Friday, June 16, 2017

between naps and nappy changes

So this has been my little secret for the past nine months. I was torn between writing about my pregnancy and keeping it for myself, and though I was thrilled to be growing this tiny human in my belly, I decided to revel in it privately. I was lucky to have had an easy and joyful pregnancy, all the way up until the last couple of weeks (which were admittedly much tougher on the body). It didn't stop Pedro and I from travelling across Morocco— eating seafood in Tangier, birding in the Western Sahara, sketching palm trees in Figuig, riding camels in Merzouga, and visiting the tanneries in Fes.

I still intend to keep posting about my adventures (and eventually some of the drawings I've been working on), but it will now have to happen between naps and nappy changes. There's still so much to share...

A heartfelt thank you for all the kind words and well wishes!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

the humble mule

With the steep and rocky terrain, mules are the preferred form of transport in and around Imlil, and goats the chosen livestock. Some of the mules were decked out in colourful harnesses and striped blankets, while others were a bit less flashy— all seemed well looked after and healthy, which made me happy.

Monday, May 29, 2017

etched into stone

On the way to Oukaïmeden in Jabal Toubkal National Park, there's a fairly large rocky area surrounded by grazing pastures that has some curious etchings. The sign at the site claims that the etchings were created 2000–3000 years ago by the original inhabitants of the area. As the etchings are not marked with any sort of roping or protection, you have to resort to walking on the rocks to find them. We were able to find a female figure, a make with a bull, another bull, and a shield of sorts with a bird.

Erosion from snow, wind and water also left some interesting marks of its own:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

tajine and tea

As we wandered around Imlil in search of food, we were confronted with two options at that particular time of day: a touristy restaurant with a bunch of excited Europeans, or a local joint that seemed to be attached to a butcher shop. The latter had an enticing row of steaming tajine pots cooking their contents away on braziers, and a fair amount of locals dining away. Needless to say, we greeted the friendly gent manning the coals, and climbed upstairs to the terrace where we ordered a chicken tajine to share, mint tea, and a Coke for Pedro.

Chicken tajines from what I have experienced so far, are mainly composed of various chicken parts layered underneath a pile of potatoes and various vegetables, flavoured with preserved salted lemons and olives. The acid from the lemons is cut by the earthy potatoes, and overall, it's a pretty nice dish (though I prefer the meatball tajines). There's usually a good amount of drippings left behind for your bread to soak up— my favourite part.

I had to include this last photo— I love the way Coca-Cola is written in Arabic!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

stone villages

The stone villages we hiked through around Imlil reminded me of some of the Nepali villages I've seen. Humble rectangles, earthen-coloured, with bits of pink, blue, and red from clothes drying on a line. Goats braying, shy eyes peering behind windows, some shuttered, some barred.

As in Nepal, it seems as though cement is quickly replacing stone and wood.

taking a hike

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

into the atlas

Back in September, Pedro and I took advantage of a long weekend for a roadtrip into the Atlas Mountains. The green valleys of the imposing Atlas were dotted with Berber villages made of stone and mud, the same red as the surrounding rocks, which almost served to camouflage the humble, rectangular buildings. The air was fresh, and the valleys echoed with the calls of choughs. Light faded quickly, as the sun sank behind the mountains in the late afternoon, casting a faint orange glow before we were all immersed in blues and violets.

it's in the details

little moments

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

the grand socco market

I love markets— the smell of spices, the colourful displays of fruit, vegetables, and fish— and of course, the often humorous and musical shouts and calls of vendors. The best part of visiting a local market is the discovery of something new, something unique to a place. For instance, the goat cheese artfully wrapped in palm fronds that I was told is typical of the Rif region:

We were so charmed by the above gentleman that we bought a jar of flowery, creamy honey as our souvenir of Tangier. It didn't take long for that jar to empty itself!

from a rooftop in tangier

I kept looking for Spain on the horizon, but found only a thick layer of fog beneath the blue...

a feast unlike any other

There was one thing I was hellbent on experiencing in Tangier, and that was a meal at the Restaurant Populaire Le Saveur du Poisson, which was featured in an episode of Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown on Tangier. We arrived a bit early for lunch, only to discover a few people already waiting for the little restaurant to open.

Once inside we were greeted by gregarious chap who placed down a series of clay dishes that contained a spicy harissa, toasted nuts, and herbed olives. We were also given a bowl of fish soup ladled from a large clay amphora, and a basket of assorted breads and baghrir— a spongy pancake that I have become quite fond of.

Next came a tajine of greens with calamari and herbs, shark kebabs, and a most delicious John Dory, delicately flavoured with cumin. Our cups were abundantly refilled with the house juice of several unnamed fruit and herbs— a concoction unlike anything I have ever tasted— sweet and earthy.

Every morsel of that John Dory was devoured, and our dishes were cleaned to the clay. Then dessert came our way: one dish of fresh strawberries in honey with pomegranate seeds, walnuts and pine nuts, and another of warm nuts in honey and a hint of eucalyptus. My oh my, the memory of this feast is making my mouth water as I type!

The entire experience was so wonderful, from the divinely delicious food and juice, to our lovely waiter who gave me a clay mug as a souvenir at the end of the meal. I have a soft spot for wooden spoons and forks, and for the bees who joined us for dessert. Should you find yourself in Tangier, make sure you seek out Le Saveur du Poisson— it's a fixed seasonal menu, a bit pricey for Morocco at 200 Dirhams a person (about 20€), but well worth it!