As an avid globetrotter, I agree with Nin’s statement. Journeys, both short and long, can transform lives in meaningful ways. Travel not only provides education about places and history, but connects us to other cultures and people, slows us down from our fast-paced lives, expands our awareness, and introduces us to greater diversity.
My wanderlust, over the past 40 years, has taken me to places such as the Grand Canal of Venice, the mountaintops of Machu Picchu, and the coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. No destination, though, has inspired me quite as much as my recent trip through Morocco, which felt more like a sensory feast than a group tour with 13 other middle-aged U.S. women.
I felt as if I had been catapulted back nearly 1,000 years in time. In the ancient medinas of Fez and Marrakech, I found laden donkeys tromping through narrow, vaulted alleys; mountains of fragrant spices; brightly colored rugs and fabrics; snake charmers and fire eaters gesturing to passersby; and artisans painting meticulously designed ceramic bowls.
An unexpected bonus of my trip was the connection I discovered to the outdoor, hearth, and grill industries. Moroccans spend considerable time alfresco on rooftop terraces, in the tiled inner courtyards of riads, and even on patios similar to ours in the United States and Canada. Moroccan outdoor living is all about lounging, socializing, eating, and sun protection, as well as about using products and designs that tantalize the senses.
Every outdoor space is its own tranquil retreat. Vibrant colors (tangerine, turquoise, red, and pink) and soothing designs are incorporated into an endless array of products. Even tiled fireplace surrounds feature multiple colors. I was so enchanted by these products that I ended up buying a handtiled mosaic fountain for my backyard.
Outdoor grills for cooking kebabs and wood-fired ovens for baking flatbreads are very popular in Morocco. Tagines (conical terracotta lids that sit on flat bottoms) are everywhere. The two pieces sit on a base called a majmar, and an unglazed-clay brazier full of hot coals cooks the tagine’s contents slowly, creating the dish of the same name: an intoxicating aroma rising from tender, juicy chicken and lamb, delightfully seasoned and served on a bed of couscous.
Whether shopping in ancient markets (souks) or trendy, urban warehouse areas, customers are greeted by shopkeepers offering traditional mint tea and friendly conversation. It’s not uncommon, inside stores, to find product demonstrations (with artisans weaving rugs, painting ceramics, or tanning leather).
With such an invigorating shopping experience, it’s easy to spend an entire day weaving around mazelike markets. The most successful shops are those that create experiences for customers. This is also true of strong retailers in our industry who transform the boring experience of browsing into something that’s fun and exciting—whether that involves hiring friendly, engaged staff or holding cooking demonstrations.
I left Morocco feeling energized by the myriad ways to add beauty to interior and exterior spaces. The country’s love of outdoor living and its ancient (but creative) ways of combining fabrics, colors, and textures are an inspiration to our industry.
Carol Daus is the editor of Patio & Hearth Products Report. Carol can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org