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Today’s stunning post in ‘The Beauty of Difference’ series comes to you from Marie Loerzel. Maria is an American living and travelling in Morocco for 2 years with her husband and 4 children.  She writes humorous tales of the trials, tribulations and adventures of raising kids in a foreign land at Rock The Kasbah.
Please do check out Marie’s blog – it is inspirational, but I do warn that it may cause a recurrence of the travel bug.


She is waiting for us. Her face is seasoned with wrinkles from years of the unforgiving Moroccan sun. A powder blue djellaba drapes over her sturdy body. She offers no formalities when she pulls out her needle. She simply points at its destination and I nod in approval. She she readies her instrument and I see it, the stain.

The paste is thick and the times she’s mixed the henna, untold. But the stain it has made on her hands details the story. When she was a young, girls went to school until age 11. By that time she’d learned all a Moroccan girl needed to know. A woman’s education began at home. That’s where they learned their craft, from the generations of women who came before them. Tradition was their tutelage.

Henna, Photo by Marie Nikodem Loerzel

Her back crouched as her deft and nimble hands festooned my daughter’s arm. Flowers and leaves bloom from her syringe. Her art is effortless and organic. My oldest daughter, age 10, sits transfixed. In another time she might have been her apprentice, destined to be marked by what society has chosen for her. Instead, she’s a customer and henna is a evanescent beauty that she will try on like a party dress.

Henna Hands, Photo by Marie Nikodem Loerzel

When the henna woman is finished, I give her a donation. She is too humble to put a price on her work. She accepts it with a silent grace. The paste must sit on the skin untouched for up to two hours. The longer the henna penetrates, the deeper the color and the longer the tatoo will remain. My daughter must be mindful not to smear the delicate design. As it dries her skin begins to itch and the henna delivers a subtle sting. She flakes it off anxiously, happy to see that some of the orange arabesque remains, however faint.

Ember Hands, Photo by Marie Nikodem Loerzel

I wonder what the henna woman dreamed of when she was 10. Did she want to be a dentist or a veterinarian?

If she had the choice, would she have chosen to be the henna woman?

As I look at my two girls who have the world before them I can’t help but think. What will they choose? Who will they become?

I’m grateful to the generations of women who have come before who laid the foundation for my daughters to live their life unstained by society’s expectations of who or what they can be.

If you would like to help girls in the remote High Atlas Mountains of Morocco get an education please visit:



  1. Another great story, Marie. Thanks for sharing, Janine.

  2. So what has happened today in Morocco. Has the world truly moved on to a better plain?
    Love the henna artwork. It is glorious and like so many of the south pacific tattoos full of story and history.

  3. Another great story Marie and Janine. Even though it may be tough at times what a wonderful experience for your children to spend time growing up surrounded by such a different culture

  4. Lovely and moving story, Marie. I went to the Atlas mountains some years ago and was struck by the contrast of Branson’s luxurious Kabash resort and the poorness of the local people. Thanks for sharing another exciting glimpse of a different life, Janine.

  5. Lovely story. Thank you Janine and Marie. That design is so beautiful.

  6. A fantastic post, very nicely written and making you want to take the first flight to Morocco! As women, we are lucky to be born in countries that allowed us to be educated. We forget it too often!

  7. What a wonderful experience for your children during their formative years.

  8. I’ve always been intrigued by henna designs. What a wonderful way you have woven two cultures together Marie. We all have dreams and aspirations, no matter where we live. Thanks for a wonderful post Janine. I have really loved this series.

  9. Thank you all! It’s a crazy and incredible time to live in North Africa. With all the revolution in the region, the king announced in the spring of this year that Morocco is transitioning into a democracy. A pretty smart move, especially since I’m sure he’ll get to maintain residences at the palaces AND lightens his work load at the same time. I don’t think my kids will realize for years to come how enriched they will be from this experience. And I’m hoping that will be before I’m senile or dead…cause I’d really love to say, TOLD YA SO!

  10. I have a good friend who gets a henna design every so often. Beautiful. I love your verbal painting of this particular henna woman and your experience with her.

  11. My favorite line: Flowers and leaves bloom from her syringe. Thank you for such an artful piece, Marie, and for the insights. It’s amazing how far we’ve come and the things we take for granted now as women, as human beings.

  12. Such beautiful writing, Marie! Thank you so much for bringing this moment to life. What talented women there are there.

    Here in the Central Andes, I often wonder the same of the people I meet and befriend. Does the lady who sells tamales do it because she’s passionate about it or because she has to? A little bit of both? What would she have done otherwise? =)

  13. Marie – That was beautifully written. I especially loved the line, “Flowers and leaves bloom from her syringe.” I appreciated thinking about the henna ladies from a different perspective.

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