July 18, 2012

Acquire some beautiful things + save BIG = help Moroccans

That's a beautiful equation, no? We're gearing up for our annual aid distribution trip to Morocco and that means we've raided our stockroom, attaching sparkly stickers to select items that represent a-m-a-z-i-n-g savings opportunities for you. Quite simply, we need the shelf space (so we can return from the trip with shiny new Moroccan handicrafts for you) and we need the funds (to sponsor a few important projects this year). We wouldn't dilly dally if we were you...the prices below represent fantastic savings on authentic Moroccan goods, but our quantities are extremely limited.

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Vintage Moroccan Handira wedding Blankets: Save $50 on any blanket less than $450 or less; save $75 on any blanket priced at $450 or more

Basheera Moroccan Handira Bedspreads: were $475, now $360
Colorful Wool Berber Blankets:
were $80, now $60
Sabra Silk Blankets: were $95, now $70
Paraffin Luminaries: were $36, now $25
Imperial Star Door Knockers: were $75, now $60
Silk Tassel Curtain Pulls: were $75, now $37.50
Bling! Baskets: were $75, now $55
Men's Leather Babouche: were $45, now $32
Women's Sequin Leather Slippers: were $40, now $30
Embellished Market Baskets: were $75, now $55
Leather & Kilim Weekender Bags: was $195, now $170
Silver Stone Cuff: was $120, now $70
Silver Essaouira Necklace: was $225, now $170
Modern Square Leather Pouf: was $220, now $150
Embossed Leather Poufs: was $75, now $60
Embroidered Baby Linens: were $45, now $30
Thuya Wood & Marble Solitaire Game: was $40, now $40
Embroidered Leather Poufs: were $120, now $90

These prices reflect savings of $20-60% on a stunning variety of Moroccan luxuries and every penny of your purchase will be added directly to the funds we've gathered for aid distribution later this year. Please help us spread the word!

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January 23, 2012

Prayers for Morocco

Morocco has not been untouched by the Arab spring movement that started one year ago this month via the self-immolation of a fruit vendor. I doubt that Mohamed Bouazizi could have imagined that this single act would have such a tremendous ripple effect throughout the entire Arab region. Upon my last visit to Morocco in September of 2011, I wrote a blog detailing my observations about the profound differences I noticed visiting Essaouira and Marrakech as compared to previous visits to those same areas.

In order to deliver a quick and dirty history of the political instability of the last year: In mid- February (2011), sizable protests emerged in large cities throughout Morocco. Organized by the February 20th Movement, the primary stated goals were constitutional reform, restricted powers for the reigning king and the release of political prisoners. Though not formally stated, the lack of viable employment opportunities seemed to be a serious draw for demonstrators. Understandably so: the "official" unemployment rate for university graduates tops 16%, though real-word rates seem markedly higher. Those protests spread quickly and gained the attention of the king. On March 9th, King Mohammed VI promised reform. The protests, however, continued- with waxing and waning force- throughout the summer of 2011 as his constituents awaited delivery on the king's promises. Late April brought a horrific terrorist bombing at a popular cafe in Marrakech, the country's tourism hub, that claimed the lives of 14 people, most of them tourists. That event certainly did nothing to improve tourism and relax the woes of the Moroccan people. In late June, King Mohammed VI announced the proposed reforms and put them up for popular vote. Just one week later, the people of Morocco overwhelmingly approved the proposal. However, my local contacts seem uninspired and unsure of the future, attributing the approval to people who desperately need the country to stabilize in order for tourists to return and economic conditions to improve. That seemed to be central to the vote, far more than any real optimism for profound change. Protests fizzled during the holy month of Ramadan last fall and things have been relatively quiet, with pockets of unrest popping up now and again.

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January 2012, however, has not proven so quiet. Hassane has kept me informed of local happenings and it seems that protests are again gaining momentum. Last week witnessed the self-immolation of five university graduates who set themselves alight out of frustration due to the lack of skilled employment opportunities. Hot on their heels, seventy workers marched into phosphorous mines laced with explosives the next day in a planned mass suicide to bring attention to the same issue. It didn't help matters that ten protestors, some of whom had accused the government of torture, were sentenced last week in Safi to four years in prison for their role in protests last autumn.

As summarized by Reuters last week: "Almost a third of Moroccan youths are unemployed, poverty affects over a quarter of the 33 million population and there are persistent grievances about inefficient education, nepotism and widespread corruption." It is my understanding that people re quite on edge, that the air is filled with anxiety and that tourism is still quite depressed, furthering the strain on the pocketbooks of those who depend on the industry throughout Morocco. I worry for the safety of my friends and staff there. I worry for the students, whose educational opportunities are so fragile and easily derailed. I hope we aren't on a road that will disrupt their dedication and access to learning. I worry that continued instability will delay our next aid trip and the ability of our craftsmen to provide the indigenous goods which are the tools we need to have aid to distribute.

Please send some good juju out into the universe for Morocco.

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November 29, 2011

Feast Your Eyes

Our new Moroccan luxuries are now live on the website- feast your eyes on just a few of the lovelies we carted back from our September trip to Morocco!

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Embellished Market Basket and Bling Basket

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Leather & Kilim Weekender Bag

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Turquoise & Coral Endless Knot Necklace

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Silver Essaouira Necklace

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Pretty Silver Teapots in all sizes

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Handwoven Moroccan Carpet: Amani

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Moroccan Wedding Blanket: Sultana

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Thuya Wood & Marble Solitaire Game

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Colored Cotton Handira

Please consider giving a gift this season that will not only bless those you love, but change the lives of people you'll likely never meet...

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October 26, 2011

Outtakes from our photo shoot

I've spent the last few day sin Atlanta working with the amazing Dana of One Haute Plate to photograph all the beautiful new jewelry and teapots and vintage Moroccan wedding blankets that I assembled while in Morocco in September. I'm so excited to get these new lovelies on the site, as they hold so much promise to help us execute life-changing projects in Morocco. Stay tuned- I expect to have the new products available on our website by November 10th!

Here are a few raw outtakes from the shoot- just a sneak peek of what's to come...

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September 22, 2011

Lots of new goodies coming soon...

I've spent the last few days in the souks of Marrakech, touching base with our network of artisans and unearthing new treasures to bring to the website. Every time I walk the souks here, my head spins with the possibilities. There is certainly no shortage of artistry and talent in the medina and I adore Morocco's "old world craftsmanship" approach to their creations. We should have a new shipment of luxuries on the ground in early October. Pending a photo shoot, I hope to have everything up on the website by October 17th. We're restocking brass doorknockers, embroidered bed linens and a wide range of leather poufs. I'm also thrilled to be bringing on a selection of vintage handira (Moroccan wedding blankets), Thuya wood games, handmade leather bags and silver teapots.

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Teapots in the medina

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Embroidered baskets- they make awesome beach bags and farmer's market totes

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Making the leather handles will be affixed to our embroidered baskets

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Handcrafting a leather bag


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September 20, 2011

Victory is sweet.

As promised, we were successful in our aid distribution efforts here in Morocco. I freely concede that there were periods of doubt and I do believe there were forces working against us, but hell hath no fury like a woman on a mission.

