time you set aside for your massage, options which include essential oils or a traditional hamman experience with the in-house muscle-soothing maestro (actually, she's a qualified masseuse well-schooled in melting anything that aches). Either way, we'll be here to grant your wish. This evening we'll gather together one last time for our farewell feast before going our various ways.
Note on Accommodations:
Riads are homes/palaces built in the traditional style with high walls behind which nestle secret gardens, courtyards, fountains, open air terraces and pools. A good riad is a sanctuary tucked away from the bustling medina and most operate like a luxe guest house with many similiar amentities such as meals on site and spa services. Relaxing in the sanctuary of a fine riad is at least half the experience of Marrakesh. Ours offers meals, a hamman, massage, and related services plus an extremely helpful staff willing to go the extra mile. A staff member even took one of our participants to a reliable tailor while Amal provided translation services in Arabic.
Note: Our riad, Les Yeux Blus (Blue Eyes), is owned by a French couple though run locally by Brick and Ilham, our gracious hosts. Meals can be ordered the morning of each day can be as light (delicious Moroccan soup) or as full as you desire. Many of our participants also like to dine next door at the Mason D'Arab. We prefer the cosiness of a riad over a box hotel like the Sheraton, for instance, especially an intimate one like this where our group takes over the whole establishment, thus making it feel like home.
OUR TOUR INCLUDES:
- 7 nights accommodation starting March 21st in a small, luxury riad (guest house)
- All breakfasts plus 1 lunch and 2 dinners
- Airport transfers to and from the riad
- Guided souk excursions
- Tours and related transportation
- Knitting workshops plus one-on-one instruction as requested
PRICE PER PERSON DOUBLE OCCUPANCY: $3,700 US / 2,265.90 Pounds Sterling /4,633.00 Canadian
PS: I'll need committment for this trip early in order to secure our riad. Please respond ASAP if interested.
Single supplement add $1,000 (we'll help you find a roomie, if you'd like)
Not included: alcoholic beverages, plane fares to Marrakesh, meals where not indicated, travel and health insurance. *The purchase of travel and health insurance is strongly advised.