Shukran Morocco !!

This will be a tough post to put together because we took a huge number of pictures during a fabulous couple of weeks around Morocco and trying to select a few to reflect our time here will be difficult. ….this has been an amazing Country to visit and the open hearted genuine kindness we’ve experienced here has left a lasting impression.

We arrived early evening into Fez … Morocco’s third largest city… caught a red petit taxi into the old town .. the Medina ….called Fes El Bali for the pricey fare of 10 dirham (1 euro) where our gorgeous Riad Sara was located. Our room in the photo below is the top three windows. Fantastic digs and very reasonable priced by Aussie standards. 😊Just a five min walk from the blue gate into the Medina and the labyrinth of alleyways and lanes waiting to be explored. Just a quick look around the area and a mint tea ….(mmm not sure about the mint tea.) actually were very sure, we didn’t like it particularly,maybe it will grow on us. Decent dinner back at the Riad and an early night.gorgeous place .. beautiful room ….but a tad chilly in the open spaces this time of year, actually that’s an understatement, it was. Brass monkey temps …Day 2

After a hearty breakfast including Nutella pancakes …traditional bread .. chocolate cake …fruit …cheese … bread…olives etc we headed out with our sturdy walking shoes on ( certainly need to walk after a Moroccan breakfast of high white carbs !) we were ready for a workout. We had organised a guide, but he didn’t turn up, we were quite pleased on reflection because we were free to stop where and when we wanted. Through the blue gate into the Medina ready to explore the colourful cocktail of sights, sounds and smells ….First stop of course was for a coffee ….it was awful . It was a public holiday so it wasn’t too crazy and we were very chilled just wandering with only the odd salesman pestering us … Al at one stage stopped to look at carpets ! “Stand back from the carpets ” I yelled. A few years ago we were in Istanbul and after drinking Turkish tea ( sure it had been spiked ) with a local entrepreneur Allen enjoyed the whole experience and banter so much, he bought a 600 euro carpet supposedly 200 year old and had it shipped back to Oz … the said carpet still sits rolled up in our garage , and that’s where it belongs…….under a car preventing oil dropping on the concrete floor. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Chickens not far from the chopping block, now that’s what we call fresh .the local Koran school located off a ridiculously narrow lane ..this was a constant sight in the lane ways of the Medina … buildings are supported by timber frameworks ….good spot for a nap for this cat .. ….no work place, health and safety here, rub it on rub it off …one of the many butchers .. with their BBQ set up front of shop. Of course it wasn’t too long before a friendly local who was showing you the way, out of the kindness of his heart became a guide and we had been happily hood winked . Must say we did enjoy the small amount of time we had with him until Al Pal kindly said we wanted to go it alone. We saw things we would have missed had we been on our own. The souk is home to three ancient Tanneries, we visited two of them. Very interesting and obviously a wee bit smelly ……. stone vessels that men stand waist deep in very very cold water, the temp in the sook was only 8 degrees today, tending to the hides that are soaked in them, in preparation for dyeing, Usually for two or three days ( not the men ) the next stage Pigeon poop is mixed with water which acts as a softening agent .. men pound them with their feet…it can take up to three hours ! to achieve the desired softness. ……. just a general description a lot more involved ….but all done manually , was a Friday when we visited here which is their rest day ….usually there would be hundreds working here just this one guy obviously working on piece work so some serious overtime.hides drying in the sun This was at the rear of one Hammam’s all day long …his job was to throw wood chips into the urn, so among one of the more laborious jobs but at least he has a job and it’s a nice warm spot to be in Winter, Summer must be horrendous .Fabulous view at the top of the Medina where a chorus of mosques where in full swing during lunch time call to prayer .walked through the bric a brac markets that were closed but a great place if you are renovating. On the other side …..the stalls were home to various craftsmen making handmade instrument, trumpets … horns …etc this guy was making a flute.the lovely cooks at this place …where we had dinner. More wandering …and then returned to digs completely exhausted and very very sober.Day 3 We arranged a grand taxi and had a full day exploring further afield. A really lovely drive through the countryside before our first stop at Volubillis… a partly excavated Roman city founded in 3rd century bc. Abandoned in the 11th century . The Olive groves in the area at the time contributed to the wealth and many town houses were built here with beautiful mosaic floors.Drove through the hectic markets with dozens of Morocco taxis, locally translated to donkeys. endless rows of second hand clothes etc.and mad men in their really old battered Mercedes … endless donkeys … etc Meknes was next … had not heard anything about this place we really enjoyed our short time here …The souk just off the the main square although small was a delight to wander through. The Moroccans certainly know how to display their Olives … herbs and spices Stopping for a light lunch of Chicken and Salad, well that’s what we thought we were getting, ended up with the works as you can see. We could not eat it all and left the bread, chips, and a big chunk of chicken … before we had left the table three small boys bless their cottons had whisked the bread off the table …dug their fists into the bread to make a hole and stuffed it with the left over chicken etc …then ran like the wind. Saw them moments later sat on the steps enjoying every mouthful .. beaming smiles , but so very sad. The Royal Stables known as Heri Es Sounai were fascinating. They once housed 12,000 ! Horses. Built by Sultan Moulay Ismail who was a ruthless leader and treated slaves with no respect , unlike his horses which he doted on . We read that when a horse had completed a journey to Mecca slaves were forced to catch the urine in a bowl as the earth was too undeserving for the horse to urinate on . …. Back to Fez around 6 pm …a lovely dinner and a fruit shake …another wonderful day 😊😊

