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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Midelt to casablanca

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 26 June 2007 | Views [5583] | Comments [1]

Funny thing last night on my way back to the bedroom at the hotel Ayachi last night... a white lizard scurried along the carpet in front of me whizzed around a couple of plant pots and then shot up the wall. Caught me by surprise a bit. Anyway.... The day got of to a bad start. Events of recent weeks get to me every now and then and I get upset about things. I wish life had turned out so differently as I have days when I struggle to get motivated to make the most of the experiences I am having. I get long periods during the travelling when my mind is working overtime trying to work out what went wrong, the meaning of life and ...well... everything. If only 42 was the answer. I'll let you know if I find the ultimate question! One thing is certain and that is there are definite things I miss from home that I will struggle to be without for such a long planned period of time. For a complete list send me an e-mail.

I digress.....

Wed 20th June - Destination Fes. Set off out of Midelt past a queue of oaps collecting their pension (mainly retired soldiers ) and paying taxes. Typical sort of event really...further along the same road a man walking his cow down the middle of a nicely laid pavement. I suppose their equivalent of taking the dog for a walk! He looked so happy with his pet (who knows the fate of the cow..or its owner?) That's about as exciting as Midelt gets, boring place really. Out into the countryside through a copper mining area zaida. Note..fir a country that produces lots of copper not many homes have telephones. Instead 'teleboutiques' are everywhere and evey kid has a mobile phone so it seems. Up into the middle Atlas mountains through their main apple growing area and into sheep country. The butchers here string up the skinned sheep carcass outside the shop with its furry tail and fur covered head still attached - really pleasant sight...not. The temperature starting to fall noticably now as we climb in altitude. The scenery changes dramatically as nomadic berber tents start to appear everywhere. This is the life of the shepherd and family. Simplicity! Some kids came up to us out of curiosity. Of course we cannot speak berber but manage to exchange some words with blank expressions. They stay up in the mountains until snow starts to fall late october onwards. Their facial features are very different to those i've seen before as is their style of dress. Look slightly tibetan. This area is also where most if the cedar comes from used in the traditional moroccan house building. Next stop was to see th famed wild Barbary apes. So wild we only found one as t ey have babies at the moment and hide away to protect them. The one we did find was a cheeky little thing but was quite happy for us to feed him apples and bananas. Very cute. The apes have a great sense of smell and the ground is littered with lots of holes where they sniff out truffles and dig them up. As the apes are a protected species, so are t e cedar forests they live in. Next port of call was Ifrane. A strange contrast to what we have seen so far. This area is a moroccan ski resort and ifrane looks like a french ski resort with chalet style design. You can instantly see that money is more in abundance in the quality of everything. A rather nifty lion sculpted from stone is a nice monument on one of the pavements being re-laid. Treated myself to a custard slice from a cake shop - first one i've seen in morocco. Journeyed on past forests containing wild boar and wolves to Meknes. Being pork they cannot eat the boar and so they are getting a bit out of hand. Lunch in Meknes..guess what...another bloody lamb tagine at the exceedingly good restaurant Zihouni in the old medina. Very posh décor. Getting used to being spoiled now but still sick of lamb tagine. Save By a nice choice of fruit for desert though. Fresh figs, plums and melon. Yummy. Had a walking tour of meknes (built by king Moulet Ishmael in 17th cent). Main highlights being the mosque and stables. The latter housed 12000 horses and enough food for 4yrs plus the slave army who rode them. The main entrance to the medina is considered to be the best In morocco and is called the Bab Mansour gate. This was a recent stage in the tour de morocco cycle race so scaffolding still around. Side note. The man made beaches of canary Islands use sand imported from morocco. Completely irrelevant but thought you might like to know. Hit the road to Fes along the first toll road here. Flanked by vinyards it seemed odd for a country governed by the Koran which outlaws alcohol (and gambling). Fes is vast...much bigger than expected. Consisting of new Fes and old Fes which goes back to the 9th century. More on that tomorrow. Staying at the very swish Hotel Fes Inn complete with swimming pool. Evening meal was at the 'El Blida' restaurant opened especially for us so the whole place to ourselves and the most expensive meal they serve. The starters were a large array of vegetable dishes. My favourite was carrots in orange source..delicious. The main was..not tagine...yippee. Instead Pastilla a rather scrummy dish containing chicken, pistachio, veg, etc spices wrapped in a filo pastry covered in cinnamon. Wonderful. Followed on by fresh figs, plums and melin. Absolutely stuffed afterwards. Almost rolled out of the restaurant. On the way back to the car decided to play football with some local kids. They were barcelona and my team were liverpool. I scored one goal and then it all went to pot. They were much younger and I had the distinct disadvantage of not knowing who was on what team. Oh well, I tried. Good evening had by all. Fes Is a definite place to visit.

