Thursday, April 23, 2015

Morocco, part 1

Visiting with Ali from Yemen--a student in my class, a soccer player with Joel and a friend of the whole family.

We arrived in Casablanca on Sunday morning. We were one of the first to disembark (about 8:45). We then caught a cab—they wanted $50 to go five blocks. I held my ground at $10 (still too much) and we finally had an offer—but half way there the elderly driver started to pout about the fare hoping to get more—he didn’t. We picked up an Avis rental car, bought a road map and then headed north on the toll road. Our destination was the home of a LDS family in Rabat. After only a few wrong turns in Rabat, we arrived just in time (11:30) for the second hour of their two hour block of meetings. Will went to primary and found a few fun boys his age. Marie and Sarah went to Young Women’s/Relief Society and Joel and I joined with a dozen other priesthood holders in a basement room. It was a branch of only expatriates from the US, Canada, Philippines, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leon and Nigeria. 

We spent the rest of the Sabbath happily eating and visiting with good friends—the Kronmillers (with three cute young kids) who we knew in Jerusalem and the Kuhns—a young couple who are finishing up their two years as peace corps volunteers in Morocco, he was my TA for my Middle East Geography class at BYU and I was his honors thesis advisor. I had thought we might take part of the afternoon to go see a few sites in Rabat, but there was not much interest—It was nice to just “hang out”. We spent a comfortable night spread out at the Kronmiller’s. 

Monday morning we headed east on a nice toll road past groves of cork trees, fields of wheat and lots of beautiful wild flowers in full bloom. Spring in Morocco is spectacular. Our first stop was Volubilis—the ruins of one of the Roman Empire’s western most outposts where wheat and olives were grown to feed the empire. There were some great mosaics, but Jerash in Jordan is a much better restored Roman city. We stopped at a small grocery store for some bread, cheese and water and then headed to Fez. Google maps got us to the general location of our hotel. In the process of trying to turn around for another try at finding it a nice man on a motorcycle noted that we were heading away from the tourist areas and offered to help us get where we were going. We told him the hotel name and he led us there. I got out to thank him and we started talking. Ends up that he was a guide for Fes and so I hired him to take us out that afternoon and then the next day. Score. He first took me to the Avis office to see if the engine light that came on would necessitate changing cars (no), then he took all of us to a tile/zellij factory and shop and two panoramic views of the huge old city of Fez. We then had a delicious traditional Moroccan dinner of tagine, couscous and kebab. 

Next morning Ali greeted us at the pre-arranged time and then introduced us to a new guide (Ali had something come up) named Hamid. He was a very good guide who walked us through the lower section of the old city. We walked the winding streets looking at the beautifully carved wood, painted stucco and geometric mosaics (zellij) that decorated mosques, mausoleums. madrasahs (schools), fountains and many other things. After a morning of wandering the streets and markets, we had another delicious lunch of various Moroccan foods. The restaurant was in a courtyard house that opens up its cushioned rooms as a lunch time eatery. Sarah and I shared a patisserie—made with young chicks or pigeons, nuts and onions in a filo dough crust dusted with cinnamon. Delicious. For desert we all enjoyed sliced oranges with a dusting of cinnamon. After lunch we visited various co-ops and shops where we learned about carpet weaving (where we surprisingly bought a lovely carpet), herbs, spices and ointments (where we didn’t buy anything), and then the amazing tannery with its colorful vats of dye (where we bought leather slippers for Joel and Dad)—our salesman here took a playful liking to Sarah and jokingly offered camels for her hand in marriage! He then presented her with a leather pouch as we left (which most likely means we paid too much for the slippers). Finally we visited a weaving establishment where Sarah bought a lovely purple scarf. It was our most intense shopping day of the whole trip. 

We drove our rental car back to the hotel to drop off our load, rest and take a quite swim before heading out for an evening stroll. We knocked on the beautiful gates of the royal palace, walked through the straight streets of the one-time Jewish quarter (called mellah—salt) and then into the upper portion of the old city where Will bought a wooden soccer ball and we had a delicious dinner on the roof top of CafĂ© Clock.

One of the more amusing moments of the day was after dinner as we were walking out of the old city. A taxi driver approached us and asked if we wanted a ride. I told him no we were walking back to our hotel. Then he took Sarah’s arm and said  “OK, but you stay with me.” He said it with a smile and so I knew he was joking. I quickly replied, with a smile, “how many camels?” He responded “two.” I let out a grunt of surprise and then retorted: “Hamza!” (five in Arabic). He laughed in agreement that Sarah was certainly worth more than two camels. (side note: I do not condone old men marrying child brides nor do I think daughters should be auctioned off for cows or camels). It was a quick fun interchange and then we moved on. He then came running to catch up with us and asked if we needed a driver for the next day. I told him we were in a rent-a-car. Then in a nice act of kindness he pointed out a more direct walking route back to our hotel. 

Walking back to our hotel we stopped at a nice mall between the old and new cities and bought bread, cheese, oranges and snacks at Carrefour for our next day’s drive to Tangier.

Cork Trees

Wheat fields and olive trees at Volubilis.

The ten feats of Hercules.

Basilica with stork.


"Surprise market"--what's for sale is what was just harvested.

Moulay Idris Masoleum

Traffic jam.

A madrassa--Islamic school, with rooms for boy boarders up above.

Second and third stories of a caravanserai--this is where the merchants would stay, the animals would be stabled down on the first flooor.

This one we liked.

"I can show you the world"

They didn't have his size in yellow so he got tan and dad got brown.

You known you paid too much when they throw in a gift leather wallet at the end. He was also charmed by Sarah as evidenced by his offering of two camels for her. When I asked if he had a son Sarah's age he replied that his son was not good enough for Sarah.

 camel burger

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