Morocco: Ait Benhaddou

the best of Morocco
After Todra Gorge we drove to Ait Benhaddou and arrived at our hotel by late afternoon as the sun was setting. Time in this place was short and we were to leave the next day sometime around Noon. With only 3 other destinations left after Ait Benhaddou I was getting exhausted (In a good way). Being constantly on the move plus beautiful sensory overload through out this adventure holiday was really challenging my stamina at this point but at the same time there was a sadness brewing because I had fallen in love with Morocco & I knew that soon this life changing adventure will be over.
Aït Benhaddou is a fortified city, or ksar, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. It is situated in Souss-Massa-Drâa on a hill along the Ounila River and is known for its kasbahs, although they take damage with each rainstorm. Most of the town’s inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other side of the river; however, eight families still live within the ksar.

Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and many movies have been filmed here including Prince of Persia, Kingdom of Heaven & the Mummy. It is also used in parts of the hit T.V show Game of Thrones.

ait benhaddou

city game of thrones was filmed

Ouarzazate

visit Morocco

where to go in Morocco

the Moroccan culture

Berber people

Berber culture

sunset in Morocco

visit Ait Benhaddou

things to see in Morocco

Intrepid tours

Katie Ness sunflowerteeth blog
We explored the streets of this clay kasbah at a relaxed pace, then finished off the day with a meal of delicious couscous. Part of our stay also involved a ‘cooking class’ demonstration on how to cook Tagine meals which was fun to watch. we all enjoyed spending time with the owner of the Guesthouse who was a playful & entertaining host. His nickname is “Action” because he has been an extra in many of the films directed here. He welcomed us to the top of the guesthouse balcony for some refreshing Moroccan mint green tea.

Morocco best of

where to stay in ait benhaddou

beautiful views in Ait Benhaddou

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Staying here was wonderful & the views were stunning, you really did feel like you were taken back in time whilst walking through the ancient city that hasn’t changed since the 11th Century. Just being in the presence of these simple but breath taking structures left me in awe. If you go here, walk through the city during sunset or sunrise because when the auburn sun light hits the golden sandy walls of the buildings & the curves of the surrounding landscape it is truly a spectacular view.

If you missed previous Moroccan adventures click on the links below!
Day one & two in Casablanca
Day three/Afternoon in Rabat
Day Four/Morning in Meknes
Day Four/Afternoon in Volubilis
Day Five: Fes
Day Six: Midelt
Day Seven in Sahara Desert
Days Eight/Nine in Todra Gorge

I am also on TripAdvisor, find me here.

Ana Forrest: Forrest Yoga

ana_forest_yoga_teacher

“Pain, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, need not be a constant in your life. You can always choose to develop a different relationship to it, so if you cannot walk free of it completely, you can liberate yourself from the suffering you’ve attached to it. That is a walk of freedom.”
-Ana Forrest. Fierce Medicine.

I am currently reading Ana’s incredible book Fierce Medicine, I briefly reviewed it in a previous blog post but now I am half way through reading this book I feel empowered and want to share my current thoughts. In all honesty I am new to Yoga, I am a baby, a fledgling, a puppy or gosling testing the waters & learning to swim. It’s an exciting time full of curiosity & mystery for me. I have always been in awe of Yoga, in my head I was already a Yogini, in my mind I would envision myself doing the ansanas and thinking about illustrating a beautiful yoga book one day (I am still thinking about that). I have practiced Yoga asanas on and off since I was in University and in my final year I spent 6 months learning Ashtanga with my teacher (who was in training at the time) and at home to prepare my body for my dance/video/room installation I had created based on a dream I had when I was 15.

Coming back to present day and I am learning how to teach Yoga as a safe warm up to the Belly Dance in future classes. I am a multifaceted person with many strings to my belt which will eventually come apparent some time in the New Year. So with Yoga, as someone with innocent eyes walking into this wonderful world I know the basics of the Philosophies of Yoga such as The Yoga Sutras, The Gita and The Upanishads but I currently can not relate to them (yet) and I also can not rave about or feel connected to the great Yogi masters of the past & present such as Swami Sivananda and B.K.S. Iyengar for example, this is not to say that I won’t feel connected to them at all, there will come a point in my life where it will be the right time to learn about them.

