Star Date:  June 2017
Morocco:  Ouarzazate, Marakesh, Fez


Hello Dear Family & Friends!


(Thank you.  Berber)





"My country is the earth.  I am a citizen of the world - which consists of only one race - the human race."

(Wake up


Lights!  Camera!  Action!
Back in 1897, when film was still in its infancy the first foreign filmmakers, dazzled by the beauty of Morocco's landscapes captured scenes of mountains, deserts and ocean.  The camera's are still rolling.  Morocco is next to Europe; yet so far and so exotic.  Hollywood was enticed to Morocco with classic movies (1944) such as 'Casablanca' with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  This and the movie 'Morocco' captured the dreams and imagination of film goers.  Today a trip to Casablanca, wandering in the ancient Medina or having a drink at Rick's Cafe is a must.  "Here's looking at you kid!"  Smart planning of the government has seen the industry grow and thriv
e.  Throughout the decades blockbuster action films and top films such as 'The Wind and the Lion' with Sean Connery, 'Gladiator', 'The Man Who Would Be King', 'Spy Game', 'The Mummy', 'Hidalgo', 'Tut', '007 Spectre', 'Mission Impossible', and 'Babel'; to name a very few have started on this soil.  Twenty feature films were produced in 2014 and more underway. 

As is the case in most countries we try to read books by famous local authors or watch movies produced in the country we are visiting.  The true meaning or mood often springs out of the pages or off the screen as we sit immersed in the country.  We jumped on a local mini van to Ait Benhaddou Kasbah. This crumbling exotic walled city has very few people living there.  It's more of a heritage site and the place where many old walled city scenes have been filmed through the ages.

To get there we drove by the eclectic Egyptian statues guarding the entrance of the main Ouarzazate movie studio.  We expected to see Cleopatra having a drink in the shade.  Zagora is South of Ouarzazate.  Gateway to the Sahara in this region; it has the famous sign: Tombouktou 52 jours or days via camel caravan.  Anyone game?  Don't answer until you've spent a few hours on one of these belligerent yet entertaining creatures.

Marrrakesh is another name that sends the imagination soaring, like a ride on a magic carpet through an Arabian Night!  Marrakesh prospered and grew rich on the camel caravans winding their way from the southern deserts.  Most of the camels have disappeared but time in the main square, Djemaa el-Fna, is tracing your steps back to 1001 Arabian Nights.  A kaleidoscope of treasures.  Plump dates and dried fruit, sweet fresh squeezed orange juice, medicinal herbs or sweets are offered.  As dusk appears the veil lifts on row after row of smoking, mouth watering, aromatic food stalls, some selling harira (lentil) soup for as little as 50 cents a bowl.  Elbow to elbow with locals you can belly up to the bar and down the delicious soup, served with a hot round bread.  After filling your stomach, you can wander through the throngs gazing on one of the most spectacular shows on earth.  You are in company with exotic fortune tellers, snake charmers, musicians, monkeys wearing pampers (for obvious reasons as they jump on the shoulders of startled onlookers) comedians with sporting bras or crazy hats over their robes, jugglers, storytellers, acrobats, to name a few.  Skies the limit in Djemaa el-Fna Square.

The spiritual center of Morocco, Fez was founded over 1200 years ago.  Still home to many large Universities we can thank the Islamic scholars for saving priceless manuscripts and books from the book burning of the horrific Catholic Inquisition and also keeping safe many books from the burning of the Library of Alexandria.  Located in the foothills of the Moyen Atlas Mountains along the banks of the Wadi Fez; Fez has been a center of education, culture, and religion for centuries,  Fez is revered for its spiritual significance and within it's ancient walls is the site of the great Qarawiyin Mosque, the oldest in Africa, dating from the 9th century. The celebrated mosque of Mulai Idris, is a shrine so sacred that non-Muslims and animals may not approach its entrance, is also located in the city.

