“Remember today, for it is the beginning of always. Today marks the start of a brave new future filled with all your dreams can hold. Think truly to the future and make those dreams come true.”

521412_450460831684571_943775333_n2012 is gone, but certainly will not be forgotten. I had taken a small break from blogging. But for those keeping up on Facebook, you understand why. 2012 had been very generous with photo shoots, appearances in advertising, and even film, including a starring role in the upcoming film ‘Toeing the Line’, Directed by Branden Blinn. But what has been more important are the friends and colleagues I’ve gained during my adventures in modeling and acting. From Poland, to Slovakia, to Sweden, to Morocco, to Hungary, to South Sudan, to Rio De Janeiro, to Mexico, to France, to Spain, to Syria, to Saipan, to Nigeria, to Colombia, to Italy: You have made a positive difference for me in 2012. You all have a special place in my heart.

Some of you welcomed me into your homes. “Home is where the heart is.” I look forward to seeing you all again and sharing more stories, laughs, and traditions in 2013. It has also been a year of positive change and growth. But trust me, I have missed writing to you.

This holiday season I definitely felt like Haley Joel Osment in the movie ‘Pay It Forward’. On December 20, 2012 A team of volunteers and I walked into Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and brought something that children couldn’t go to themselves. We invited their families to take family portraits for the holidays. One year ago I fought aggressively to find financial backers and supporters of the Breath GIVING Portraits Project. Unfortunately, in 2011 the project was not successfully funded. Because funding on http://www.Kickstarter.com is all or nothing, all pledges had been automatically canceled.

SEE FINAL PUSH FOR BGP PROJECT

The intent of the project was to bring professional photographers and the photo studio into an environment that is comfortable and accessible to children and their families. A lot of times mothers and fathers have to make the difficult decision to take a photo without their little guy or princess because the wheezing is too severe to discharge them from the hospital. Even more disheartening is a families’ inability to afford a family photo because the hospital bills and cost of outpatient care is too overwhelming.

Perhaps this sounded like an Utopian idea. But despite last years’ results, a team who believed it was possible was formed. Family photographs mean a lot and, for many families, is a tradition of the holiday season. Many of us are fortunate to have the ability to have our entire family go to the photo studio. But then we forget about the children who are unable to leave the hospital because of their medical condition.

563757_10151152452541927_137858402_nThe coming together of individuals leading up to the project was amazing. The Breath GIVING Portraits Project is supported by local and international communities, volunteers flew in from Washington DC, Chicago, and Oranjestad Aruba. All volunteers performed in their individual capacity but also offered their expertise from organizations such as Warner Bros, Disney, Aureus Medical School (Aruba), Santa Barbara Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and Los Angeles Fire Department. The volunteers included: Umair Shafiq, David Stelmach, Tony Senior, Timothy Greenlee, Carolyn Leal-Landes, Tami Bahat, Brett Miller, Brian Parker, Ida Shirin Paulino, Peteyk Styles, and Delwin Lampkin.

Thank you readers for your support of the “Breath GIVING Portraits Project”. I am grateful for our volunteers, and everyone who encouraged me to keep working towards making the project a reality. The project was well received by the families, patients, and doctors of the pediatric community and plans are already underway to return to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Division of Pediatric Pulmonology during the Easter holiday season.

BREATH GIVING PORTRAITS PROJECT –  A MUST WATCH

Check out this amazing video with highlights from the project.

“Within any important issue, there are always aspects no one wishes to discuss.”

George Orwell

So, let me give everyone the quick run down of what I have been up before I jump into answering the pressing questions everyone has asked after my last blog post.

In case you had not heard, my endeavors as a model recently took a detour down a path towards acting. More specifically, the road had taken me back to Africa. After my recent trip to Morocco, I returned my focus towards studies of South Sudan.  In June I was asked to feature in a film titled, “Sons of War”. The film focuses on the war in South Sudan, personal values, and the importance of fighting with honor. The opening scene of the film has been completed and shown to the government of South Sudan for approval. I am honored that many of you thought I would make a great actor. But for those of you who are familiar with my understanding of the subject know that it was thoughts of Darfur that carried me through the scene.

