Monday, May 5, 2008

Morocco Madness by Anna Smith

© 2008 Anna Smith Do not reproduce content or images in any manner without written consent. All rights reserved.

I must say Morocco was a huge culture shock for me and can't believe how many different ways they have to con you out of your cash. Anyway, the sights we saw were all very worthwhile and the photos we have are tres amazing. The architecture and design work in the Riads (small guesthouses) left us feeling very much in awe and taught us life really needs us to go slower and enjoy the candlelight more often. We did notice how DRY Morocco is, can hardly get wine or beer anywhere so on Dave's birthday, April 4th, I took him to the Hotel Meredes overlooking the Old Medina in Fez where we did score some spirits and spent the evening enjoying the lights and warm climate. We found Casablanca to be like a war zone as far as driving to our hotel, buildings crumpling down cement dusty but our hotel Ibis right beside the train station was basic, convenient and stored two of our suitcases until we returned so that was a Big Bonus. We made a visit to the Ancient Medina and with help of tour guide Mustafa saw quite an eyeful (more photos)!!

Food all over Morocco was delicious, my favourites being the Tajines, Couscous and Pastilla. The Pastilla is sweet savoury wrapped phyllo pastry around a mix of chicken, almonds, onions & honey, the top of the round pizza shape dish is sprinkled with icing sugar and designs made with cinnamon, a must try! I did purchase a cookbook there as well as kilos of spices so I'm in to some serious cooking with my new tajine dishes. Hopefully, I will have it mastered by the time you come to visit this summer.

The areas of Marrakesh, Essaouira and Fes were all very different and each offered us great delights. Marrakesh had the great square, medina and souks that provided nonstop excitement and shopping. We hired a tour guide and car for a day trip to the top of the High Atlas Mountains which was magnificent; may even consider a return visit to hike there and see some fabulous waterfalls. The people were so colourful and live in very harsh conditions but seem very content. We ended that day with the dinner show Fantasia, the Arabian horses and stunt riders together with all the folkloric costumes and music topped our day and depleted our memory, i.e. the digital cameras were burning up from over 1200 images between us. Our stay at the Riad Jonan was grand and finished our days up on the rooftop chatting with many English guests.

Essaouira was reached by Suprabus and we had a porter pulling a uhaul type wagon to take us to our Riad. Point to mention, no Riad in any medina can be found by a visitor you need Help. Here we scored the one and only room located on the rooftop, where doves and birds sang and we spent many a relaxing time on cushioned couches as well as enjoying our breakfasts (all included for $75 US a night). The medina here was much more laid back (not as aggressive as Marrakesh) and I felt very safe walking around on my own as David took a few days out here to have flu like symptoms, couldn't have been in a nicer spot. We walked the ocean shores and I got up for a short camel ride, like how tall are those guys, I felt way too high off the ground to even consider jumping or falling off. They also had a great fish market where you go and chose your fresh catch, take it to the kitchen where you see them clean it and cook it and serve you, sole, red snapper and shrimps were our pick and they tasted delicious. More candlelight at night!!

We bused back to Marrakesh, caught the train to Fes (6:00 am to 6:00 pm travel time), I liked both methods of travel and they were quite comfortable and civilized once you got your seats! Fez is remarkable both in history, culture and landscape. Our Riad Dar Cordoba was a house that was once owned by a Pasha (equivalent to a Prime Minister) bought by this charming couple from Andalusia, Spain who had just recently opened their home to guests. The ceilings went up to the sky and our room was totally awesome, 2 bathrooms and a tub plus breakfast that would put a trucker under the table. Let me tell you, David had just a few days to organize all these Riads but he did a great job and we will certainly be writing more about our wonderful experiences. Our tour with an official Government educated guide through the Old Medina took us back to the 8th century and stories and info to fill your mind with wonder and images of how life was in the old days - A definite must see. I ventured in to a traditional Hamman where I got a scrub from what could have been Mother Teresa's twin, this was all too questionable and no English spoken anywhere. Spent our evenings at Chez Rasheid watching the never ending crowds walk by as we enjoyed more good food.

Now that you have heard about Morocco, let me just say our time on the good ship Prinsendam and the World Grand Voyage on the Amsterdam was Decadently Divine and how Welcome we always feel by the wonderful crew and staff! We have travelled to the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and Bali home for 10 days then off to Africa via the Caribbean where we visited St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and Turks & Caicos sailed the calm seas across the Atlantic to Madeira on to Casablanca where we disembarked to start our own adventures. We are very blessed to have this opportunity and certainly enjoy the interesting people we meet. How full our days are with great adventures and new friends!!

I would love to share this special story with you that happened to me. While in Fes I tried out one of the Hammans, quite the experience; but I must have had some glow on or looked content because as I was walking back to our Riad a cute young man stopped and asked my name and these were the next words out of his mouth "You Shock My Heart with Your Beauty", needless to say I was shocked myself by such a statement and he invited me to share tea with him in his gallery (not come up and see my etchings) and I replied maybe tomorrow as I was on my way to see my husband.

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