Morocco: The Red City

Our trip began with Marrakech, The Red City. Surrounded by African desert and thick red walls, Marrakech was more foreign even in the approach from the airport than I had been expecting. Because Morocco is so diverse and so close to Europe, I had begun to think before leaving that it would be more like a trip to a European country than an African one, but Marrakech quickly shattered that idea.

In a country as foreign as Morocco, it can often be difficult to break down the barrier between tourist and local: you don't want to be seen as another tourist, and they don't want to be seen as an exotic native. Being blonde and white makes me visible to every salesman from halfway across Morocco, so every person on the street is competing to try to sell something by the time I get there. It's often an overwhelming experience, and one that made us shut down a few times just from the stress of finding a restaurant.

I think that drawing on location often offers a unique experience to be able to interact with people in a different way. Because you are doing something new and exiting, people often drop their usual tourist routine and both groups let down their guard a little. While wandering around in the medina, Chris and I came upon a neighborhood that was completely residential, with not a tourist in sight, but still bustling with people. The walls of the quarter had been freshly washed with "Marrakech Red", and bright red and green flags hung from every building.

As we started to draw, people would smile as they passed, which was very reassuring in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Soon a gaggle of kids began to crowd around us, hopping up to see the drawings and asking to have each one of their portraits drawn. Some men and women came by to peek as well, and one man even shooed some of the kids away to help when he thought they were getting too boisterous. It is one of my fondest memories from Morocco because when you can engage with people on a personal level, where the differences aren't so great, it makes you feel more at home.

We stayed and drew there until sundown, under the latticed roof of the tiny maze-like alleyways, watching people and mopeds pass by, and kittens scamper down the dusty streets and across the rooftops.

Summer Day

Yesterday I had a beautiful day of drawing in the West Village. I started out a French cafe on 6th avenue and had a delicious waffle, while sitting next to the most awful woman I have ever seen.

  • Within seconds of sitting down, our waiter had come to get her drink order and she proceeded to yell at him about some silly thing with the chair.
  • Once he brought her coffee, she went to yell at one of the busboys that the waiter hadn't brought her a new spoon quickly enough.
  • When the waiter came back to take her order, she ordered eggs on the side. When the waiter asked if she wanted eggs on the side of something or just a side of eggs, she yelled again and asked for a new waiter.
  • She then called over the hostess and yelled at her because a new waiter hadn't been assigned to her yet (it had been about one minute). She asked to speak to the manager. The hostess calmed her down, and she then ordered a side of eggs and toast.
  • When the hostess sweetly named all of the breads they carried, the woman then yelled at her for not having "plain" toast, and grumpily allowed them to bring her sourdough. The poor girl looked so terrified, like she was trying to put out a fire that had started for absolutely no reason.
  • All of this occurred within about 5 minutes.

It was completely baffling to me that people treat waiters like that, but I guess people are so inside their own heads sometimes that they don't realize the people around them are people too! *sigh* Anyhoo at least it made for an entertaining meal!

I then went to sit in the park across from Magnolia Bakery, where the pigeons are quite brazen, and where droves of tourists stand in line all day to get movie-star cupcakes. Personally, I've never really liked the cupcakes that much...but I can't really talk, since I went there my first week of being in New York too.

Magnolia also draws crowds of tour groups, especially from the "Sex and the City Tour" variety. While there, several bachelorette parties came by to stop and sample the famous cupcakes. Everyone was always dressed to the nines, like they were out for a night of clubbing, wearing cropped black jackets (all of them) and five inch stilettos (for a walking tour...gluttons for punishment!).

Other than the cupcake aficionados, there was a sweet, beautiful woman who seemed to be falling more in love with the man she was sitting across from every minute. Her smile kept beaming from across the park.

There was also a woman who was quite the multitasker.

Then I left the park and walked towards the Hudson to watch the sunset.

When the sun started to set across the river, there was a sweet gay couple enjoying the moment under the trees. Then a big wind came and blew my ink bottle all over the table. Ink-tastrophe! Still, a great day!