Day 4 …Time to move on so Al decided to hire a car and we caught a taxi to Fez airport where we finally picked one up …. unless you are travelling you are not allowed into the airport … extra security after a while finally finding how to get in to arrange pick up of car we were on our way. This is a beautiful country and the drive we did today was stunning. We encountered snow in Ifrane ( the middle Atlas Mountains ) and lots of happy snow bunnies enjoying their day off .. a one hour journey through the ranges turned into three, with heavy fog In places ..rain and sleatCrazy driving was an understatement. This guy in front was actually sat on the bonnet of a car taking a video …Through the pine forests which we could not see because of the fog throughout the middle Atlas Mountains ……then onto the Ziz valley which was gorgeous …..and it was sunny .we stopped for the night as it was getting late, in the Ziz valley ..this part of the valley was gorgeous, a dense canopy of palms wedged between ancient cliffs which date back to the Jurassic period. we stayed at the Kasbah Jurassic … Jurassic in every way, we laughed so much. Our room was so cold we had 5 blankets on the bed and that was with the heater on ! they obviously cater for the cold as there were 6 blankets in the room πŸ˜‚ that said they served a hearty evening meal which was included in the deal and breakfast of course at a very reasonable rate.Day 4The next day started sunny but was bitterly cold and windy. As we made our way to Erg Chebbi in the Sahara Desert, the weather changed to dusty, then wet and windy roads…through Berber villages ..would not have wanted to be in this taxi ..Arrived into the small town of Merzouga known as the gateway to Erg Chebbi where we planned to spend a night in a Berber campsite in the middle of the dunes camping under the stars … it all sounded very romantic but not in galeforce winds ..sand storms and the minus degree cold !!! With no chance of sunset pics we found the lovely Riad Madu, took the last room which was delightful, and a wonderful evening meal also included 😊A lovely open fire and a couple glasses of red … just what we needed ! NOT haha we had water and mint tea ! Day 5 We awoke to a beautiful clear sunny day ..absolutely freezing so we got rugged up and I mean rugged up .. 6 layers for Amanda ..and began our trek into the dunes ….such an exhilarating experience … so very happy 😊of course then came the task of emptying half the Sahara from our shoes and clothes ..not before a visit to the camels 😊and give them a feed…A bit different than when we arrived yesterday … we could actually see the front of the Kasbah Maduand the pool which I’m sure is fabulous in the summer to cool off.Off now on our way to Marrakesh .. through Tafialet where the vanadinite crystals mines are situated .. Through the Saghro Mountains and more Berber villages …before arriving at Todra gorge in the eastern part of the High Atlas mountains near the town of Tinehir ( which looked interesting but we did not stop ) here are a series of lime river canyons which are just gorgeous ! I am there …somewhere down there ..had a great walk …before looking for a bed for the night …which was in the Skoura Valley , Ouarzazate and found the lovely Riad Ait Benhadda .we were the only guests and as soon as we arrived they raced around lighting the fire in the dining room and a beautiful meal was prepared for usDay 6

