Day 3 – Fes day trip

Before we left Fes we stopped by a large supermarket (very Costco like) to stock up on picnic foods for later in the day. The most significant difference to our supermarkets is the sheer quantity of bulk foods, especially spices. The colourful tubs are interesting enough but the smells are truly of the ‘died and gone to heaven’ kind.

Azrou, our first destination of the day, is a small market town in the Middle Atlas Mountains that has grown around a very large granite rock (azrou) in the middle of the city, which is characterised by the green tiled roofs of the arcades around the market square.
We visited there today in order to explore some of their local artisan’s workshops and we weren’t disappointed at all.

This very accommodating man demonstrated how he splits bamboo to weave panels within the cedar framework of this shelving unit. Sadly, the carpet weavers refused to allow us to photograph them at work.

Ifrane, our second destination of the day, is a mountain resort that is quite European, even Canadian, like in character. It is apparently the cleanest town in Africa we were told, which is quite a significant honour . We are accustomed to efficient rubbish management at home – so some of the rubbish issues that we’e witnessed here have been quite confronting.
This stone carved lion sits proudly in a city park location, a reminder of the lions that once thrived in the district. Across from the lion we enjoyed our picnic lunch, watching a heavy mist rolling to remind us that we were in mountain territory.

It was here that I was finally able to snap (albeit not very well!) a photo of one of the 6 million sheep who will be slaughtered on Friday as part of Morocco’s Sheep Feast. We have seen sheep being taken home in every conceivable form of transport this week. On country roads owners of small flocks of sheep sit patiently waiting for passers by to purchase their sheep. In cities sheep markets have popped up EVERYWHERE.

We were all absolutely delighted at the sight of two giant teapots guarding the entrance to this conference centre.

We returned ‘home’ early enough to allow us some free time and I just might have to confess that two pairs of shoes may have leapt into my suitcase. Women’s shoes here are beautiful and REALLY, REALLY cheap!

Til next time…

Chris

Chefchaouen to Fez (Day 2)

The hotel here in Chefchaouen is straight from an Arabian nights fairytale.

This is Nabil, our tour guide.

We woke to a beautifully cool morning and went down to a plentiful Moroccan breakfast. The 5am call to prayer made it an early start for the light sleepers amongst us! Whilst waiting to depart we wandered the peaceful gardens of the hotel – I could have sat all day amongst the peaceful tranquility. Everywhere one looked there was a tableau of traditional features and colours.

The charm of our magical walk up through the cobbled alleyways of the medina (Old Town) the previous night was replaced by the harsh reality of abandoned markets, foraging cats and occasional locals on our way back down. But that very emptiness revealed new wonders. Chefchaouen, or the Blue Pearl, is distinctive for its whitewashed and powder-blue painted buildings. We were constantly enchanted by the varying hues of blues amongst winding alleys, twisting staircases and old stone buildings.

The outside wall of the Medina.

Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 in a bid to halt the southern expansion of the Spanish and Portugal and the medina was walled to protect the inhabitants.
Outside of the medina the city sprawls across neighbouring hills and valleys.

The expansive Roman site of Volubilis is most impressive with the design of its original buildings clearly discernible from the ruins. The Basilica still has a number of intact columns and there is plentiful evidence of original mosaics in many of the ruins. Historical restoration projects have helped retain such an important historical site.

The last place we were taken to was obviously a building with lots of rooms off to the sides. Does this hint at what it once was??!!

Then it was onto the bus for our onward journey along Morocco’s northern coastline, through the steeply rising Rif mountains towards Meknes, the youngest of Morocco’s 4 Imperial Cities, founded in the 10th Century by the Berbers in a bid to ward off invading Arabs. Individual Moroccan rulers select their country’s capital city when they come to power, and Meknes was once chosen, way back in the 17th Century, thereby becoming an Imperial City. As Morocco’s 5th largest city, it is known as the city of minarets – the tall, angular towers common to all mosques – which dominate the medina. Magnificent entrances characterise the perimeter of the ancient walls while citrus tree lined roads provide a lovely green backdrop to their sandstone colour.

We all sat down to a lavish lunch – food here is abundant and cheap.

Then it was back on the bus and on to Fes. Fes is a city that represents the Middle Ages in Morocco, with numerous historic buildings and a chequered history of restoration. Sited along the traditional trade routes from the Sahara to the Mediterranean as well as that from Algeria to the Islamic heartland in Morocco, it is perceived as the spiritual capital of the country, with its inhabitants being deeply religious.

