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2019: THREAD SONGS MOROCCAN TEXTILE TOUR

2019: THREAD SONGS MOROCCAN TEXTILE TOUR

$4,107.00


The current tour has 2 places left. 

This tour has been curated by me after my textile artist-in-residency in 2016 and the life-changing time I spent in Morocco – the people and contacts I have made and the understanding I began to feel after many trips starting in 2009 to this mesmerising country, culture and very strong community.

It consists of 24 days on the ground in Morocco – one of the longest tours available because it takes times to get into the rhythm and get a sense of the place. Also, you might never be back, so this tour provides the opportunity to really experience and explore a number of very different regions. As such it takes a certain commitment from every participant. It is not a superficial journey but a deep one. You must be flexible, fairly fit and healthy and a real team player who enjoys the company of others, is joyful, positive and keen to give everything a go. Definitely a ‘glass-FULL’ personality! If you want to do your own thing independently this tour is not for you. There is free time during the tour for independent exploration. 

I am not a travel agency or large business. Adventuress Handmade and Tribal Textiles consists of me alone.  I am doing this because so many women heard my stories and asked me to take them to Morocco. I do make a small profit of course, but this is about sharing my knowledge of a wonderful country, people I have met and the arts and textiles and is done from my heart and soul. It is a special trip…not a cookie cutter itinerary led by someone who just does a job. I do not know if I will hold another (although this is the second)…it takes hundreds of hours of organisation, adjustment, emailing, thinking, typing, phone calls, answering questions and to a certain extent, worry. I am a perfectionist and also care deeply about every woman who puts her trust in me. So if you are intrigued…I urge you to say ‘yes’ to adventure and another culture and dive headfirst into the ancient textile traditions and life in Morocco.

 There are 4 parts:

1: AUTHENTIC MEDINA LIFE AND THE NORTH: Arrival and immediate immersion into the historic medieval medina of Fes, rural farming landscape and Chefchaouen in the north

 2:TEXTILES IN A MEDIEVAL TOWN: Intensive textile residency in an historically important walled Middle Atlas town whilst living 3 kilometres away in an even smaller rural town. Getting to know the locals and artisans.

 3:BERBER DESERT & RURAL LIFE: Over the mountains to the Berber region of the desert and Sahara. Sandcastle kasbahs, camels and an artist’s retreat and Berber textiles in a remote location.

 4: COASTAL RELAXATION & CITY SHOPPING: A Phoenician pirate port with a slave trading history with its sea breezes and wonderful small laid-back arty medina and finally the crazy city of Marrakech for shopping, Yves St Laurent and a thousand year old square that’s like nothing else on earth.

COST 

$6200(land only – we will purchase our flights to travel together though and this allows people to travel before and/or after the Moroccan component of a longer travelling itinerary.

DEPOSIT

$1000by 30 September (2 seats remain as at 25/8/2018)

BALANCE

by 31 December 2018

A detailed sheet of all tour terms and conditions and form to fill out with each passenger’s details are emailed once the deposit is paid.

CONDENSED ITINERARY

There are additional activities I haven’t included in this itinerary that are dependent on time and also please be aware that due to all sorts of situations out of my control (ie artisan illness or family matters/weather etc), some items on the itinerary may change or be cancelled. My 2017 tour though went without a hitch.

25 March : Depart from Adelaide or your home airport

Day 1 :We arrive in Casablanca and transfer by private bus to Fes and depending on time we hope to spend an hour visiting an NGO that helps women in co-ops all over Morocco with literacy, design, marketing and computer skills so they can sell their carpets direct via the internet to buyers all over the world.  We arrive in Fes to our 18thcentury traditional palace riad and enjoy a welcome dinner in the medina and our immersion into Moroccan culture and this mesmerising ancient city can begin.

Day 2 :  Breakfast on the roof overlooking Fes followed by a medina artisan tour and orientation of some of the 6000 alleyways in this city that still operates virtually as it has for 700 years. We meet artisans including the brocade weaver who still uses an incredibly complex 17thcentury loom;  the copper-maker’s souk, traditional scarf, bedspread and blanket weavers, the famous centuries-old tanneries, dyers souk, textiles, jewellery, spices, butchers, street food sellers, spellmakers, stacks of homemade bread, traditional medicines, leatherwork and metalwork just to name a few. We’ll experience the call to prayer, see an 11thcentury madrassa, intricate Islamic tiles, plaster, woodwork and doorways and experience the chaos of hundreds of small businesses selling their wares along with donkeys and humans carting everything in and out of the hussle and bustle. Free afternoon for exploration.

