Archive for the 'Landscape' Category



Marrakesh to Essouaira

DSC_0394

DSC_0448

DSC_0456

DSC_0470

DSC_0472

DSC_0491

DSC_0487

DSC_0500

DSC_0516

DSC_0528

Marrakesh

DSC_0068

DSC_0099

DSC_0100

DSC_0112

DSC_0122

DSC_0145

DSC_0157

DSC_0188

DSC_0198

DSC_0128

DSC_0203

DSC_0205

DSC_0212

DSC_0234

DSC_0244

DSC_0356

DSC_0366

DSC_0367

Barefoot in the Djemaa el Fna

DSC_0817

DSC_0827

One of the many performers in the Djemaa el Fna (market square in Marrakesh)  it was hard to photograph them without being hasseled for money but I was pretty happy with this hip shot.

DSC_0001

When I was a little girl my father had a friend that came to visit us at our cabin in the woods.  I remember she was very beautiful in a way that was completely new to me; she wasn’t pretty like my class mates who had the coolest clothes or glamorous like the movie stars who effortlessly moved about the screen.  It was more like the beauty of my Mother, more truthful but hers was new and unfamiliar.

I don’t remember what she looked like but I remember she could walk barefoot across glass.  In my mind that became the answer to her beauty and mystery, it also became a vivid image that I can always look back on.  The following fall I vaguely remember telling a teacher that when I grew up I wanted to be a woman that could walk on anything.

While we were in Morocco I had some strange dreams, most of which left me with more ideas than exact images, but one of the dreams included walking on glass and this woman who amazed me so much as a little girl.  After the Hammam we went to the Djemaa el Fna where we rather spontaneously decided to get some henna.  We did not however think about how long the henna would need to sit and/or how cold the air would become in the next half hour.  So as they finished the Berber deigns and the sun went down we realized we’d have to find a place to sit for a while and we’d need to find it without putting our shoes on.

Now, as a kid I was barefoot everywhere and as an adult I take pleasure in grass between my toes in the right places.  As a girl who went to school in the city and has seen a few too many people use the subway as a toilet wearing flip flops in a city makes me a tad uncomfortable (too thin soled and open).  However, traveling changes the rules even if you didn’t think you had many.  Before I knew it I was walking across glass, laughing with my Sister, and appreciating the Moroccan street cleaners.

DSC_0003

DSC_0047

Back at the Riad, playing with my flash and the bright orange of my freshly washed feet.

DSC_0059

Our Riad, gorgeous.

DSC_0026

My oh My Marrakesh

DSC_0813DSC_0795DSC_0798DSC_0812

It was strange to be back in a city all of a sudden and that first day was a bit overwhelming.  After dropping off our bags we walked into the center, elated because there was so much to do (unlike the last two places) but a bit confused by seeing all the things we’d appreciated not having, i.e. McDonalds and the like.

DSC_0796

Really?!

We took a cheap cab back to the hotel and rested up for what would be a completely packed visit in Marrakesh.

Along the Way

DSC_0773

DSC_0789

DSC_0782

DSC_0775

On the way from Erfoud to Marrakesh our bus broke down, ironic since it was the first nice and new bus of our trip.  It wasn’t all bad though, as is usually the case with travel even the bad moments teach you something.  We stopped in this little town in the mountains where I took some of my favorite photos of the trip.

No this is not for you, from me, not yet

DSC_0682

We woke up for our first day in Ouarzazate to beautiful weather, we had opted for the room ‘on the roof’ which was right near the washing station and a bit cheaper than those below.  Our hotel was a little quirky but we were excited that it had a pool and the owner was especially nice.

DSC_0690

DSC_0701

Ouarzazate comes from the Berber phrase “without noise,” and carries the nickname “door to the desert” because for most people it’s where to stay before heading out to the Draa Valley.  Maybe it’s better to go there before the desert because coming from the desert Sister and I were not very impressed.  We walked around town and found mostly touristy shops with a sort of sad repetition of all things typically considered Berber and Moroccan.

DSC_0704

Construction site that seemed to be using the same ‘hold it up’ techniques as our desert tents.

DSC_0713

I still have no idea why the majority of trees in Morocco were painted white at the base.  If anyone knows please, tell me! It seemed to be only in towns and cities, ending on the outskirts and not happening at all in the countryside.

DSC_0710

Man loading bread into his car.

We headed to the Kasbah, a site which is highly recomended in Ouarzazate but were a bit unimpressed there as well.  Maybe it was our lack of research about Kasbah culture but other than being an interesting looking building with some beautiful ceilings it seemed to be more of the same- shops with traditional garb and shop owners constantly telling you, “Welcome, come inside take look.  Only a look, please.  You are welcome.”

DSC_0734

DSC_0723

DSC_0745

Kasbah

DSC_0757

Nearby there was a little market, most of the same desert clothing and painted pottery but one man had a sea of things that piqued my interest.  I wish I had taken his picture, he was just what you’d imagine, a bit hunched with leathery skin and eyes that looked just past you.  He didn’t say a word when I walked in, which was refreshing.  After sifting through some of the slightly sandy treasures he had out I was feeling good about my finds, I went to pay and something rather odd happened.  He laid out the odds and ends and quoted each with a price then took one of them away.  I haggled for a lower price on all the items together then asked how much for the little tree he’d taken back.  “No.”