So this is where teachers like Ana Forrest come in, alongside others like Laura Sykora & Briohny Smith , Chelsea Roff and even my own local teacher Jo Thyssen because these teachers appear more attainable, more human and more real to me and have therefore become my first guides on this journey. They are all also strong, creative women and it is that energy within them that I can relate to, not some crusty guru in a loin cloth preaching about the Sutras. My own mother is a single parent and has always been a fierce Leo woman, I grew up with this energy and fused it with my creativity and so being around or knowing women who also embody that same fusion of strength & creativity is very inspiring.

In regards to Fierce Medicine. Ana Forrest writes with devotion and honesty. There is a balance between harsh realism & affectionate spirituality. Like a mother figure she nurtures and reminds you of your gifts but also whips you into shape with her Sharpe tongue. Like the Baba Yaga she takes you on a journey that is not always pretty, the darkness can devour you whole but can spit you back out into the light again, making you more prepared than ever to find your warrior spirit and gallop towards your quest. This book is both challenging & inspiring. It is challenging because she asks the reader to tap into the darker aspect of yourself sometimes, she asks you to think about death (There is even a death meditation to try out) but it is also inspiring because she brings to you an awareness of nature and includes Native Indian American medicine as oppose to ancient Indian philosophies. She encourages you to ignite your spirit through Yoga, breath work, meditation & soul searching to help heal any pain & suffering you may have within you. She asks you to be wild, speak your truth, push your own buttons, redefine the edges and find your fierce creative heart. This book also includes practical focal points associated with each chapter, with Asanas & meditation practice for you to try. These include Asana poses for encouraging hunger or opening the heart and meditation to access your truth. If you loved Clarissa Pinkolo’s book ‘Women who run with the Wolves’ then you will love Fierce Medicine.
Images Sourced from here & here.
Ana Forrest

Skills

Nutrition & Health certificate
So you guys know I am currently acquiring skills to add to my repertoire and you have seen the last three that were posted to me some time last week. Another one has recently arrived and it’s all about knowledge in Nutrition and general good health for the body, including one module on Eating Disorders which again compliments my Mental Health Studies Diploma. You see Mental health is linked to foods we eat; poor nutrition causes an in-balance to the brain & Endocrine System which stimulates a number of hormonal & mental problems. Mental health issues can actually manifest into physical ailments & Dis-ease which is why earlier in the year I studied a level 3 in Anatomy & Physiology to better understand the body and how it correlates to the mind. Also as a dancer and dance leader in training I need that basic knowledge anyway. So you see everything I am learning all links together which is pretty cool.
I am still waiting for one other certificate to arrive and I am currently studying a Level 3 in Understanding Eating Disorders. After that, in the New Year I have three other short courses I have plans to do.

Where am I at with my Yoga Teacher Training you might be asking? Well, I am currently studying my 4th module which is all about psychology and how Yoga benefits the mind and mental health and I received a Distinction for my previous three essays plus 50 hours of practice so far. This is going to provide me with skills in teaching Yoga as a warm up in my Belly Dance classes and I hope to deepen my knowledge by eventually enrolling with the Devon School of Yoga or maybe an intensive teacher training abroad? Who knows? But this course I am on now is basically a good stepping stone, providing me with the essentials so to speak. I noticed that there are people teaching Yoga without any training or certification what so ever and have no plans to, which is not safe, you need to know at least the basics. I am enjoying all my learning & development at this stage in my life and I am looking forward to the future.

