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I recently re-read Out of Africa and was struck anew with the power of her descriptions. Living in a time before cable television or any easy way to share photos, Isak Dinesen relied on the intensity of the written word to recreate the scenes of her life for those living far away. To a smaller extent I try to do the same thing on my blog, though in no other way am I comparing us—I would be thrilled if I thought a phrase of mine could enter the heart and echo there, reality captured and preserved in a mere sentence, like her writing does. (Although I don’t think I’d like to be played by Meryl Streep in the movie, simply because I’m much younger.) But I’ve tried to capture and preserve modern life overseas, what it’s like to be a typical American family living in Mauritania or Morocco, what is normal here and what is abnormal. I’ve tried to give a glimpse of my world.

I was chatting with a writer friend of mine the other night about our blogs. We agreed; when we post pics we use fewer words. She’s feels that too easy—lazy almost. I don’t know. I suspect my readers might be just as happy, in these busy times of over-stuffed feed readers, to look at a few pretty snapshots and get on with their lives, rather than reading my ramblings. I’m a writer married to a photographer, and we’ve had plenty of discussions, each defending our craft, but I do have to admit that sometimes a picture is worth at least 889 words, if not more.

And so, the point of today’s post is to show you more pictures of Meknes. Do you think I have enough pictures of arches? Because I’m just not sure.

The point of this was the kids playing; the arches are just a bonus!

A useful personality trait in the overseas traveler is a willingness to get lost. And few places are as conducive to getting lost as the medinas, or ancient cities, of the Arab world. These are places that grew organically; they are twisting mazes of winding alleyways, rabbit warrens, labyrinths, with narrow streets giving only glimpses of the sky. It’s very easy to get turned around in them. And so we set off, intrepidly even, because I always feel sure that I’m not getting turned around even when I am. It’s like I think I have an incredible sense for direction, which I do most of the time and makes those times I get turned around REALLY mess with my head.

I was very excited about this shot as it not only has TWO arches, but shows a woman carrying a tray of loaves to the local oven to bake them. Also gives you a sense of the potential confusion. Which way to turn? We followed her, mostly because the oven smelled so good.

I did not get turned around. I kept going in what I felt was the right direction and it turned out it was, so that felt good.

Not all dead ends are this easy to spot without unnecessary detours.

There are these wild old ruined walls running straight through the middle of the residential section. Wild, I tell you!

At this point, we had picked up a group of young men who had been informed we did not need guides but were following us anyway. We did wonder if we might not need to use the mighty roundhouse kicks we’ve learned in various aerobics classes over the years, but they didn’t bother us for long.

After we arrived in the open, touristy bit…

…we walked past this shop and I saw an elderly man working on a sheepskin. I wanted to photograph him, but thought he’d never agree. “Why not ask?” urged my friends. I did, and he was more than happy to let me, as long as I paid him something. I think we were both very happy with the arrangement.

Denise says he reminds her of her father.

I myself am very fond of this picture. My biggest frustration is that it could have been a great picture, instead of a snapshot with potential. Sigh. Oh well; it made me happy. I showed it to the sheep-shearer, and he liked it too. Maybe I should switch to a Leica?

April 2010

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