Tag: Africa

Lessons from our travels in Morocco | Morocco travel

Lessons from our travels in Morocco

Morocco left me with eight main impressions.  First, the  contrasts in technology – delivery by donkey and by truck/motorcycle – and second, in cultures- modern dress next to traditional Berber next to conservative Islam.   Third is the intricacy and extensiveness of the decorative architectural designs. Fourth is the daily prayer calls, a strange concoction of sound; perhaps more strangely is that people dis not seem to particularly notice.  Fifth, the cuisine can reach impressive heights although it is mired in sameness on many levels. Sixth is the friendliness of the people we have met and the apparent tolerance.  Seventh is the level of poverty and, finally, that its glory is largely in its past.

Contrasts in technology

As we walked in the souks (markets) and even in modern areas we would encounter donkeys hauling delivery carts and the modern version, which is a motorcycle rig with an integrated covered bed.  There are men pushing delivery carts in the narrowest parts of the souks, or men carrying bundles.  Sometimes loads would be strapped to the backs of a donkey for delivery.  In larger areas you see large modern trucks transporting goods.

In the souks small stands are the norm, but in the modern areas you can see larger shops, super markets and international chains, some quite upscale.  

 

Contrasts in Culture

Women are everywhere,  and dressed in everything from a full covering hijab, only eyes peering out from black robes making for a mysterious appearance both intriguing and chilling simultaneously, to jeans and blouse.  The only women not very modestly dressed might have been foreigners.  I saw few women working but there were some.  The manager of the Orange shop we went into in Fez is run by a woman, and in the modern areas there women working in shops, cafes and restaurants.  In the souks almost everyone in the stalls and shops is male.

The intricacy and extensiveness of the design

Here are some examples of the design features you find in old buildings.  Islamic art is noted for this design, of which the Moroccan is a variation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a modern rendition:

 

The University in Marrakesh

As you can see above, in some buildings the decoration is from floor to ceiling.

 

arch at Museo de Mouassine, Marrakesh
arch at Museo de Mouassine, Marrakesh

Daily prayer calls

These happen 5 times per day and at odd hours-  not say at the top of the hour but at say 522 am.  Once these calls to prayer begin they rise to a crescendo, starting with a call from a single mosque but soon joined by the other mosques in the area.  In Fez we stayed in a poor neighborhood, although the accommodations we stayed in were comfortable enough provided you can climb three flights of very steep short staircases.  There were about a half dozen mosques in the area, and the sound echoes off the mason surfaces.  It was eerie.   Here’s a pretty good rendition:

No one seems to run to the mosque for all this praying.  We could see groups of men in the mosques but not in  large numbers.  Both of the guides we employed talked about the religion.  One explained the ritual washing you do before you go into a mosque and how it was not required to do your daily prayers in a mosque nor to assume the bowing posture unless you were in the mosque.  But everything revolves around devotion to Allah.  

This is a religious country but not fundamentalist as a whole.  Islam is pervasive but other religions are tolerated and the king is encouraging the re-immigration of Jews, many of whom left for Israel after a long and prosperous history here.  Homosexuality is illegal but violations are sporadically enforced. Two girls photographed kissing were arrested but release without trial after an international outcry.  One of our guides said the king does not want bad publicity and prefers to overlook things of this sort.  Elton John was invited to perform at a festival celebrating spirituality and after some protests the king said he writes and sings about spirituality, his private life is his own affair.

Alcohol is forbidden in Islam, but you can buy it here and they produce wine in the country.  

The cuisine

I have already written on this topic.  Here is the link.  http://www.garyjkirkpatrick.com/moroccan-cuisine/

The friendliness of the people

In our interactions we had in restaurants, shops, hotels and on the streets we found the people to be universally friendly.  I saw one conflict with foreigners and that was a metal worker objecting to being photoed by a tourist.  The military waved us off when we tried to photo a wall that turned out to be part of a military installation, but entirely understandable from their point of view.  Many people talked to us as we walked around, and some have tried to get us to visit a shop to ‘just browse.’ Sometimes they help us find our way just being considerate.  A 10 year old boy guided us out of our neighborhood that first day in Fez and insisted on being paid but several adult men wanted nothing for pointing the way. 