Situated on the trade routes that link the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea with the countries south of the Sahara, Fez has prospered as a commercial center.  The city itself has a number of textile and flour mills, oil-processing plants, tanneries, and soap factories, as well as a large handicraft industry. For years the city was the only producer of the brimless, cylindrical felt hat that takes its name from the city.  Wandering the alleys of the medina will take one past businesses that have been handed down for generations.

Arabian Nights unveiled.  The medina, Fez el-Bali, is the largest living medieval Islamic city in the world.  Take a deep breath and jump into the labyrinth of alleys, winding narrow streets, blind turns, dead ended souqs, workshops, tanneries, pack animals, shops, hawkers, stalls, tiny 2 seat coffee shops.  Be prepared to get lost and wander aimlessly. Jot down a landmark or 'Bob', (one of the main gates) that leads you to your hotel to pull out when you can't make your way.  Get someone to write it in Arabic and keep retracing your steps until something familiar appears.  You Will get lost so just relax and enjoy the journey.  The best part of exploring this medina is the new discovery around every turn.  One day I went into the medina in search of beads to repair a broken but stunning antique Berber necklace I had bought in a small stall.  Joseph and I made plans to meet at a local lentil soup stall for lunch.  He planned to walk down through the alleys from the hotel and turn left at the little gnome figure outside a leather shop.  Unfortunately the shop was boarded tight that day (the only day while visiting) and the little 3 ft. gnome was in hiding.  There simply are no real markers to go by and signs are in Arabic.  We ended up going with plan B, meet back at the guesthouse.

A first for Morocco and the whole of Africa, parts of Fez are lit by biogas produced by the town's household waste.  Soon the city's bioelectrical power plant plans to operate with a surplus for the town; thus providing energy for the growing cities grid.  For centuries, the lighting in traditional 'hammams' or houses was exclusively natural.  Openings in the roof were filled with hand blown glass bulbs, creating rays of light into the room.  When the glass blowers declined, the holes were filled and replaced with electric bulbs.  An architectural engineer from Manchester has once again looked towards the sun for free energy.  The ancient roofs are again dotted with glass orbs, which collect the sun by day and through a conversion with LED lights, also power the hammam by night.

Ancient blends into modern.  A spirit that never gives up, Fez is ever changing; creating a unique and innovative way to survive and live.  At the same time it is a place where time has stood still for thousands of years.  Side by side, people from all over the world and of different creeds, talents, and customs prowl these alleys, proving that we are all one world, one human race.  Morocco and your home country are more similar than you think.  Personalities are the same worldwide: the introvert, the dynamic extrovert, the funny person, the innovative person, the entrepreneur, the grouchy person, the sickly person, the nerd, the compassionate person, the introvert.  All wearing different clothing, speaking a different language, but same as the people surrounding you right now.  Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu; black, white, yellow, red; male or female; rich or poor; tall or short.  Celebrate the diversity, yet similarities of our planet and the human race.


And so it goes.........................................Next the disputed southern region of Morocco and back up the coast to Casablanca.  Until then let's remember we are all citizens of the world.  Be tolerant and a good ambassador to all you meet.  Take care and Keep in Touch!  Thanks for dropping us a line once in a while.



Love, Light & Laughter, 

xoxoox  Nancy & Joseph



Travel notes:

1 US Dollar equals 9.41 Moroccan Dirham


We found the Central Square where everyone gathers at night; just down from the market.  We stayed in a large local hotel right overlooking the Square.
Bab Sahara:  Place al Mouahidine, room #104 was good, basic, clean, a balcony over the main square but quiet, especially at night.

Walled City - Ait Benhaddou Kasbah 20km away.  Jumped on a local mini van there and back.  Crumbling but exotic walled city. Very few people living there - more of a heritage site and the set of many movies.

Right in town Tour Company  Caravane Spirit of Morocco phone #212667 96 6545  They organize excursions down into the desert Zagora, etc.