Day 3: Breakfast. Free morning for relaxation and exploration. There is the Fes pottery, historic gardens, Jewish quarter, the first university in the world with historic library, palaces and so many souks to explore and haggling to experience.

Day 4: We leave early and travel through intensive farmland and the rolling vast green landscape to the Riff Mountains via Morocco’s most holy town built on the side of a hill overlooking a vast plain. We visit an inspiring New Zealand woman and her lovely riad for morning tea and a short stroll around the town with a donkey ride to a vantage point that overlooks the town and landscape. This woman has set up a donkey care program that provides vet care so the town’s donkeys are well-treated and kept healthy. She also has her own donkeys and lends them to owners when theirs are sick so the donkeys do not have to work. Our ride provides funds for her program. We stop for lunch at a roadside café selling tajines and homemade bread on the way and continue on to Chefchaouen, the blue city in the north of Morocco and arrive late afternoon to our traditional riad on one of the narrow winding streets.  We take an orientation stroll around the medina of this very picturesque town with dramatic rocky mountain backdrop.

Day 5: Chefchaouen is an easy walking pedestrian-only town and incredibly photogenic with a very specific bright blue limewash the only colour legally allowed. The women of the Riff Mountains wear a striped apron – in Chefchaouen it is red and white and this identifies the women of this area. Elsewhere around the mountains women wear aprons of different colours and stripe widths. The women weave these in their homes for sale at roadside stalls and the medina. We visit the old Kasbah (fortified area) in the town centre with its romantic and rambling old garden, tower and gaol and shop for some of the lovely crafts in this town.

Day 6: An early start back through the mountains via Voloubilis – the ruins of the 1stcentury AD Roman town marking the southern limit of the mighty Roman Empire. Beautiful mosaic flooring still survives along with ruined walls forming houses, shops and baths with underfloor heating, grand archways, columns and carved architectural elements among the wildflowers and situated on a vast plain. You may choose to take a formal tour or just wander this archaeological and historical marvel. We continue to our simple and traditional village riad where we will stay for 6 nights. This hosted bed and breakfast is homey and comfortable and home-cooked meals can be enjoyed here. This Middle Atlas village is off the tourist track and is easily explored and we will get to know the shop owners and locals here.

Days 7 – 11 A brief summary of our 5-day itinerary here that may include other activities not mentioned here but dependent on time and still being finessed.

We travel back and forth each morning and evening by taxi the 3 kilometres to a very important medieval walled town that today is home to many textile artisans. We will take a town orientation of the market, medina lay-out and small artisan workshops. We will be based at our textile studio in the centre of the small medina that is used for textile artist residencies and specially set up for us to meet many artisans from the two textile fondouks in the town and take part in workshops to learn how to make the jellaba (traditional hooded caftan) buttons originally thought to be brought to Morocco by Jews who migrated here and made of intricate tiny woven knots. We’ll meet Mustapha one of just a few blanket weavers still left in the town, meet the rug knotters and watch their expert work, learn the art of boucherouite rag rug knotting and also meet the tassle maker, jellaba makers, braid makers and sewers and thread plyers as well as the embroidery sisters in their atelier. We will also walk in the countryside collecting plants and flowers plus buy some wild madder and I will give a natural dye workshop. We will each have our own lap loom to create a small artpiece incorporating the skills we learn and also practice on a traditional vertical loom at the studio – made from recycled bits and pieces and a feature of virtually every rural Moroccan woman’s home.  We’ll meet local women at the women’s centre and hopefully with their help, combine our woven creations into a wall-hanging for the local hospital. We’ll share meals with locals, visit a farm and make and share lunch with the family who will make us bread and mint tea and show us their loom and the carpets the woman of the house makes.  We’ll lay in the field under the trees chatting with the family and relaxing in the stunning Atlas mountain landscape. We will shop in the market each day for lunch and some nights eat in local cafes. We’ll visit the local Thursday morning market where women are permitted to sell second-hand clothes and is a fabulous place to buy a vintage jellaba to take home. Depending on time and energy levels those interested can also experience the local tradition of a community hammam (bath) where we are scrubbed with black olive soap and buckets of hot water. The 5 days will end with a small celebration with the women we have met. We will have our hands decorated with henna and enjoy sweet Moroccan biscuits and mint tea. This 5-days of action-packed textile immersion requires no experience in textiles and is a highlight of this tour and a once-in-a-lifetime experience of Moroccan culture, artisanship and cultural connections in a town older than Fes and where tourists rarely venture.

