Our last trip brought us to Morocco as we were interested in this part of the world for a long time and wanted to really see if it is different to the other Muslim countries we have been to. (Being influenced by Arabian culture usually means the are pretty much alike). As our work currently didn’t allow for more we kept it a 4 day short visit and in the end this was good. To put it brief – Morocco is a bit different, a bit more open and a bit more tolerant than the other Arabian countries; just only a tiny bit and still so much back in Middle-Ages that you can’t even hear the echo any more… What you get are the faint (for us very often long forgotten) images, smells and feelings of a past which is not overly appealing.
Of course this is our impression and many people leave having had “the time of their live” – I wouldn’t agree and there is rarely a country I am happy to be away from. So for us it will be never ever… Should you be interested a bit more read this article here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/16/ray-cole-interview-jailed-morocco-homosexual. Of course, a special case and a special interest group – yet so much said is so humiliating, against basic civil rights and just an affront to any European idea and even very basic human rights.
Some people rave about the buildings and the food… Ok, come to Andalusia Here you get all the same, buildings made in the supreme potency of that time (just take a look at the Alhambra in Granada or visit Cordoba) and the food is so much more outstanding (not even considering the wine ).
But let’s start with the images – some of them surely are very beautiful.
After arrival in Fez we headed from our hotel to the old town first of all. Many larger houses (riads they are called) have quite nice inner gardens
which open up when you step through the doors
A lot of trading is done in old merchant style way
With street vendors
selling almost everything
from ingredients to ready made food
You can walk in the shade of the soukhs (market streets) as well – which, having 30+ degrees and long clothing for Ursula (poor her – long trousers and a shirt with medium long sleeves… Barbaric), is a pure necessity.
Somehow I am not too keen to use these services here
No, not at all…
Fancy some honey and fat?
An old washing place (usually next to a mosque)
Shoes being sold by the string
old entrance stairs
bring you to different levels… In general housing in the medina is somehow interesting…
If you follow the main roads you are pretty safe – as soon as you divert into smaller lanes you are pretty soon lost and will need the help of a local person as you are always in another place than you think you would be on the map… Yet as people are quite willing to help this is no big problem
Bread is rather good and consumed very often
So it is made fresh throughout the city
Another of these fancy side-walks
Friday is peaceful; Sunday closed as well (most places), so you have more space and less people trying to track you into their shops
Lovely meat… Ground chicken – no refrigeration. Hmmm… What would a health official say here? Ok, he got protection from the king
The market style didn’t change for some hundred’s of years
not the goods as well…
After all the active life we entered a madrassa (a Koran school) – actually one of the very few buildings non-Believers are allowed into at all.
The style for sure is splendid, just the dirt everywhere
Some family home entrance
renovations are underway
and brushes used quite liberally
Cars are quite old and used as well – yet they run, run, run…
Having to chose something to eat is no easy task either as after all the ghastly smells and sights you feel quite uneasy yet still hungry. Then try to get something without garlic and onions – nightmare…
So in the end we ate a bit, digested even longer and went back after the first 3 hours to our hotel. Fortunately we had a quite posh place (which is usually good as at least you are able to escape a bit afterwards, have a decent bar (which you need after the food) and people are a teeny weeny bit more open).
Cedar wood ceiling
To the bathroom
our anteroom – good… Separates you from the bang of the other people’s doors
Towards the evening we headed back to town (10 min walk) to discover the evening market
Again everything is sold
and masses are strolling around
not looking too fresh mostly
yet some vendors care more than others
spices make for a nice change of smells… As most of them are imported anyhow we didn’t buy anything
They surely love sweet things – death by sugar… Kind of “replace alcohol by sugar” (which technically is the same anyhow as Ethanol is a sugar…)
Freshly made bread
and night feelings
Next morning after breakfast a cigar was en vogue
Heading out again we lost our way, were taken through the backyards of several houses and ended in a nice cafe I had read about… So not the worst to end at
The roof top was nice – just this lamp really blew it
And mint tea (with gunpowder as the basis…) without sugar – hurray!!
