Morocco

  

         In this 2012 trip to Morocco is my first time in life to set my foot on the African soil. I didn't plan any visit to the Sahara Desert as I was not yet prepared for 4 days of caravan return journey with extreme desert weather. So I am content visiting this Aļt Benhaddou, an oasis in a semi-desert in between Sahara and Marrakech.


This is the kasbahs (walled village on a hill) at Ait Benhaddou, a UNESCO site. Only ten families still live here while the rest lives on the village on the other side of the river as depicted in the picture below. This kashahs possesses the "Lost City Desert " (沙漠迷城) scene that I have been looking for in Morocco. However, with only 55 years of history, the complex lacks the substance to thrill me. With the picturesque look, it has been on several Hollywood movies including the Gladiator and the Alexander.
        
        
Honestly, the scene reminds me of China.

The locals can speak French, but I don't. So we communicate in limited English.

Inside a house of the kasbahs in Ait Benhaddou. It is cool in summer and warm in winter.

A kasbahs within the village of Ouarzazate.


        
Marrakech


Jemaa El-Fnaa, the main square in the souk (market). When I first arrived Marrakech, I did feel offended with the locals stalking and haggling while I walked on street. They were nice people greeting me with "Konichiwa". However, my nice gesture of a simple smile would get them follow up with asking where I am going, offering to the palace or accommodation. I really did feel tired and trained myself to ignore. After a few days my heart was more prepared so I learned to reject with a friendly "I've been there", "I've eaten.", etc.
 
Inside the medina (old walled city) there are steel mill, wood shop, tannery, ceramic makers, etc.

Game booths and food stalls are everywhere at night at the market square. Life is quite vivid.
 

        
   
 
The Marrakech train station. The trains are new and very clean! Had a good journey.

Yves Saint Laurent had his ashes spread over his Majorelle Garden at Marrakesh.
 

        

Koutoubia Mosque, completed in the 12th century, is the largest mosque in Marrakech. It sirens seven times a day reminding Muslims to pray...

Morocco is an Islamic country. So the significant buildings like this Bahia Palace are all in Islamic motifs.
 
Musee de Marrakech.

Medersa Ben Youssef.
 

        

Medersa Ben Youssef

- one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and may have housed as many as 900 students.


        
Fes


Fes el Bali (the oldest medina of Fez) is believed to be the biggest car-free urban area in the world. Walking within is indeed like a maze. I was fortunate to have GPS to help me out but it was enjoyable to let myself lost following the sights and interests.

        

The University of Al-Karaouine, founded in 859, is the first university in the world. It has been and continues to be one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the Muslim world. Too bad not open to non-Muslim.

Leather tannery. The scene is colorful and unique. It was intriguing to see the process of leather making, but the smell of chemicals ain't that enjoyable. It is understandable why those who work here are paid with high respects from the locals.
 
Brass-makers Square. The surrounding was filled with the hammering sound of the metal work. Fascinating.

The smell of leather bleaching with ammonia was excruciating. I paid extra to walk in, but rushed leaving in 10s...
 
 
Water clock. Important to remind Muslims to pray.

Amongst the final leather products.
 
 
La Medersa Bou Inania. Too bad non-Muslim can't enter.

The main road in the Fez medina.
 
 
My first hammam (public bath) experience. The venue was about 50 sqm. People just sit on the floor scrubbing and washing with steam filling the chamber. The local cleanse themselves thoroughly before major prayer.

This was a danger moment in Fes. I lost myself in the medina and was approached by 4 gangster-like teenagers. To escape the situation, I played with these youngsters for 5 min. The laughter eased the tension so I can escape in other alley way.
 
 
I stayed in a riad (local house) inside the medina. Fascinating to walk the alley way to the riad.

I spent half a day just napped on the roof and enjoyed the Fes medina view.
 
 
I went to a fun fair at the urban area. Cost only 40p for a ride which would cost me £4 in London. I became a teen again for 5 min. =)

The urban area of Fes. Today coincides with the independence day. I saw the Moroccan King as he waved in his mercedes on the way to his palace at Fes.
 
 
Moroccan incent and body shop.

I bought a musk-odor perfume. Then realized the scent is from deer's testicles.
 
   
 
  On the first two days I tried tagins, escargots, lamb head, and other local fried dishes. After that allergies had my tummy and mouth cannot handle them anymore. I only had pastries for the rest of the trip. But then water poisoning hit me on the last day. Oh, I know my limit now.   
 
Are you up for a try?

I tried the dish when the head was all chopped up. But trust me, you don't want to see how they made it...
 

  Moulay Idriss
 
  Moulay Idriss 1 arrived in 789 and formed the Idrisid Dynasty. Bringing along with him the religion of Islam, from which the religion took root and spread across Morocco.  

  Volubilis


Volubilis is a Roman ruin dates back to the 3rd century. From one end walking to the other end is approximately 5 minutes. In between you can see how the Roman laid out the city. Many floorings of the building are decorated with beautiful mosaic. They are the 3rd century arts at their original display; better than in a museum. It feels really amazing that I can actually stroll around the site and touch the history. Simply amazing...
 
 
A Roman public bath, decorated with the beautiful mosaic of Orpheus with wild animals.
 

Mosaic of Abduction of Hylas by the Nymphs.

Mosaic of the Labours of Hercules.

  12 Jan 2012

I just got off flight back to London. This journey had me very tired as I had my guard on most of the time during the trip. I had encountered con artists and tourist traps. When I walked on the medina in Fez, I felt like I was a prey for meal. The feeling was so uneasy. I also met some female travelers who had a really hard time in Morocco. Stalking, degrading languages and body touching are amongst the harassments.

Only on my last day, another traveler reminded me how lucky I am to have time and money to explore. That little pound or dollar the vendors or con artists haggled may bring importance to their lives. Then I started to give. Perhaps, visiting less developed countries is to have us to appreciate more of the better lives we have.
 
 

 

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