Morocco Trip Report
Sue and Reggie
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
7/27 & 28 Paris
8/4 Sahara/Todra Gorge
8/5 Todra Gorge
8/6 Todra Gorge/Ait Benhaddou
8/7 Ait Benhaddou/Imlil
8/15 Fly back to USA
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Reggie and Sue
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Spent a couple of relaxing days in Paris and now were are in Casablanca.
Had our first schwarma of the trip and walked through the old medina here. The medina was a labryinth of shops selling t shirts and other things. Not too exciting. Only been here for a few hours, so there is not much to say.
It is hot here. Tomorrow we go to Hassan II Mosque and then to Meknes.
Casablanca to Meknes
Heeding the morning call to prayer, we arose early and headed to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the third largest and most expensive to build in the world. It was very impressive and huge. Imported chandeliers and marble. During Ramadan, it can hold over 25000 worshippers insidee and another 75,000 peopele outside. It even has a retractable roof. It did lack some of the character of some of the older mosques that we have been in.
Then we were off to Rabat, a hour train ride. The Kasbah des Oudayas was beautiful. It is a fortress with an adminstrative center, a baker, a butcher, a mosque, a medersa and a hamman. It had beautiful winding alleys of blue and white and a beach fronting the Atlantic where the Moroccans go to relax. It was the 9th year anniversary of the King, so it was a big holiday. Then we went to the Mausoleum for King Mohammed V.
We were on the train again to Meknes, a 2.5 hour ride with no AC. It is about 100 degrees here in the shade. The countryside was desert and hills, with some green here and there.
Tomorrow we go to the Roman Ruins at Volubilis and then Fez.
The keyboard here is very challenging. We keep writing q for a and ; for m: So ignore typos. Plus we cannot figure out how to type the exclamation point.
Rabat to Fez
Here are our highlights for the last couple of days:
eating camel burger for lunch in the medina of Meknes
visiting an ancient roman ruins, Volubilis
drinks in a very fancy riad turned hotel, listening to the various simultaneous calls to prayers
dining a 6 course traditional Moroccan meal in a beautiful riad
we saw how leather was tanned and colored, wandering through the 9100 streets within the medina in Fez. chatted with a 5th generation herbalogist who prescribed some herbs for our sinuses and allergies.
We’re off to our first hamman experience later. More details to come!
We approached the Sahara on a caravan of camels, each bearing one of us as we strode off toward the sun setting on the dunes. There was growing excitement of spending the night under the wide open starry skies and the anticipation of a bedouin meal awaits all of us.
The sand dunes were amazing – smooth, unmarred by other human feet. This was the moment I was waiting for. To see the desert and be in its presence. The rippling waves of sands appear smooth from a distance but up close the patterns are distinct.
We played charades in the moon light, had a wonderful tagine for dinner and were then entertained by the Berbers with their drumming.
Then it is time for sleep. We laid down over the sands and watched the stars until the clouds covered them and the moon came out.
Post from Sue
We have been outside on email range for a few days. As Reggie wrote, we had a lot of fun in the Sahara, riding camels over the sand dunes, eating and sleeping under the stars, and experiencing the quiet AND the sand storms of the desert.
Since then, we have been in Todra Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Morocco, where we went hiking and rock climbing. It was very beautiful.
Then we drove to Ait-Ben Haddou which is a Ksar and a UNESCO world heritage site. The Ksar was very striking. On the way, we stopped at the Atlas film studios where Gladiator, the Ten Commandents and many other films where shot. That was good fun too.
We also went to a cooking demo, so we are now ready to cook Moroccan food, though we are probably not going to do that for a while since we are getting tired of the limited range of possibilities. Basically, they eat 3 things: tajine which is a stew; coucous; and brochettes which are grilled meats. After 13 days, it gets a little repetitive. There are also Pastillas but those are not available every where. Also, I think that French Fries are one of the four food groups here and are served with almost every meal.
We went up to the Atlas Mountains and stayed in a very rural village in a Gite (basic mountain lodge). We hiked in the Toubkal Mountains and enjoyed the tranquility of the scenery. There was very limited interaction with the locals as they mainly speak Arabic, French and/or a local berber language. They have an uneasy relationship with the tourists. Many earn a living from tourism yet they do not like their pictures taken and are having their whole way of life changed by tourism. It is a conflicted experience.
We are now in Essaouira, a seaside fishing city that used to have a large Jewish population. Most of the Jewish community left after the founding of Israel and after the 1967 war. Many of our guides have pointed out how sorry that there are about this. Often, they strongly identify as African or Berber and not as Arabs. More on the Berbers later.
Next Stop: Marrakesh. And, hopefully more internet cafes.
After Essaouira, Marakech was jarring to the senses – busy, congested, hot, noisy and humid. Everything about Marrakech spelt commercialism; from the souks in the medinas to the many wide boulevards that lead to The Koutoubia mosque.
We got completely lost in the medina on the first day – labyrinths of little alleyways filled to the brim with leather slippers, spices, pottery, jellabahs (traditional desert wear), tin lanterns and the occasional genie lamps (made in India!). Besides pedestrians, vehicular traffic like petite taxis, motobikes and the occasional mules compete for room in the covered passage ways.
On our own the next day, we managed to seek out the medersa (Koranic school)
with its inumerous little chambers some barely measuring 5′ x 7′. We also visited the Museum of Marakech which has a beautiful mosaic tiled courtyard with a dramatically raised chandelier; new age music was piped into the huge room with strategically placed (and welcomed) seats.
We also went to see the Saadian tombs in which some of the earlier Sultans of Morocco were buried.
We will post some pictures once we’re back in the US.