Wednesday, September 14, 2016


The syllables of his name are enough to dot my skin with goosebumps, but to see the traces of his hand in the lines of Goliath's brow— the sickly lips of Bacchus, the rosiness of so many fingertips— I was removed from my place in this world, brought to the darkest of shadows, and transversely, to the brightest of lights.

Earth and stone ground to dust, suspended in oil and pulled across a stretched cloth by bristles— that coloured dust forming the pale ridge of an eyelid, the half-moon of a cuticle.

Faces and their anguish so familiar, they feel like my own.

Caravaggio. David with the Head of Goliath. 1609–1610. Oil on canvas. Galleria Borghese, Rome.
Caravaggio. Madonna with the Serpent. 1606. Oil on canvas. Galleria Borghese, Rome.
Caravaggio. Sick Bacchus. 1593. Oil on canvas. Galleria Borghese, Rome.
Caravaggio. The Inspiration of Saint Matthew. 1602. Oil on canvas. Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


I could have spent all day watching the sunlight move across the floor in beams of dust-speckled blue, under your oculus.

On the cool stone floor polished smooth by thousands upon thousands of feet, I would sit beside Raphael's bones, and watch.

Your perfect lines, your perfect curves. Your perfect shadow.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


Magnificent from any angle— creamy marble against a black sky and pale green water— the light and shadows ever-changing from the ripples in the pool beneath. A dream carved in stone, growing out of the facade of the stately building the way clouds take on the shapes of battleships then rabbits.

On the edge of the crowd, we found a spot to sit where I could dip my hand into the cool green water, where light gently reflected from the glittering coins that represented the many hopes of returning to Rome. I tossed a dirham in.

Friday, August 19, 2016

this one's for you, mom

Your favourites: fresh cannoli from a sweet Sicilian patisserie and tangy lemon gelato— not as good as your gelato, of course!

Love you.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

marble made flesh

Light cuts through the cool darkness inside St. Peter's Basilica, illuminating the curves of figures carved in stone, and everything glows gold. Were it not for the legions of ecstatic travellers who made their pilgrimages from all corners of the world, it would be a sombre place. I was moved by the tears in so many eyes, the wide grins, the brides in marble-white, knowing how important this moment was for so many under the same bright dome. I felt an empathy, for it was my pilgrimage too.

Thirty-odd years since I first saw its image in a weathered book, I had come from North Africa for the Pietà, to look upon the miracle of marble made flesh and fabric by Michelangelo's hands over five hundred years ago. I came for the gravity captured in the little bulge of skin made by Mary's thumb under her dead son's sinking arm, for his ankles, for the grief in her young face and outstretched hand.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


At every turn of your head: frescoes, sculptures, mosaics, woodwork, tiles— embellishment beyond belief! The Vatican clearly spared no expense in decorating. There are the monumental works of art (the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel), and there are the various halls that are painted from nearly top to bottom in figures, beasts, and lots of colour.

The tiled floor above reminded me so much of Portugal... like walking up azulejo-covered walls, defying gravity. Then there was this little fellow, whom we discovered perched atop a line of red:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

the school of athens

Beautiful Raphael, the bold and ambitious, still staring back at us from within his masterpiece, nearly lost among the bustling bodies of great philosophers— rooms away from the work he so admired, painted by his bitter rival. It is said that when Raphael sneaked into the Sistine Chapel to catch a glimpse of Michelangelo's progress one night, he was so taken by what he had seen that he decided to include a portrait of the temperamental artist within his own fresco, front and center. While others are engaged in fierce debates or study texts, Michelangelo, representing the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, seems adrift in thought— his body powerful beneath his smock, as muscular as the figures in his magnificent ceiling.

It seems cruel that Raphael was only given thirty-seven years on this earth, but oh how much he managed to give us in that short amount of time...

Monday, August 8, 2016


Laocoön and your pretty sons, the twisting of your flesh and serpents entwined in your limbs still command awe— were you the ones looked upon by Pliny himself? How many eyes have studied the lines of your agony since your creation?

a dream realized

Among my bedtime stories were my mother's art books. I have wanted this ever since I can remember.

The older I get, the more aware I am of how brief our time is. I suppose it's only natural. While staring up at the twists of spine and muscle so beautifully painted over 500 years ago, loved by so many, my vision became hot and blurred.

I am so utterly grateful.

magic names

I've always saved Rome and Vatican City in the back of my head as places I would surely visit one day— after all, the Eternal City would always be there. Summers were meant for grand adventures like Nepal or driving through Anatolia, but this one would be a low-key affair spent close to home in order for us to complete various projects. At some point however, boredom had me looking for flights that flew out of the nearby Rabat-Salé Airport in August— there aren't that many, but there was a flight to Rome.

Rome. Vatican City. Caravaggio, Bernini, Michelangelo. The Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Tiber. Magic names that filled my heart— there were works of art I had longed to see since I first discovered my mother's art books. I remember studying every panel on every page about the Sistine Chapel— the curve of the Delphic Sibyl's upper lip I practiced in pencil until it was right. I wanted to see how Pluto's fingers pressed into Persephone's thigh, the way the light bounced through the leaves that grew from Daphne's hand. I wanted to know just how dark Caravaggio's shadows really were. I wanted to stand beneath the oculus of the Pantheon.

What on earth had I been waiting for?