A Surprise in Morocco: The Valley of Roses
Before arriving in Morocco, my vision of what awaited me there mainly included scenes from its cities: The twisting side streets of the souks and large medinas like Marrakech’s Djemaa el-Fna, brimming with people and bubbling with spices and exotic scents.
But then I arrived in the Valley of Roses, six hours east of Marrakech by bus and more than a world away. Gone were the crowds and cramped spaces; in their place, the landscape opened up to reveal a beautiful, expansive gorge and dusty villages I couldn’t wait to explore.
Through the center of the valley flowed the M’Goun River, feeding wheat fields, groves of olive and fig trees, and endless hedges of rose bushes. And yet the hills rising high above the river seemed almost lunar, with only a few shrubs growing here and there among the striated stone.
I met a family in the valley one afternoon, who invited my friend Liz and I to join them beneath the shade of an almond tree. Over a single gas burner, they prepared a savory stew of lamb and vegetables, slowly adding thick chunks of turnips, cauliflower, onions, and potatoes. They offered us bottomless glasses of mint tea, sweetened with shards of sugar as large and pointed as daggers, and I was humbled by their kindness and by a hospitality I had never before experienced.
Liz left the following morning, and I spent my last afternoon in a village called Boutaghrar. I spread out my sketchbook and paints on a hotel rooftop and attempted to capture the scene before me.
It was a valley of contrasts–not only in and of itself, with its dry, ochre mountains juxtaposed against the verdant riverbed, but also in comparison to cities like Marrakech and Tangier.
It was a valley–and a people–I hadn’t expected to meet, and that had, to my deep delight, widened my world once again.
Candace Rose Rardon is a travel writer, photographer, and sketch artist with a passion for documenting the world. To learn more about her travels and creations, visit http://www.candaceroserardon.com.