A Travellerspoint blog

MEMORIES OF MOROCCO

REMEMBERING ALL THE THINGS I LOVED AND LEARNED ABOUT MOROCCO

semi-overcast 26 °C
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As always, as I make my way home from a spectacular trip, these are the things I want to remember.

1. The people are warm, friendly and inviting. A smile with a “salam”, “ bonjour” or “hello” is almost always returned.
2. The tea. The first welcome in a hotel, a home or a shop. It comes in many forms but the most traditional is the mint tea, poured beautifully, with care and almost always too much sugar. The base is Chinese Green Tea, shotgun, meaning hand rolled so it opens in boiling water ensuring it can’t be dried and reused.
3. The incredible climate, sunshine, heat without humidity (except in Essaouira where it is humid).
4. The food, always made with fresh ingredients and served piping hot with subtle spices. Besides good eating, the added bonus is no bad bellies.
5. Fresh squeezed orange juice every morning. I could pass on the rest of the bread laden breakfast. So many forms of bread would arrive on my plate each morning.
6. The beautiful faces of the Moroccan people with the wonderful bone structure and big brown eyes.
7. The beautiful faces of the beautiful men.
8. The wonderful people who allowed us to come into their homes and photograph them. And Darren, for making that happen. Especially for the hospitality they showed us.
9. The people of El Khorbat, for their music and the hospitality. Especially the women who made me feel like I was part of their community.
10. The hustle and bustle of life inside the medinas. Even in Marrakech where it was especially crazy.
11. The amazing accommodations that were charming, traditional and unique.
12. The beautiful colours everywhere and well represented in the Berber carpets.
13. The pussy cats who inspired me in Essaouira.
14. Inshallah. The word that follows everything. “You will come back to my shop, inshallah”, “I will return to Morocco, inshallah”. God willing.
15. The lulling sound of the call to prayer over the loud speakers of the mosque. Except at 4:30 am when the Iman decides to keep it going too long.
16. Riding camels into the desert.
17. Languages. So many people speak so many languages. Many people spoke Arabic (or their local dialect), French and English. Many, in the tourist industry, spoke 5+, adding the formal Arabic they learn in school, Spanish and German. Impressive.
18. Morocco is a major destination for families. Lots of Germans and French.

Until next time, Inshallah

Posted by curlygirl 14:41 Archived in Morocco Tagged the in sun el morocco images kasa korbut Comments (2)

MOROCCAN COOKING 101

A FINAL DAY EXPERIENCING LOCAL CULTURE THROUGH FOOD

overcast 26 °C
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What a difference a day makes. Yesterday the heat was unbearable but today the 6 day heat wave ended and it is a cool 26 degrees. Honestly, it doesn’t even feel hot but there is also a haze over the city so the sun isn’t beating down either. Essaouira is actually known as the windy city and is a getaway for surfers. This calm, hot weather is unheard of in April and more typical for August.

I decided to take a break from photography on my final day in Morocco and do something else I enjoy, cooking. Food is such a big part of travel and learning more about the preparations and the traditions is always a great activity. I spent the better part of my day at L’Atelier Madada and it did not disappoint. Out instructors were Allison, who has been married to a Moroccan and been living here for 14 years and Mouna, who is Moroccan and has been cooking for years. Her mother has actually cooked for dignitaries in Marrakech so her attention to detail is impeccable and our work was carefully checked and often rejected. I have never spent 15 minutes cutting up one onion before today. We spend about two hours preparing and cooking our traditional Harira, a very common but complicated soup and our lamb tagine. A

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fter everything was put together and left to cook ( a tagine takes 1.5 -2 hours) we went for a tour of the spice market, and a few explanations by Mohammed who is a spice expert and who also does herbal medicine.

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He even has the traditional dyes like the indigo and kohl, used on eyes. It was pretty interesting.

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After we returned our food was ready and we enjoyed a wonderful meal together. We had a great team, a dentist from the UK who came to surf and was left with no wind, a 29-year vascular surgeon from Germany (now working in Switzerland) and a lovely couple from France who were celebrating their 30th anniversary. Great company. By the time we were done it was almost 4pm.