Poverty  

This is definitely a third world country so it is obvious that money is in short supply.  There are many old taxis, for instance, with broken seats and no window cranks, although there are some brand new ones.  The public buses are in decent condition-  we have used several in Marrakesh.   The population is young, with an average life span of 73, ranking 80th in the world.  Dental care is rare, judging by their teeth.  The food is plentiful and of excellent quality, fruits and vegetables are part of the daily cuisine.  They must not be coming from far away.  The cuisine is tasty and reasonably varied.  Alcohol is in short supply and expensive where available.  There are huge vineyards near Meknes.

Glory is largely in its past

The glory of Morocco, as in all of North Africa and the Middle East in general, lies in its past, and of which they are proud.  Don’t expect a balanced presentation from people you meet casually.  It’s a ‘show me the good parts.’ 

The Moors who invaded Spain in 711.  The name ‘Moors’ comes from the Berber tribe called the Mauri (do not confused with the country of Mauritnia).  At that time the Islamic culture was a main source of knowledge for the Mediterranean countries and Europe.  Medicine, astronomy agriculture and more were absorbed into European culture as a result of the take over of Spain.  It is this of which they are perhaps most proud, but now the main product of these cultures is Islam, in which they seem to place a great deal of hope.  Both of our guides witnessed their faith to us, and probably presumed we are Christians.  At least we all have the same God, said one.  The other suggested that there would be no modern medicine if it weren’t for the Moors and Arabic culture in general.  There is something to be said for this, but on the other hand, what have they done since?

Their ancient markets are a huge attraction. Leather production is still done in the same way and at least in Fez in the same location since the 14th century.   They use natural dyes only in the craft markets, and are prohibited from selling anything other than traditionally made items.  In the leather area they still use pigeon droppings and other traditional processes to treat camel, cow, goat and sheep skins.  Goat is the best, we were told, as it produces the softest and most water resistant product.  Carpets and scarves are made from traditional materials in the traditional method, using hand looms.  We bought some scarves made of agave, the cactus, that you would swear was silk.  They preserve their past.  What of their economic future?

Processing skins in Fes
Processing skins in Fes (photo by Peg)
Traditional carpets in Fes
Traditional carpets in Fes

 

Moroccan Souk, pastel, alcohol blends
Moroccan Souk, pastel, alcohol blends

 

Zambia: Watercolors from the bush | zambia watercolor paintings

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Zambian Women -6- Around-Fire

We visited the village where our nephew Travis worked as a Peace Corps volunteer. It was a fabulous visit despite the primitive conditions- the people were just so loving and friendly. These are the only ones I still have and I am offering them for the next week at special prices.   See blog on Zambia for further accounts of this special journey.

 

Zambian Women -6- Around-Fire
Zambian Women -6- Around-Fire, A3, 11.5 x 16.5″ watercolor on fine art paper $450

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Dance in Zambian Village, our Peace Corps visit, A3, 11.5 x 16.5"
Women Dance in Zambian Village, our Peace Corps visit, A3, 11.5 x 16.5″ $450

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tanzanian Plains, watercolor, A3, 11.5 x 16.5", acrylics on paper
Tanzanian Plains, watercolor, A3, 11.5 x 16.5″, acrylics on paper (sold)

 

Young Women Carry Cassaba, watercolor, 11.5 x 16.5"
Young Women Carry Cassava, watercolor, 11.5 x 16.5″ $350
Young Zambian Woman
Young Zambian Woman $350
Woman Carries Chickens $350
Woman Carries 5 gallons of water
Woman Carries 5 gallons of water $350
Heart of Lightness- we arrive at Trav’s village to an amazing, loving reception complete with chorus! $350
Heart of Lightness- we arrive at Trav’s village to an amazing, loving reception complete with chorus! $350
Heart of Lightness- we arrive at Trav’s village to an amazing, loving reception complete with chorus! $350
Woman Collect Sand $250
Travis' Hut in Zambia (sold)
Travis’ Hut in Zambia (sold)

Zambian Peace Corp Project Announced- from the village where I did all those paintings

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As you may recall we visited Zambia and while there we visited our nephew Travis who is a Peace Corps Volunteer.   One of the things they are working on is a dam and they need $3500 for concrete and things. If you have a spare $5-10 or $100, please chip in.
In addition I will donate 50% of the proceeds from the sale of paintings from my Zambia series, all of which so far have come from this village.  Go to garyjkirkpatrick.com.