Upon learning that our backpacks full of school supplies would not be allowed into Morocco because we lacked approval from the Ministry of Education and a Censorship Visa from the Ministry of Information, we unpacked all the books and repacked the bags. We sent them off to Morocco again with a heady mix of desperate prayers and abundant hope. I landed in Morocco only to learn that they had been seized by customs officials. Despite a promise to "name their price" within 48 hours of seizure, we spent the next week on a wild goose chase of phone calls. That time was passed prepping crafts for the kids that I had hand-carried into the country and speaking with the local school teacher to nail down a distribution plan.

There was some discussion over the course of a few days as to whether or not we should seek permission to distribute from local government officials. There was further discussion as to whether or not the school director would allow us on property, despite his earlier promise, once he learned we were American. It seems somewhat ludicrous to me that the government makes it so challenging to help their people who so obviously desire the assistance, but such is life in Morocco. At the end of the day, the local school director acquiesced and Hafida, the teacher we were coordinating with, asked us to speak with the local government, so off we went. We arrived at the offices of what is, in effect, the mayor of the region. He was smartly dressed and generally welcoming.

Nine of us (NINE!) streamed into a conference room for a marathon meeting: passports reviewed, relationships clarified, itineraries and histories of our Moroccan travels detailed, addresses collected, personal information phoned into the embassy in Rabat, school supplies examined. There was much back and forth in Arabic, most of which was spoken too quickly for me to sufficiently digest. There were definitely allies and foes in that room. Stephanie and I did our very best to appear at ease and friendly while studying Hafida's tense face for signs of how this was all proceeding. Files presented, documents signed, faxes sent and received, more phone calls. Ninety minutes later, the official looked at us and said "Welcome to Morocco...we're happy to have you here." Stephanie and I looked at each other as if to say: "Is that a yes?" Upon the exchange of a few more pleasantries, we piled into the car and headed to the school, severely delayed and having received word that most of the children had headed home after waiting outside the gates of the school for the entire morning session.

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All hope was not lost...tomorrow I'll detail how this effort came full circle. It was a very, very good day.

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Morocco: Then and Now

Morocco has weathered the “Arab Spring” movement rather well, though it has by no means emerged unscathed. My last visit was July 2010 (which seems like forever and a day ago) and there are some marked differences, both tangible and intangible. While there were weekly streets protests for months in the larger cities, Ramadan essentially hit the “pause” button on those gatherings and it doesn’t feel like they’ve resumed momentum in the few weeks that have transpired since the end of the holy month.

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The Moroccan flag flying high

However, the streets are pretty filthy. Yes, I know this is Africa...I’ve spent time in North African, West Africa and the East as well. I have always noted a substantial difference in the level of cleanliness in the streets between North Africa and the Sub-Saharan countries, but that line seems blurred this trip. To be certain: Marrakech is faring better than Essaouira, but there’s a marked amount of trash in the streets everywhere I look. The fact that almost the whole of the Essaouira medina is being outfitted with new water/sewage channels probably doesn’t help matters, as the streets are a collage of busted pavement and beds of sands at the moment.

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The seas of Essaouira are as beautiful as ever

Another visual change of note: there are street vendors everywhere and the police don’t seem to even take an interest in them. In the afternoons, men stream into the Essaouira medina and lay down tarps that they fill with clothes and shoes, fresh fruit, trinkets and cheap knockoff sunglasses. I have always loved Essaouira because it’s been largely devoid of these dealers and their aggressive sales tactics, but they seem to be everywhere this visit. Hassane and I had an interesting conversation- he attributes the flood of vendors (and willingness of the authorities to overlook it all) to the self-immolation of a Tunisian man who was selling fruit. That single action kicked off a movement that has consumed the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and caused dangerous unrest in Syria, Bahrain and several other nations (Morocco among them). Hassane believes the police will continue to look the other way, lest they risk protests on a massive scale here locally.

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Sweet puppies in the streets of Essaouira

Tourism is most certainly down this year. The congestion in the medina streets is noticeably lighter and the vendors we’ve spoken with (from cyber cafe keepers to carpet dealers) note depressed profits. I think the decrease in international tourists is attributable to several factors: a global economic depression among wealthier nations that has left far fewer dollars in Western pockets for exotic travel, coupled with the general unrest in the region as the result of the Arab Spring movement. That little bombing in Marrakech last spring didn’t help either. Sixteen people dead in a café blast in the biggest tourist destination in Morocco’s most popular city... that never fares well.

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Cafe Argana is still under reconstruction after the bombing last Spring

In better news, wages for government workers are up: my friend who teaches elementary school locally is earning about 10% more than last year. Everyone concedes it’s a bid to keep the people pacified and quiet, but the money is desperately needed and is having the desired effect.

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The local school house in Taftacht

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September 13, 2011

Making progress in Morocco

I have landed safely and junctured up with Stephanie and Melissa. We gathered around a big table at our rental house last night and glued together 200 popsicle stick “frames” to be decorated in a few days when we visit the local school and take instant pictures of the students there. We shared a bottle of wine and spent time brainstorming how to best execute plans to distribute aid while honoring cultural sensitivities of the region local government authorities. I am enormously encouraged and have some fresh ideas I think will be most helpful in our efforts.

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Almost a quarter of our Arabic storybooks turned up at our house, though I cannot confirm nor deny precisely how they managed to arrive. Our backpacks full of school supplies have once again been snagged in Casablanca and I should have news on whether or not I can free them by the close of the day tomorrow. Please, please, please cross your fingers. I met someone who is friendly with the former president of the local community where the school we’ve “adopted” is located and we have requested their help. If we secure an escort to the school, our efforts are more likely to be successful. Insh’Allah.

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Two days have been consumed by chasing down the lye necessary to create cold-processed soap. We actually made a failed batch of soap after thinking we might have succesfully sourced the lye we need to make soap, only to discover that we had potassium hydroxide, which makes liquid soap. A renewed search today turned up what we believe is lye and a batch is on the stove as we speak. We have spent some time chatting with various local herb shops in both Marrakech and Essaouira to gain a better understanding about the local selection of essential oils, clays and pigments we have at our disposal. At this juncture, we’ve decided our best chance of success is to teach my local staff to create soap from scratch and entrust them to pass on the knowledge to local Berber women in more rural areas who can create it for themselves as a means of improved health and potentially self-sustenance.

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In other news, Essaouira is as beautiful as ever. Daytime highs are in the mid-70’s with a gentle ocean breeze and nights are downright chilly. The people moving about the medina are as friendly as I’ve ever recalled and we’re all in good spirits. I managed to do some shopping for the nonprofit and have secured a fresh supply of Essaouira earrings and a few other goodies as well. Lots of Moroccan goodness will be hitting the From Morocco With Love website in early October. Stay tuned!

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September 5, 2011

The countdown is on...

On Friday I’m taking to the skies and my feet will be on Moroccan soil by Saturday afternoon. This trip has two separate objectives: first, to restock many of our bestselling Moroccan handicrafts while bringing in some exciting new items and second, to distribute a portion of the aid we’ve raised thus far through the sales of those items.