Thu 21st June - Met up with Hassan our tour guide for the morning. On The way to the old Medina you go through the new part of the city built by the french in 1912 and pass a McDonalds. McD's took 9yrs to get it built as they had to keep changing the design to make it more morrocan. First took us up to the Borj a military station on a hill overlooking the medina so that we could get our bearings on Its layout and also given lots of facts and figures, such as: Around 9,500 alleys totalling 30km. Around 30,000 artisans work there, 460 mosques, made a Unesco world heritage site in 1981, built in 9th century by Moulet idris 1st and enhanced by his brother moulet idris 2nd. They claim to have had the earliest university created by a woman fatima who originated from Tunisia. Medina split into two parts, El Bali & El Jadid. To protect its heritage no motorised traffic is allowed only donkeys and mules. Before we went off on the walking tour of the medina, went to the Fez pottery to the production process that hasn't changed in hundreds of years. This place is full of guys sitting cross-legged chipping away or making tiles, or painting, or assembling something. Very basic and to be honest not the most finesse I have ever seen, but the morrocan style is a but rough and ready on close up. As usual they try pressure selling to get you to buy something. This is the shame for me now as I no longer have a partner or a house so whilst it would have been nice to buy something, there Is no real point. It bothered me for the rest of the day that I seem to have lost a big part of the travelling experience, that of buying memorabilia. Things could have been so different. Hey ho! Finally got to the medina mid morning. This is lethal as they appear from nowhere as later found on many occasions but great fun to see. Some wonderful photo opportunities. The whole place is chaotic with artisans working everywhere, donkeys scurrying about laden with some ridiculous loads, sellers coming at you from every direction, generally a fascinating place. One of the advantages of being guided by someone born and raised in the medina is he knew everyone and could open doors not open to other tourists. First was a house where he wanted to show the significance of the door. Ot had a big pair of knockers ( ooh er missus!) One for family and friends and the other for strangers that make different sounds to forewarn the occupants. We went into a school and the kids treated us to a couple of songs, very sweet. What is ve y noticable is that there are no women working other than In the embroidery area. Saw many crafts - woodwork, pot makers beating away, lamp makers, Weavers, leather workers, tailors etc. Fascinating. The major highlight for me was the famous tanneries. You get to view the area through the 'terrace de tannerie' shop on hay lablida chouara. What an Awesome sight - and smell! On the way in you are given a sprig of mint to crush and hold to your nostrils in Case you feel sick. It does niff quite a bit. The smell comes partly from the first stage vats containing a mixture of limestone and pigeon droppings. The whole site is like a paintbox but with the pots containing guys treading pelts to impregnate with the dye. An experience you have to see to believe. Unfortunately today no blue or green as colours are done to order. All dyes are natural - red from poppies, yellow from saffron, blue from indigo, etc. Went to another area later where the sheep wool is scraped off the pelt to leave the raw leather ready for the tanning process. Now this area stunk - no mint given here. Not for the nasally sensitive! Now comes a bit of annoyance. The guidebooks tell you about loads of wonderful mosques and how magnificent they are - the problem is that you can't go in as there is a local ruling that forbids entrance to non muslims. Really clever that as there is nothing in the koran to forbid it. Even Our guide disagrees with the ruling. Wondered around for a while after our guided tour had finished as the fun of fez is getting lost! Bought a fez - well you have to buy a fez in fez don't you! And for 25 dirhams after some bartering a bit of a bargain. Back to the hotel for a swim and dinner. Now this sounds straight forward except that moroccan restaurants only open at lunchtime. In the evening only cafes and small stalls open as most tourists eat in their hotels and morrocans don't eat out. Our hotel is a bit expensive so ended up with a not so healthy evening meal. Expect to spend some time studying the back of the toilet door tomorrow! Report to follow.....

