Monday, January 9, 2017

Morocco - the Sahara

Driving through this part of the desert we came across these small hills which had been dug up centuries ago to access the miles of tunnels below which brought water from the mountains to the villages.  The second photo shows the well access.

 And below are the attempts to control the movement of the sand onto the road
 Our first glimpse of the dunes!  if you open the picture you will see the village on the right which gives a perspective of how high they are.

Starting out on our camel ride in the late afternoon to catch the sunset.  We were well wrapped with burnooses to keep our heads warm but there was no wind so no blowing sand.  Shades of Lawrence of Arabia!!

 our tent for the night.  It was below 0C overnight and we had so many blankets on (we were lying on a thin mattress on carpet on the ground) that I could hardly move.  But after before that we had a lovely tagine dinner, sat around a campfire with other guests and enjoyed the most amazing spectacle of stars. 

Rob and Rebecca on top of a dune
The ride back to catch the sunset - all before breakfast!. 

 The ride ended at a very nice hotel where a room was waiting for us to shower and change and then on to a breakfast buffet on a terrace overlooking the dunes. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Morocco - the Mountains and Villages

We left Marrakesh and headed towards the Atlas mountains.  The scenery the whole way was quite spectacular made more so by the sporadic occurrences of Berber villages.  It was beginning to get quite cool - going down to 0C some nights. 

The gray trees that you see below are olive trees. 
Below is the old town of Ait Benhaddou which dates back to the 17th Century and was on the old caravan route of trade goods flowing from the Sahara to Marrakesh.  It is now a Unesco world heritage site and a few families still live in it.
The sunset view from the top

and the view from across the river

The Todra gorge, still in the High Atlas Mountains

This yawning mouth is a cave in the side of  a small cliff and is used by nomads to keep goats.  As it was winter the nomads had moved on. 
This an overview of the caves.  The animals stay inside the rock outlined pen and the people live outdoors.
These are the Monkey Fingers in the Dades gorge - an accumulation of rounded rocks that fills a long gorge.

Going over a pass in the mountains

Villages often seemed perched or even built into the side of these hills

We are now in the Middle Atlas mountains on our way home from the Sahara (stay tuned for the next episode!)  Not as high, but certainly with a good covering of snow
We were going through on a Sunday and this hill was crowded with families sledding  and some even had skis.
Also along the way was the Cedar forest which has families of Barbery apes. 

Thanks for looking and I hope you are enjoying the voyage.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Morocco - The Medinas of Marrakesh and Fes

Robbie, Rebecca and I spent a week in Morocco over the Christmas holidays.  Sarah had just boarded her ship in Durban, South Africa for another 10 week stint as Second Officer so couldn't join us. 

We were met at the airport in Casablanca by Miloud, our driver and guide for the week from Morocco Explored who organized our week's itinerary and hotels etc.  It was a super week and we felt well taken care of.  Throughout Morocco we were impressed by the infrastructure of roads and water systems.  We drank water in all our hotels without any problems at all. 

Our first outing was in Marrakesh and we were excited to be inside the old walls and in the market.  We got ourselves both lost and found - we had the first afternoon to ourselves and enjoyed just wandering.  There are so many little alleys with donkeys and motorcycles and scooters competing for space with the people. 

The pictures below are of Marrakesh. 
Outside our riad (hotel)

And inside!

An old water fountain used by all before the new system was installed

Courtyard in the Bahia Palace

Koutoubia Mosque

The Saadian tombs

In Fes we had another guide and were able to have an overview of the medina.  I almost think it was more convoluted inside than Marrakesh, but that may be because we didn't spend as much time in it.

The next three photos are of our Riad El Jacoub which was formerly a palace built in the mid-1600s.  The decoration and style were stunning.  And all hidden away behind an innocuous medina wall.

The tanners at work
We went to a pottery place to watch the process.  A lot of very fine work!
paints for the pottery

 Each tiny piece is cut by hand.

The pieces are laid face down and then covered with a grout/cement to produce the type of tiling pattern above.  This means that the entire design rests in the head of the person laying the tile.  Extraordinary!

The oldest school in Fes from the 1200s

 The metal workers souk

more dyeing

Sharpening knives

carpet weaving

the furnace that heats the Hammam (sauna) - he just keeps throwing in sawdust.

 In Fes, no motorcycles or cars were allowed in the medina, just donkeys.  you can see from the ramps on the stairs that this was for wagons.

The oldest water clock in the world from 1200s

I hope you have enjoyed these photos.  I will do other posts for other parts of our trip.  As you can probably tell, we loved our visit.  If you have comments about these or about your own visit there, I would love to receive them.