Zagora South of Ouarzazate: Famous sign: Tombouktou 52 jours or days via camel caravan.


There are a million hotels/guesthouses for a reasonable price behind the Hotel Central Palace. (listed in Lonely Planet).

Hotel de la Paix: 46, Quartier sidi Bouloukat  - Right down the little alley behind the Hotel Central Palace
phone # 05 24 44 54 31.  One block from the Djemaa el-Fna Square.  Remember no heat in the cold weather.  Pay a little more and get a warm room - at least at night.

Henna Art Cafe
35 Derb Sqaya Riad
phone # 666.779.304

A fun place for a lunch and to get your hands professionally henna tattooed.   Allow at least an hour to have your hands done.  We just happened on it in a back alley.


When in the main square make sure to get your bearings, as to which end you leave to go to your hotels.  Can get confusing.  Make to spend a day wandering the back alleys.  Extraordinary shops, markets, factories weaving and making handicrafts, cafes, etc.

Dar Naima.  Excellent low price place to stay right in the Medina.  We followed someone there who said their cousin has a good guesthouse. Quiet, clean.  Very helpful and kind. Hend speaks good English.  7, Ferrane kouicha talaa kbira
Phone #  00 212535633 211

Decorated in bright, authentic furnishings it was a great place to hang out after a busy few hours in the Medina - just outside the door.  They even had a space heater, which we loved for the cold evenings!









A kaleidoscope of exotic treasures.


A maze of shops in the bazaar of Fez.


Full of everything you need, or don't.


Classic antiques and carpets.

A traditional water seller.  Goat skin bags
filled with water and shiny brass cups hanging
from his belt.  Thirsty?


Antique and modern Berber and Tuareg
 jewelry from the Sahara.


Friendly vegetable vendor.


Who has walked these alleys over the last
1200 years?


Our guesthouse in Fez.  Note the intricate
tile work on the room's water fountain and
heater in the corner.


Bright, welcoming colors and a space heater
for chilly nights.


We climbed up a hill to get a good view of Fez.


Pottery of all shapes and colors.


Old spinning wheel.


Large hand loom.


You can even buy a camel hair tent forf the


Mosque of Mulai Idris.


Mosque vendors.


Go on!  Get lost!


Household items.


Narrow streets require horses for transport.


Wherever you go, people are sitting
and talking about world affairs.


Wool galore.


Bedraggled beast of burden.


Donkey caravans get the job done.


Courier from the leather market.


Nomads in the middle of nowhere, where
they are the happiest.


Entrance to the town square
in Ouarzazate.


Colorful satin fez.  A hat for every occasion.


Vast expanses of uninhabited areas.


Ait Benhaddou Kasbah.


Mud lined alley ways.


Tombouktou 52 jours or days via camel caravan.


Map for caravans, south into the Sahara.


We enjoyed a meal with this woman and
 her husband.


Ancient city used for movie sets.


The mighty Atlas mountains.


Switch backs over the mountains.


Intricate henna (temporary) tattoos.


Tattoo artists painting on the henna, like
 decorating a cake.  It then dries for an hour
and peels off, leaving the interesting designs.


A band of lively musicians in
the main square,
Djemaa el-Fna.


A new buddy.  Together they are working
on a Donald Trump hairdo.


Marrakesh main square, Djemaa el-Fna.


Cobra snake charmers.


Marrakesh is another name that sends the
 imagination soaring, like a ride on a magic
 carpet through an Arabian Night!


Harira (lentil) soup for as little as 50 cents a bowl.
 Elbow to elbow with locals you can belly up to the
bar and down the delicious soup, served with
a hot round bread.


Resting in the park outside the old city walls.


A beautiful rose garden in the park.


Vast arid mountains of the south.


A fellow bus passenger.


Catching the bus after shopping in the market.


Fresh wood fired bread.  Too good to resist.






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