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The class was enough to convince me to buy a tagine. Hopefully it will make it home ok. I also stopped to buy a suitcase and went for a final stroll around town. I figured I should at least walk by the beach.

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And grab a snap of the cart guys. These men carry luggage into the medina and to the riads because the alleys are too narrow for cars.

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I also went to say goodbye to Rachid, the carpet salesman with a sister in Ottawa ( who I must call) and drool over the carpets one more time. I love this one but it is not in the cards. Next time, inshallah.

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Another very popular product…..herbal Viagra.

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And Argan oil. This is another popular sell. Not just for hair and skin but made with the toasted nut to pour over cooking.

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Morocco is heavily influence by the Spanish occupation, the French occupation, the once large jewish community. Pastry shops are common here but not that appealing.

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Another wonderful holiday has come to an end. I have to say, this has been particularly special. I have loved every single day both behind and without my camera.

I will definitely return to see the northern part of this country, inshallah (said after every hope, meaning god willing).

Posted by curlygirl 11:58 Archived in Morocco Tagged cuisine cooking morocco essaouira Comments (2)

PUSS IN BOATS

THE BLUES OF ESSAOUIRA

sunny 35 °C
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My good friend Nancy asked, after I told her how many cats there are here, “why don’t you photograph the cats the way you do people?”. The truth is, of course, that I find people much more interesting than cats.

This morning, I woke early to try and explore this little fishing town before the chaos began. I wanted to see the fisherman in action and photograph some of the incredible blues that I noticed inside the medina when I arrived last evening. What was evident on my early morning stroll, is that the cats are very much a part of life here in Essaouira and they have a presence in every corner and at every turn. Every quiet early morning alley had at least three cats starting their day. Although they all appear to be street cats, I saw people feeding them, petting them and a fisherman giving him a taste of his catch.

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Many of today’s shots are inspired by the question posed by my cat loving friend.

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My walk took me down to the port which was in full swing at 7am. Fresh catch had already arrived back at the port and money was being exchanged with the middle man and the buyers. Most people didn’t want their picture taken but were happy to let me photograph their fish. The old guy by the boat was more than happy to let me take a picture, as long as I didn’t react when he rubbed my arm a little. Yes, sometimes you have to make it work. But I do stop at the arm. The guy selling the fish with the cheesy pose settled for a “promise” that I would “consider” letting him show me the town later.

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Today was a relaxing day. It is extremely hot. 35 degrees and I didn’t have much energy except for a small stroll. Even the cats were hiding in the shade.

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I don’t find the shopping here particularly good which is not a bad thing since I have already spilled over into a second bag.

I finished my afternoon with a nice massage. I asked for the deep one but it seems there is a standard here. While it didn’t get the big knots out it was great.

Loving all the blue...and other colours.

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Posted by curlygirl 10:13 Archived in Morocco Tagged hot morocco essaouira Comments (6)

CAMEL TREKKING IN THE MERZOUGA DESERT

EVERYONE SHOULD RIDE A CAMEL AT LEAST ONCE

sunny 30 °C
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A very quick update after a couple of busy and exciting days.

Yesterday we made our way to the Merzouga Desert which actually runs right in the Sahara after crossing into Algeria (which you can see from Merzouga). This was our base for our camel trek and stay in a desert camp. It was so much fun. It didn’t turn out to be a real photography session since the rest of the people in our group were late and we missed sunset and the cloud this morning created a wildly pink sky but did nothing for the deserts sands. Saying that the 2.5 hour ride there and 1.5 hour ride back were spectacular and we had a lot of fun.

Getting ready and our ride in…

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A failed attempt at the camel silhouette with the sun already set.

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Here is our camp. And the bathroom which had a real toilet.

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And this morning sunset and ride out.

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On our way home we stopped to photography some local musicians. Not a bad looking crew.

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After having breakfast and a shower, we left the desert town and made our way back to Skoura where we spent the evening relaxing in the most beautiful accommodation with amazing home-made food. All Moroccan food is made fresh, so you wait, but always enjoy.

Our tour has technically ended but both See Ying and I are continuing on to Darren’s home town on the coast for a couple days before heading back to reality. It has truly been an amazing experience both from a cultural and photography point of view.

As I am exhausted, I am signing off for the evening. Tomorrow will just be a long drive so I will check in after I have had a day or so to explore Essouira.