We've already initiated several orders for handira blankets and pillows and leather poufs
through the network of artisans we’ve established and I’m eager to peruse the jewelry souks of Marrakech and Essaouira for new treasures. I have no doubt that we’ll have a lovely shipment of Moroccan goods in our South Carolina warehouse by late September.

I wish I could say that I am as confident about our plans for aid distribution. After assembling backpacks for 200 children at the local school, we’ve learned that we cannot import the reading books we purchased until we have authorization from the Ministry of Education and a Censorship Visa from the Ministry of Information. It will be impossible to secure those clearances in advance of this trip, so hundreds of books will have to go undistributed, at least for the moment. I have engaged help from the embassy and we are filing the paperwork needed to clear the path for that distribution at a later date.

I remain optimistic that the balance of our supplies (backpacks, crayons, pens and pencils, writing tablets, toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap) will be allowed entry into the country and we look forward to using those materials to help support the children at a rural school. We also plan to photograph each child (a first for many of them), giving them an instant picture to take home and share with their families. I will also be shopping for a few hundreds pairs of shoes once I land, as many of these children walk between 2-4 kilometers each way to school and the lack of quality footwear can literally be the determinant factor as to whether or not a child can attend school.

I’m very grateful for the companionship of two dear friends on this journey: Stephanie Craig of Honey Bee Soaps and Melissa Flick of the Nourish Collective. Melissa’s nonprofit is committed to hygiene instruction in developing areas while teaching women how to start small soap businesses as a means of self-sustenance and financial independence. She has just completed the soap manual and my staff in Morocco has begun the translation into French and Arabic, Morocco’s native tongues. Because of cultural norms, it’s extremely challenging to obtain permission for us to assemble a group of Berber women to be taught skills by Westerners. Nevertheless, we’re crossing our fingers and saying a prayer that conditions will come together once we get on the ground and that we’ll be able to assembly a class. At a bare minimum, we’ll be teaching my local staff to make soap so they can potentially transfer the teachings, and Melissa will be doing to community assessment to explore other aid opportunities we can develop.

We need all the good juju you can spare- this is unchartered territory for all of us and we’re attempting several tasks which carry some risk. But if three girls could possibly get this done, I am confident that Stephanie, Melissa and I have a fighting chance. I invite you to follow along on Twitter for real-time short updates and photos. We’ll also be sharing some tidbits on Facebook as well. I am eager to see this journey come to fruition and look forward to sharing our results with you!

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August 11, 2011

Coming full circle...

In September of 2009, while on a trip to Morocco researching indigenous beauty ingredients, I had the great pleasure of visiting a rural school that hosted 197 students. It had no electricity, no air conditioning (in the midst of a desert), no computers, only a handful of books and not so much as a ball to play outside with. In October of 2009, I hatched a plan to start a nonprofit, promoting Moroccan culture by importing a variety of native handicrafts and returning all the proceeds back to those children. In February of 2010, From Morocco With Love officially launched. Eighteen months later, we're preparing for our first aid distribution trip. This morning, Bella Lucce hosted a small gaggle of adorable kids who came to help pack backpacks full of school supplies for their Moroccan counterparts. It was an awesome day...


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We worked assembly-line style and Twila was the engine of our train...unpacking and unzipping each empty backpack and passing them on to be stuffed.

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As the backpacks moved down the line, they were filled with soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, pens, pencils, crayons and two Arabic picture books.

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Celie and Zoe add dental supplies to each backpack. We'll teach the kids how to brush once we get there!

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Christina and Chloe are the caboose- they zipped each backpack once they were filled and packed them into shipping boxes.

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Ta- Da! The kids were super efficient and packed out 200 backpacks in about 45 minutes!

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Once we finished the packing, we had a quick lesson about what life in like in rural Moroccan schools and learned a few easy Arabic phrases. Riley and Twila made cards for the kids wishing them a happy school year!

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Heather and Chloe putting the finishing touches on more cards.

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Success! I can't wait to distribute these backpacks in Morocco next month.

My deepest gratitude to Shana, Christina, Christie, Heather, Jamie, Riley, Zoe, Celie, Twila and Chloe for spending the morning in packout. Special thanks to Melissa Flick of Body Balms for donating 200 bars of handcrafted soap and Ballentine Dentistry for arranging the donation of hundreds of toothbrushes and toothpaste. My dear friend Brooke at Villainess graciously donated 250 instant film exposures so that we're able to provide each child with a photo of themselves- which will be a first for the vast majority of these kids.

The project has been near and dear to my heart for a very long while and I am so excited to see all the hard work and effort of so many come full circle and take wings. The journey to distribute these supplies and provide other aid to the Berber people of Morocco begins September 9th. I do hope you'll join us here to watch it all unfold. If you'd like to support our work, please stop by our nonprofit From Morocco, With Love to shop a dizzying array of handcrafted Moroccan luxuries, many of which are currently on sale (up to 56% off!) during our first-ever Clearance Event. I can personally assure you that 100% of the profits from those sales are reinvested directly for the betterment of the Moroccan people.

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August 1, 2011

It's heeeeeere...save up to 56% right now!

It's here! Our very first Annual Clearance Event has arrived. We're clearing our shelves to make way for shiny new Moroccan things and collecting as much money as we can in advance of a September trip back to Morocco to distribute aid in rural areas. A lovely assortment of our favorite Moroccan luxuries are on sale at up to 56% off and available for immediate shipment.

We encourage you to act quickly, as our stock is very limited. Some of these items will be restocked once they sell out (though they'll return to the website at their original prices) while others will be discontinued...so if you've been craving something in particular from our website, I can assure you that this is the very best time to make that purchase. Once the "add to cart" buttons disappear, the item is officially sold out. Please note that all sales are final.

We'd love it if you'd blog, tweet, facebook...ANYTHING to help us spread the word. We have lots of shelves to clear and lots of children to help! Many, many thanks for your continued support. Go shopping and start saving!

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May 27, 2011

Father's Day gifts direct from Morocco

Father's Day is quickly approaching (June 19th here in the states)...may we humbly suggest a beautiful, handmade gift from our careful selection of authentic Moroccan luxuries?

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Thuya Wood Chess & Backgammon Set, $95.00

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Men's Leather Babouche, $22.50

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Cedar BBQ Skewers, $35.00

The best part? You'll be able to positively impact the life of families in faraway lands as you bless your own father. And isn't that that the greatest gift you can give?

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May 25, 2011

We're overstocked on shoes!

I drastically overestimated the love affair that our clients would have with supple leather slippers handmade in Morocco. Perhaps they don't display as well as I;d hoped via the internet, but we have more stock of fabulous leather babouche than I'd prefer to carry at present. Our loss is your gain, as we've just placed every style on sale at 50% OFF regular prices. try these on for size:

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Children's Pom-Pom Babouche, now $15.00

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Women's Leather Babouche, $20.00

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Men's Leather Babouche, $22.50

Available styles, sizes and colors are listed. If you can't add you preferences to the cart, then it means we're currently out of stock..please try another selection. Many thanks for helping us clear some shelf space for new inventory!

