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Published: September 8th 2013
Morocco 31 Aug to 8 Sept 2013
WE have just returned from Morocco so here is the story of our adventure. I will send it in 3 sections.
After flying out of Madrid Airport at 12.20pm and flying over the Strait of Gibraltar, we arrived in Casablanca, Morocco at 1.10pm. After about ½ hour we saw the Insight Travel person who was to take us to the city. We had to wait for several other passengers coming on other flights and left the airport at 3.00pm. One couple that was coming on the tour with us was from Brisbane and Tom worked with him and I had an association with him through Greening Australia (Tom Crothers).
We were driven 14kms to the Sheraton Hotel in Casablanca.
impression was of a very tired city that needed attention – not what we expected. We later learned that it is probably the worst city in Morocco. However the Hotel was pretty good although a little ‘tired’ also.
We were given sweet mint tea on arrival which is widely drunk throughout Morocco, particularly by the Muslims who don’t drink alcohol. We then went for a walk around
the streets close by, including through the old markets (medina).
Morocco is a 3rd
world country, with a rural community that is occupied by subsistent farming, with Government assistance in providing water, electricity and subsidized fuel (diesel is $1.20 per ltr). They all love their King who is a 49 yo, and who is very progressive. He has a number of Palaces throughout the country so that he can shift around to see 1st
hand, how his funded projects are making a difference ‘on the ground’. He has stopped the practice of polygamy which is standard in the Muslim world. They used to have 4 wives, now it is illegal. The women are given more freedom to choose how they dress also. There is of course strict rules for women in other areas of their life.
There is a bid push to ensure all children attend school. There used to be 80%!o(MISSING)f the population illiterate – which is changing rapidly. It’s a very interesting country and we saw many improvements happening, particularly in the rural areas.
Their neighbouring country, Algeria, is a constant threat to Morocco and the Western Sahara is the main area that is
home to graft and corruption. Morocco is too poor to go to war but has support from western countries. It is however, the Muslim country that has had the least wars.
Morocco is considered the ‘Jewel of North Africa’, a land so intrinsically beautiful and rich with heritage, it has attracted seekers of the exotic over the centuries. In the evening, we met our Tour Director Hussan, for a Welcome Reception with drinks and a light informal meal, as well as the 33 people who were travelling with us. There were from Australia, Philippines, USA, Canada and NZ. DAY 2 & 3 THE IMPERIAL CITIES OF MEKNES & FES.
We received a wake-up call at 7.00am and after breakfast, boarded our air-conditioned bus to see the Hassan II Mosque, the largest in the country which was part of our sightseeing tour of Casablanca. We then departed for the capital, Rabat to see the mausoleum of King Mohammed V, Hassan Tower and the Royal Palace before departing for Meknes, one of the kingdom’s imperial cities. Dating back to the 11th century, its surroundings remain unchanged for centuries. See the Bab el-Mansour gateway, monumental entrance
to the imperial city and focal point of Place El-Hedim. We visited the inside the mosque before continuing on to Fes. The next day was packed with fantastic sights and smells as we toured this carefully preserved university city, which had its golden age in the fourteenth century, during the reign of the Merinides dynasty.
We also visited the medina of Fes and walk through its old streets for 3 ½ hours on the 3rd
day. I nearly got lost but the 2 local guides and our tour director had everyone under ‘survailance’ because if someone became separated from the group, is would take a long time to find them in the tiny little streets which went for kilometers!!
We saw one of the oldest universities in the world, and many people in our group were able to take time to haggle in the Bazaar. Oriental rugs were an attraction for bargain hunters which are one of the most important handicrafts of Fes. That evening we enjoyed a superb Moroccan dinner in what was a 14th
century home which has been converted to a restaurant. We were entertained by a magician, a local band
with drums and belly dancer.
As it was Tom’s birthday, I also organized for them to sing happy birthday to Tom. They sang it in both Arabic and English. I also had candles shaped in a six and five to put on the top of a chocolate slice. Tom had a great time.
We also went to Sefrou and Bhalol which was an opportunity to visit two unique communities. We saw the village of Bhalil, where local people still live in dwellings carved from the rock face. Warm in winter but cool in the summer heat, these houses are perfect adaptations to the local climate. Sefrou was once a thriving Jewish community. The synagogue remains as a small memorial, which we visited.
In the afternoon, the Berber family we visited had 8 children (2 of the boys had died). The mother had 7 of her children in the cave. As the father had friends staying with them in the cave when the mother went into labor she did not want to deliver her 8th
baby in front of her visitors so she went to hospital. She told us she didn’t like
it. She was the midwife for her neighbour and vice versa.
The mother said she was looking for a wife for her youngest son so she looked through the group and she chose a young American girl who was travelling with her mum. The Berber mum offered her 5 donkeys for her daughter. That wasn’t enough so she offered her ½ her cave. The daughter was then invited to carry water in a bucket on her head as the cave didn’t have running water. The young girl had trouble with the weight of the bucket where as the 70+yo Berber mum had no problem. It was an interesting visit and the Berber mum was a character. We could ask her any question we wanted and our guide translated for us.
We then headed towards Erfoud. On the way we stopped at a ‘tent’ of a Berber home near Azrou Moroc. They are nomadic so live in tents which they move, depending on the season. We found a mother and 2 of her 5 children at home. She had just finished baking bread and she gave it to us with olive oil dip. One of
our fellow passengers gave the 2 little girls (4 and 10 yo) little fluffy toys. The 4yo has so funny because she wanted both the toys. She finally got her way and her little face just lit up when she had both the toys. She also spoke in her own language saying she was so excited. It was another opportunity for us to experience the different cultures and way of life of the people of Morocco.
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