Day 12:  This next part of the tour takes part using 2 x four-wheel drives to take us through awe-inspiring geological landscapes to the Sahara desert. Initially we cross the Middle Atlas mountains where at this time of year there can be a little snow. We travel through cedar forests with Barbary apes and visit a quite secret little Catholic monastery run by Trappist monks and Franciscan sisters since 1926. Although the nuns originally established a convent, over the years the sisters also opened an orphanage, a dispensary and a primary school and importantly for our visit – an embroidery and weaving atelier where they teach the local women to create very fine embroidery in the traditional style of this region. Buying here is almost impossible to avoid! Along with earning additional income for their families through the sale of their embroidery and weaving, the workshops allow the local women to pass on their skills to the younger generation. We also visit a women’s carpet co-op in a small town where the women bring their wares and sell direct to visitors. This is an exciting opportunity to buy a cushion cover or small rug at very reasonable prices and pay women directly. Each region has carpet designs and colours specific to that area. We travel on to an interesting hotel that is really in the middle of nowhere. It has a bar and a gin and tonic or a glass of wine is quite a nice treat here.

Day 13: We set off early through the most magnificent geological landscapes and start seeing mudbrick homes and sandcastle-like Kasbahs, oases of date palms – this region is predominantly the home of the Amazigh or Berber people who are the indigenous people of North Africa, Egypt and southern central Africa. The landscape is dry and reminds me very much of the Flinders Ranges….dramatic, changing colours and wide skies. We arrive late in the afternoon as an artist’s retreat built by an Australian woman after an epiphany she had whilst travelling in this region. I have visited her a number of times and her remote retreat is always filled with writers, film-makers, photographers, artists, sculptors who stay for 6 weeks to concentrate on their art.

Days 14-16 - 3 nights + 1 night dunes: Here depending what rooms are vacant inside, we usually sleep in gorgeous normad’s tents – glamping actually – decorated with carpets, curtains and a little en-suite bathroom. We have breakfast on the Kasbah verandah overlooking the Saharan sands, enjoy sumptuous Moroccan dinners, spend a night in the dunes in basic handwoven goathair and wool nomad’s tents after riding our camels into Erg Chebbi and watch the sunset disappear behind the Saharan sands. Back at the retreat we travel to visit the famous town of Rissani – trading post and historical slave, gold and spice trading camel route stop from sub-Sahara with its traditional market. We take a very secret tour by a local I have found of the ancient Kasbah here. Back at the retreat we have time to just walk in the sand looking for fossils, think, write, dream and relax in the quietest place on earth. A time of reflection, solitude and thanks.

Day 17: A highlight day of travel through some awe-inspiring desert landscapes along the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs that follows a river valley green with palms and gorgeous mud-brick villages. We stop at a special private home in a remote location 30 minutes from the town of Ouarazazate. I met this man on a previous visit and he has agreed to open his humble home to us. His small home houses about 20 family members and his surrounding gardens provide virtually everything they need. His mother, wife and other women provide us with a magnificent lunch of huge rounds of hot bread cooked in their clay oven, a special homecooked ‘porridge’ made from grain grown by them, ground and steamed that is eaten with their own honey, along with biscuits, homemade butter, nuts and mint tea. This is a unique and very special experience. Depending on time our host Redouam will walk us down to the very crumbling village below his house in the oasis and we could visit one or more of the women rug-makers there.  We then travel on to the legendary 700-year old town of Ait ben Haddou – a town consisting of 12 kasbahs built on top of each other and the location for many movies. Children help us over the stepping stones in the river to reach the town then we climb to the top through the steep narrow streets then sleep the night in a very glamorous 300-year old riad on the edge of the town, that a French woman has restored over 10 years. We enjoy an included dinner here and sleep like babies on the softest beds imaginable.

