April 12 travel day - London to Casablanca
Tha hand of Fatima (the Prophet's daughter) is a symbol that is supposed to ward off evil and the evil eye. Consequently, we saw the hand on many, many doors and in many other places as well. Bering in an Islamic state was a great experience. Immersed in a non-christiuan society was very interesting as their customs and historical roots are so very different from my own Anglo-Saxon Christian roots.
One of the doors into a Royal Palace. While the palaces were open top the public in years gone by, security concerns do not allow this anymore. While we remained hopeful of the opportunity to take tea with the king, the closest we got to him were these gates.
Street flower stalls in Rabat
The storks were thick at the Chella Necropolis. Abou el-Hassan - the Black Sultan - was buried here in 1351. He must have been pretty persuasive as his wife, (who also lies here) Chams el-Doha (or 'Light of the Dawn' ) was a Christian who converted to Islam. I can't recall; whether or how many other wives he had.
The Romans loved their nymphs, didn't they? Here they are with Diana as she receives water from Pegasus.Hercules was about the only one on our trip that didn't mind the snakes.
The medina in Fes
Believe it or not, we bought (many) leather goods in this shop which has been using these vats to cure the hides for about 700 years. (smelled that way too)
Dates palms carefully tended and protected. Note that the young fruit is bound with palm frond strings so to minimize bruising when the winds blow.
A day in the dunes
Midnite at the oasis? Still hours away - this was only sunset (but we could see the oasis from our vantage point).
April 21 - Tinghir or Tinerhir depending on what map you are looking at.
Finally I have succeeded in upoloading a few more photos, however, the four new ones took over an hour to do, and as always it seems, my time is limited and there are too many thjoughts I want to record before they fade (which happens quickly for me these days it seems)
So, back to April 19th and the desert. While many of us have an image of the desert much like the photo above, sand dunes themselves represent a tiny proportion. We drove for miles and miles through mostly flat terrain with blackened gravel or stones. Occasionally an oasis would appear, easily seen from a distance as you can see green things from a long way away. While nomadic people seem to make out OK in this barren terrain, villages cannot survive without water nearby. Needless to say, there is a very ancient feel to the dwellings and way of life here. It is very dry, hot and dusty - and this is still spring time. Widespread use of adobe with many buildings crumbling away seems to give the concept of standard of living no meaning, they are so far off the scale. Electricity came to the larger towns in this area starting in 1975 but there are still many villages without.
We arrived at our hotel mid afternoon and promptly hopped in Land Cruisers for a 3 hour circumnavigation of Ereg Chebbi, sand dunes that are up to 250 meters in height and go on for about 30 kilometers. Erg Chebbi is very popular because it is relatively easy to get to.
I have many amazing photos that you will not see until I get home. After returning to camp we then proceeded to mount camels who would take us up into the dunes to witness the sunset. this was a magical time. Once again we were pinching ourselves. Were we really high up in these magnificent muticoloured dunes watching the sun depart these African skies, our camels waiting patiently to return us to a Moroccan feast? Yes we were - however - the dream dissipated a bit as our young guides took this opportunity to try to sell us the trinket-du-jour. Still even this crass commercialism could not dim a moment of great beauty and tranquility.
Dave celebrates his birthday
A spice seller on market day in RissaniDescending Todra Gorge
Ait Benhaddou. This Unesco World Heritage site was one of the many amazing old townsites we visited. This Kasbah is alive (and now growing again) with a few residents and many souvenier shops and several (mostly bad) artists displaying their crafts. While the commercialism could get a bit irritating it could not take away the beauty of this place. The Unesco designatiuon means there are more restoration $$ available which is a good thing because many of the sites we saw, already centuries old, are crumbling away and need help.
This is our Explore! troup discovering Ait Benhaddou. With seven Canadians, seven Australians and five Brits, the colonies had superior forces, however hostilities never broke out, not even a skirmish unless we count the time when Brenda and Francis were lost together in the desert.
Near sunset, Essouria, Morocco
The beach at Essouria was long and wide but the water was coolish and did not tept us really. We spent two nights here and had rather a relaxing time of it as there were no tours or organized events and after 12 days of if not a hectic then a relentless pace we all enjoyed this unstructured time. Dave and I set off in search of alcohol - a challenging adventure in most of the places we've been in Morocco since the consumption of it is a sin for Muslims. Purchasing it certainly made you feel like a criminal as shops dispensing it were generally hidden or concealed in some way. Purchases were to be wrapped in newspaper or stowed away in a backpack or something so as to conceal the horror from innocent eyes. Very few retaurants served, even those in the main cities.
What's for lunch?
One of the many gates into the walled medina and the souks of Merrakesh, the last stop of our two week Moroccan tour.
You can get anything you want in the Merrakesh Souk
Getting lost in the Souks of Merrakesh.
The beautiful Majorelle Gardens in Marrakesh were restored by Yves St Laurent
A muezzin has been voicing the call to prayer from this mosque, five times a day, every day, for almost 900 years.
It’s a week today that Julie and I returned home from Morocco. All week I have been trying to finish up this blog, wanting to do so while the images of events in my mind can still be recalled in some reasonable detail. Not unexpectedly, the day to day tasks associated with home, careers, family and friends can quickly crowd out those thoughts and memories that seemed so vivid at the time they occurred.
Our final days of the tour were spent in Marrakesh where it was getting hotter by the day – uncomfortably hot reaching close to 40C – but still a long way from the 50C they reach when the summer gets going. The rising heat and the knowledge that it is during the month of May that the scorpions start to come out helped with the realization that our time in Morocco was up.
We covered a lot of ground during our two week tour and have come away with a good overview of Morocco, a bit of its history, a few gifts to share at home and a lot of digital images that will help jog the grey cells when trying to recall details of this trip in future years. It was our guide Mohamed who helped us discover the true treasures we returned home with: - the treasures of new knowledge and understanding. Over the time we were there I observed, read and thought quite a bit about the unifying effects of the Islamic tradition of public prayer. Like just about anywhere else in the world, it seems that family bonds, not religious or political ones are still the strongest. It seemed everyone was proud of their ethnic heritage be it Berber, Beduin, Arab or southern African and it was interesting to have this tribal heritage become more clear to me. It’s tough to get ahead economically in a country with large areas of only marginally arable lands and a nominal social safety net. There was not much of a middle class in evidence and there are many that have left Morocco to pursue better economic opportunities elsewhere. However, all these earthly struggles can be set aside, at least for a few minutes, five times a day. This was one of the treasures I took home with me.