Fri 22nd June - short photo stop outdide the royal palace with its magnificent entrance doors then hit the road to Volubilis which was the most southern city of the roman Empire built in the 8th century and was the first capital of Morocco. Some notes: the romans were sissys as they used to send slaves to warm up the toilet seats for them. Toilets also had a 'vomitarium' for when they had drunk too much. Who knows what they did when they had to empty it? Bring on the slaves again!!the site had all the usual roman trappings - wine press, public baths, entertainment places, collonades with shops, sex drugs and rock'n'roll. One of the mosaics depicts a guy riding backwards on a horse with a jug of wine in his hand - apparently a regular competition in these parts. In 1755 a massive earthquake destroyed the city along with large chunks of southern europe and north africa, and so it was abandoned. After lunch in a very nice restaurant in Moulet Idris youhoun, headed north destination Chefchaouen via the Rif mountain valley. On the way there passed a cork tree forest with bug stacks of bark left to dry. Chefchaouen is name After the three hills behind it, namely chef, cha & ouen. Now there's originality. A gorgeous city and medina and we were staying in the 4* hotel parador in front of the medina. This place is a photographic extravaganza with its blue doors, turquoise painting, whitewashed walls and colourful decorations from sellers. Time to snap snap snap. Evening meal was in a very special place...the restaurant 'La Lampe Magique Casa Aladin'. The outside has funky blue cup shaped balconies and the inside is like an Aladdins bazaar. Wonderful. We were lucky with the timing of our visit to chefchaouen as there was a three day music festival on so after dinner we went to check it out, and it was free as well. Very interesting music from both andalucia and morocco so a very enjoyable evening had by all.

Sat 23rd june - Spent a bit of time walking the back alleyways of chefchaouen. It is easy to find a bit of peace in this town with some wonderful photo opportunities. Picked a nice restaurant (bab kasba) in the main square for a kefte bocadillo and freshly squeezed orange for lunch for the princely sum of 25 Dirhams total (£1.50) before hitting the road at 2pm for Tangier. The only thing to say about the journey is that the Rif mountains that separate morocco from Algeria are a bit of a dynamic landscape. The traffic gets noticably busier the closer you get to tangier. Being an International port a lot passes through. The hotel Cellah was nothing special so good job it was only for one night. Spent a couple of hours looking around the medina but to be honest I am a bit medina'd out now so didn't see the attraction in it compared to others i've seen. Tangier had its day in the 1920's and is a bit jaded now. Warnings of pickpockets are rife in the old kasbah and it is a bit seedy. I wouln't go out of my way to go to tangier again - is the picture becoming clear? The guidebooks talk about it being attractive coming in from the sea with its whitewashed houses. My advice would be to stay on the boat and go somewhere more interesting.

Sunday 24th June - Out of Tangier past the grand entrance of the king's palace. Very heavily guarded. On to Cap Spartel, the most north westerly point in Africa where the mediterranean and Atlantic oceans meet. Not much to see other than a lighthouse and nice view. Needless to say they are building a new visitors centre that looks far too modern for morocco. Designers should be shot. Next port of call Hercules Grotto. Very nice geologically speaking but as usual for this country, overrun with sellers and someone offering camel rides on concrete roads. These poor creatures should be left in the desert! There were some interesting post cards that showed the site in various sunsets that looked attractive. Onwards to Asilah which is a pretty coastal town with whitewashed walls and colourful reliefs. Another photographic extravaganza - like Chefchaouen but flat. Outside the medina is very ordinary so most of the time spent in the medina although there are signs of development going on to improve things. Afternoon journey to the capital of Morocco, the city of Rabat, stopping at the hotel Bouregreg right opposite the Medina. The main boulevard into the city is palm lined and attractiveand looks very european. The medina is mad. Especially the Rue de Soika. You can buy anything here if you can push your way through the crowds to get at it! Occasional sight of street beggars with crippling problems or limbs missing. This has become a common sight in morocco. One guy's feet were light elephants and his legs were disfigured. Very sad to see. Followed a loop around the periphery passed the kasbah (will be back tomoro) and into the craft souk along the Rue de Consuls.Carpets, leather goods& all manner of crafts for sale. Design of covered archways were interesting. Night time walk - madness again - these people are relentless. After a nice candle lit italian dinner at 'La Bambera' restaurant in the posh end of town, went for walk around a funfair next to our hotel. This is like britain's funfairs of say 20yrs or more ago. One novelty was a hand operated candy floss machine. No motors here, so he had to crank like crazy with one hand and twiddle the stick to collect the candy with the other. I think he had to sit down for a rest after every order! Funny thing is they had dodgems. I think this is where the moroccan drivers hone their skills as they are like it out on the real roads. Totally reckless with no consideration for either other drivers or pedestrians. They have pedestrian crossings but I have never once seen a driver stop at one. As long as they don't hit you they just carry on past. The normal road crossing technique is to pick a b-line to where you want to go, cross your fingers, kiss the person next to you goodbye, close your eyes and just march onwards and let the traffic flow around you like parting the waves. Believe me it works! Normal people just don't survive.