Everyone should ride a camel at least once.

A few more snaps from my last morning in the tunnels of El Khorab.

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Posted by curlygirl 15:35 Archived in Morocco Tagged desert morocco camels Comments (3)

HUMAN KINDNESS IS OVERFLOWING….

THE STREETS OF EL KHORBAT

sunny 32 °C
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Finally a few minutes of down time. With two days here we actually have some time to just relax. It is extremely hot so it probably best that I have squirreled away in my room for a bit.

We got up early this morning to photography the tunnels before they got too crowded. This festival is actually a week long and starts at 10 am daily so things are hopping early. Photographing the tunnels was pretty challenging from a technical perspective and I had no clue how to get set up. Darren was a great help. Since he also uses a Pentax camera, he is familiar with the settings on my camera and I learned a few quick tricks in the process. After getting some directions, we spent a couple hours just waiting for the “right” people to walk into the light and I am pretty happy with what I got for a first try. I do think I will go back in the morning for another attempt.

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We did have lots of young kids watching us the entire time and we were recognized by some of the ladies from yesterday so the whole process was quite social. We met a 15-year-old girl named Aisha who was looking after her 10-month-old brother. She really wanted us to come see her home. Her older sister Fatima was also home and as is the tradition, we were offered tea. Offering tea is standard here. It has come in many forms, mint, sage, thyme and is always served with sugar. The art of pouring is beautiful. No matter where we have been, it is always the same. The tea is poured into a glass and then back in the teapot several times, assumingly to blend the sugar, and finally poured very high so the tea runs like a waterfall into the cup. I was wishing I had my camera but managed a couple shots on my phone. Again, this was not about a photo opportunity but a very special experience being welcomed into local life. And that baby Abdula was the cutest. I must mention that every home that we have been in has been spotless despite being made of mud. Even the rugs look very clean, but of course, shoes are removed before entering a room with carpet.

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I did manage a shot of Aisha and Abdula when she brought me back to the tunnel to find my camera.

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This afternoon I went back to the music festival mostly to relax and to enjoy the music. I do admittedly have an affinity for the Moroccan men.

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At the festival people remembered us from yesterday and came by to chat. Others, surprised to see tourists mixing with the crowd would come by, as they do, and hold my hand and say, “Salam”, or kiss my cheeks or simply giggle and make the hand gesture indicated that I am pretty and most welcome. I wondered this evening why the Bette Midler song from the movie, Beaches, was stuck in my head….”human kindness is overflowing…” but upon reflection, it is obvious.

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We were asked to participate in an interview with a Moroccan national television station about our experience at the festival. As it turned out it was more of a filming of us interacting with the woman’s cooperative. I did buy a giant woolen bowl that will be challenge to get home.

From there, we did a walk through the streets of the small village of El Khorbat. It is a small village that I could not even find in my Lonely Planet guide. Thankfully, the tourists are few and It feels very unspoiled. Street photography can be a challenge for the obvious reasons so you really have to engage people. Again, grateful for my French, I behaved like a royal visitor and walked up to people, took their hand and said “salam” began to chat and sometimes, just sometimes, they would let me take a picture. Other times no, but almost always, we attracted a crowd of curious locals. We were invited into at least 4 homes for tea in the one hour walk. One group of women invited me to sit on the curb and roared with laughter when I did. They loved seeing a picture of Isaac and couldn’t believe I only have one son. They proceeded to point and tell me which ladies had 4 children, 5, 8 and 14 and loved my shocked reaction. They explained it was difficult to be married and let someone take a photo but I really didn’t care because they welcomed me into their community in a genuine and unforgettable way.

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I have really enjoyed my time here in El Khorbat. This fortified city that once lived divided ( Jews, Blacks, Arabs all had their own tunnels) has shown an entirely united front to me.

The village also has beautiful windows and doors.

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I will be off the grid for the next day or so as we are taking camels and riding into the desert where will be sleeping. Can’t wait for that!

Note: Sometimes the internet can be very slow. I could not get any pictures to upload last night and it took hours to load the blog this time. Thing we take for granted.

Posted by curlygirl 23:37 Archived in Morocco Tagged festival el morocco khorbat Comments (12)

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