Somehow this was too much for the cat…
The local transportation system in the medina
Going to the tanneries is really back to deepest middle ages. The smell is overwhelming and the mites as well. They claim to use “natural colours” – rubbish… They use the same modern chemicals as well, yet these perhaps are as toxic or bad as the old ones. At least, if processed correctly, they are even better… Why do people believe that pigeon guano is not bad for you – do they ever check out things?
So in the vats they dye the leather and dry it on the walls. New skins are brought to the “river” (not visible) which is more like a grey mass of water you can reach the other side without getting wet by walking over it.
A man is putting guano in buckets into the water… Brrrr…
Back to the madrassa we tried to get some more impressions
Just too many groups approaching all the time
Exhausted we had a break in Cafe Clock
And a breather was really, really needed. A muezzin starting every morning around 4 am is not the best for your sleep… I already imagined the newspaper headline: “muezzin ambushed by a bottle of low flying beer”
Isn’t that a nice coffee?
The kitchen… Looks better – yet not a single item without garlic / onions… In the end they made us some potato omelette – very kind and nice
The inner yard where you end in the cul the sac. Isn’t that a nice place for an apartment? These are actually used! Windows are gated until 3rd floor…
an old headstone? Or a non-Christian family?
That path you have to cross to find the entrance for Cafe Clock
And a restructured bike as a trike
Lamps are surely something beautiful
Especially this species
And the stonework (ok, gypsum work) is nice
Our opposite neighbours
Don’t get nervous…
The next day we rented a car (another episode of those you don’t want to remember) and took off to Meknes and Volubilis (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/836) – once the last outskirt of the Roman empire in the Northern African hemisphere.
It used to be a beautiful city
Before Mullai XXX (sorry, lost the name) took most of the marble for building his city
So, what remains is stone
Plus some heroic monuments
scattered in the landscape
In Meknes, a city close to Fez (around 50 km away) the old grain storages were massive constructions
Arches among arches
Just a lot of renovation is needed
and this is how it used to be (the ceiling has fallen in on the outside)
In the old town of Meknes (Medina) you find again a Madrassa
With nice sculptures
And student cells (lock & bar only on the outside of the door )
On the roof you can see the real state of the other buildings
Which is quite usual
and a lot of rundown, broken down buildings can be found
As well as what we called our “lemon squeezer”
Inside again the cells
and the columns with the gypsum work (no, it’s no stone…)
This hundred+ year old vine could tell some stories
Traditional way of handcrafts
Salt for cooking
Is broken directly
Some just enjoy company
Interesting way to make a scaffold
Hmmm… When will it come down?
A tiny factory
Chairs for sale
And hairy shoes
My favourite – around 35 years old, 240 D
A wonderful evening in the bar with good musicians (and Moroccan wine…)
Next day we headed to the countryside and in Ifrane the hotel is a gorgeous old palace
Just I am not sure why people have to play with AK-47 and colour ammunition…
Heavily loaded vehicles
Actually, too heavy loaded I would guess…
You won’t see the rubbish around, but the tree was beautiful!
As are the forests with stone oaks and cedars
alongside the road in the middle Atlas region
Beautiful views – yet quite amazing for us – pretty similar to the formations in central Cataluña (Priorat). I guess when the tectonic plates drifted away they left a left and right part…
Final view over the Atlas
and more to the South
Evening light makes everything smooth…
So, finally we made it back save & sound to Barcelona. It was interesting, but as said already never more… There are similar places in the world which are much more stunning (like India or some other parts in Asia, or even Southern Spain!) culturally and much more interesting as well. When it comes to food in general we heard people rave about the “superior” kitchen… My question is simply superior to what? If your usual diet is quite drab then maybe, but in general the kitchen here is rather simple. You have some meet served in 3-4 was, some vegetables cooked either Cous-Cous style or in a tabuleh (conical clay pot) – that’s it. Not too much variety and everything pre-made…
In addition we never expected it to be so expensive. Morocco for sure is a very, very expensive destination. I don’t know why, but we guess that due to the fast amount of people working (whatever they do is the questions) in total this adds up. In a better restaurant you have simple waiters taking food from and to the kitchen, black covered waiters to serve and white covered to take orders… So in the end you have around 15 people working for some 30 guests… Not even 3* kitchens afford this luxury usually.