S: Morocco 2012
1: Marrakech | Fez | Meknes | Rabat | Casablanca
2: All aboard for the Marrakech Express! On the train we shared a compartment with a family and several other travelers. One of the most surprising moments on the train was when we heard a phone ringing and the little old lady across from us (who was covered from head to toe) whipped out her cell phone. Traditional and modern mix in Morocco. | In Morocco you can get two types of train tickets: first and second class. We opted for the second class tickets which let us share a compartment with Moroccan people. | Occasionally the drink cart would go by the compartment. We could also see people coming through the train at every station looking for a seat. We felt lucky to have ours!
3: Marrakech station - Gare de Marrakech. We arrived to see our first glimpse of beautiful 'zellij' tile, and be awed by the domed building across from the station.
4: Djemaa El Fna World Heritage Site, the main square of Marrakech featuring food stalls, vendors, snake charmers, musicians, henna artists, and hustlers.
5: Fresh squeezed orange juice; the evening tables set out with Moroccan bread; vendor selling apricots, figs, nuts, and other tasty treats.
6: The main square at night was an exciting place to be. The food sellers were lined up in row with white table cloths and white jackets. Many of the touts spoke multiple languages to get people to come to their 'restaurant'. The specialty was BBQ, cooked up right there. | It was fun to watch people go by as you sat and ate your meal, there were tourists from Europe, Moroccan people covered head to toe, donkeys, monkeys, snakes, and vendors walking through the square. It could be a bit tough to handle the constant selling.
7: Djemaa El Fna at night
8: Riad Julia, we stayed for 2 nights in a 'Riad", a private residence turned B&B. We had a beautiful room, breakfast on the roof, and a quiet courtyard to enjoy. | The Riad, like some guest houses, had a central courtyard with the stairs along the outside and rooms facing the inner balcony. The rooftop was a great place to relax. | Zellij tilework was everywhere, and the decorations were fantastic both inside and outside the rooms. It was quite the contrast between the dusty alley and the Riad!
9: To get to the Riad we had to go down a dark alley with a tiny sign, under some low-hanging arches, and through a heavy door. It was pretty intimidating but we did it!
10: Tim and Brahim who owns the store! Brahim showed us sweet-smelling spices, argan oil, rosewater, strong spices to cure colds and clear sinuses, how to use a perfume stone, and how to get lipstick from clay. We bought some saffron from him! | While we were lost in the Jewish Quarter, an impromptu guide brought us to his friend's apothecary. It was packed with baskets, jars and pots full of interesting things. We had no idea what most of it was.
11: La Bahia (the Beautiful) is a palace built by Morocco's top artisans over 14 years. You can see the Grand and Petit Courts, and Harem, and the Courtyards. Everything in is it absolutely beautiful It took us pretty much all day to find it, but it was worth it!
12: Cooking Class at the Earth Cafe! We each got to choose a dish from the menu and make it. We also got a bottle of olive oil to take with us. | The girl who showed us how to cook was named Latifa. She didn't speak much English, but she spoke French and was very good at showing us what to do. | We both made a dish with vegetables wrapped in phyllo pastry. The Earth Cafe specializes in vegetarian cuisine, and putting a twist on traditional Moroccan recipes. | Latifa made us feel welcome with her smile, and gave us aprons to cook in. There were only 2 of us cooking. We used a gas stove in the small kitchen.
13: After cooking we ate our delicious meal. Yuuummmm! We wrote down what we could remember for the recipes, and we're going to try to make it back in Canada! | There was a lot of chopping vegetables first, then we got the exciting part: cooking over the flame! We stirred the veggies, Latifa flipped the food in the pan! | The kitchen was full of interesting bottles. One of the most useful was an old coke bottle filled with olive oil and chopped garlic with a hole in the cap. Just shake on as much as you need!
14: Dar Si Said is an artist's expo in the form of a building. Moroccan master artisans (called 'maalems') built Dar Si Said and it now houses the Museum of Moroccan Arts.
15: A market place along the wall. The souks (markets) looked a lot like this, but WAY more crowded and confusing! It was very easy to get lost, which made it fun. | The minaret of Kotoubia Mosque: a major landmark near Djemaa el Fna, and where you can hear the call to prayer 5 times a day. | The garden outside La Bahia, it was beautiful with lots of colourful flowers and trees. Walking through the garden gives you an idea of what's inside. | A Moroccan mailbox. It's yellow! We mailed postcards in Morocco and they arrived in Canada just fine. | Tajine! You can get tajine just about everywhere in Morocco. We wandered up to the restaurant and pointed this one out. | A bank just near the entrance of Djemaa el Fna. Several streets lead into the main square where all the action is.
16: Cyberpark! You can enjoy the beauty of nature, and check your e-mail at the same time. It's helpful if you know French and/or can use an Arabic keyboard!