Day 18: A long day of travel but we cross over the High Atlas mountains via the Tizi-Tichka Pass consisting of many, many hairpin turns right up to the freezing cold, highest point of the mountains with some magnificent mountain views and scenery then down the other side through Marrakech and onto the fabulous fresh sea air and most picturesque medina of Essaouira – the ancient Phonecian port of Mogador, historic slave trading port and home of the historic and now almost extinct sea snail that gave the purple dye used on the woven edges of wealthy Roman togas and royal purple robes. It took hundreds of tonnes of snails to dye just a kilo of cloth. We sleep in a beautiful riad in the old Kasbah/medina surrounded by beautiful old buildings and alleyways, medina artisans, shops, cafes and usually crowds of visitors as this town is a very popular seaside holiday town and is a location for Game of Thrones with its fortified walls, cannons and hundreds of old blue fishing boats.

Days 19 & 20 – Essaouira exploration. We drive a couple of hours up the coast to Safi, home of Moroccan pottery for centuries and another beautiful little town. We take a tour with a local woman who will take us to a market to buy food then to a Berber home where we will have a cookery lesson and then enjoy the fruits of our labour. We visit a raffia shoe-making cooperative and perhaps buy a pair for ourselves. These cost up to $300 on the internet but we can buy a pair from about $50.  The local flea market is Sunday morning and we can walk to this area in the industrial part of the town. Here the local ‘outsider’ artists have their simple homes and crazy, fabulous and now famous art for sale too.

Day 21: We leave Essaouira for the short 2 ½ hour drive to Marrakech and sadly say goodbye to our brilliant drivers who tirelessly have helped us and translated for us over the past 10 days. We settle into our gorgeous riad in the back streets of this crazy, noisy, crowded city. I have chosen this riad as it is quiet compared to so many I have stayed in. We will have a short exploration of the famous Jamaa el Fna square which fills with food stalls each afternoon along with the monkeys, snakecharmers, fortune tellers, henna painters, herbalists, juice sellers and the musicians that all fill the square as they have for 1000 years. We get an idea of the alleyways of souks that lead of this square, ready for exploring whilst we are here and get a sense of the pressure by sellers once anyone shows even the slightest interest in their wares for sale. Included dinner at a stall of our choosing. Evening free to wander and explore.

Days 22 & 23: So much to see and experience here. We’ll visit Marjorelle Gardens – purchased and restored by Yves St. Laurent and his partner, their Berber Museum of all the various jewellery and exquisite Berber traditional clothing worn in various regions of Morocco as well as the newly opened Yves St Laurent Museum – an architecturally contemporary building housing Yves St. Laurent collections covering many decades along with exhibitions and a rather stylish café. We’ll walk back via the Secret Garden – an historic traditional Islamic garden uncovered by excavation and now restored meticulously to include a traditional and also a fabulous contemporary garden. There is also a lot of independent time here to shop, explore or just relax in a café people watching. For a contrast the trendy ‘Max and Jan’ concept store in the medina is filled with contemporary Moroccan caftans, jewellery and homewares and has a fabulous rooftop restaurant/café. The Boucherouite Museum is also a wonderful personal collection of vintage rag carpets displayed in the stylish home of the collector himself. 

Day 24: Morning free to pack and relax and then we transfer to the Marrakech airport around lunchtime for our flight to Doha. In Doha we usually have a very long stopover (around 15 hours). Our group may be able to secure a free hotel in Doha with the compliments of Qatar Airways, but this is not always available. I usually book the Transit Hotel (about $220) in the airport for 8 hours to sleep and shower and there is also a lounge which for a small cost for a specified time you can relax, recharge your phone, take a shower and all food and beverages are complimentary. I also make sure I have my bathers and again, for a small charge, access the pool/spa area for an unlimited time. A massage is also available here for an additional cost. The time here is your choice. Depart direct to Adelaide.

Day 25: Arrive in Adelaide in the afternoon exhausted but brimming with inspiration and memories.