Scene from ‘Sons of War’ directed by John Kanno

I hate to tease but I will share more details about ‘Sons of War’ later since I really want to get to answering your questions. So let’s get to it, shall we? Over the last few months, I have been confronted with the question of diversity and how it has affected my goals as a model. Now, i thought it was rather coincidental that I was interviewed by the Republic of China’s New Tang Dynasty  Television on the state of diversity in television, film, and fashion only a few weeks ago. Shortly after the interview, I told you about model and actor Djimon Hounsou and how inspirational he has been in my modeling career. Apparently, you, the readers had been paying attention and want to know more about my opinions on race as it applies to the modeling industry.

SEE NEW TANG DYNASTY TELEVISION INTERVIEW

Hopefully this will be the blog post that opens a discusion often ignored around the world:

How important is diversity to you?

Diversity is extremely important to me. Like I mentioned in my earlier blog post, I always find it encouraging when I see luxury brands embrace models from ethnic groups we are not used to seeing… especially when they are featured as “the face” of a brand. Buyers should be able to see themeselves reflected in advertisements, storefronts, or publications. When I see models in advertisements that reflect me, I am more likely to consider what the luxury brand is trying to sell. I also pay closer attention to the message the luxury brand is trying to promote. We learn from diversity. During my short tenure as a model, I have had opportunities to travel to different countries and see a cultures nature, their likes, and their dislikes. I have made many friends who are of races and cultures different than my own. It is through diversity my life has been enriched. Being open to diversity has increased the value of my network and has helped me grow. I have made friends all over the world and talk to them quite often. During our talks we share opinions and exchange ideas. The way I see things is not just shaped by what is going on in my immediate environment but what is happening in the world. I have a greater understanding of people and a true appreciation for what makes us different. And learning what is important to another culture can be eye-opening.

Is diversity in modeling alive and well or is it at a stand still?

I believe there is change. It is not approaching as fast as I would like to see, but there is change. I feel like diversity is treated more like a check off box. Our society is more diverse than what we now see in magazines, advertisements, and billboards. The magazines, advertisements, and billboards should reflect everyone who exist in the world. Afterall, any ethnicity could potentially be a consumer if the brand is good enough.

Do you believe your race is stereotyped?

I have to confess that my chances of being in an urban photo shoot are a lot higher than being chosen as the face of a european cologne or high end clothing brand. And if the purpose of the photo shoot is to show an active lifestyle, chances of me being chosen for the role of “basketball player” are a lot higher than being chosen as a luxurious sailor, champion golfer, or polo player. My best talents are hiking, swimming, and dancing Argentine Tango. My most frequented hobbies are traveling, touring, and camping. Are brands asserting their biases behind the scenes by automatically assuming only a certain race can portray a particular lifestyle?

I think this is largely due to an odd relationship between luxury brands and the ethnic market. A majority of luxury brands want the ethnic market money. But the luxury brands have a problem with the message of the ethnic market.

Do you have any advice for luxury brands wanting to be more diverse, but don’t know how to approach it?

In addressing diversity, have an example for your market and decide whether it has a valid place in the company. Is it only to make money? Show you’re diverse? Or promote diversity?… I hope that more luxury brands actually want to show the world that people of color are just as capable as any other race represented in market. Don’t give in to the idea that using people of color is, by default, “controversial”. In 2012 it should be thought of as “acceptable”.

Why do you think brands are slow to embrace more people of color in their advertising?

I think about the percentage of publications and luxury brands owned by people outside of color. Most luxury brands are owned by people who are non-ethnic. The way things are set up, people of color are naturally cut out.

Do you have any advice for people of color wanting to model for major brands, but don’t know how to approach it?