 

Project description:

“The goal of the Community Dam Project is to complete a 60 meter earthen dam by the beginning of the next rainy season. The community provides the labor necessary, working twice a week. They have already completed 20 meters and are now digging the foundation for the spillway.

The objective is to raise the water lever in order to increase the area of land able to be irrigated. After the dam is completed a total area of more than 30,000 square meters will be available for fish ponds and/or year round irrigation for agriculture. This would allow for the potential of a massive integrated agriculture and agriculture system interconnecting animal husbandry, aquaculture, and agriculture.”

 

https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=14-611-013

The Zambia Series

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The Zambia Series

A few of these are still available.  Please contact me for information.

Ian Carrying Luggage
Ian Carrying Luggage

From our safari to Zambia, June 2014.

These paintings are mostly from my journal, which I did while we were there. Some of the very small ones I later did on larger paper, also in water color.

We traveled by train for 1500 kilometers from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania to Zambia, and spent several days in a small village where our nephew works as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It was an uplifting experience.

It started with an hour long walk in the dark (see the painting “Heart of Lightness”). As we approached the village we heard shouts of joy, hugs and kisses soon following. Then they sang for an hour, choral harmony in which the whole  village joined.  We were perfect strangers yet they welcomed us as if we were long lost relatives.  We lived in a small hut and watched the people work on the dam, harvest cassava and do other chores. What loads the women can carry on their heads! We ate with them, partied with them. They are sweet and innocent, these people of Lunda land.

I hope you will enjoy my portrayal of the experience, the colors, the scenes, the sense of innocence.

Heart of Lightness We walked on the path towards the village under the glow of the yellow moon. After almost an hour we saw the glow of campfires on the hill. Soon we were welcomed with shrieks and smothered with hugs and kisses on the cheeks.

Heart of Lightness 2

The Chorus  After we arrived they sang in harmony for an hour.  Children in the front row would sometimes bang the rhythm on the ground. The second row was for the teens, and the adults were in the last.

Chorus
The Chorus, Zambia (sold)

They sang beautifully.

Women Dance  At night the young women danced around a campfire, for which they used a brazier. The wood fire cast an orange glow. My original was just 2″x 4″. The rhythms were mesmerizing. Even some of the older women (by older I mean over 25, as the life span here is just 45) joined in. I wanted to also.

Women Dance
Women Dance, Watercolor, $250

 

Women Collect Sand  The Peace Corps project is a small dam for filling fish ponds.  They need the protein and the income.  They do not have much of either.  They have goats but they do not eat them, they are for dowries, and they are lactose intolerant so nary a piece of cheese in the country.   In this painting they collect sand for the dam.

 

 

Woman Collect Sand A4 sold

 

Walking the Bush  We explored the area around the village.  Here are friends walk through the bush.

What I experienced gave me a new perspective, different colors, the elongated limbs, the redness of the soil.

chorus travs village

 

 

 

 

Walk the bush
Walk the bush (sold)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Video slide shows from a small village in Zambia- my favorite part of the journey

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These photos are from our June 2014 visit to Zambia.  Our nephew is serving in the Peace Corps, following his brother in el Salvador and us in Panama.  The drawings in the video are from my journal, which I will publish.   This was my favorite part of the journey.  As spectacular as the animals were, as great as Victoria Falls was, this was more meaningful, touching me profoundly.

Here’s a people with so little in material goods who are just above subsistence and yet they expressed such joy at our arrival and for the next three days of our time there.

 

 

 

My art:  http://www.garyjkirkpatrick.com/

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