Traveling to Morocco a week after the September earthquake, we had no idea what to expect. Engineers had declared our hotel in Marrakech safe. Our guide in the Atlas Mountains promised the roads would be open, clear, and safe. The best thing we could do for Morocco was to travel there, they said. Tourism had taken a big hit.
Ten days post-earthquake, we rode into the Atlas Mountains. We passed shuttered argan oil and pottery stands. We rode through landscapes of flattened, mud homes and smears of rubble. Our SUV moved slowly in a caravan of trucks carrying tents, clothing, water, and bread to high Atlas villages. We passed military camps, makeshift hospitals, and schools relocated to colorfully painted tents. Field after field of tents spread across every inch of cleared space. Between them, children played soccer, women stirred pots on small stoves, men carried building materials to and from trucks, and volunteers organized debris. There was a feeling of teamwork and effort, but not (as we’d expected) devastation.
We’d arrived with suitcases full of diapers, antibiotic cream, maxi pads, and snacks, but it turned out that supplies were in overabundance. So much had arrived from within Morocco alone that donation centers were clogged. We were told this was the first time the wealthier Arab population had rallied to help the indigenous Amazigh (aka Berber) people as fellow Moroccans rather than marginalized others. Morocco had united.
By the king’s decree, all homes would be repaired and rebuilt at the government’s expense. Perhaps this reassurance plus the cohesive, tribal unity of the Amazigh created the sense of patience and calm we encountered.
We stopped in the main village of Imlil, gateway to Mount Toubkal, where most shops remained closed and many buildings were damaged or in shambles. We saw boulders the size of buses that had rolled down the mountains, flattening apple orchards. It was apple and walnut season, trees laden and ready to be picked. We walked under a canopy of branches, to above the tree line, to a waterfall that flowed into a crystal-clear brook. What surprised us, over and over, was how normal things seemed, even as most families were living in temporary tents, with warm meals provided by World Central Kitchen. We heard children laughing and playing. We passed people chatting around a man selling trout from a cooler on a mule’s back.
The collection of rugs we purchased holds extra meaning, as we witnessed, firsthand, the strength of Amazigh society: the fabric of their world. The sense of place and home in these villages went beyond the physical presence of “home” to a pure sense of belonging somewhere for generations. Houses may come and go, but home remains timeless.
Amazigh women have knotted this style of High Atlas rug for centuries. Since most designs contain symbols meant to ward off the evil eye, these rugs are considered protective totems. What we witnessed was Amazigh tradition in practice, as villagers cared for and protected one another. Our guide, Hassan, told us the 2,000 people in the Imlil Valley all know each other. When an elder dies, every person visits the household to pay tribute. There are no strangers in this part of the world.
As we said goodbye, Hassan said one more thing. We believe that once you come to Morocco, Morocco becomes your home, too. So, this is also your home. He held his hand on his heart.
Now we bring you this High Atlas Collection in neutrals and rare, disappearing indigo. Each combines two weaving techniques, both shag and flatweave. From our home to yours, we invite you to visit in person or shop the collection here through our website.
Margit + Gretchen