I do have some advice for ethnic models wanting to be embraced by major brands. The opportunity comes with finesse, appreciation, and hard work. Models of color have to be comfortable with being the face of the brand. Models of color also have to be comfortable with the lifestyle, look, and feel the brand promotes. At the end  of the day, if you’re good at your craft and your working hard at it. opportunities will open. But you have be willing to work hard at it.

LAMPKIN’S PHOTO SHOOT IN MOROCCO AND LIFE IN THE MEDINA

Magazines and billboards are invasive. It is in our personal mail and hanging in our public streets. They shape the choices we make through visuals, and therefore, influence what we buy. The luxury brands want us to buy their product. Just because the brands are owned by one single person, do we not have a right to demand that their advertisements reflect people of color? It’s fully okay that the owner of the brand has his or her own vision but if the owner of the brand is not culturally intelligent and diversity does not resonate with him or her, the diverse consumer does not feel engaged to buy the brand because they do not see themselves reflected in the brand. They can not relate to the brand.

There are not just one or two good models who are of color. My wish is for agencies to embrace and build the talent equally. I like the idea of agencies and brands embracing the specificity of the race and using models in a way where the target consumer sees an example of themself in ads and publications. In my experience, people I have met from various ethnic backgrounds do not want to be European. They want to be the ethnicity they are and see representation of who they are in their local advertisements.

I can not leave you without mentioning companies and fashion industry professionals I feel have embraced diversity and adapted on local levels. Some of the companies I feel have adapted well with advertising include:

Coca-Cola - In my opinion, a global brand that is the master of diversity in advertising. I can’t think of any other company or brand that has incorporated diversity more successfully than Coca-Cola. If you see a Coca Cola advertisement in your country, there’s a high likelihood the models used in the ads reflect the culture in the region. (http://adage.com/article/special-report-cannes-2012/cannes-coca-cola-s-pollard-praises-diversity-creative/235610/)

Oyster Magazine – “Nu Clean” spread photographed by Milos Mali. (http://www.dapperlou.com/2009/06/oyster-mag-nu-clean.html)

Yves Saint Laurent – the first designer to use black models in his catwalk shows. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yves_Saint_Laurent_(designer) )

Photographer Nick Knight – staged a multi-level film and essay project, encouraging creatives to use the medium of fashion to convey their political beliefs, agendas and thoughts. (http://showstudio.com/blog/post/untitled_by_nick_knight)

Calvin Klein - “A fashion house founded by American fashion designer Calvin Klein. The company is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, New York City[1] and currently owned by Phillips-Van Heusen.” Campaigns now feature models Zoe Saldana, Djimon Hounsou, Liu Wen,  Eva Mendes, and David Agbodji. (http://nymag.com/daily/fashion/2009/02/lyndsey_scott_first_black_mode.html)

CoverGirl – the first major cosmetic company to sign a black model to an Exclusive contract. Canadian Lana Ogilvie became the first black woman to represent a non-ethnic cosmetics company, and opened the door for traditionally Caucasian-focused brands to embrace different cultures and ethnicities in their brand. (www.fashionmodeldirectory.com and Clarke, Caroline V. [1993])

Photographer David LaChapelle - LaChapelle’s striking images have graced the covers and pages of Italian Vogue, French Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Rolling Stone and i-D, and he has photographed personalities as diverse as Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Madonna, Shakira, Amanda Lepore, Eminem, Philip Johnson, Lance Armstrong, Pamela Anderson, Lil’ Kim, Uma Thurman, Elizabeth Taylor, David Beckham, Paris Hilton, Jeff Koons, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hillary Clinton, Muhammad Ali, and Britney Spears, to name a few. (http://www.lachapellestudio.com/)

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I’m back! Firstly, I want to express a huge thanks to everyone who congratulated me on my anniversary. May 9th marked the day I signed my first modeling agency contract in Los Angeles, California. I received about a dozen emails with questions about my achievements, shortcomings, and lessons learned in my first year. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on several projects in such a short period. I am also grateful for the friendships I have developed along the way. My model vocabulary has also expanded: Bookings, Print Audition, Casting, Body Check, Implied Nude, Composite Card, to name a few.