Here is a quote I really loved from ‘The Yoga Diaries’ and it really resonates with me:
“…I wanted to learn more about this ancient practice and my philosophy of accelerated learning is this: If you want to learn something, learn how to teach it. So I enrolled on a Yoga Teacher Training Program…”

I don’t believe in living the same day twice and what I am going to become doesn’t even have a title yet and I may seem a little unconventional and nonsensical right now but the world needs people like me to challenge their perceptions of what is real and I will tell you what it is: What is real is what is true in our hearts, it is curiosity and following your heart’s journey not living in the shadow of social norms & boxed societies. I am seeking my truth and learning a great many things a long the way, I am not harming anybody, I am just filling my vessel with knowledge that will benefit me in what ever it is I decide to label myself as. I do know it will be a mixture of creativity & art, therapy, teaching, workshop leading, truth speaking, creative movement (Yoga & Dance) & guiding others….Now to think of a title for that profession? Tricky!

The glorious pursuit of Life

the glorious pursuit of life

Don’t you just love it when things are shown to you at the right time in your life? Whether we call it Synchronicity or the Universe sending us a message or a happy coincidence it doesn’t matter, what matters is the feeling it brings, the courage & hope it sparks and the uplifting energy it gives in order to keep us on track & feel like we can achieve great things for our projects & dreams. Keep on doing what you love, become a master of it and share it with others. Keep on being curious about life, soak up knowledge, have thirst for travel, explore everything and meet many people over a hot beverage & chocolate cake, share conversations and laughters, encounter the mountains that tower over us like silent, ancient giants and listen to the rain. Smile at the stars and smell the earth. Enjoy your short, sweet existence on this earth plane because nobody knows if we come back and if we do, it will be a completely new life adventure to begin again, everything in life is a circle, including our souls.
“Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life.”- Lawrence K. Fish.

Thank you to Peace for sending me this. It made my day.

Certificates

mental health studies

So as you guys know I have been working hard this year on gaining skills & knowledge to really strengthen my qualifications portfolio. I knew that after my degree in Fine Art that I’d need to do further training in order to eventually work in a specific field. With a Fine Arts degree, you can’t really walk in a school, gallery or health centre and say ‘Hey I am great, give me a job” because you’ll have had no experience or proper training to go with your creative portfolio. I am really interested in the community arts & mental health alongside running my own workshops. About three years ago I moved to Plymouth after my degree to be with Jon so first things first, I needed any normal job to help out with finances. It took a while to settle in Plymouth, find work & essentially find myself. I also did a 6 month placement at a special needs school which was great because the placement included play work, therapeutic art, water, rebound (trampoline) & sand exercises but I quickly realized it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in. Soon after that I became a stage manager for a theatre production and a number of youth groups for two months over the summer and it was that job that inspired me to want to be involved in the community arts plus these kids came from all walks of life, some were refugees seeking asylum, some had mental health issues and others had mental & physical disabilities. This was an ‘AHA!’ moment and the beginning of dedicating myself to training & gaining relevant skills that combine well with my Fine Art degree that will make me an excellent community artist.
I have also had experience teaching children for a summer in China plus Co-running a local arts centre near my home town in Blackpool. Eventually one day I’d like to do a masters to become an expressive arts & movement therapist specializing in working with refugees and young adults who suffer with mental health issues, this will happen in the distant future after I have had a good amount of life experience.

Already this year I have completed a good handful of certificates including an art therapy diploma to better understand art and it’s role in a therapeutic environment, understanding psychological trauma, Anatomy & Physiology to better understand how the body works in correlation to the mind, Nutrition, Equality & Diversity plus the usual First Aid & Safe Guarding training.
The most recent certificates include Mental Health studies, Child protection & Coaching skills because alongside art I am also interested in dance & movement therapy and this certificate works well with the Dance Leadership & Yoga Teacher training in order for me to lead or teach not only art sessions but also dance movement with Yoga within these creative sessions also, or as separate workshops altogether. Now I have enrolled on an Eating Disorder course to continue developing my knowledge in all aspects of mental health. I have plans in the new year to study a Dance/Movement Therapy Diploma. I hope you guys see where I am going with all of this, I know it is a lot to take in but it makes sense to me and I am loving this developmental process in my life at the moment, I feel like a lotus flower that is growing out of the murky lake and soon I will bloom in my full glory. Thank you for supporting me on this journey.