We are here for 5 days so I will share more with you later.

Til next time….
Chris

I

Casablanca, Rabat to Chefchaouen (Day 1)

If the first day of our Moroccan adventure is any indication of our two weeks here it is going to be an absolutely unforgettable experience.

The day began at the Hassan ll Mosque in Casablanca. It is Morocco’s largest mosque and one of the largest mosques in the world, built right next to the Atlantic ocean. The vast main hall can host 25,000 worshippers and the broad expanses of marble, traditional geometric mosaics and decorative details are beyond amazing.

We then headed north to Rabat, the capital of Morocco, where our first stop was a brief walk to the perimeter gardens of the Imperial Palace, which was guarded by men in rather splendid uniforms.

The Mohammed V Mausoleum is dedicated to the first king of independent Morocco. On this site the king, returning from exile in 1955, gathered thousands of his people to celebrate their new independence. It too features traditional Moroccan decorative motifs and techniques. Once again the guards provided a wonderful richness to the experience. The Mausoleum shares the site with the Almohad Hassan Tower, part of an enormous, unfinished mosque, abandoned in 1199.

The Kasbah Des Oudaias, which was originally a fortified ribat, was an absolutely magical walk along cobbled pathways that wound their way through a very old residential area. What sets this area apart is the ubiquitous blue painted walls, doors, window frames and garden pottery. It was also the site of my first experience being ‘bothered’ by a local who grabbed my arm and hennaed the back of my hand. All at a cost of course!

We enjoyed a tasty lunchtime pancake outside the walls of the Kasbah then settled in for a 4 hour bus journey north. The urban sprawl gave way to rural scenes that almost seemed fairytale – donkeys working fields and carrying loads, a woman walking along the roadside with a huge bundle of sticks and twigs strapped to her back and lone herdsmen tending sheep and goats in remote mountainous terrain.

We were warned that the bus would not be able to get to our hotel and that we should be prepared for a 20 minute walk. We weren’t told that it was going to be an absolutely amazing experience – wending our way through narrow winding alleyways of shops and market stalls with every conceivable product for sale. Ancient Moroccan buildings towered above the walkways – their architecture, colours and character adding to the wondrous ambience.

The hotel, when we finally arrived, was the stuff of middle eastern fairytales. No photos – it was getting too dark so that’s the first thing on my tomorrow’s ‘to do’ list.

Til then ……..
Chris

 

A Quick Update…..

In blog posts from earlier this year I mentioned that we were going to become grandparents again this year. On the eve of his due date, Lachlan Russell was born late in June. His Mum and Dad had chosen not to know the gender of their impending little one and there was joy all round when he was born – I think that everyone had been hoping for a boy.

Big sister, Isla, is loving her new role.

 

While I was visiting the family in Queensland my son was retrenched when the company he worked for went belly up. Within days he was offered work, and one offer included an invitation to move to Adelaide (where we live). Their house went on the market this week and we are all hopeful of a quick sale so that they can move south as soon as possible. I can’t wait to have my family all living in the same city so that the grandchildren can spend lots of time together.

And in the way of the world, a few weeks after Lachy was born we farewelled my mother-in-law who had reached the grand old age of 94. She’d been in care since Dad died 6 years ago, but had become increasingly frail in the last few months.

As a travelling grandmother I’d previously blogged about my ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ quilt. I huffed and puffed getting that monster quilted, along with a couple of other entries for the Quilters’ Guild of South Australia’s Festival of Quilts last month. A friend snapped the next three photos.

That’s What Friends Are For

This is my ‘No Longer A Disaster Quilt’ – it is a very old UFO with quite a history.

Cappuccino – vintage linen table cloth

I love bringing old tablecloths to life. This one was a little challenging though – in the first week of quilting I managed to get black Sharpie ink on it and had to re-design my quilting to try and cover the ink stain that wouldn’t budge. The linen was quite a loose weave and stretched like crazy as I quilted it. Some of those feathers had to be stopped and started one by one or the linen buckled and pleated most unbecomingly.

And I love miniature quilts. This one was inspired by the work of Judi Madsen whose work I really admire.

I think that’s all my news, so ’til next time….

Chris