Like many times before, I am writing you from my home away from home… the courtyard of Saint Francis Chapel at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California (As though sitting here magically calls me to writing). I am apparently not the only one who is inspired by the grandeur of the courtyard. As I sat here I was interrupted by a gentlemen who asked me what he should write as vows to his fiancée. I simply replied, “Tell her everything you’ve been wanting to tell her since you met her” I’m no good at stuff like that, so good luck sir.

So, which male model has made the biggest impact on me this year? Choosing one is very difficult since I read  a bit about several male models over the last year with hopes to learn from their career path. But if I have to choose one, I will choose one whose story I found the most profound and motivating. So who is it? I have chosen Djimon Diaw Hounsou.

Djimon Diaw Hounsou is an Academy Award nominated actor and model for Calvin Klein. Djiamon is most known for his appearances in the movies ‘Gladiator’, ‘Amastad’, ‘In America’ and ‘Blood Diamond’. Djimon is one of very few Africans embraced by well-known fashion photographers in Paris and, later in his career, abroad. He is also a passionate speaker in the fight against climate change and works with charities such as SOS and Oxfam.

What I find most interesting about Djiamon’s background is his upbringing. Djiamon was born in Cotonou, Benin (West Africa) to Ibertine and Pierre Hounsou. Mr. Hounsou describes his childhood as lonely. In an April 2012 interview with SPYGhana News, Djiamon said, ““I was just a very torn child, very wounded in so many areas, with no family support,” His parents left him at an early age as they moved to the Ivory Coast. At the age of 10 he met his father for the first time and at the age of 13 he moved to Paris to live with his oldest brother. There, the hardships continued. Djiamon recalls wandering the streets of London at night looking for food to eat. He wished so desperately to escape his surroundings.

And now the world knows where Djiamon has landed today. I first became aware of Djiamon Hounsou’s background after it was announced in 2007 that he was to become Calvin Klein’s new underwear model. Beginning in Fall 2007, Djiamon was featured as the face for Calvin Klein’s new global print advertising campaign which included the launch of the new Calvin Klein Steel collection. The relationship between the brand and model has been rather remarkable and quite controversial. The ebony skinned model blankets the side of a 27 story building overlooking Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. And his appearance in billboards and magazines had raised discussions about how black subjects are presented in publications.

So, Djiamon Hounsou has become an inspiration to me because he breaks the racial barriers when it comes to what were used to seeing in fashion publications. He is one of very few black male models to be featured as the face of a well known brand and one of a very tiny group to be featured on the front cover of fashion magazines and storefronts. He was one of the first models who reflected me and others who look like me in editorial spreads. The current modeling industry and front covers are dominated by “ethnically ambiguous” european models who look nothing like me. And Djiamon gave me hope that I too (with dark skin) could someday become the face of a brand.

Lately, I have been in Orange County, California shooting a TV series pilot. I have also been spending a great deal of time in Hollywood shooting with photographer Ray John Pila and working my new campaign. I had wanted to engage in an editorial campaign, and finally did a shoot in El Matador Beach for a European line. I can finally show the photos in a few weeks. So, stay tuned.

Posted: July 10, 2012 by D'Andre Lampkin in Fashion/Design, modeling, Question & Answer, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In D’Andre Lampkin style, I like to start off with a quote. I’m writing you before I attend dinner with friends tonight in Hollywood. More than likely we will discuss my first blog entry dedicated souly to eco-fashion. So I think this quote should be dedicated to my friends, Raphael and Andrej.

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is  never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness  gathers love.”

Saint  Basil

For my Slovak friend, the quote says, “Strom s pozna po ovoci, muz podla svojich skutkov. Dobry skutok sa nikdy nestrati. Kto seje laskavost, zne priatelstvo, a ten, kto seje milosrdenstvo, zne lasku.” …Don’t kill the translator (smile).

