Kantara Blog

Traveling with the Smithsonian in Morocco

Last month I had the honor of joining a Smithsonian Journeys trip as their Morocco expert. We spent 12 days traveling through Morocco on a route that I have traveled countless times before.

It's the same route that I've taken for years through the Middle and High Atlas mountains on Kantara buying trips, visiting artisans along the way. This time I returned with a tour director who has spent the last 38 years leading trips in Morocco. 

Needless to say, we covered a lot of ground-- geographically, as well as in terms of content matter. 

Here are some of the highlights of the trip.

We visited the potters in Fes and learned about the zellij tile work.

I got recruited to help with the tea ceremony...

We visited ancient Roman ruins, dating back to 2nd century BCE...

And visited the more recently abandoned Kasbahs along the Route des Mille Kasbahs.

After a full day exploring Rissani and learning about its significance as the site of the medieval caravan trading village Sijilmassa and the birthplace of the current Alaouite dynasty, we headed out to the desert for a sunrise camel trek.

And we stayed in some pretty incredible places.

With impeccable design taste...

And sunrises to wake up for.

On Current Events

The last few weeks adjusting to our new political climate has been quite the rollercoaster to say the least. My appetite for posting pretty photos of high-end, hand-woven Moroccan rugs and picturesque Middle Atlas landscapes has waned every time there has been a new Executive Order targeting folks of marginalized identities in the US and beyond.

At the same time I remember that I first started Kantara after living and working in Morocco in 2006. More than just selling rugs, I wanted to use Kantara as a platform to share stories of the women weavers, of how they live their lives, and of the role religion, tradition, food, and artistry play in their daily lives.

I'm no expert on the matter but I've been traveling to Morocco on and off for the last decade. On early buying trips, I weathered every form of public transportation that exists (including hitchhiking) and eventually got my systems down to a science. 

Now when I go to Morocco, I rent a tiny car and travel from village to village over some of the country's more remote terrain. I take back roads, dirt roads, non-roads. I've picked up hitchhikers, gotten pulled over by cops dozens upon dozens of times, and had my car break down several times. There have been many times when I've gotten lost and asked directions only for the person directing me to jump in my car and take us both to my desired location. 

Over the years, I've crisscrossed Morocco many times, traveling as a single woman, no hijab, and usually alone. I've never had any issues. 

To the contrary, more often than not, I would be invited in for tea, make a new acquaintance, or at the very least have a good discussion and practice my Arabic. 

There is so much more to say on this matter, but for now, I'm realizing it's more important than ever for us to use every tool we have to speak truth to power. 

I have been treated with such kindness and generosity by the artisans and families that I work with in Morocco. I have learned so much from these sage, hard-working Amazigh matriarchs-- about weaving, about life, about resilience. As we settle into our new geo-political reality, I'm going to be sharing more about the women that weave these rugs in an attempt to foster a greater understanding of a people that are not so different than each of us. #KantaraStory


Moroccan interiors


Peeking into closets full of fancy embroidered Moroccan caftans and dresses inside a Riad in the Marrakech medina. Feeling very inspired by those golden poufs.

Movies - Hip Hop in Morocco

A new documentary, I Love Hip Hop in Morocco has been hitting the film festival circuit and is on the verge of its global release.

The story begins with a group of Moroccan hip hop artists who share a single dream: to rock a professional concert for a hometown crowd. Unfortunately, resistance is strong in their society and resources scarce. And so begins the journey.

Featuring Moroccan Hip Hop artists like DJ Key, H-Kayne, Fnaïre, MC Bigg, Brownfingaz, Mot de Passe, FatiShow, this film delves into the "thoughts and dreams of the true future of the Arab world-- it's youth."


At the western-most frontier of the Arabic empire, Morocco was initially referred to as the Maghreb, literally meaning land of the setting sun, or Western land. In academia the term has come to represent the countries in North Africa, specifically Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The two maghrebs are now used interchangeably to speak simultaneously of Morocco and the region on a whole.

Ramadan meals

Back in the day, the iftour meal that would break the fast consisted of water and dates. While dates still figure prominently in most iftours, there is now a delicious palate of other flavors to explore.

Food is a central component of the Ramadan experience; while people fast during the daylight hours, they tend to dine in style during the nighttime reprise. As the muezzine tolls the bell signalling the setting sun, practicing Muslims take their first bites together. These were some of the staples of my iftour meals in Morocco:

  • Dates
  • Harira Soup
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs
  • Bread
  • Shebekkia
  • Mint Tea
  • Avocado Milk Shake
  • Coffee


September 1st, 2008.

Ramadan has begun, the Islamic month of fasting. Based on the Islamic calendar, the word "Ramadan" literally means the "ninth month." During this time Muslims fast from dawn (fujr) to sunset (maghrib). As the month progresses, the days shorten and the fasting period diminishes ever so slightly, minutes shaved off of each end. On the last day of Ramadan fasting begins at 6:11am and ends at 7:12pm.

Beyond the logistical, technical definition of Ramadan, there is so much more that happens throughout the month of fasting. When asked why I fasted when I lived in Morocco and what the draw was, I had to think a moment before running through stream of consciousness blabber about food- culture- iftours- family- belonging- nature- time- fulfillment- settling- ritual- humor- community-------the list goes on.

Approaching Ramadan

As the moon apexes at its fully waxed position, I am instantly reminded that Ramadan is right around the corner. The next new moon will be the official beginning of the month-long period of religious fasting.

Since Ramadan is based on a lunar schedule, every year Ramadan begins approximately 10 days earlier. Those who fast only eat between sun-down and sun-up, moments that are identified by the Muezzine's routine call to prayer.

Where I grew up calibrating myself to sun-cycles, Muslims follow a lunar calendar. As the years go by and Ramadan begins progressively earlier in the year, encroaching upon the hottest, longest summer months, I wonder about health, nutrition, and hydration for those who fast during the endless summer desert days.