April 11 Our flight into Fes the night before was delayed. We arrived at Dar Eva AirBnB about 2am. Thank goodness I scheduled the guide for 10:30. The Medina (old city) is full of alleys, dead ends, and streets of commerce. Our accommodation was on a dead end and so narrow we each had to pull a suitcase behind us as we walked thru the alley. We visited shops for souvenir shopping which I wasn’t interested in except for the leather shop which had a view of the tanneries. The making of leather is an important industry. The hides first go into a solution of pigeon dropping for 10 days to take the hair off the hide. This is the smelly part especially in summer. It is then moved to the dyes for 2 weeks. The dyes are all natural. We visited the world’s oldest university created by a woman in 859 A.D. Our guide was quick to point out that the Arab peninsula has a culture different from Morocco - treatment of women, dress code, etc. Morocco follows the Koran while the extremists create their own religion. Women are out with only a head scarf (if any) doing their daily errands. They also drink a wine made from dried fruit. Lunch was a feast at the Carpenter’s restaurant! Our waiter brought out many small salads, maybe 10, then it was the main course which was huge and then a dessert of fresh fruit & coconut macaroons. Everything was delicious. We must cook more Moroccan dishes - THE SPICES ARE AMAZING!! The maps do not give visitors all the alleys/streets/dead ends. With some backtracking and memorized land marks we found our way back to the Dar (house).
April 12 Cafe Clock Cooking School. A young couple from Austin Texas also signed up for the cooking school. As a group we decided to make an eggplant salad, lamb Tagine with prunes and coconut macaroons. Before we started the cooking process, a trip to the market was in order. The array of spices was as beautiful as was the aroma. Our lamb came from the “lamb” butcher. Across from him was the beef butcher with a cows head on the counter. You don’t see that everyday! Back at the school, I was surprised to discover the use of the pressure cooker - makes sense. I didn’t want to wait 3 hours for my lunch. Olive oil was used in all 3 dishes, even the macaroons. Lunch was served up on the terrace and if I do say so myself, it was delicious. Cafe clock is a very English friendly restaurant. I spoke to a gentleman from England, two ladies from the Netherlands and a NGO volunteer from Bordeaux, France. A very international cafe.
April 13 I am home with a cold so Gary is out walking the Medina. This picture is one of the gates exiting the Medina. The ramparts are impressive. Gary loved his walk alone. He could interact with the locals as he wandered down to the river and then up to the city gates. He was a tired puppy dog when he arrived back at the apartment.
April 15 We had reserved the Pool Formula at the Michlifen Hotel which was outside of Fes 1 ½ hr. The formula includes a one hour massage which was heavenly, lunch, and use of the pool. We brought the computer because I was having trouble uploading pictures at the apartment. Well, the internet worked so well, the photos were done in 5 minutes so I spent some time working on the web site. Lunch was nice. My favorite was the vegetable tart - a crispy phyllo bottom with a layer of mashed eggplant. Small decorative pieces of different vegetables were sticking out of the eggplant. I wished I had taken a picture but it’s very clear in my mind’s eye so I can make it at home. We had our first Moroccan wine - very robust and very tannic for way too much money. Oh Well! The time flew by and we never got into the pool but we had a very relaxing day.
April 16 Happy Easter After a leisurely morning we spent the rest of the day walking the Medina and trying to find the restaurant Rachid. When we did find it, we had to wait for a table so we pulled the map out to look for another restaurant - Riad Fes part of the Relais & Châteaux group. We ordered another assorted salad starter all of which were delicious. This country is a vegetarian’s heaven. Even Gary loved the salads. We had lamb again - I’ve had more lamb in one week than I’ve had in the last 5 years. We waddled home and I finished the packing as the Tour Of Morocco starts April 17th.
April 17 We met Namir who will be our driver for the next 13 days and headed off for Chefchaouen, the blue city. Our drive was thru fields of olive trees, wheat, chickpeas and fava beans. It was a beautiful patchwork of colors. The olive trees reminded me of a pillow for a giant with the trees being the tuffs of cotton. The patchworks colors was the giants quilt. Towards the end of the trip we climbed the road upward thru the Rif Mountains. The ride was beautiful.
Here are a couple of important notes I do not want to forget. Nature and the sun is man’s enemy hence the walled city with narrow streets. It was amazing how the temperature would drop when walking thru a protected alley. The picture is showing the number of angles for the numbers 1-9 which is how the number got it’s name. Zero does not have any angles and was created by the Hindu’s. The Arabs helped spread the use of mathematics throughout northern Africa. The word algebra and algorithm are Arabic names of the men who created the mathematic method.
April 19 We visited the ancient Roman city of Volubilis dating from the 25 B.C. It had a population of 35,000. Agriculture was the main economy and still is today. We saw many olive mills for producing olive oil sitting amongst the ruins of the city. The city has not been fully excavated. Maybe there is a theater just waiting to be discovered. The river meanders at the bottom of the ancient city. Back in Roman times is was navigable with small boats making it easy to get the produces to market. There were several mosaic floors still in great condition. It was obvious this town had some wealthy citizens living in Volubilis. After this tour we had a car tour of the imperial city of Meknes founded in 1672. The sultan used 25,000 slaves to build his palace - such a mean guy!. We spent the night in Fes in the Riad Myra.
