Star Date: June 2017
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
"My country is the earth. I am a citizen of the world - which consists of only one race - the human race."
(Wake up world.com)
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.
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,
1 US Dollar equals 9.41 Moroccan Dirham
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.
Hotel de la Paix: 46,
Quartier sidi Bouloukat - Right down the little alley behind
the Hotel Central Palace
Henna Art Cafe
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.
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!