My love for the outdoors doesn’t stop with appreciating the beauty that already exist. I take joy in contributing from time to time. Last week I asked for suggestions on how to revamp the front yard… add a little curb appeal . Everyone’s advice was very much appreciated. But there was one piece of advise everyone seemed to have forgotten to pass along – And that was to make sure my child dogs did not chew through the garden hose before watering the plants. Fortunately, it has been quite warm here since the Spring season began and the weather was just right. I flooded the terra cotta pots with fresh H2O and imagined I was in a Calvin Klein poolside scene. I wonder if the neighbors laughed or enjoyed the show. My oldest dog (pictured above) seemed to enjoy the new plants. Warm shower here I come!

I’m going to talk about something that might be quite unusual to some people on this blog – Living jewelry. Not from the perspective that this is an eco fashion blog, but from the perspective that I normally talk about men’s fashion and modeling. Prior to my recent photoshoot in Morocco I participated in several events and runway shows at LA Fashion Week. During the EcoCouture event I was taken aback by one particular designers style and jewelry company. Jessica Viola is the owner and brain child of Viola Living Jewelry. I first took notice of Jessica’s work when the gorgeous EcoCouture models walked around to showcase her designs.

Viola Living Jewelry is a botanical jewelry company based in Los Angeles. Every aspect of the jewelry’s development is centered in Los Angeles, with one exception. The plants and jewels used in Jessica’s designs come from her extensive travels to Peru and Mexico. Jessica’s inspiration comes from working for years with both men and woman as a landscape designer. During her tenure, she formed the belief that gardening and landscaping is a language shared by both men and woman that had long been forgotten. I personally agree with Jessica. From time to time I feel compelled to throw on a white t-shirt, some jeans, and a pair of heavy boots and sweat my way towards making an impression on the neighborhood. Neighbors, no matter the gender, tend to envy beautifully landscaped yards.

The botanical jewelry is, believe it or not, living. What I found most interesting is that at the end of the day the plants used in Jessica’s designs can be preserved in water overnight. With a little care, the plants will continue to grow and later be cut back to be worn time and time again. Jessica says, “Why not bring the garden to the person.  Create something beautiful. Landscape the body. And add a living component, something that blooms, blossoms and requires care, a bit of attention to thrive.”

While most of Jessica’s designs have been geared towards woman, she has also be commissioned by several men to design pieces to add to their wardrobe. She intends to develop a new line of designs for men in the near future.

Her designs are a far step away from the traditional way we view jewelry and steps closer towards creating sustanable products that are elegant and pleasing to the man’s eye. Her efforts give new meaning to ‘Natural Beauty’

Things Remembered, Highway 395

“Those roads provided breath-taking views. There’s something special about an empty road going on and on and on to the horizon where the sun burns the world away into a dancing, shmmering heat haze that reflects the crystal blue sky, literally blurring the line between heaven and earth.”
Dave Gorman

I know, I know, I haven written to you in a while. It has been a very busy two weeks but I do apologize. Let me think of an excuse for why I have been gone. Er, well to be honest, I like to have a story behind my blog post and writing a new blog post is a lot harder than you think.

The truth is, I have spent the last two weeks traveling California. The last week had been spent taking a small break from modeling and re-evaluating how I will approach agencies for representations. In case you all forgot, May 9th marked my 1-year anniversary in modeling (if we go by the day I signed my first modeling agency contract).

Tonight I write to you laying under the stars. I took a short drive to Lake Elsinore to enjoy the clear sky and sound of the crashing waves. This week has been a busy week in terms of auditions and meetings. I attended a Promotional Modeling audition and potentially walked away with a permanent Brand Ambassador position with a New York based company, Soho Experiential. I also met with the executives of Xante and discussed future branding. I am thankful for the many calls I received congratulating me on the Xante advertisement on page 88 of Los Angeles Confidential where I am featured with the Sweden’s Next Top Model.

