Morocco, and land of intrigue and mystery.

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Wandering street cats are one of the most abundant sights in Morocco. There are estimated to be as many street cats in Morocco as there are people. Cats have long been an inherent part of Moroccan culture and everyday life, living harmoniously with the people of the country. Given half a chance, my wife would have brought several home with her. And looking at the way the tourists interact with the animals, I am certain that some might have found homes in other countries.

 

 

 

This was the only sunrise that I was able to experience first-hand. And I had to wait for almost an hour on the roof of our hotel in Chefchaouen before it appeared on the horizon.

Sunrise in the winter months seems to occur late, around 07h45, by which time we were often on our coach headed to another destination. But the main reason for me missing them was a] buildings that hid the sun until it was quite high in the sky and b] I was confused by which way was East. My mistake completely and to rectify that, the next time I am in a foreign country, I have downloaded a compass to my phone.

 

 

 

Our accommodation in Chefchaouen and a sister hotel to the one that we had stayed at in Casablanca.

I can only imagine that the Madrid connection was due to the fact that many Spaniards fled to Morocco due to war and persecution in Spain. Many of those who arrived here were Jews and there is still a Jewish quarter that forms part of the Medina.

 

 

 

We only had 2 days of rain in the 12 days of the tour. And one of those days occurred as we left  Chefchaouen. As we were going the be on the coach for several hours, the rain did not bother me.

 

 

 

A representation of Chefchaouen in one picture…the colour blue and cats. Lots of both!

Why is it known as the ‘blue city’?  The most popular theory is that after WWII, when the Jewish community in the area grew as people fled Nazi persecution, blue was painted on the walls, floors and steps as a religious practice, to represent the colour of the sky and connect the city to heaven and God.

Nowadays, Chefchaouen is known as “the Blue Pearl” of Morocco, known for its traditional houses painted in blue and white. The city is also called “Chaouen” by the inhabitants of the northern region.

 

 

 

Cultivated in three regions of Morocco from the south to the north of the country and through the plains of Beni Mellal, the crops of citrus fruits, Navel oranges, late oranges and Nadorcott mandarins are widespread.

The fruit was consistently large and sweet wherever we bought them. And they always came with a stalk with at least one leaf attached.

With such an abundance of oranges, it seemed only fitting that there was fresh orange juice available at almost every establishment we stayed at, all the restaurants we ate and even when walking in the streets there were ‘juice carts strategically placed at regular intervals.

Seeing that there are oranges in abundance, I would have assumed that it was the national fruit of Morocco. I was mistaken, that honour falls to the humble Fuzzy Kiwifruit.

 

 

 

We found one of the South African consulate offices. Having previously been made aware of NOT taking pictures of people in uniform, I specifically made certain that there were none to be seen when I took this image. Turns out that the guard was most welcoming of South African tourists and posed for some of the members of our group before we left…

Fun fact.

The distance between Rabat and Pretoria is 7801km and the average travel time is 16 hours 15 minutes.

 

 

 

In the foreground are the pillars that can be found on the grounds near the Hassan Tower in Rabat, the capital of Morocco.

In the background, you cannot miss the towering 250-metre-high Mohammed VI Tower designed to be visible from a distance of 50 kilometres all around.

To the right of the image is the Mosque that we were unable to gain access to due to a visiting diplomatic delegation. We were allowed to take pictures of the exterior, as long as those did not include any of the VIP’s.

 

 

 

This is the Hassan Tower in Rabat. Our coach stopped here long enough for us to get off and wander around to take pictures. No shops nearby to tempt those who were keen on helping the Moroccan economy.

The tower was intended to be the largest mosque in the world if completed, it would have been the largest in the western Muslim world. The construction of Hassan Tower began in 1195 intending to erect a minaret that would reach 86 meters in height, and a mosque large enough to accommodate 20,000 pilgrims.

It always amazes me when I stand in the shadows of history like this, how long they have survived. Many have survived intact which given the primitive building methods of the time (in this case the tower has been standing since 1195) has far outlasted our current buildings which have been constructed with the most modern methods.

 

 

 

The Moroccan flag flying proudly in the wind during our short stop in

The green star represents the five pillars of Islam, and the red represents the blood of the ancestors and unity. A red field with a green pentagram, a five-pointed linear star. Red has considerable historical significance in Morocco by proclaiming the descent from the royal ‘Alawid dynasty.

 

 

 

The street lamps were a mixture of old and new. While there were ‘old-fashioned’ lamps like these, there was also modern LED lighting where that was more appropriate.

 

 

 

This is how luggage got from the coach to our accommodation in some of the towns we stayed in.

These trolley men had been organised in advance and were waiting for our coach to arrive and a predetermined point.

Our baggage was taken off the bus and the porters were able to fit it all into 2 or 3 of these trolleys. Then they (and us) would walk the (usually) short distance to our accommodation, which was invariably down a side alley and was too narrow for the coach to negotiate.

 

 

 

This was the inside of the front door of our accommodation in Fes. I am not certain if the security was to keep our group inside or to keep unwanted visitors out.

Luckily on the couple of occasions that we had to get out, it was not too difficult to navigate the order in which to unlock.

 

 

 

Our room in the Riad in Fes. A huge room on the ground floor, meaning that there were NO staircases to negotiate and that our luggage was at the door once we had had a cup (or two) of green mint tea.

One of the most noticeable differences between hotels and riads is their size. Riads are much smaller than hotels with many riads having less than 10 rooms or suites. Because there are fewer rooms, each room can be uniquely furnished.

 

 

 

Date night? To be correct it was date day as this was just one of the stalls selling dates and figs. Both of which my wife and I enjoy and they did make for a tasty snack as we negotiated the bustling narrow streets and alleys of the market.

The medina is divided into small souks and are designated names based on the product it specialises in such as the meat souk, the spice souk, the clothing souk, the gold souk, the henna souk, the bonze souk…etc. The souks are most of the time crowded, and you can recognize them through their smell and noises.

 

 

 

The Gnawa are an ethnic group and Islamic sect of West African descent centred in Morocco who have become globally known for their use of music in liturgy

The Gnawa, especially in the city, practise a therapeutic possession ritual through all-night rhythm and trance ceremonies combining ancestral African practices, Arab-Muslim influences and native Berber cultural performances. The Gnawa in rural areas organizes communal meals offered to marabout saints.

The traditional Gnawa ceremony includes seven sections with each section representing seven saints or ancestral spirits. Each section is associated with a particular colour (white, light blue, dark blue, red, green, black and yellow) and symbolizes a particular function in nature and the spirit world.

 

 

 

An extra from one of the Star Wars movies?

No, just one of the many traders in the rather crowded marketplace in Fes where we spent almost an entire day.

Fès is a centre for trade and traditional crafts, and until the late 19th century it was the only place in the world where the fez (brimless red felt hat in the shape of a truncated cone) was made.

 

 

 

This was the company we utilized for our tour.

There were issues along the way, but nothing that could not be resolved on the spot. It did give value for money and if Morocco is a bucket list destination then the tour host, Linda, will give you that in spades.

As I have said many times before, if you go with no expectations then you cannot be disappointed. All my wife and I require is a comfortable bed, reasonable connectivity, hot water(most of the time) and a breakfast that sets us up for the day. On this trip, we almost had a full house of requirements. Those that were lacking, we accommodated and smiled. Making it all part of the overall experience and adventure.

 

 

 

Travel is the proud winner of this prestigious award from the digital British lifestyle magazine Luxlife. The award is in the category Best Travel & Experiences Blog 2024 – South Africa

 

 

 

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