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May 23, 2011

Spotlight on our Fez Embroidered Bed Linens

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Remodelista, a top design blog, recently highlighted our Fez Embroidered Bed Linens, whereby unleashing a small avalanche of inquiries about when we'd have more in stock. We do currently have just one set in the garnet available, but we hope to be handcarrying more home from our September trek to Morocco. We anticipate a return-to-stock of many items around October 1, 2011 including: silver Moroccan jewelry, handira pillows, an expanded collection of leather poufs and more Moroccan wedding blankets. We look forward to bringing you more artisan items direct from Morocco and hope you'll check back soon!

Posted by Lela at 9:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 22, 2011

Fingers crossed!

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We're aiming for a trip to Morocco in late August to distribute backpacks and dental kits to the children starting the new semester and livestock distribution to various families. We'll also be restocking more jewelry, Moroccan wedding blankets, pillows, poufs and bed linens at that time. Cross you fingers for regional stability...we're anxious to get back over there and spread some love!

UPDATE: I made contact this morning with our Moroccan staff (just 12 hours after posting the blog above), who informed me of widespread protests across the country yesterday. While protests have been a regular occurrence since February, they have been largely peaceful and widely tolerated. The security forces stepped up their game yesterday in Rabat, Casablanca and Fez, chasing protesters, dispersing crowds and beating dozens pf people. Three movement leaders are reported to be in critical condition, details here. I am discouraged, but nonetheless determined.

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March 8, 2011

Moroccan aid distribution trip has been postponed

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that my planned March trip to distribute aid within Morocco is being postponed. Yes, it's the second time this year: our planned January trip ran into logistical roadblocks thanks to heavy-handed bureaucracy incountry and my March trip is being delayed due to civil unrest. I have direct contacts on the ground in Morocco who are reporting that protests are now a regular occurrence with nationwide coordinated protests slated for March 20th. I have various theories behind why these events are either not being reported or are being under-reported by the media at large, but that's a story for another day.

I apologize for the delay...trust me that no one is more frustrated by this series of events than I. We have backpacks and crayons and books and toothbrushes collecting dust in our warehouse and a bank account that's a little more robust than I prefer, but the purchase of goats and sheep will have to wait until things stabilize in the region. The events in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya have created a tinderbox and I can't be incountry when someone throws the match. I'm not certain when events will quiet again, but I'll be on the ground in Morocco just as soon as I hear the "all clear."

Our store remains open, our resolve remains steely but our trip will have to wait. I appreciate your support more than you know.

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February 23, 2011

Waiting with a watchful eye

After the ill-fated attempt at delivering aid to Morocco in January, I made plans to try again in March. Though we have now received approval for the school aid distribution (for which I am ever grateful), we're still struggling with the logistics and legalities of the livestock project. Nevertheless, I recruited my dear friend Melissa from The Nourish Collective to accompany and assist and I set a tentative departure date of March 24th.

And then this happened...

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The protests which have swept through the North Africa, toppling the governments of Tunisia and Egypt, reached Morocco. By the end of the day on February 20th, twenty-four banks were burned, along with 50 shops and private buildings and 66 vehicles...in a single day. Five people were found dead in one of those banks.To be fair, things have been relatively quiet in the 36 hours since the protest. And the "opposition" isn't calling for King Mohammed's resignation, preferring instead sweeping government reforms. I have spoken with Hassane and he advised me today to hold off a bit longer on booking my airline reservation. I think the apparent implosion of neighboring Libya is keeping all of us on the edge of our seats.

I talked with Melissa yesterday and she's in agreement: we can't leave for Morocco until we both feel that the region is somewhat stable. I'm getting a bit antsy about this aid: the bank account is a little too plump for my liking and I have a stockroom full of backpacks, school supplies, dental kits and handmade soap that I'd like to see make its way into the hands of Moroccan school children...sooner rather than later. But I think wisdom dictates that we monitor the situation with a calm head and a watchful eye. I plan to make a final decision by March 4th and will keep you posted. Until then, please keep all the people of North Africa in your thoughts.

*Photo credit: CNN

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December 30, 2010

The backpacks have arrived...

I was delighted to see my FedEx guys waltzing into the office this morning carrying large cardboard boxes full of backpacks. As promised, we've purchased 175 custom backpacks for the children of a rural village school in Morocco. We'll soon be stuffing them with crayons, coloring books, writing tablets and pencils. I don't know that I've ever been so excited about nylon and zippers! Didn't they turn out great?

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December 17, 2010

We *adore* love letters...

...like this one from Charlene in Parker, Colorado:

For over a year I've been looking for poufs! All that I found on internet that are nice looking are far too expensive for me! Found your site last week. Loved the look and price of yours. Told my husband that's what I want for Christmas. To my surprise and delight, you have the sale going and I was able to get 2 for the price of one. Right on! They arrived today and are exactly what I've been looking for all this time. And the BONUS in all this for me is that the money goes to the people who made them! This leather is gorgeous and I love my Christmas gift. Now my husband and I can both put our feet up on something comfortable and lovely. Thank you for my perfect gift and for the GOOD work you do. Wish I could afford to buy more of your wonderful merchandise, can't right now. But will check your site often in the future. when I'm buying gifts. Happiest of holidays to you all with a wish for true Peace in the New Year!

Enjoy your poufs Charlene! Stay tuned- information about our next Moroccan trip is forthcoming. We'll be distributing funds to local villages and restocking inventory in January.

Posted by Lela at 11:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 7, 2010

Give the gift of Moroccan beauty this season & save 50%

Enjoy a generous 50% off these carefully selected Moroccan luxuries. Each crafted by hand and each guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of the indigenous Berber people whose lives you'll impact by making a purchase. We're heading to Morocco in January to distribute these charitable funds to local communities and we need to both clear our shelves for fresh inventory and raise as much money as we can in advance of this trip. Your purchase helps us do just that...so make your list and check it twice and then enjoy these generous savings! Use promotion code HOLIDAY50 during checkout to save 50% off all prices displayed in our special "Holiday Clearance" section.

Each purchase arrives gift wrapped and accompanied by a storycard that explains the nature of your gift and how it's helping to improve the lives of people in Morocco. Shop our clearance sale.

Posted by Lela at 4:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 3, 2010

I looooove getting letters like these!

Hello Lela,

My order arrived just now in excellent condition, thank you very much. I was very pleased to find your site. Your perspective and mission to give back to the Moroccan people was quite inspiring. I have a lot of respect for you and am very happy to give you my business.

My wife and I traveled to Morocco this past March and completely fell in love. It is such an extraordinary fascinating place, it really got in our bloodstream. I wanted to find a nice tea set for her for Christmas and am grateful to have found such exceptional choices at your store.

Shokran,
David in Watertown, Massachusetts


Posted by Lela at 7:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 7, 2010

Gladiator-esque cuffs...coming soon!

While I am somewhat saddened to tell you that our gorgeous Berber Enamel Cuff has sold out, I find solace in the fact that 'll be trying to restock them on my upcoming trip to Essaouira in June.