SEE THE UNIMAGINABLE PLEASURE

In all the chaos, one call I received was very special. I was reminded by my extended family that it was time again for our annual trip to the Mojave Desert. As many of you may already know, periodically I take long trips to some of the most remote environments to unwind and remove myself from schedules, phone calls, computers, cell phones…Yes! cell phones. So Mojave Desert here I come!

Of course I didn’t need a reminder of how important the trip was for me. We had camped in the desert for the past 5 years. It is the one time during the year we can spend time to together without worrying about appointments, alarm clocks, or schedules. We tend to do whatever suited us at the moment. When I reached the old mining town Garlock, I was extremely excited to see the loved ones I grew up with already setting up the barbecues, gasing dirt bikes, and pitching the tents. The warm desert sun and miles of dirt road took me back to years past.

On a sad note (well sad to me), everything was not the same in Garlock. I arrived to learned that the house we stayed in the year earlier had been burned to the ground. We were later told by the area conservator that the historic town had been visited by careless juveniles. Garlock was built in 1887 shortly after the discovery of gold in the mountains and much of the structures were still standing until recently. We moved to a second home and school house where we stayed in years past. We found it too was vandalized and some of the more unique structures were missing. More damage had been done to the historic site in one year, than in last four years combined.

Perhaps this is a necessary evil in some ways. I predict in coming months, the federal land will be closed to the public to keep what is left of the remarkable mining community. The destruction of the federal land has raised awareness among the more veteran members. Throughout the day, we were visited by numerous tunnel dwellers and asked what we thought about the recent vandalism. It is unfortunate that future generations will not be able to enjoy what was once a symbol of the California gold rush era. What I explored on this trip illustrates the disconnect between the newer generation and preservation of history. I have many memories from the town of Garlock. In the same week, I returned to the town to photograph and document what was left. I was able to compare some of the photographs with ones I took in years past.

School House Weathervane Weathervane 2012

School House Residence 2007 School House Resident 2012

Red Town Population 301

Arrastre 2012 In Red Town

A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace
~ Ovid

At last, I can finally reveal one of my latest photo shoots. In January I had the amazing opportunity to photograph for Sweden’s Next Top Model (or Next Top Model Sverige). Even more interesting than the photo shoot was the way I and my colleague, actor Zadran Wali, were introduced. When I learned that we would be working with Linnea Johansson and hosts  Izabella Scorupco and Jonas Hallberg I should have expected a fun day. We were sequestered in our dressing room and a grey curtain draped over our doorway. What we weren’t ready for were the curious eyes that peeked into our dressing room as we were being prepared for the shoot.

It’s almost impossible to describe how hard it was not to flirt with the onlookers while we dressed in our Polo uniforms. I had also been craving the taste of fresh strawberries all day. Once they arrived in the room, I couldn’t help but enjoy them. I really didn’t think about how my eating of the strawberries was interpreted and re-imagined by the peeping toms. But I haven’t heard any complaints thus far.

So, why the big secret? Now that the episode has aired, I can reveal to you the winner of the competition. Congratulations Alice Herbst for winning the contest and becoming Next Top Model Sverige. As I said earlier, the photo shoot was for Next Top Model Sverige, Sweden’s version of America’s Next Top Model created by female supermodel Tyra Banks. Just like the show in America, the female contestants were participating in a modeling challenge. Initially thought to be just another invitation-only party, the female contestants were evaluated on their ability to engage guest and industry representatives. The winner of the competition won a modeling contract which included becoming the face of the Xanté advertising campaign. Xanté is a  premium liqueur conceived from a rich blend of belgium pears and the finest French distilled European cognac. Many thanks go to Xanté CEO Adele Robberstad and Marking Director Michelle Chernoff for choosing me for the photo shoot and advertisement campaign.