After a great nights sleep came down to breakfast where the table was set was complete with petals and the most enormous piece of Moroccan bread ..and a huge array of other naughty treats.First stop today was Kasbah Amridil as we approached there were two entrances on the left a hotel ..on the right the museum .. we choose the one on the right which according to lonely planet was the more authentic … who knows ..Next stop was Ait Ben Haddou situated along the former camel route between the Sahara and Marrakesh. It is a traditional mud brick city and on the UNESCO world heritage list. Setting for many a movie including Gladiator and Lawerence of Arabia.A lovely couple of hours spent here just aimlessly wandering around. More stunning scenery on the way to Marrakesh and through the stunning High Atlas Mountains …which was a challenge at times with road works …you can go for miles and the scenery and landscapes are forever changing. An unfortunate meeting with the local police ….after overtaking three tankers safely but not according to them .. initially the little bas#*#d wanted €40 and would issue a ticket, several minutes chatting resulted in a €20 bribe(I mean fine) and no receipt .. what a dick, Al Pal was furious !! Especially 5 minutes down the road when a car nearly hit us coming to wards us on the wrong side of the roadπŸ˜‚πŸ€£ Anyway Al composed now and ready to tackle the drivers in Marrakesh … which he did a brilliant job in finding our Riad and parking right outside the front door. In the process only wanted to strangle me once when I told him to go the wrong way πŸ˜‚Checked into another gorgeous Riad beautiful room and surroundings dropped our bags and once more out to explore … it was getting dark but a 15 minute walk into the main square and we were amongst the hustle and bustle of it all …the snake charmers …monkeys .. Berber musicians …of course I made the mistake of taking this picture and was asked to pay …I had momentarily lost Al in the crowd …and had no money on me ..eek awkward …Had dinner in a little restaurant overlooking the square before heading home for our first glass and only glass of wine in while inMorocco

Day 7

Do what you do in Marrakesh .. soaked up the atmosphere …..all the sights sounds different smells …Al drove first to the new town to see one of trip advisors top rated things to do …Jardin Majorelle once owned by Yves Saint laurent…. personally thought it was overpriced … nice enough but not worth the hype. After a hairy drive back to the Riad we stayed around the Medina and walked and walked all day.we did not find Marrakesh as hectic as everyone had said .. and found everyone so friendly and helpful .. I did not see anything that was disturbing except for the carcass of a goat intact with its head. But I am sure they were there ! A visit to Bahia Palace..which we really enjoyed.fantastic mosaics and ornate ceilings …

The local wood merchant …….a quick coffee before deciding to buy some Aragon oil and some Rassoul blanc ….mineral powder for your face. That was the most stressful experience in Morocco .. I am usually good at having a banter for a good price but this young gent was too much and I know I paid way too much for my purchases ! But Al Pal appreciated a facial later on so it was worth it. Well a face Scrub in his case ..he slapped it on scrubbed his face as hard as he could …then washed it off .. then washed his face again with soap !!!! πŸ˜‚ looks like we are travelling with a substance at the moment ..white powder in a plastic bag 😳around to the Koutoubia Mosque the largest in Marrakesh. Then into the souks All the usual on offer but on a much larger scale than others we have visited.Throughly enjoyed our time here and glad we came .. Fez or Marrakesh ? fez for me ..Al loved them both.

Day 8

Time to head north where we were catching the ferry at Tanger Med. This was just a day of driving really to the town of Asilah where we decided to spend the night …read it was a lovely little town ..not really that touristy ..and close enough for an easy drive the next day to the port.

We arrived just before dark and first impressions where lovely …the Medina is an art hub known for its murals . More important before exploring was to find accommodation ..I had told Al that there heaps available …..oh Lordy Lordy a local offered to show me options .. I left Al in the car and off I went with him ..what he showed me were just plain awful .. getting desperate I arranged an apartment for night. Told Al not to expect anything fancy but it was a little shabby chic .. parked the outside the Medina and walked to our shabby shit apartment … sorry ! He said what were you thinking !! You can imagine the picture as we slept on top of the bed ..used our puffer jackets as pillow slips and left at 5.30 am as Al was getting so stressed πŸ˜‚πŸ€£ It was the pitts ! It looked much better than it was !!But before we retired to our beautiful surrounds we whizzed around the Medina in near darkness to capture a few positive vibes of the murals around the place and I am sure we would have enjoyed it more in the day light .So there was some happiness here..

Day 9As Al would say let’s get the hell out of dodge !!!! Drove in the pitch black and got lost a few times down dirt roads etc but finally got to Tanger airport where we were dropping off the car ..pleased to say in one piece.

This side trip has been nothing short of brilliant ..!! It was freezing for the most part but we didn’t care …the people have been wonderful …the scenery .. photos do not do it justice … the food was a little disappointing … Al Pal was tour guide extraordinaire drove some 1800 Km’s in the short amount of time we were there. adding the train journey we certainly covered a lot of this amazing country. A taxi from Tanger airport to Tanger med port and this was the end of our trip .

Shukran Morocco !!!! (Thank you)!!!!

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