I also have some very exciting jewelry news along those same lines. How much do we love this Gladiator cuff?

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I've been jokingly calling it my "Wonderwoman Bracelet" and wearing it about town for weeks now and it's been the subject of near-constant chatter. That's the prototype and we'll be working with a local Moroccan craftsman to have them custom made just for us. I'll be picking up a handful in Morocco this summer and hope to have them on the website sometime in September. Stay tuned!

Posted by Lela at 2:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 6, 2010

From Morocco, With Love hits the road...

Last week, I packed up a variety of Moroccan luxuries, brochures and framed pictures of the kids from our first adopted school in Morocco and headed to Denver, Colorado for the annual HSMG Conference. I had been invited in 2009 to speak at the conference about export opportunities for personal care manufacturers on behalf of my "other" business (Bella Luccè). This year, the Powers That Be were gracious enough to invite me back to sit on an FDA Legislative Panel and they generously donated a vendor table to From Morocco, With Love. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to help spread the word about our nonprofit and did a little happy dance every time another email announcing a website order came through on my Blackberry. Thanks to all who stopped by and helped us spread the word!

rsz_img_0150.jpg At the HSMG Conference in Denver

Posted by Lela at 8:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 28, 2010

Ouch! Moroccan slippers for $139?

I should preface this post by saying that I love Viva Terra's catalog. Love, love, love it. I order from them several times a year and enjoy their blend of chic styling with ecological commitment. But I nearly fell out of bed last night while flipping through their catalogue. Why?

Those are drop-dead gorgeous leather slippers. Straight from Morocco. FOR $139.

You could certainly go that route, but may I suggest that you save almost $100 and check out our lovely selection for women at just $40? Your purchase will provide five chickens to an indigenous Berber family.

Or our supple leather slippers for men at just $45? The purchase of which provides three roosters to a local family?

Those prices left me a wee bit gobsmacked. Think of what you could do with $100 extra dollars! My mind reels with possibilities...


Posted by Lela at 9:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2010

If you happen to be in Denver...

Last year, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild conference on behalf of my "other" venture, Bella Luccè. I had the most wonderful time meting people from across the country and teaching them about how to export their personal care products around the world. This year, the powers that be were kind enough to invite me back to sit on an FDA Legislative Panel and they generously donated a vendor table to From Morocco, With Love. I know that we have a lot of readers in the beauty industry...if you happen to be at the Inverness Hotel for the conference, please stop by to say hello, see some of our Moroccan luxuries in person and pick up a discount card for future purchases on this website. I fly out to Denver this morning to attend the conference and promise to post pictures upon my return.

Posted by Lela at 11:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2010

Don't forget- Mother's Day is May 9th!

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. May we suggest you treat Mum to some decadent Moroccan luxuries? You can show her your devotion and bless those in faraway lands simultaneously- and we think that’s truly the spirit of the day...nourishing those in need. Some of our favorite gift suggestions for Mum:

Wool Berber Blankets: $80

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Sparkling Leather Slippers:
$40

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Twisting Vines Pashmina: $45

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Silver Filigree Cuff: $60

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Heirloom Silver Tea Pot: $110

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Small Handmade Luxe Platter: $30

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Rest assured that, no matter which handmade luxury you select, we'll swaddle each one in our signature blue tissue, nestle it inside a gift box made with recycled fibers, tuck in a narrative card explaining the history of the piece and the impact your gift has made on the indigenous people of Morocco and seal it all with our logo. Can't decide? We offer handsome gift certificates, styled as Moroccan postcards.

Through May 5th, we invite you to save 10% on every order by entering code MOTHER in the coupon box at checkout from www.FromMoroccoWithLove.com.

We wish each of you a wonderful Mother's Day full of joy and peace.

Posted by Lela at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2010

Inventory Update

Thanks to your support, we're temporarily SOLD OUT of several items. Please note that we do not have stock of these lovelies at present:

Etched Brass Tea Tables
Morjana Tea Glasses in Amethyst
Burgundy Decorative Camel Saddle

In better news, our inventory counts were off by one, so our previously "sold out" Thuya Wood Bowl (one of my personal favorites!) is back in stock. If you're craving an out-of-stock item, fear not. New stock is due in the States by late summer and we'll be introducing some fab new items as well!

Posted by Lela at 8:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 19, 2010

Read all about us in Lake Murray Magazine!

We're thrilled to be featured in the April issue of Lake Murray Magazine. It's a wonderful piece and we're very grateful to the local press for the generous coverage. You can click here to access the digital version of the magazine and flip to page 37 to read the full article.

Posted by Lela at 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2010

Morocco profiled on VH1 Series

VH1 has a new series, hosted by Jessica Simpson, that travels the world to discover beauty secrets in various spots around the globe. They recently traveled to Morocco to film an interesting episode about what traditional Moroccan culture finds beautiful. There are definitely some concessions made for TV (for instance: you would never see men and women in mixed company in a public hammam), but it's rather interesting viewing nonetheless. Click through to watch "The Price of Beauty: Morocco" and learn more about why women veil, what indigenous ingredients are often used in local beauty rituals, the tradition of hammam bath houses and the seductive dance known as the Tea Tray Dance.

Interestingly enough, the opening scene where they meet Miriam (their translator) is filmed at the Sofitel Marrakech, which happens to be where I first feasted my eyes upon on our gorgeous Silk Tassel Curtain Pulls! Click through that link to see our exact tassels featured on this chic hotel's back patio.

Posted by Lela at 5:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 8, 2010

A video collage of pictures from beautiful Essaouira, Moroco

Hassane recently created a great video montage of images from his village. Essaouira, Morocco is one of my favorite spots on the globe, celebrated for its washed blue stucco medina,surfing spots, fishing culture and medieval citadels. My next visit is coming up in June and I am anxiously counting down the days. Enjoy!

Posted by Lela at 5:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2010

NYTimes piece on the Essaouira Gnawa Festival

My girlfriend Robin (who's traveling with me to Essaouira this June!) turned up this great piece in the Gnawa Festival. Gorgeous imagery, alluring tales, 3 minutes well spent. Give it a peek.

Posted by Lela at 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 13, 2010

Look what you did!

I thought it was time for another update post- I am continually amazed by your support and how far these dollars are going to go in Morocco. Since our last update, together we've provided:

new shoes for 2 children
clothing to 1 child for an entire year
enough seeds and tools for 5 families to plant gardens
1 goat, who will provide: milk, meat and leather
11 olive trees
8 dental kits
2 chickens

I say we all give ourselves a round of virtual high-fives! Please help us spread the word- all orders are giftwrapped and include a storycard which highlights the history of the item and its place in Moroccan culture, along with a discount card for you to share with a friend (or us it yourself, either way it's 10% off!). Many, many thanks for your continued support...

Posted by Lela at 1:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2010

Moroccan Music Festival Madness

Morocco is renowned throughout all of Africa and Europe for its abundance of music festivals. 2010 has a stellar lineup that has me salivating. Yes, the airline tickets are pricey. Yes, it will take you an entire day to get here, but accommodations are very reasonable upon your arrival and I promise the arduous journey is oh-so-worth it.

