Monday, October 6, 2008

Casablanca to Fez

Casablanca The worst of Morocco, dirty run down, fast, but multicultural. I felt relatively safe walking around to the photo shop. Gill was nearly collected by a motorcyclist coming around a corner, we are still getting used to looking to the left rather than the right when we step out and the motorcyclist was coming so fast and didn't give a rats for pedestrians.
Had a gorgeous lunch at the hotel (Royal Mansour) The eating area was very colonial and I just had a sense of feeling really `there' even though I was still unwell.
On our way out of Casablanca (4/09) we were given a tour of the Mohammed V Mosque laid out along the waterfront, it reportedly accomodates up to 100,000 devotees in prayer. As I was wandering around, a very handsome Moroccan african guide came up to me and started chatting, asking where I was from etc. Then he asked Are you married? No, I said, well then, he held his arm out and invited me to promenade! The men here are gorgeous, (the educated & affluent ones).

We were driven through Rabat which is the total opposite of Casablanca, clean and beautiful, We visited a tomb of one of the kings - I'll double check on who it was later, it is guarded by the royal horsemen and very splendid!

Meknes is the home town of our tour guide, Abdul, who took great pleasure in giving us quite an extended visit including one inside an ancient mosque. Meknes is the home of the first of the prophet kings of Morocco, Moulai Ishmael, circa 11th C.
Morocco is Sunni islam, not Shiite and we are getting many lectures from our guide on the differences between the two. Abdul insists that Islam in Morocco is moderate, modern, respectful of other religions, (those that honour one god) and that women have equlity before the eyes of the law. The King is a source of great pride as he is fast tracking a program of modernisation for the country.
Fez: Again a lovely and well laid out city. Dinner was an Arabian nights performance, I risked eating and regretted it in the early morning. We took a stroll along the central boulevarde after dinner, very pleasant, everyone out enjoying the late summer evening.

Did the medina in the morning - full on experience - so much to see, so many smells and noises, it is the oldest medina in Morocco, circa 12th C. The medina is full of the tiniest laneways between all the market stalls. You can barely squeeze down them, yet these tiny alleyways hold the entrances to the houses that make up the medina, behind the market stalls.

In the afternoon we took two tours, one to a village up in the mountains that started before Roman times and has houses based on caves built into the mountainside. We had a local guide who took us to his mother in law's house.
She is well into her eighties and can still walk with a full 10l bucket of water on her head. She proudly showed us her home. Cool and dark, literally a cave with the front built over. The guide told us that she had been born in this cave and had married and orne & raised 15 children of her own there. No electricty, no running water, halfway up a step mountain and she has to fetch up to 20 buckets of water a day.

The second tour took us to the original jewish settlement built in the 17th C when they were chased out of Spain. Morocco is very proud of the fact that they integrate all the major faiths and live in harmony with each other. The guides tell us over and over how important this is, and of the role Morocco plays in the middle eastern peace talks because of this.

On the way back to the hotel for the evening, we visit a modern ceramics factory. Still run completely with manual labour & with large ovens fuelled by charcoal and the pulp remains of the olive oil presses, but with clean dust free working conditions for the artisans who cut the mosaic tiles and hand paint the ceramics. A young man shows us through, clearly well educated, speaking fluent english & french, but obviously bored. `Educated for what?', I think to myself.

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