Travel has an incredible way of stimulating our senses and igniting our creative spirit. Last week, I had the opportunity to embark on an adventure through the enchanting country of Morocco. In addition to participating in normal tourist activities, we were able to meet with Intertwined’s leather-worker, Souffiane Belhayl. We also met many other artisans who we hope to work with in the future.
Morocco is a world of vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and ancient traditions that converge to create a visual symphony. Every corner of this North African gem exudes artistic inspiration. We started our trip in Marrakech’s medina. A medina is a historic, walled city center characterized by a labyrinth of narrow streets, bustling markets, and vibrant colors. It is a chaotic hub of activity, filled with the sounds of merchants calling out their wares, the aroma of spices wafting through the air, and the sights of beautifully crafted goods displayed in small shops and stalls. Traditional Moroccan kilims, blankets, and leather goods carefully crafted by skilled artisans, adorn the shops and market stalls. Whether it was the traditional Berber motifs or the playful interplay of colors, these textiles told stories of a vibrant culture steeped in tradition. The craftsmanship and attention to detail were awe-inspiring, reminding me of the power of human touch in design.
Souffiane’s leather workshop is on a side alley in the medina. Tiffany was lucky to discover the workshop on her previous family trip to Morocco. When we finally located the workshop, Souffiane served us the classic Moroccan mint tea and showed us the various steps in he and his partners take in making Intertwined’s handmade bags. It was pretty amazing to watch our seamed leather totes stitched by hand! Other bags are individually made on single sewing machines, but each step, from dying and cutting the leather to sewing it together is done by a human!
Another highlight of our trip was a visit to the Telouet Kasbah. This was definitely off the beaten path – we were the only tourists inside! We had a rental car and were able to take a side trip on the way to the Sahara. Nestled in the Atlas Mountains, the kasbah of Telouet offers a glimpse into Morocco's rich architectural history. This fortified structure, once home to a powerful Glaoui clan leader, boasts intricate mosaics, carved wooden details, ornate metalwork, and delicate plasterwork inside. However, for political reasons, the Kasbah has been allowed to fall into disrepair and the outside is essentially falling down. It was an amazing site, however, and I couldn’t help doing a little dance to “Rock the Casbah.”
We were fortunate to explore several other areas – we hiked in the Dades Gorge, glamped in the Sahara, explored the medina of Fez and ended the trip in Casablanca. Throughout our journey, we were captivated by the warmth, creativity, and passion of the Moroccan people. Each destination offered its own unique blend of cultural experiences and design inspiration (and delicious food)!
My unforgettable adventure through Morocco left me brimming with creative inspiration. From the bustling medina of Marrakech, where vibrant colors and intricate patterns adorned every corner, to the “hidden” leather workshop of the talented Souffiane Belhayl, I was mesmerized by the craftsmanship and devotion that goes into creating handmade treasures. The crumbling yet captivating Telouet Kasbah served as a poignant reminder of the importance of preserving ancient techniques and supporting artisans who are the gatekeepers of cultural heritage. The warmth and passion of the Moroccan people touched my heart and ignited a fire within me to champion their artistry. Morocco has woven its magic into my heart, and I will forever cherish the memories and the commitment to honor the artisans who make this world a more vibrant and exquisite place.