DSC_0755

Me Optimistic: “Con bien?”

Him: “No.”

Me Confused: “Por qua?”

Him: “No, not you, no this.”

Me A little offended and confused: “Why not for me?”

Him: A lot of fast French.

Me feeling/looking like I’m 5

Him: More French, laughter, a sigh “Not now, this, not for you now.  Later.” then a lot more French that I didn’t understand.

DSC_0759

I was still confused, but after a lot of gesturing and trying to purchase four different types of objects that all had trees on them I realized that this man just knew he would not sell me specifically anything having to do with the tree of knowledge.  He couldn’t seem to tell me why.  It just was that way.  We both ended up shrugging our shoulders, I paid for my things and wondered what any of that meant.

Later we went back to the center of town and met another shop keeper, this one much less pushy (even the old man got pushy with other products in the midst of our ‘why you can’t have a tree’ conversation).  My Sister and I wanted to try on some pants and we asked for a place to try them on, he said of certainly, we could change there while he went across the street to grab a pot of tea.  And so he left us with his shop, closed the door, and after about ten minutes came back to share a pot of green tea with us.

First he poured the tea into the cups, then poured the cups back into the pot.  He did this three times.  I asked him why, expecting some romantic answer then feeling silly when he told me it was simply to mix the sugar into the tea.  Later while looking at a plate I almost knocked over the entire stack, I looked at him nervously and apologized.  He told me it’s good baraka when someone breaks something in your shop.  I asked why.  Just because it is. I wondered again about the old man, why I needed to know why something was.

DSC_0768

Later, the shop keeper walked us to the best tagine in town (leaving his shop unattended).

DSC_0771

The morning we left it was pouring and unfortunately during one of the many taxi strikes, but we made it just fine and boarded a nice CTM bus (like greyhound) bound for Marrakesh with plenty to think about and even more to just let be.

He ran to catch the bus at every stop

DSC_0634

After hugs and best wishes from the staff at Auberge de Sud we were driven to the nearby town of Erfoud to catch our bus to Ouarzazate.  On the way there, we stopped by and said hello to a family of Berber travelers and this grave site below.  Then we grabbed some fresh dates at the market, anxiously handed our bags up to the man on the roof of the bus (no, no room below but don’t worry he says), and grabbed two seats across from the door at the back.

DSC_0622

DSC_0641

fresh squeezed orange juice, everywhere.

DSC_0647

DSC_0672

We seemed to make all the local stops and we started to notice that one of the guys got off every time but never took a seat; he would just rest by the back door until the bus slowed.  Then he would hop off and disappear, we would start to leave then, just as we hit the edge of the town the boy would come running along side the bus and hop in the open side door with ease.  At first I was nervous for him, after witnessing my obvious amazement he seemed to cut it closer and closer to further impress.  I stopped being nervous for him and more curious about where he was running off to.  As far as I could tell he was running into all the local cafes and telling everyone the bus had arrived, which is pretty amazing service.

DSC_0681

An example of a typical Moroccan toilet, could be better could be worse.

The Desert

dsc_0374

dsc_0368

After our sleepless night on the bus the surreal quality of the desert was only intensified.  We freshened up and sat drinking tea, playing more Rummy, and taking it all in.

dsc_0379

Then it was time to ride our camels into the desert.  I had a lot of trouble getting my turban on but, my Sister it turns out was quite the pro.

dsc_0387

1worldsarongs_2051_125201106

dsc_0455

That night we ate tagine and listened to the guides play drums and sing.  After the other guests went to bed we wondered out into the dunes to lay on the sand, watch the occasional night traveler (when the moon is full or close to full they go in the night to avoid the wind and heat of the day), and tell/translate jokes using our common knowledge of a little French, Spanish, and Italian mixed with English.

dsc_0419

Our tent complete with candle surrounded by rugs and sticks.

dsc_0445

Our guide Ibrahim posing proudly with one of the camels, he was explaining to us how important it is to respect and be kind to them which was nice to hear.

dsc_0437

dsc_0474

In every photo I have of this camel he looks like he’s flashing his best smile, really he’s chewing his cud but we’ll pretend.

dsc_0480

The photo just doesn’t do it justice.  I’m not a big fan of super hot climates and sandy beaches (more of a mountains and lakes kind of girl) but I was blown away by how wonderful I felt there.  It was disorienting in a really calming way.

dsc_0501

The next day we didn’t really have anything planned, and since we didn’t have a car (like most of the Spaniards there) we just tried to be comfortable with just relaxing.  We played a lot of cards, read, drank a lot of mint tea, and while my Sister napped I had a little conversation with my camera.

dsc_0514

dsc_0515

dsc_0516

dsc_0536

Scarab and camomile from a walk in the dunes.

