Intrepid travels

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Africa » Morocco
September 21st 2010
Published: October 6th 2010
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Day 3 of the Intrepid trip and we have left the Atlantic Coast and crossed inland though the Imperial cities and are now in Fez, a UNESCO world heritage site. Sunday night we met our intrepid group. A full group, 12 people consisting of a British couple, 3 sisters from New Zealand, 2 Aussie girls who work in the UK, and a trio of Melbourne people (brother, sister and friend). All lovely people, a diverse range of ages but one common denominator - the passion for travel and real life experiences. Our leader, Taha, is Moroccan and not only that he is Touareg, a nomadic tribe unique to the Moroccan desert, so he has grown up leading a nomadic lifestyle. Now Taha is in the tourism industry and adding to his already existing Arabic, French and Touareg language, English. Travelling opens up to you how many bilingual people there are in the world, particularly in these parts of the world. We were amazed in our Middle Eastern trip a few years back how many languages people already know and learn at school it’s quite incredible.
On Monday we started with our visit to the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca, the minaret being the tallest building in Morocco and the mosque being the 3rd largest after Mecca and Medina. The style, both architecturally and decorative is quite different to the style used in the Middle East and Turkey. Mosaics are still used to an extent however they weren’t vivid in colours, and carved plaster was used more. Wood, particularly Cedar wood was heavily used, and the roof was made out of cedar wood with gold leaf and the roof was actually retractable. Underneath the mosque area there was a large room (1 for female one for male) used for ablutions (ritual washing before prayers) elaborately decorated with mosaic tile and fountains, and a hammam. The huge complex was paid a 3rd by the king and the rest public donations. The estimated cost is anywhere from $800 000 to half a billion.

Then we headed to the capital Rabat via train. The trains and train stations in morocco so far have surprised me. The trains are very modern and clean (dare I say newer and cleaner than some Sydney trains and definitely newer than a lot of central European trains). Rabat is the capital, the Ville Nouvelle or new city is very modern and one can see the French legacy in the city planning and architecture walking through the old medina and things of market stalls we came to the Kasbah. Today the Kasbah a lot of the Kasbah has been converted into homes and little shops, painted white and vivid blue - to resemble what one may expect to see in the Mediterranean in particular Greece. It was just beautiful. Then walking back through the markets I tried out my French skills again buying cd’s. I managed to get what I wanted Egyptian belly dance music however I am quite interested in modern Moroccan music so I shall buy some cd’s soon I think.

We then headed to the imperial city of Meknes, had a lovely dinner with some local Meknes wine. So far the wine and beer of morocco has been lovely. Today we did a walking tour around the Imperial city starting at Bab el-Mansour, the grandest of all Moroccan gateways completed in the 18th century by Moulay Abdullah. Then we walked to the mausoleum of Moulay

Ismail, the ground was absolutely spectacular and the tile work was just gorgeous. We then continued our walk around (getting a lot of exercise here) past the ‘palais royal’, former prison of Christians and ended up in the medina square in time to meet Taha, who took us into the narrow streets of the old medina. Then, our treat from intrepid - camel burgers  contrary to what one may think camel is a lovely delectable meat! The meat was made into mince patties with herbs and spices yum! The little shop is a real experience in its own, small and smoky. The medina itself was a knockout. It’s funny, all we see at home about morocco is small, ancient medina’s narrow streets and a lifestyle that looks like it hasn’t changed in the last 500 years. In reality Moroccan cities are big and modern, clean (a knockout compared to a lot of European cities really) yet delve into the old medina (medina meaning city in Arabic) you will discover this well preserved habitation that has remained largely untouched (except for electricity, motorbikes and the internet of course) for hundreds of years.

On the way to fez we stopped at Volubilis, a large and Morocco’s only Roman city. Our guide for the day played a joke on Douglas, a gent on our tour. In one of the excavated houses within the ruin he was told to sit on a rock, and when the guide took away his hat what was revealed on the stone? A penis, yes that's right a phallic symbol smack bam in the middle of a roman brothel. Got a few laughs in for the afternoon 

We are now in Fez, about to retire for the evening after a large dinner. Tomorrow we are off to visit the old medina, 10 000 streets so narrow and windy we need a guide so as included with intrepid we will have a local guide showing us around the medina and of course we are going to shop!

A bientôt


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