Fes, Morocco: World Sacred Music Festival, June 4-12 (featuring Ben Harper this year!)

Essaouira, Morocco: Gnawa African Music Festival, June 25-28 (see my video from last year's event right here)

Rabat, Morocco: Mawazine Music Festival, May 21-29 (Eight days of live music featuring Sting, Elton John, Santana, Mika + more)

Marrackech, Morocco: Popular Arts Festival, July 16-24

I'll make 2 of 4 this year, but am kicking myself that I'll miss Sting on a huge oceanside stage in Morocco. That's as close to heaven as I may ever get! I'm in Casablanca at the moment on a long layover on way to attend the Global Shea 2010 conference in Bamako, Mali on behalf of my other company (Bella Luccè). I am spreading your love and good juju here on my 15 hour stopover. I plan to spread far more of that good juju (and all those dollars you've raised) on a month-long journey through Morocco in June. Stay tuned!

Posted by Lela at 1:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 26, 2010

Humbled and amazed...

So 5 months ago, this little Moroccan venture was conceptualized. Four months ago we got the ball rolling. Ten days ago, the website opened for business. In ten short days, here's how much money we've raised together...enough for:


Two Berber families to receive a goat
Ten chickens to be bought
Three olive trees to be donated
Three Berber children to be clothed for a year
Two little girls will go to school for one year
Ten Berber children will receive reading books
Two families will receive all the tools and seeds needed to plant large gardens

I had no idea what to expect- I just decided to stand at the very edge of that cliff, throw my hands in the air, close my eyes and jump...hoping for the best. And I can honestly tell you that tonight I am so humbled and amazed at what ten days has brought. And that's ten days without a single piece of press (lots of magazine coverage soon, but they work months ahead of publication and nothing is on the shelves at the time of launch). Ten days without any ads placed anywhere. Ten days without us showing up in the search engines yet. Truth be told, I'm so buried in work right now that I've not even sent an email announcing the launch to the thousands of people on our Bella Luccè mailing list. That's just you and me chatting it up on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. And I think it's just an inkling of what's to come. It's pretty awesome stuff and I hope you feel the same way. Thank you, thank you, thank you- to each of you who has made a purchase, or helped spread the word or even just sent us kind words or silent positive energy. I feel it all, I welcome it all and I go to bed tonight so ridiculously excited about the good we've already done for Morocco. And it's just the beginning...please universe, let it be so.

Posted by Lela at 1:23 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 21, 2010

Enter to win Moroccan leather slippers + my favorite tea glasses!

The amazing Donna Maria Coles-Johnson, president of Indie Business, graciously wrote a feature article recently on From Morocco With Love. It's a really wonderful piece that provides more of the backstory behind this venture. I invite you to read the article at the Indie Business Blog, but time is of the essence!. Through Monday, February 22nd, she's doing a very special giveaway...it's simple to enter and one lucky winner will walk away with a $78 Moroccan prize pack- your choice of leather babouche slippers and a set of our Arabesque Henna tea glasses!

To be entered to win both of these fabulous Moroccan goodies, you must do each of these three things:

1. Leave a comment at her blog. Tell her how this story inspires you to make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate, especially children. You may share as many comments as you’d like. Each will be considered separately.
2. Join the Indie Business FaceBook Fan Page. Here’s the link. How easy is that one?
3. Twitter a link to this post. You can do this automatically by clicking here. That link opens up your Twitter page and makes it easy for you to Tweet this post with one click.

Hurry- the contests ends on Monday, February 22nd. Good luck!

Posted by Lela at 9:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 15, 2010

We are live...

As of 10am this morning, we are officially launched at From Morocco, With Love. It's been a tremendous journey to get us to this point and I can't wait to see this new venture sprout wings and impact lives in a powerful way. Please, Universe, let that be so...

This entire Moroccan venture is very much a collaborative effort which wouldn’t have come into existence so quickly and beautifully without the efforts of some very generous souls. Please indulge me for a moment while I thank those people who either volunteered their services or offered them at ridiculously reduce prices.

Many thanks to Padraic Ryan of Ryan Design Studio for donating his time and talents to this website. Having long been our web designer for Bella Luccè, I approached him for a quote on launching this website and was floored when he offered to do it gratis. If you need a sleek, intuitive, and highly efficient website delivered on-time and in budget, Padraic is your “go-to” guy. I affectionately call him the Jedi Master of web design and am so thrilled to have him in my corner.

My dear friend Robin Nalepa, a brilliant writer, photostylist, PR gal and all-around fabulous person patiently styled dozens of products, drew up our press release, edited a small mountain of web copy and helped me maintain both my focus and my sanity. I am forever grateful. If you need a skillfully written press release or want to add some panache to your web copy, I invite you to contact Robin via rcnalepa@aol.com.

Kim Kim Foster is a feature photographer for The State newspaper. She’s also one of the grooviest chicks I know and she stepped right on up to the plate when I threw myself at her feet, pleading with her to photograph crate after crate of Morocco’s finest artisan goods. Because I have a tremendously hard time editing myself, Kim Kim ended up shooting two or three times the number of photos I originally estimated, yet she still delivered on time. I'm thrilled to announce that Kim Kim and Robin have joined forces and are poised to launch their own new venture, christened Flower Boots. Coming soon: beautiful product photography and copy writing services for small businesses...stay tuned.

Brooke Stant, of Villainess fame, is a cherished friend who also happens to design uber-cool custom blogs. She volunteered her talents and time to create Lovenotes, where we’ll keep you informed of new products, community donations, highlights of Moroccan culture and upcoming philanthropic efforts. Kisses on both of her cheeks for being so amazing.

Professional Printers in Columbia, SC is our “Printer Of Choice” and I am indebted to Clint and his team for rolling back the prices on a variety of collateral materials necessary to launch this venture. Recipients of a 2007 National Premier Award, Professional Printers uses digital presses to create some of the most brilliant work in the industry, with quick delivery and extremely competitive prices. If you need a drop-dead fabulous printer, please call Clint at 803.796.4000.

I am forever in your debt. Please help us spread the word far and wide. You can also follow us on Twitter or join us on Facebook. Hope to see you soon!

Posted by Lela at 10:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2010

Come on in and get cozy....

Today I thought I might offer an official "Grand Tour" of our blog. There's a good little bit to see, so grab a cup of hot tea and settle in. It shouldn't take too long.

Main blog entries will be divided into several categories:

Money For Morocco: A running tally (updated monthly) of just how much profit has been raised via website sales of Moroccan products.

Stories of Hope: Stories and images detailing the return of profits to the Moroccan people and the positive changes that result.

Lela’s Travels: Follow my travels as I journey through the Middle East and Africa, providing interesting photos and insights into indigenous life.

Coming Soon & New Arrivals: Sneak peeks of what’s due for delivery in our next shipment and what’s hidden inside the crates fresh off our docks.

Consumer Polls: Your opinions are invaluable! We’ll offer frequent polls to see what Moroccan goods you’d like to see offered and how you'd like the resulting funds to be spent.