17: Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle Garden) where Yves St. Laurent has a memorial. He donated the entire garden to Marrakech.
18: A 'medersa' is a place where students learn how to be an 'Imam' or a priest of Islam. The schools are usually include a mosque, but non-Muslims can't enter. | Ali ben Youssef Medersa, once the largest Quranic learning centre in North Africa is almost 6 centuries old. Besides the courtyard you can also visit students quarters.
19: Moroccan food! Below you can see our (hard) Moroccan bread, roasted eggplant, sauces, and another veggie. On the right is a 'restaurant' in Djemaa El Fna where we sat at a long table and chose from a huge menu. Food is prepared fresh off of its display. | Tim enjoys his meal of shish kebabs, couscous and veggies. Everywhere you could get tagines and fresh fruit and nuts.
20: Saadian Tombs, where the sultan spared no expense. Italian marble and pure gold are featured here in the glorious mausoleum. The remains of Royalty lie here. Plants and trees grow in among the tiled cover-stones.
21: Around town (Marrakech). Above, a snack cafe one of many near the bus station; on right, a Petit Taxi stand. Bottom right, teapots at Earth Cafe; left, the door to Riad Julia.
22: Tim at a Medersa; Heather in the courtyard at Riad Julia; the balcony overlooking the seats at a restaurant in the Souks where we had tajine and couscous.
23: Eating breakfast in a small cafe with our pastries and coffee; coke and dasani with Arabic labels; some delicious mint tea! A plentiful and uber-sweet beverage everywhere in Morocco. | We visited many bakeries and coffee shops during our trip. Morocco has definitely been influenced by the French!
24: Marrakech to Fez Taking the bus from Marrakech to Fez through the Atlas mountains, we saw lots of sheep herders and some beautiful scenery. Tons of olive trees, date trees, and farmland.
25: Fez is the oldest Imperial capital of Morocco. It is now considered to be the spiritual and cultural capital of the country, and quite a good place to be 'from'. The massive city gate is called 'Bab Bou Jeloud' and is one of the most famous in Morocco. Fez is quite famous for its tanneries.
26: The Fez medina is called 'Fez El Bali' (Old Fez) and is Morocco's first World Heritage Site. The souks of Fez are some of the oldest in Morocco. Fez is also the world's largest biggest car-free environment. | Medersa Bou Inania is the finest of Fez's many theological schools, and is easy to find! | Green is the colour of Islam, and green is also the colour of Fez. Many of the rooftops are tiled in green. Fez's carpet sellers are notoriously pushy; we stayed away.
27: In Fez we stayed at the Pension Campini which was beautiful! A short walk from Bab Bou Jaloud, the room was spacious and colourful. We ate breakfast on the rooftop patio where we met a French family on vacation. McDonalds in Fez, looks like the buildings and temples. You can get Halal hamburgers!
28: Fez medina shops, djellabas hanging, and a 'Welcome to Fez' sign in the square in front of Bab Bou Jeloud.
29: Right: more butcher shop fun, it was a busy place where people were buying their groceries. Bottom left: fruit for sale to go with the camel meat you just bought for supper. | Right: chickens waiting to be bought / butchered in 'butcher alley' with hunks of meat hanging everywhere. Below: zellij tilework and carvings. | Bottom middle: a view of the medina from a restaurant balcony. Bottom right one of many fountains in Fez. Below a lady in a green djellaba just outside the marketplace.
30: Our new friend Aziz told us all about the tanneries where he use to work. He was friendly and answered all our questions. Then we visited his leather shop! | Follow your nose to the Fez Tanneries. Also follow the guys and donkeys carrying skins! | We were helped by a tout who showed us a sign to 'tannery terrace' where we went up some narrow stairs. | Step 1: wash skins to remove hair, etc in lime vats. Step 2: wash skins with pigeon poop with a water wheel. Step 3: dye leather in brown vats.
31: The Argan Oil shop we were directed to after the leather shop. We saw women cracking the argan nuts (traditionally pooped out by goats) and learned about the uses for the oil: cooking, health, and beauty.
32: Cafe Clock in the medina is a well-known foreigner restaurant. We tried a camel burger! We also sampled the falafal and couscous. | Left: one of the many coffee shops we visited nightly. There were an amazing amount of coffee shops in Morocco, pastries were super-popular.
33: Medersa el-Attarine right in the heart of the medina. We got lost easily in the medina, but in Fez there are some helpful signs that can show you the way. They're also colour coded so you can take different tours (cultural, shopping, artistry, etc.)
34: The Nejjarine woodworking museum near the tanneries was a beautiful building with lots of interesting things in it. We weren't allowed to take pictures of the exhibits, but the main floor was fair game. | The museum was shaped like a Riad, with a central courtyard and stairways and rooms all around. Each room showcased a different type of woodworking, some of it was wonderful, some a little creepy.. | Up on the roof we could see some fantastic views of the city. We could see minarets topped with green, the crowded streets of the souk, and the Atlas mountains off in the distance.
35: Ville Nouvelle, the 'New City' of Fez created by the French. It was the modern part of the city, and had lots of cafes and sleek buildings. Also some great fruit juice!
36: In the Ville Nouvelle our favourite food came from one of the busiest street stalls we could find. Each time we went we got a different hot dog. One had egg, one had potato... We didn't know how to order so it was a surprise every time!
37: We left Fez for Meknes on the train, leaving behind one of the most interesting cities in all of Morocco. Fez was very ancient and very modern at the same time. We loved experiencing both.
38: Fez to Meknes From Fez we got back on the train to the next old Imperial Capital: Meknes. It is much smaller than Fez and Marrakech, but it has lots of character, as well as the largest Bab (City Gate) in all of Morocco. Near Meknes is the ancient Roman outpost Volubilis, as well as the city of Moulay Idriss. Named for a Moroccan hero, Moulay Idriss is famous for its mosque and for it's white walled homes.
39: Near the train station were some wall paintings and colourful buildings. We were able to walk around the main part of Meknes in a few minutes. We opted for a petit taxi to take us to the Medina and back. | We stayed in Ville Nouvelle at Hotel Majestic. It was very large, and the guy at the front desk spoke several different languages. He was very helpful, and arranged a day-tour for us to see Volubilis and Moulay Idriss. | Meknes was much quieter than Fez and Marrakech, and it still had a traditional medina as well as a more modern Ville Nouvelle. Left: Cinema Rif, and bottom right: modern building in Meknes Ville Nouvelle.
40: Meknes medina has a square called Place el-Hadim similar to Djemaa El Fna in Marrakech.
41: The largest Bab in all Morocco: Bab el Mansour, the entrance to the Meknes Medina. Tim stands near the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. | Heather outside Bab el-Mansour.
42: "I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars." Walt Whitman | Top left: tea house; top right: Hotel Majestic; bottom, left and far left: Restaurant Gambrinus where Tim enjoys olives and strange paintings, Heather by Meknes city wall.
43: Left: while strolling through the Ville Nouvelle, we saw a weird train-thing. Bottom left: we could look down on the sidewalk from our hotel room. | We went to a cafe called NRJ where we enjoyed some pizza and a nutella parfait, their specialty! The waiter told us that people come there just for the parfait. Tim is about to enjoy it. | While walking through town we saw Cinema Rif (named for the Rif mountains). We looked at the movie posters outside, but we didn't see any movies.
44: We took a day tour to Volubilis and were the first ones to arrive. Our driver Hamid spoke wonderful French and told us stories about the Berbers on the way from Meknes.
45: Volubilis is an ancient Roman outpost, abandoned due to the Berber attacks. They made olive oil here, the ancient olive presses are evidence. It was one of many outposts established by the Roman empire in the 3rd Century BC. The Triumphal arch (restored in the 1930's) and the many intact detailed mosaics.
48: Clockwise from top left: standing arches, Tim's head on a fallen pillar, Heather *is* a pillar, crumbled carvings, Heather and aloe plants. | Tim set the timer for 3 seconds instead of 30 seconds in front of the archways. | There was a dog in the ruins who followed us for a bit, but mostly wandered around just like us. | The ancient arches and plazas were fun to wander around in. Only the mosaics and olive presses were roped off.
49: Triumphal Arch was built in 217 in honour of Emperor Caracalla and his mother Julia Domna.
51: Mosaics on the left show the 12 Labours of Hercules, dolphins and mosaics from some other houses. They were in great shape, and the colours were fantastic. One is a tiled bath that would have been enjoyed by the Romans. On the right the cypress tree marks the site of the House of Venus containing mosaics; above it is a Roman drain hole cover an example of their engineering expertise. Tim sits on a wall, Heather by columns.
53: The long road leading through the ruins from the Triumphal Arch is called Decumanus Maximus. Beside the road were foundations of houses where different status of people lived. The mosaics were found in many of these houses.
54: The Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, one of Morocco's most important pilgrimage sites. | Stork nests in the radio towers, and a sign for children crossing. They look scared!
55: Right: the station at Meknes was smaller than Marrakech and Fez; it was easy to find our track. Below: the train approaches! | Heather at a fruit stand outside Meknes station having an avocado drink. We were able to relax a bit before catching the train to Rabat. | Most of the people working at the train station spoke French, and some spoke English as well. Signs were mostly in Arabic and French. | The scenery on the way to Rabat was green, and we saw lots of sheep again. This was the shortest train ride we'd had yet.
