Saturday, December 30, 2017

harika holidays from florence

If I don't get a chance to post a "Happy New Year" to you all in a week or two— have a very happy New Year! May it be a harika year of happiness and good health, inspiration and fulfillment. When I find a moment, I have so much to show you— Artemisia, Botticelli, Lippi, Titian, Raphael, Leonardo... Magical names to invoke for 2018. Until then, ciao my friends!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

moroccan doughnuts

I do not have a sweet tooth, but every so often I indulge in a sugary treat. For some time I had been curious about these so-called Moroccan doughnuts, which every now and then could be seen carried away down the street by men in djellabas, the fluffy rings strung like beads on a strip of palm frond. I had incorrectly assumed that they could be found in a café or bakery, and after many disappointing attempts to get my hands on some, I consulted my students. I learned that the doughnuts are called sfenj, and can only be acquired from a dedicated sfenj hole-in-the-wall.

On one of Baby's afternoon walks, I spied a man in a striped djellaba turning away from a little crowd of people with a string of golden rings. Could it be? As he walked past me, it was confirmed: sfenj. In a shop no bigger than a closet, sandwiched between the entrances of apartment buildings, sat a man and a vat of boiling oil. A steamy display case separated eager clientele from the man, who was diligently spooning the sfenj out from the bubbling pool of oil.

I got four plain sfenj on a palm frond, and one dusted with sugar in my hand for immediate devouring. The dough was delightfully crispy on the outside and fluffy inside— far better than your average American doughnut, with or without sugar— and there's something so wonderful about carrying your string of sfenj down the street. Now I just need a blue djellaba...

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Nine years... where have they all gone? Little did I know when I started this blog that I would find the love of my life, leave the other love of my life— Istanbul— and end up in Morocco with a baby. In the wee hours of the morning while feeding the little one, I was reflecting on how much I have loved sharing my journeys with all of you, and how little of it I have been doing since moving here. It feels like time is just slipping away— and there's never enough of it. Sketching and any kind of artwork seems out of the question, and this has plunged me into a sort of loneliness. Drawing and painting is such an integral part of my identity, that without it I am left with an emptiness.

So I managed to do three small sketches in the past month. It's hardly anything, but it's a start. I've been playing around with some pigment powders that I bought in the medina of Tangier:

Just above is Hamide, a Gnaoua musician who zipped across our path on a bike, down one of Asilah's narrow alleyways, sintir on his back. It was so quick that at first I wasn't sure what I saw— a hunched figure in a striped djellabah with what looked like a guitar— but after turning a few corners, we ran right into him. Hamide was laying out a few items on striped and tie-dyed cloths when he greeted us, which involved placing hats on our heads.

Sensing that I was eager to sketch Hamide, Pedro asked if he would pose for a portrait. With a wide grin he pulled out the sintir, a low, banjo-like instrument of stretched camel skin with three goat gut strings.

Je joue pour le bébé.

A deep, trance-like melody filled the alley, lulling Baby to sleep. Seizing the moment, I drew. At some point during the song, a young man popped out of a door with a plate of couscous for Hamide, which he shared with us.

Nous sommes une grande famille. He explained.

So here we are, nine years later. I've really got to start drawing again. Make the time, get over my new nervousness when approaching people. It goes by too quickly.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

the colours of asilah

Like so many places in Morocco, Asilah is white and blue— sky and clouds, water and salt. The blues range from an intense ultramarine to a bright cerulean.

I spied this secret blue haven through a shop window, and dreamed of sitting in that chair under the stairwell with a glass of fresh mint tea, a pad of paper, and a pencil...