Mon 25th June - Visit to king's mausoleum. A magnificent building housing the tombs of king Mohamed V, King Hassan II, and Hassan's brother who was nothing significant. Also, a really ornate mosque adjacent to it but not allowed in. Next, the Rabat Kasbah. This was a lot more attractive than I had expected, with its whitewashed walls and blue/turquoise pavements & doors in a similar vein to Chefchaouen but quieter. Buried inside the Kasbah is a beautiful garden with loads of photo opportunities. Banana, quince, dates and figs growing. Back on the road again to return to casablanca from where it started 2 weeks ago to close the loop. Wasn't a major fan of casablanca, so not overly excited about it other than the opportunity to look inside the Hassan II mosque. Unfortunately you can only do this on the once a day tou at 2pm and we got there at 12noon. Nobody wanted to hang around. Stopped to photograph Rick's bar on the way. Of course, the famous film casablanca wasn't filmed here but in a studio in Hollywood and Humphrey Bogard apparently never said that immortal line 'play it again sam', so all a bit of fiction really. Rick's bar is still an attraction though with Its nice entrance.

It has been a tiring couple of weeks with loads crammed in and haven't had as much sleep as I need but won't get much chance as off to Cairo tomorrow evening.

So what have been the highlights of Morocco? Oualidia beach, Marrakech Djemma el Fna both day & night, Ait Benhaddou kasbah, Touareg camp and camels at Erg Chebbi, Fes medina with its donkeys & mules and Chefchaouen for its atmosphere and beauty.

Funny thing happened later today..... Sat in an Internet café in the old medina in Casablanca putting in this travel blog (£1 for 3 1/2 hrs) when alongside of me appeared an african looking guy resplendant in red beret & sun glasses and logged on at the adjacent terminal. I was on skype at the time and when I was finished, the guy asked me if I was american. When I said I was english he said, hi my man, my name is viktor and promptly started to tell me his life's history and how he desperately wants to meet a nice white lady to marry and settle in england. All to make his mother proud as he thinks he can make it there because he can Speak english. So, whilst I was desperately trying to finish off what I was doing, he tried to get me to give him details of any white women I knew who I could introduce him to, and he would pay for my troubles. Plus in return, he also wanted to introduce me to a vivacious 24yr old moroccan girl Rita who wanted to marry an english man to settle in Britain. He rattled off her phone number, description, etc in seconds and said he would get her to my hotel so that I could check her out. I was killing myself laughing at this point and we were in full flow discussing his misguided belief in britain being paved in gold amongst other things. He is only 29, and it was fun to talk with him. I guessed he soon realised I wasn't biting so we started chatting about allsorts of other things. He wanted me to meet his mother who somehow lives in Holland and his sister who lives in Italy I think. He was from gambia, and lives in Morocco, so a multinational conversation! Despite his attempt at trying to get me to partner up with a vivacious 24yr old moroccan, which I must say did have its attractions for more than a few moments, I thought it really funny what can happen when you least expect it. Anyway, with my recent luck in relationships, what could go wrong! Well lots actually so fortunately I am Not THAT stupid! No need for any comments here!

The other members of our group are staying on in casablanca for another day so having the final dinner tomoro night. Tonight's meal ...yep ... McDonalds. I don't think I have had a healthy meal in the entire 2 weeks in Morocco. Salads you can't eat without visiting toilets for days afterwards. Sorry did have fish a couple of times but had the shits the day after probably due to the water or preparation / lack of. Lamb tagine generally contains the most fatty pieces of meat possible but there is redemption in the form of loads of freshly squeezed orange juice by the gallon and plent of fresh fruit. No cereals for breakfast anywhere only pastries and hard boiled eggs if you are lucky. Also apart from the walking, no other form of exercise. So, I am going to have to carry on with the shits as my only form of weight control then! Good job that seems to be fairly constant and not likely to get any better with the countries I am going to. Yippee!!

The next blog should bring you upto date on Cairo before I head off to Kenya.

Tags: Sightseeing

Comments

1

great post. i cant wait till your next adventure. keep up the good work. whats your craziest experience so far?

  michael D Aug 28, 2008 1:41 AM

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