In addition, we'll have a monthly product spotlight- featuring my personal favorite product-of-the-moment. Many of these treasures will be offered in extremely limited quantities, so if you love it, don't hesitate. Over there on the right, you'll notice a Photo Album. These are pictures of people and places in Morocco, and I've snapped each and every one of them during one of my journeys there. We'll add new photos to the album with each trip and each page refresh of this blog will bring up a new image. You're welcome to click to enlarge and see a bit more detail.

Just below the Photo Album, you'll see a box where really savvy folk can sign up for our newsletter which will contain exclusive discounts, special offers and sneak peeks the general public won't ever get to lay there pretty eyes on. Don't you want to be among the lucky few? There's also a search box so you can comb through past entries on a rainy day. In the very bottom of that right column, you'll see lots of groovy ways you can stay connected with us here at From Morocco, With Love. There's an RSS feed option, plus a button to connect you to us on Facebook and Twitter...I'd love to see you there, too.

Along the very bottom, those postcards are more photos from my Moroccan travels. That's a pottery shop from Marrakech on the left, followed by: the famous blue boats of Essaouira, a woman contemplating the sea in Sebta and a soap shop in Chefchaouen. The little postcard in the middle? Squint your eyes and you might be able to make it out: a love note from me to my babies while I am away. :)

Hope you enjoyed the mini-tour. Also hope that you'll join us frequently to share my passion for Morocco and my hopes for changing the world, one pair of leather slippers at a time.

Posted by Lela at 4:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2010

Just how far your mony will go in Morocco....

People are often amazed at just how far their money will go in a developing country. The simple truth is that what you spend each morning for a fancy coffee can buy a dental exam for child in Morocco. What you spend in a modest dinner out for two can send a Moroccan girl to school for an entire year. What you spend on a new dress could help her family start a new business that means the difference between becoming self-sufficient and falling further behind with each generation. Here’s just a sampling of what From Morocco, With Love can do with the profits from your purchase…

Thuya Wood Chess & Backgammon Set: $95: This single purchase will provide a goat to a Moroccan family. Goats provide an invaluable source of milk, meat and leather to the local people. They also assist in argan oil production by chewing and removing the outer shells of the nut before processing.

Handcrafted Cedar BBQ Skewers: $35: This single purchase will feed an invalid for ten days. Moroccan hospitals provide limited nutritional support, relying heavily on patients’ families to supplement dietary needs. With these funds, we can provide ten days of nutritional support to a patient including milk, bread, eggs, cheese and fresh fruit.

Hamsa Brass Door Knocker: $55: This single purchase will provide ten dental kits to young children. With only one dentist per 80,000 Moroccans, dental hygiene is a serious problem in this developing country. Our dental kits are comprised of a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a pamphlet (translated in both Berber and Arabic) explaining the importance of oral hygiene.

Hammered Silver Tea Pot: $80: This single purchase will provide a year of education to a local schoolgirl. While the Moroccan government provides educational opportunities, families must provide books and transport for each child. In reality, these expenses often prohibit impoverished families (and especially young girls) from having access to education. This purchase will provide the books and transport needed for an entire school year.

Moroccan Camel Saddle: $195: This single purchase will provide a donkey to a Moroccan family. Donkeys are used to transport children to school and produce to market each week, helping a family provide for themselves moving forward. Donkeys also transport water and help work the fields, making the donation of this animal a life-altering, empowering gift impacting several generations.

Sequin Leather Slippers for Children: $30: This single purchase will provide two local Berber children each with a pair of tennis shoes. Many of these children walk several kilometers each way to-and-from school six days a week, so proper footwear is essential to their continued education.

Posted by Lela at 6:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 9, 2010

Your questions, now with answers!

Hi all,

We've received quite a few questions about precisely how From Morocco, With Love with work and I'm serving up some hot-n-fresh answers.

Q. How many of each item will you have available?
A. Though we do our best to anticipate demand for any particular item, we do occasionally have temporary runs on stock. Because From Morocco, With Love stocks all inventory here in the states and receives quarterly shipments, we are occasionally unable to immediately restock an item and many of our treasures are custom runs offered in extremely limited quantities. Our recommendation? If you love a piece, don’t hesitate to make the purchase as we cannot guarantee availability and all items are first-come, first-served. If an item you desire is out of stock, drop us a line to make your wishes known and we’ll do our best to have it included in the next shipment.

Q. Since these treasures are handmade, are there variations from item to item?

A. Every item featured on From Morocco, With Love is handmade by an artisan in Morocco. As such, there will be slight variations between individual pieces. You can rest assured that we independently review each item to assure that it meets our stringent quality standards. In all instances, color, size and quality will be consistent, though handpainted or handsewn patterns may vary. Your satisfaction is our ultimate goal and we do offer a flexible return policy if any purchase presents other than expected.


Q. I’m socially and environmentally aware. Is From Morocco with Love?

A. In an attempt to “walk our walk”, we adhere to specific business practices as a socially conscious company:

1. All goods are produced in Morocco by true artisans using traditional methods.
2. Artisans are paid a fair wage for their efforts.
3. No child labor is used in the manufacture of any products offered for sale on this website.
4. Our warehouse facilities are eco-conscious and certified carbon-neutral by TerraPass.
5. The gift boxes and tissue paper we swaddle your purchase in are made with recycled materials.

Q. How does From Morocco With Love work?
A. Our “agent on the ground”, Hassane travels from his home town of Essaouira throughout Morocco. He searches for treasures, negotiates pricing, documents the artisans and prepares shipments of beautiful Moroccan luxuries to the United States. When he discovers a new treasure he sends digital images to Lela Barker, our US-based coordinator. Lela hand-selects each item for sale and authorizes the purchase. She then waits, impatiently, by her office door for the next treasure to be delivered. On occasion, Lela travels to Morocco to directly assist with shopping excursions.

From Morocco, With Love customers order and receive exquisite Moroccan goods at reasonable prices. Hassan is paid a fair wage for his expertise. The native artisans each receive a fair wage for their work. Lela earns warm fuzzies and (hopefully) a dash of good karma. Most importantly, the profits from the sales benefit Moroccan families and individuals living without the basics we take for granted in the Western world — from clean water to shoes, basic healthcare to education.

Q. How are profits determined?
A. From Morocco, With Love profits are determined monthly by comparing sales versus expenses (actual product costs, shipping and import fees, one employee’s salary and a few other nominal expenses such as a dedicated phone line). 100% of the profits are sent directly back to Morocco to benefit the Moroccan people.

Each artisanal luxury for sale via From Morocco, With Love clearly indicates just how far we can stretch your dollars to make a difference in this developing country. Every penny– of profit returns to the communities of the craftsmen who supply our goods.

Q. How do you keep the expenses low?
A. Overhead expenses are kept to a minimum by utilizing the fulfillment staff, office and warehouse space and customer support capabilities of Lela’s full-time venture, Bella Luccè.