As it turns out most of the action happens in the evening, after enjoying another wonderful dinner these men of the Nowa tribe of Sudan came to play.  After a while the staff joined in and then everyone was on their feet.  After dancing and jumping for hours Sister and I cartwheeled out to our tent, grabbed a blanket and enjoyed a gorgeous view of the stars. We might have slept out there if our star gazing hadn’t been interupted by some of the staff guys who kept asking if they could visit us in America.  When I look back on it I’m sure I’ll omit the cheesey lines and just remember the view but, if you’re going to visit don’t expect all peace and quiet- even in the desert.

dsc_0558

dsc_0581

dsc_0583

Fire pit outside our tents.

dsc_0605

Sand in my bed.

dsc_0524

Hooray desert! Thanks for the wonderful visit!

Mint Tea on a Hot Day in Fes

The Riad we stayed in didn’t seem real, gorgeous mosaic over every inch and an opening to the sky in the center so that the light of the day seeped in.

dsc_0139
We headed out, repeatedly having to remind each other that we were here in Morocco, taking the trip we’d talked about over dozens of dinners at Mogador.

dsc_0161

Fresh squeezed orange juice stands everywhere

dsc_01621

dsc_0166

The way we look in Arabic

dsc_0172

Graveyard

dsc_0176

Lounging donkeys

My Sister and I have developed a great dynamic, we both like to see the sights and have those days that are so filled they feel like weeks when you look back on them but in order to appreciate them we also have lazy afternoons.  Plus she’s gotten really understanding about stopping a thousand times for me to take or take and retake photos.

dsc_0179

Spices in the Medina

dsc_0193

dsc_0198

dsc_0196

dsc_0212

After getting our bus tickets, walking through the Medina, checking out the tanneries (where I haggled for a camel leather bag), and taking tons of pictures we ended up on a terrace sipping mint tea, playing cards, and smiling about how amazing everything was.

dsc_0235

Fes had the best mint tea

dsc_0243

dsc_02631

The Tannery

dsc_0271

dsc_0268

dsc_0288

A Berber Pharmacy

dsc_0316

Cafe Clock view from above and lunch on the roof

dsc_0322

dsc_0300

mint, everywhere

Before we left when my Sister was planning things she had asked me if I was ok with an overnight bus trip so that we would have enough time to see Fes and the desert.  I had almost scoffed at her worry; listen I’ve been working through nights lately a bus ride where we can sleep sounds nice.

dsc_0333

We met some Spanish clowns at the hotel bar

dsc_0337

Fresh Kefta, yes please.

And you know it could’ve been, we were prepared for nearly everything.  After having some wine at the one bar in Fes (inside a very nice hotel) we grabbed some delicious kefta kebab, had a coffee, used the bathrooms, bought some water and boarded the bus at 10pm.  We even had the whole back seat to ourselves to stretch out.dsc_0338

When you think of Morocco frigid temperatures don’t really come to mind, certainly not mine when I packed.  My Sister was able to run out and grab her pack at one of the stops since my coat was not doing the job.  As we drove through the High Atlas Mountains we proceeded to layer on every item of clothing my Sister had packed, with the holes in the seats opening directly to the air whizzing past the speeding bus it was really no use.  We hugged each others feet and shivered our way to Merzouga.

Flying into Fes

dsc_0120

I fell in love with a stranger sitting in front of me on the flight over, turning courteous considerate gestures into a personality I admired.  He only carried a newspaper onto the plane which is something that always attracts me since I am the girl with the giant bag of two or so books, an iPod filled with podcasts, and some postcards to write in case.  We didn’t speak at all but in the course of the flight I imagined how we met, why I loved him, the troubles we faced together, and the happy conclusion of why it was better that we go our separate ways.  We were both better for having had the experience and would always reflect fondly on our time together.

dsc_0116

The colors of Morocco instantly awoke me and the giant back pack felt like nothing compared to the weightless excitement I was experiencing.  I hoped into a taxi and showed him the address and the hand drawn map I’d copied from google maps at 6am that, no wait, the morning of the day before.  I tried not to think about how little I’d slept in the past week. Too many good things were coming up.

dsc_0131

The taxi driver taught me the word for sunset in french as I clicked away with my camera, he kept looking at my grin and breaking into a smile himself, “you will love Morocco, you are welcome.”  This phrase would come back many times in the next two weeks but hearing it for the first time it felt like it was just for me.

After arriving to the landmark closest to the Riad where I was supposed to meet my Sister (which she had warned would be impossble to find) the driver apologized, he couldn’t drive into the medina.  He grabbed a shop owner nearby that seemed to be a close friend.  The driver pointed to a cart that looked like a backwards wheel barrow, “he can take you.”  I politely declined and started to walk when they insisted I let the shop owners son take me.  A shy boy about 6 or 7 lowered his head and stepped forward.  Soon we were walking throught the medina, a little wobbily in my state, attracting attention from each group of people in each narrow passage.dsc_0137

I made some friends, felt a bit helpless and overwhelmed, but an hour or so later my Sister and I were hugging and swapping travel stories.  We had some delicious dinner before heading to the Riad where we started our Rummy tournament, Morocco 2009.


Categories