Just a quick note about the quote at the opening of this entry: I have long had a want to be pictured in a well-known magazine publication. I hope to one day have my own article published, a one page spread, and eventually make it to cover. I have a lot of catching up to do.

The episode aired April 2nd on televisions all over Europe. If you did not get a chance to see the story behind the making of the ad, check our Episode 9 of Next Top Model Sverige on tv3play.se. The advertisement is featured on page 88 of this seasons Los Angeles Confidential Magazine (April/May). So if you have not done so already, be sure to pick up the full publication at your local magazine racks.

Ben Youssef Madrasa

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.
Mahatma Gandhi

So, we returned to Casablanca and headed to the train depot exit. Do you remember the movie Casablanca? Remember the train station scene where it was pouring rain and Sam, played by Doley Wilson, ran to Mr. Richard (Rick Blaine), played by Humphrey Bogart, to hand him the note from Ilsa? And do you remember how disappointed Rick was that Ilsa was not there to meet him at the Casablanca train station? Well, when we returned, Ilsa still was not there….

But do you recall the beginning of the scene where the man in uniform was announcing his service to the crowd of train patrons? I think we met his descendants. As we walked to the sidewalk, we were met by several enthusiastic taxi cab drivers who were anxious to take us to our next site. Anyway, enough of me trying to be humorous. A lot of friends encouraged me to watch the movie before I actually went to Casablanca and compare with my experience. So, I wanted to show I did listen to their advice and made comparisons.

I want to take you back to Marrakech and the Medina. No matter how much we tried to keep track of the time, we often found ourselves enjoying Moroccan tea, indigenous music, and conversations with the shop keepers past midnight. And when it was time to retire we walked down the narrow streets of the Medina back to the Riad.

There were nights which the temptation to stay out late was too great. If you walked a few minutes north through the Medina, you would eventually find yourself in the amazing stage called Jemaa el-Fnaa, also known as The Square of Spirits. The square is now protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The inner being of the people are often called spirits and the feeling of spirits is still very present. You could see them, smell them, and feel them.

READ MORE ABOUT UNESCO AND IT’S EFFORTS

As the sky darkens, the Jemaa el-Fnaa comes to life and you meet the spirits of crazy men, sick people, and rare people… all of whom are hidden during the day. In Jemaa el-Fnaa there are all sorts of spectacles and music bands from all across Morocco. The music is a mixture of influences by southern Spain, Andalusia, Berbers (Moroccan natives), “Black” Africa, and South Africa. There are also expositions of belly dancers. The dancers tend to have the largest audience. When you get closer to see the show, you suddenly realize these belly dancers are boys in female clothing. Due to strict muslim customs, traditional muslim woman are forbidden from putting on such shows. As you walk further to see other performances, old women stop you to ask if you want a Henna tattoo.

Just as you refuse the tattoo, a young Berber presents to you all the rich flavors of meals offered in his restaurant. And before he lets you go he gives you at least one of his business cards with the promise that you will not find a better restaurant than his.

A few feet away from the Moroccan lantern displays, a group of gamers obsessively try to put the ring on top of the glass bottle. If you stopped and asked one of the players what the prize was, you soon learn that they don’t want to win a prize. They just want to become the heroes of the night who did it.

At the peripheral of the Jemaa el-Fnaa you come cross a place which looked familiar to me from CNN. Cafe Argana, the site of a terrorist attack in April 2011, was under rapid reconstruction. It makes you sad for a while as you dedicate a thought to those people who were sitting on the terrace of Argana taking their Moroccan mint tea…

As you continue to marvel at the broad reconstruction banner, your senses start to become overwhelmed by all the smells, tastes, and sounds. So you walk further through the smoke covering the Jemaa el-Fnaa square until you come to the orange juice sellers who are competing to get your attention. Everyone wants to be the guy who sold you the freshest orange or grapefruit juice in all of Marrakech. And as the flow of fresh juice replenishes you and quenches your thirst, you reconnect with the real world and realize that this is everyday life in the Jemaa el-Fnaa.