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Postcards from Morocco
Thursday, 16 November 2017 12:33:32 PM Australia/Sydney
“Travel is a part of me and the only way to satisfy my eternal wanderlust. After all, NAJO was born from travelling,” says Jo Tory, NAJO’s founder.
Jo has just returned to Australia from a soul-enriching holiday in Morocco shared with Nando, who lives in Mexico. The experience marks more than 30 years since the pair embarked on their first adventure together, which resulted in the inception of the NAJO brand. (Nando is the “Na” of NAJO – read more about that here.)
“Travelling is a way to stay inspired, to keep seeing the world in new ways, whether it’s in relation to designing, creative materials, lifestyle or education,” Jo says.
As a destination for inspiration, Morocco is particularly rich, thanks to the diversity of influences throughout its long history. “Berber, Arabic, Jewish, Roman, French, Spanish – there’s evidence of so many cultures throughout time, and the result is a tolerant, lovely people and a vibrancy that is just intoxicating,” says Jo.
Jo and Nando drove about 1800 kilometres across Morocco, starting in Marrakech, crossing the Atlas Mountains, onto Merzouga in the desert (close to the Algerian border), through to Fes, then north to Chefchaouen and finishing in Tangier just south of Spain.
Here Jo shares a few highlights of her time in one of the world’s most exciting countries.
We stayed in a beautiful riad, a calming oasis within the bustling streets of the medina, or old town. The medina was absolutely fascinating, full of vendors and ferocious bargainers amid all kinds of treasures, from vibrant stacked reels of cotton and exotic lanterns to hanging strands of glass trading beads. Inspiration, colour and texture was everywhere, along with the scent of spices.
You don’t need to have an artist’s eye to appreciate these amazing mountains full of gorges, extraordinary rock formations and deserted kasbahs. All appear as dry as you can imagine, and then suddenly there will be a gorge with a crystal river flanked by countless date palms. Incredible!
Merzouga and the desert
Everywhere you go in Morocco there is an intrinsic sense of craftsmanship. I adore textiles and weaving, and was fascinated to see the carpets of each Berber tribe, now so popular among the global style set, each with its own signature pattern and technique. And of course I was drawn to the details of the traditional Berber jewellery.
The backdrop to all this creativity is the rustic earthy red of the desert landscape with its sandcastle-like buildings. There is a sense of the ancient world in the desert.
Fes & Chefchaouen
The fortified Medina of Fes is a UNESCO World Heritage site, thankfully now under careful preservation and repair. It is inevitable that you get lost in its narrow winding streets that feel like a medieval marketplace. I was endlessly inspired by the striking architecture of the mosques, their mosaic tiles and elaborate embossed pattern work.
In contrast to the largely sepia tones of Fes, Chefchaouen is distinctive as the extraordinary ‘Blue City’. The entire place is coated in a dose of electric blue paint, creating a memorable and surreal visit that subverts your feelings about colour.
Our last stop was possibly my favourite: I just loved Tangier. As the gateway to Africa, it feels very different to the rest of Morocco, more cosmopolitan yet still exotic and steeped in history.
On the morning I left Tangier, from the balcony of my hotel room, I looked straight out to Gibraltar as I listened to the haunting city chorus of the call to prayer. What a way to end a glorious journey.