Q. Can I tell you how I want my money spent?
A. We are so honored that our customers believe in our dream and understand that each purchase directly benefits another human being. While we can’t earmark exact purchase dollars for specific projects, we can guarantee that the monies will be spent for the greatest good of the Moroccan communities we serve. For example, the purchase of a Berber blanket could provide shoes for an entire family. However, the money may be used to install a freshwater well to benefit an entire community. Or sufficiently fund a round of vaccinations for a newborn baby. Or send a young girl to school for a year.

The success of this organization requires the flexibility to use your dollars in the area of most immediate need to make the largest possible impact.

Q. How will I know how my money is being used?

A. Watch the “Money For Morocco” ticker via this blog to see how many dollars and cents we’ve raised together. Here you also can learn more about the people who are directly benefiting from your generosity and thoughtfulness. Watch videos. Read true stories. See for yourself how From Morocco, With Love is impacting lives.

Have a question that I didn't answer? Just leave a comment to this blog entry and I promise to circle back around to it. Stop by tomorrow to see just how far we can stretch your dollars in Morocco...we promise it'll amaze you!

Posted by Lela at 3:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 3, 2010

How it all began...

Once upon a time, a Southern girl with big dreams founded a small beauty company inspired by global beauty traditions.

With hard work and dedication the venture blossomed into Bella Luccè. The company transformed founder Lela Barker into quite the little globe-trotter. She chased big contracts, new development opportunities and indigenous beauty ingredients around the world. Lela often found herself captivated by the traditions and people of the places she visited from Mumbai to Athens.

However, Lela was completely enchanted when an impromptu visit landed her in the gorgeous, sea side village of Essaouira, Morocco. After a week of exploring the beaches, scouring the souks and making many wonderful friends Lela reluctantly returned home to the United States. She promised herself to return soon.

Unable to quell her Moroccan wanderlust, Lela returned just a few months later. She hired one of her Moroccan friends, Hassan, as a private driver and translator and set off on an adventure to discover the beauty riches of the region. Criss-crossing nearly all of Morocco, Lela explored Rhassoul clay mines in the Atlas Mountains, watched argan nuts ground into oil near Marrakech and learned about botanical essential oil distillation near Khemisset.

During the same visit, Lela spent a day with local school children in a remote village in the Moroccan countryside. The two room school house had no library, no computers, no overhead projectors, no smart boards. The school had neither heat nor air conditioning. There were no crayons, no jump ropes, no playground equipment, no hot meals. The students, those that can afford the $50 per year tuition, walk or ride the family donkey between two and four kilometers one-way to reach the school.

The teachers leave their homes and families during the week and travel to the rural area to aid in the development of these children. The women share the most basic living quarters. On less than $400 per month, the teachers must provide for their transportation to and from the school, their food while at the school, and all of their family expenses at home. The “teacher house” has no heat, no air conditioning, no refrigerator, no computer, no running water, no stove, no cabinetry.

The tenacity and commitment to learning of the 156 students and their dedicated teachers left an indelible impression on the American. Lela planned for her company, Bella Luccè, to adopt the Moroccan school. However, she soon realized there was more work to be done than her small beauty company could tackle alone.

Lela returned home to her family and business determined to stay somehow connected to the country and its people. She brought as much of Morocco as she could carry in her luggage home to share with friends and family—gorgeous Berber blankets, hammered silver earrings and embossed leather poufs.

Amidst the “ooh’s” and “aah’s”, a flood of people slipped in “bring-me-back” requests for her next trip. Always a people pleaser, Lela attempted to fill the requests immediately. Yet the online prices for the Moroccan goodies she’d just purchased so reasonably left her gobsmacked.

Yet, with the sticker shock, came inspiration:

What if Lela could employ Hassan to shop for the most exquisite Moroccan luxuries, pay the artisans well for their work, ship the goods stateside and sell it at reasonable prices? Most importantly, what if all the profits could be returned to the Moroccan people to help them with the basics so many take for granted such as clean water, education and health care?

Lela immediately phoned Hassan, her plans tumbling out with wild enthusiasm. Hassan simply and humbly replied “Alhamdulillah” (thanks be to God).

And so it began…

From Morocco With Love: our way to share the rich culture and remarkable beauty of Morocco with the rest of the world, to the direct benefit of the Moroccan people.

All products offered on this website are handcrafted by true artisans in Morocco who are paid fair wages for their work. Lela and Hassan hand select each item, wrap them beautifully and then send them off to you, accompanied by a storycard detailing the history of the piece and its place in Moroccan culture. All profits are returned to the indigenous people, in the form of school supplies, scholarships, working animals, dental exams and new construction designed to provide them with the same opportunities we often take for granted each day.

From Morocco With Love, holds nonprofit status within the state of South Carolina. We minimize overhead expenses by utilizing a warehouse and fulfillment staff already in place at Bella Luccè. All profits are returned three times per annum to various villages in Morocco and we document the entire process for you via this website. Our sincere hope is that you, too, will begin a torrid love affair with Morocco and be inspired to make choices each and every day that serve the greater good of all people. Our deepest thanks for being a part of our dream…

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Lela Rain Barker & Hassan Akhiyad


"We must be the change we wish to see in the world..." -Mahatma Gandhi

Posted by Lela at 10:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 2, 2010

Countdown to launch: T minus 13 days!

I am insanely excited to welcome you "Lovenotes", the official blog of From Morocco, With Love. We've been scurrying about behind the scenes for months now: shopping the souks of Marrakech, Fez, Sale, Benimallal, Essaouira and Safi to bring you the most exotic Moroccan luxuries that marry reasonable prices with exceptional craftsmanship. We've been meeting with import specialists and talented freight folk to discover the best ways to bring it all to you. We've been working on the streets in Morocco to determine how to best serve the needs of the impoverished and the determining the logistics by which we'll return the profits from this website to the people who need it most. We've been hurriedly coordinating a team of photographers, photo stylists, graphic designers, blog designers and web developers to deliver a fully functional e-commerce website that's as lovely to see as it is easy to use. We've been working with printers to design storycards for each piece, and lovely packaging to swaddle each purchase inside. And lest we forget the paperwork (ohhhh....the paperwork!) to formally incorporate this little venture into an official nonprofit. But you know what? It's almost air time!

From Morocco, With Love will formally launch on Monday, February 15th at 10am EST (Insh'Allah). The warehouse is full of goodies, the photos are hot of the presses, the packaging is delivered, the website is being put through its paces and we're officially registered as a nonprofit in South Carolina. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that I CAN. NOT. WAIT. to show it all to you. I likely won't sleep a wink between now and February 15th, in a heady mix of last minute to-do's and unbridled glee about the launch. Until then, here are a few of my favorite Moroccan luxuries to whet your appetite...

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Moroccan Camel Saddles

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Sequin Leather Slippers for Girls

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Pretty Silver Teapots

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Thuya Wood Vases

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Stone Cuffs with Silver Filigree

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Thuya Wood Chess & Backgammon Set

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Handpainted Moroccan Pottery

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Embroidered Moroccan Bed Linens

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Hand-embellished Moroccan Market Basket

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Brass Hamsa Door Knocker
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Moroccan Pashminas


Please leave a comment if you feel so moved, take our poll to the right of this page and join us again on February 15th to see it all come together!

Posted by Lela at 12:41 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack