Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fes Day Two

Our second day in Fes was a jam-packed tour of all the artisans Fes is famous for--leather tannery, wood carving, ceramics, carpet making, cloth weaving, you name it! We hired an official guide from the tourist office which I highly recommend--we had read in the guide books that this was the way to go and I agree. He was very knowledgeable and took us to see many of the mosques and koranic schools and also the mausoleum where the founder of Fes' body is interred. As we are non-Muslim we were not allowed to go inside the mausoleum or the mosques, but we could take pictures from outside.

When we went to the various artisans there was usually someone there who spoke English who gave us a description of what goes on in the cooperative. All the cooperatives were at least partially government funded and the guides are all paid by the government, so while there was a sales pitch, it wasn't high preassure and everyone was still very nice when we said "no." I've included some pictures here from the ceramics co--op and the tannery.

In the afternoon our driver took us up to a location where we got panoramic views of Fes. It's a large city and quite sprawling surrounded by beautiful countryside. Morocco is a beautiful country--I'd love to come back again and see more of it.

Today, our last full day in the country, we plan to go to the Batha Museum which is close by before catching the train back to Casablanca. It's cool today and the weather forecast calls for rain off and on, so it'll be a good day to stay inside and for long train rides.

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.4

Friday, April 27, 2012

And Now, Fes

We have been seriously busy since my last post! Our last morning in Marrakech took us to the photography museum which was amazing--pictures from 1880 to 1940 were on display. It was fascinating to me how little had changed in some of the pictures of the square and the souks.

Next we saw a former Koranic school called Ben Youssef which was in quite good condition. We found a little room tucked into a corner at the end of a hall in the students' quarters that had really cool graffiti all over the ceiling.

Afternoon was spent on a 7 hour train ride to Meknes where we stayed in a hotel not far from the train station. Yesterday we took a grand taxi to some Roman ruins called Volubilis about an hour's drive from Meknes and then after lunch took a stroll through nearby Moulay Idris where a local guided us to see the only round minaret in Morocco and also to a beautiful spot with a panoramic view of the city below. It was a strenuous climb! My knees still hurt!

A short train ride to Fes found us in conversion with a gentleman named Omar who works as a guide at Volubilis. He advised us to get a government guide in Fes if we wanted a good historical tour of the old city. Once in Fes, we grabbed a petit taxi from the train station into the Medina and easily hooked up with our guide from the riad.

Our riad here is hard to describe so I've  included pictures. It's mainly targeted at a younger crowd (it has hostel rooms with bunkbeds) and has a very funky vibe. My Honey and I will spend 2 nights here before heading back to Casablanca and then home.

Today, a guided tour of Fes!

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.4

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shopping, Palace, Palace

We walk through the souks to get pretty much anywhere. The souks are endless, narrow alleys of merchandise sold by very pushy and aggressive men. My first trip through was terrifying--so many people everywhere and the noise and the smell and on top of that, motorcycles and scooters are constantly buzzing by. I was more concerned with getting out in one piece than buying anything!

So when I read in the travel guide about a shop run by a women's collective I knew that was where I wanted to shop. We eventually found it (after being led there by a wonderful older gentleman shopkeeper) tucked in a quiet corner of the souk. First, you have to understand--nowhere in the souks do you see women running a stall. In the open-air market in the squares you'll see women selling things but not in the souks. The stalls in the souks are permanent and owned by the vendor which means exclusively men. So to find a place where I could buy from a woman was a great pleasure and relief for me. I ended up spending nearly all my shopping money there and I have no regrets. I was happy to give them my business.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent touring two former palaces--the Badi Palace and the Bahia Palace. The Badi Palace is only a ruin now, but it was still very impressive. The Bahia Palace is newer and, while empty, is in excellent condition. Both are undergoing restoration and it was interesting to see that work in progress. I took tonnes of pictures (of course) and really enjoyed the experience.

After a little rest up at our riad we headed back to the square to watch the evening action from a terrace cafe. We had a great view of the snake charmers and monkey handlers and a again many pictures were taken.

Today we're of to Meknes and tomorrow Fes and some Roman ruins, but before we leave today we'll be visiting a photography museum which has on display some of the oldest photographs of Morocco and Moroccans.

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.4

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Funky Old Medina

Here we are in the old Medina of Marrakech. We're staying in a lovely riad a few minutes from the souks which I plan to be spending money in shortly. Here's a picture of our room which opens into an airy courtyard with orange trees and a small water feature. It's easy to get lost in the Medina--there are endless narrow passages and the riad doors are unmarked so you need to know where you're going or you're screwed. Cross your fingers we don't get lost!

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.4

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Day One

So far, so good--we all met up as scheduled at JFK and the flight to Casablanca, while delayed, was uneventful. We took the train to the edge of the old city then a "little red taxi" to our hotel.  These are a couple of pictures of the view from our hotel room balcony. We're pretty conveniently located and spent some time wandering the city centre today. We had a fabulous lunch and dinner (traditional Moroccan tejine for me at lunch and  traditional couscous for dinner) and now we're headed to bed with full tummys in preparation for Marrakech tomorrow. And more pics--I promise!

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.4

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


As some of you already know, I'll be traveling to Morocco in 2 DAYS and I'm hoping to blog the journey so you can all be incredibly jealous enjoy the experience with me. Updates may be irregular as I'm not sure when I'll have internets, but I've been told Morocco is quite internet-savvy so that bodes well.

Assuming anyone still follows this dusty old blog, I look forward to sharing this trip of a lifetime with you I'm words and (of course) pictures.  Two more sleeps!

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.4

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Me, My TV and the Month of November

The Documentary Channel is free for the entire month of November!  I'm watching a documentary right now!

I won't be hurt if you don't share my enthusiasm--I understand that I watch TV in a way that is entirely different from the vast majority of the TV viewing public.  I have never watched an entire episode of Survivor, American Idol, Two-and-a-half Men, Jersey Shore, Dancing with the (so-called) Stars, Big Bang Theory or anything that resembles "The Real (blank) of (blank)".  I know!  It's like I live under a rock or something!

The truth is, I need to feel engaged with what I'm watching.  And by "engaged" I mean "educated", "stimulated", and "not entirely disgusted with humanity".  Generally speaking, the only way I can achieve that is through documentaries.

Does this make me a TV snob?  Maybe.  I don't care--I refuse to consume a steady diet of trash TV, much the way I refuse to eat a steady diet of trash food.  Does that mean I don't have my "guilty pleasures?"  Of course I do!  I am strangely addicted to Say "Yes" to the Dress, despite never ever wanting to wear a wedding dress; I try really hard not to miss an episode of Fashion Police (it's pretty much the only reason I know who half our current "celebrities" are); I'm addicted to House Hunters and pretty much anything related to interior design or real estate.

But the vast majority of what I watch is found on PBS, National Geographic Channel or CBC with the occasional Discovery Channel or History Channel thrown in.  To have an entire month of unfettered access to the Documentary Channel?  Let's just say I'll be spending a lot of quality time with my couch and TV for the next four weeks.