It’s hard for one’s senses not to feel assaulted in Morocco. The sounds and scents of cities like Fez or Marrakesh, the cumins and olives and peppers that lift up the foods, or the sheer colors that blast you visually the moment you step into this sunbathed country.
Even under the rain, they bombard you with bursts, textures, light, an avalanche that nearly buries every other sense.
The quintessential Moroccan color is blue, from the deep azure of Marrakech’s Majorelle Gardens – known as Majorelle Blue and the blue-washed buildings of Chefchaouen to the azure seas along the country’s long coastline.
Equally stunning are the ochres, the rusts that evoke the Sahara Desert and its fringes to the South or the mud-brick kasbahs, a cross between sand and sunset.
Every color under the sun – and of the sun – is present in Morocco, in its art, its textiles, its pottery, and in the often-mismatched clothes the women wear, preferring contrast and gaiety to sober simplicity.
As I traveled through Morocco recently, my eyes were never still, dissecting, imprinting, often in shock at the brightness surrounding me.
What is it that makes Morocco such a riot of tints?
Is it the light, that Mediterranean brightness cut by the clarity of the Atlas Mountain air?
Is it the country’s heritage, a diversity that mixes Islam with Judaism and Christianity, or perhaps the blend brought by centuries of consorting among Berbers and Arabs and Spaniards and Africans from South of the Sahara, each placing their own layer of visual tradition atop of the previous one.
Is it its heart of art, the creativity worked through its mosaics, carpets and pottery, so dazzling they seem to bound with joy from their resting places?
Or is it plain business, with competition fueling the ever brighter goods on display?
I fail to rest my gaze. Each time I settle on a thing of beauty, I’m wrenched towards an even more striking sight, my eyes grabbed almost against my will and set upon the next great splash: the mounds of olives and overflowing market stalls; the finely-tinted leathers and boldly woven carpets; the tiny bits of glass cut and regrouped into monumental designs; the sky, the scorched earth, the sea; the ridges of the sand dunes, the softness of the springtime green.
I didn’t know where to look, and I don’t know how to describe what I see. I can only show you the colors of Morocco. Undoctored, untouched.
Bottom five photos by Anne Sterck. Collage and mosaic gate by yours truly.