56: Rabat: Current, modern capital of Morocco, and modern business centre of the country.
57: From our balcony we could take creepy pictures of the locals unnoticed. In the morning we saw street cleaners and people in djellabas. | We stayed at Hotel Central near the Gare de Rabat (Rabat Station). It was not very luxurious, but it was cheap and convenient. | Our cheap hotel was right next to a classier hotel; we could look in on their garden and restaurant and see stylish tourists and Moroccans enjoying their meals. | Rabat had lots of modern buildings and looked a lot like a North American city. People also dressed more business-like and there were a lot of fancy cars.
58: In Rabat we visited the ancient city of Chellah. Once a Roman city called Sala Colonia, a mosque and a garden has been added. The walls are in great shape and there were remains of statues and a bit of tiling. Stork nests were everywhere!
62: Above: we saw some cats lying around Chellah. This one was relaxing near a pool by the garden. Below: we walked up the hill behind the ruins and found a lot of cactus's where Tim is posing. | Chellah is a mix of Arabic and Roman ruins, both with distinct and beautiful carvings. The doorways were very Arabic, while some of the ruins had Roman carvings on them. | Chellah changed quite a bit over the centuries. Besides gardens, houses, and a mosque there were also tombs, with the tiling still intact.
63: We walked back to the hotel from Chellah, it was not far from Rabat Station. We had taken a Petit Taxi there, but decided that it was simple enough to walk back ourselves. We didn't get lost! | A Moroccan license plate. Many of the cars were French, we saw plenty of Peugeots, Renaults, and Citroens. | Rabat not only has a train, but also a tram! This was the only city we visited with a tram system. The Moroccan flag few proudly throughout the city.
64: Casablanca (Dar al Baida) After leaving Rabat we arrived in Casablanca, the economic centre of Morocco,. Casa is a sleek, modern city with plenty of skyrises, traffic, and villas near the beach. It is a popular exotic destination for European people. While in Casa we visited the famous Hassan II mosque, which was impressively large and also impressively futuristic for such a traditional building. Automated doors and light fixtures that lower so you can change lightbulbs make this mosque comfortable indeed. This was also the only mosque we were allowed to enter as non-muslims.
65: Our first hotel in Casa was the East-West Hotel. We arrived late at night, and while Tim searched for change for the train, we decided to take a taxi into the city. Lines on the road are suggestions only in Morocco.
66: We stayed at Hotel Guynemer, which was near downtown Casa. We could walk around the corner to a juice bar where we got fresh avocado drinks. | Near the hotel was a small pedestrian shopping street lined with stores, coffee shops, restaurants, and other hotels. Some of them had some interesting names. | We ate lots of street food in Morocco, there was plenty to choose from. Finding a snack was never a problem, and finding sweets was even easier!
67: Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in all Morocco. It's minaret is the tallest in the world, and at night a laser beam shoots out of it, pointing to Mecca.
68: Hassan II Mosque was an impressive sight. There are a limited number of tours every day and we caught the last one.
71: We toured around after visiting the Mosque, and stopped for a stroll by the beach where we saw a game of soccer. The beach was popular, and there are plenty of restaurants and snack bars around there. One of them was named 'Las Vegas'. We also stopped at a lookout where we could see the mosque across the water. It was inspired by a verse in the Qu'ran saying "the throne of Allah was built on water".
72: Keyboard we used in the cyber cafe, with Arabic! | Above: The last of our Moroccan Dirham. Right: delicious tagines sitting out on the street waiting to be eaten. | A street sign in Casablanca in English and Arabic (above). The blue and white sign with three rings means that tobacco is sold at that store (left).
73: Hammam! We tried out a very Moroccan experience: the public bath, called a 'hammam'. A hammam is like a steam bath, and it is a very interesting experience. The hammam is either split into a mens and womens side, or there are different times for men and women. The sign in the picture on the right shows the entrance to a hammam. Every small villiage has at least one, large cities have many. While we were in Fez we visited one that was 'foreigner friendly'. Heather went in first to ask in French about the rates and how to 'use' the hammam. Then we went to the souk to buy a towel, savon noir, and a kyiss. | When going to the hammam, you bring your own soap called 'savon noir'. It's a thick olive-oil mixture that doesn't foam up very well but does actually clean and makes you smell nice too. We both opted for the special treatment called 'grommage' where the bath attendant scrubs you down with an abrasive glove called a 'kyiss'. It isn't gentle it, and you leave your skin behind when you go! Inside the hammam it is dim and you sit at the edge to wash yourself. You can get buckets of hot and cold water from the taps on the wall and mix it however you like. Try not to sit downstream of anybody!
74: Morocco: our first visit to an Arabic country: full of mystery and intrigue, hustlers and pickpockets, grand carvings and delicate tiling. And the food was excellent.