Festival of Maroc: Tuesday’s Evening of Islamic Thought

Sufism, Symbolism, and Stones.

From the vast expanse of sun-scorched desert and undulating dunes, to the fresh valleys of the Atlas Mountains, and onto maze-like Medina streets. My mind can't help but compare the essence of exploring Morocco and its varied landscapes, to the journeys we take in conversation, especially on evenings like Tuesday. When discussions can travel in all manner of directions.

I had the joy of talking to Fitzroy Morissey, author of A Short History of Islamic Thought and a Fellow of All Souls Oxford, and we let our minds meander through Morocco, our discourse delving into themes of the Islamic world, gemstones, doorways, and the importance of the colour green

Not only are jewels physical adornments, they are also vessels of symbolic energies and meanings, and so as a designer I am endlessly fascinated with relationships between the physical and the metaphorical, learning about the properties of these special stones. Someone who understands reading and research only too well, Fitz was therefore the perfect companion for hosting this evening of the Maroc Festival with me, as we were able to unpack interesting connections and ways of thinking about Morocco within the context of the Islamic world.

From physical gemstones to metaphorical gemstones, Ibn'Arabi's book, Gemstones of Wisdom, seemed a fitting place to begin our discussions. One of the aims of the book, Fitz explained, is to bring the story of Sufism and the mystical tradition of Islam to the centre of our understanding. And so gemstones, or bezels (the grooves in which gemstones sit), are reflective of us as human beings and our relation to the world and to God. Man is to the world as the gemstone is to the ring, with human beings embodiments of God, and our hearts like the groove in which God's wisdom sits.

Another thought-provoking moment for me was hearing Fitz's insight into the rich symbolism of doorways, and the important relationship between the inward and the outward, the Batin and the Zahir. Once again, doorways are not always physical. Whether a boundary between realms, from the ordinary and everyday streets to a sacred mosque, or a gateway between the public outside world and the private confines of a house. Doorways can exist between the physical and spiritual too, boundaries between an inner, hidden, sense of self and an outward exterior, so integral to Sufi thinking.

We went on to learn about the many ways in which the colour green is also significant in Islam, a colour that is said to be Prophet Muhammad's favourite and the colour worn by inhabitants of Paradise. To me, green is a panopoly of colours, and I love working with emeralds, tourmalines, and my latest discovery Chrome Diopside. After spotting so many green tiled roofs on my travels in Morocco, I knew I wanted to work with the colour green in this collection, for its vividness and splendour. But it was fascinating to learn more about the colour and its symbolic resonance within Morocco and Islamic thought.

After insightful questions from the audience and plenty more discussion, Fitz and I let a happy hum of chatter overcome the room once more, with the last sips of Moroccan mint tea and final tastes of delicious Moroccan canapés being enjoyed before everyone went home for the night. What resonated with me from this special evening of the Maroc Festival was the importance of bringing people together. Whilst physically we formed a small intimate group, sitting together in the living room space of the Sloane Street store, our minds reached far beyond the confines of the townhouse walls, all the way to Morocco.

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