I’d like to introduce you to Lauren Dahlhauser, a talented photographer that helped guide students through Moroccan cities and deserts throughout our 2015 summer season and captured its magic and mysterious beauty along the way:
Hello, I’m Lauren! I’m a lot of things, but above all, I’m an adventurer, a risk taker, an inspiration seeker, a coffee addict, a Christ follower, and of course, a photographer. There are few things I love more than the great outdoors and capturing the simple things in life. I was born and raised in Indiana and I graduated in May of 2015 with a B.S. in Photojournalism from Ball State University. I’ve spent my time since putting in many hours to pay off student loans while saving up so I can travel and live on my own in the near future. Last summer I had the pleasure of working for Rustic Pathways as a Photo Guide in Morocco, Africa. Although I desire to step foot onto as much foreign soil as I can, my heart longs to explore the Western side of the United States where I envision myself settling down later. After another summer of working for Rustic, my future is somewhat up in the air, but I am excited to lead the most adventurous life I can.
Keep reading for Lauren’s thoughts and sights of Morocco from behind her lens:
The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco was one of the first times I stood in awe of the beauty and intricacy of Moorish architecture. It is the largest mosque in Morocco and the seventh largest in the world. As if admiring the mosque off the coast of the North Atlantic from the outside wasn’t enough, gazing through the triptych marble partition with open work from the dimly lit inside had me standing in complete amazement.
Henna is a shrub native to the Mediterranean regions, so it’s no wonder it is commonly used and associated with Moroccan culture. In Morocco, Henna is is a dye created from this plant used as temporary bodily adornment. Watching Henna artists decorate the hands and arms of my students was such an inspiring experience.
You simply cannot go to Morocco without trying this traditional dish: lemon chicken tagine. This is a picture of my favorite Moroccan dish paired with delicious mint tea overlooking the square of Jmaa el Fna at dusk. These tagines can be served with a variety of spiced meats and vegetables prepared by slow cooking in a cone shaped dish.
The most memorable experience for me during my time in Northern Africa by far was riding camels into the Sahara desert before camping out under the stars. Sharing the experience with my students enhanced each Saharan adventure even more because I got to capture the excitement and bewilderment on their faces behind me.
This is a picture of a brightly decorated dump truck used to load rocks scattered along the banks of a river running through the High Atlas Mountains. These rocks, gathered by students on the Moroccan Wanderer program, would be used later as a foundation for the kindergarten we were a part of building in the small village of Ourikt.
I love this picture because it shows what a simplistic lifestyle some Moroccans live. This is the guest house my students and I stayed at for a week nestled in the Atlas Mountains. The people of this village were some of the most genuine, happy, and welcoming people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Seeing students interact with the locals of villages we traveled to brought my heart so much joy. This photo shows just how contagious happiness is. You don’t have to be fluent in the same spoken language to bond with another culture.
You can’t visit Morocco without walking the narrow streets of the gorgeous city of Chefchaouen. It is a popular tourist destination because of its richly colored walls of blue. As I wandered through The Blue City, lined with small shops, beautiful potted plants, and friendly locals, it felt like nothing short of a dream.
One of the most historic and gorgeous places I photographed was definitely the Ben Youssef Madrasa located in Marrakech, Morocco. Ben Youssef used to be an Islamic college that housed close to 900 students. The walls carved in cedar, marble, and stucco lining the courtyard surrounded by 130 dormitory cells are truly a work of art.
During my summer in Morocco as a Photo Guide for Rustic Pathways, I was blessed to visit some pretty incredible places. My eyes were opened to a new culture I didn’t ever envision myself becoming familiar with. I captured these places, rich with Moroccan culture, through hundreds of photographs, but there is one thing I know will live on in my heart forever: the people. I took this portrait of my local co-leader Hafsa at the peak of a mountain we climbed in Tinerhir, Morocco.
This is one of the first pictures I took during my summer in Africa. It is a silhouette of one of my students photographing the outside of Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca at night. I love how tiny my student looks in comparison to the tower of the mosque.
This has to be one of my top three favorite pictures I took while I worked in Morocco for Rustic Pathways. In this picture, a group of students, dressed in traditional Moroccan clothing, embrace one another as they look toward the vast stretches of the High Atlas Mountains. To me, this perfectly represents the beauty of two different cultures coming together, the strong friendships students form within Rustic programs, and the jaw-dropping splendor of Moroccan landscape.
Justin's insatiable curiosity and love of people inspire every aspect of his photography. Over the past 18 years, his work as a photographer has taken him to every U.S. state and 39 countries around the world. A native of California, he has worked as a photographer for USA Today and The Associated Press. Justin has photographed and led service and adventure programs all around the world for Rustic Pathways. He also coordinates the hiring and training of all of our summer Photographer Guides.