The color blue was used by the Jews to indicate a dead end. The color is now ubiquitous. It reminds me of Santorini, Greece. It is a very touristic town - good for a relaxing stay. Our guide walked us around the city with a community oven in every district - I think we found 10. Ladies can bring their dough to be cooked for a small fee. After baking is completed it is time for the tagines to go into the oven. Our guide graduated with a degree in law but he likes to take tourist on hiking trips in the mountains. Who knows what the future holds for this young man. Our guest house was lovely, 2 homes joined together for a total of 12 rooms.
April 20 Happy 40th Birthday, Mike. We made our way over the Atlas Mountains thru the Ziz Gorge. The Ziz Oasis runs along the Ziz river for 60 miles and is the largest oasis in Morocco. It is such an amazing site to see - barren land, crumbing buildings and the lush green composed of date, fig and other drought tolerant trees. We spent the night at the Xaluca Kasbah resort. Kasbah means castle or fortifcation.
April 21 Our desert camp driver picked us up from the resort for our 1 hour 4 wheel drive to the Desert Camp where we spent the night. We met people from around the world most of whom had arrived by camel - been there, done that and bought the T-shirt. We are greeted with lemonade and mint tea with some snacks to hold us until dinner. Dinner was a very typical meal - but they served way too much food! After dinner, Gary was able to chat with fellow campers and then Gary & I went to our tent. We actually had to have a conversation with each other since we didn’t bring the computer. The wind howled most of the night. I thought we might just blow and it was a noisy place to sleep! I can now cross a deluxe camping tent off of my bucket list.
April 22 We have a long boring drive out of the desert. We did stop to see a 16th Century Kasbah (now abandoned) in the Todra Oasis. I just can’t put into words how amazing it is to see the lush oasis and it’s patches of agriculture with the mud/straw buildings used by the local Berber tribes. For me, this was the best part of the desert experience. We spent the night in Skoura in a family run guest home. It was itself an oasis in a nothing little village.
April 23 Before we left the desert we stopped at the Ait Ben Haddou a UNESCO site. The Kasbah was selected as a fine example of Moroccan clay architecture. Rain would be a very bad thing for this building material as it would eventually melt. Repair work was being done on a roof - that’s a good thing. The fortification has been used as a movie set for the last 20 years - remember Gladiator? Currently the alleys have been taken over by the local souvenir sellers.
April 24 Marrakech, Morocco. We discovered the following with our guide Anwar: the Palace of the Bahia built in the late 19th century, intended to be the greatest palace of its time by capturing the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style; the Saadian Tombs - the beautiful mausoleum comprises the interments of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty 1578-1603; the Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakech built in the 12th century and the famous Djemaa el-Fna square which comes alive with snake charmers, tons of food kiosks and orange juice stalls. In the picture to the right, Anwar was instructing us on the use of the various spices and stones. The dark red paste in the bottom right is what is used in place of soap for bathing.
April 25 We drove toward Essaouira Morocco and along the way the locals staged a picture of goats in the Argon tree. The goats naturally climb the tree to eat the fruit and leaves but of course we paid a small fee for the privilege of taking pictures just at the edge of the roadway. The oil from the nut is used in cooking and in cosmetics. The deep trees roots prevent desert encroachment and soil erosion.
April 26 We had the day to ourselves in Essaouira - a beach resort. The morning was spent checking out the town’s Medina and harbor where many fishing boats came in with the daily?? Catch. These boats were fairly large and used ice to keep the fish fresh so who knows how many days the boats would be out fishing. We walked the length of the malecon and then had a pizza which really wasn’t too bad. The wind does blow so the location is a popular kite and wind surfing area.
April 27 We visited the Portuguese Fortified City of Mazagan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Moroccan city of El Jadida. I especially loved the cistern which was probably an armory in 1514. The light from outside made beautiful reflections on the pooling water.The fortifications were constructed with thicker walls in response to the development of modern artillery in the Renaissance.
We had a late lunch in a small beach resort area. I think Namir, our driver, ordered a special appetizer - crab, oysters and sea urchins. I finally had my 30 year revenge on the sea urchin. While scuba diving in Grand Cayman in 1982, I was stabbed by a sea urchin and it hurt like hell. I ate 5 of those suckers for lunch!
April 28 Casablanca This was Namir’s last day with us in Casablanca. Namir, we can’t thank you enough for your friendship. Best of luck with your new guest house in Fes.
Casablanca is a very large city - I’m so glad we aren’t driving, thanks again Namir! We visited the Hassan II Mosque. It was quiet impressive inside and out. We walked the old Medina and drove past the Royal Palace.
I am very glad we visited Morocco. I can cross it off of my bucket list - YEAH!