Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Where to next?

Having spent my 2 month Summer break travelling around Eastern Europe, I am now planning other short breaks to make the most of my long weekends and breaks during my last year in Morocco. The weekend after next, four of us are going to Fez and doing a Moroccan cooking class as I want to learn how to cook a tagine before I leave. Plus I haven't been back to Fez since 2000 so I want to see how it has changed. I don't think it will have become unrecognisable like parts of Marrakesh.

Over Christmas/New Year I am going to Mali as I've always wanted to go to West Africa, not that I have any idea what was the inspiration. As it is just over a 3 hour flight away, it is too good of opportunity to miss. So Timbuktu, here I come.

Having found a travel writer's course that is happening for 3 days over a weekend in November in Marrakesh, I am debating whether or not to go. I'm sure the inspiration and what I would learn from the instructors would help me get back into it more efficiently, BUT do I want to spend that much money as it isn't cheap. BUT maybe I should spoil myself for once. Anyway I can think about it for a couple of weeks then still get the early payment discount.

Then there are the long weekends next year - what shall I do? Essouria is definitely on the list and . . . . I'll have to think about that.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Thank goodness I don't drive here

Every day at lunch this week as a group of us teachers sit at the picnic table with our home-packed lunches, I hear the driving stories. This week it is the drivers, the pedestrians, the police and especially the male drivers. The reason for so many stories is RAMADAN.

By the late afternoon when many drive home to the beach it is nearing 12 hours since most Moroccans have eaten or had a drink. But more importantly they haven't had a cigarette, no coffee and no alcohol, so withdrawal symptoms are striking. As well there is a lack of concentration, lack of energy, tiredness and of particular concern, a very short temper.

According to many, one of the favourites for upset drivers is to brake suddenly in front of the car that annoys them. A really sensible option when travelling at 110 km/hr on the motorway. Then there was the driver of a motor scooter who had stopped traffic and was ranting and raving at a car driver who "dared" to toot his horn at him!

This is all in the first week of Ramadan, so after the weekend I will probably have some more good stories to tell. Hopefully they will not involve pain or suffering.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

In Morocco by Edith Wharton

Last weekend was the first meeting of bookgroup for the new school year., where we discussed In Morocco by Edith Wharton. Written in 1919 after her short trip around Morocco 2 years earlier, the book is sometimes lauded as the first travel guide to Morocco. Certainly a woman before her time travelling as a lone woman, she did have the support and company of the French Protectorate of the time - a driver, an interpreter, a guide and accommodation in some of the best places in Morocco courtesy of the French. This included the Bahia Palace in Marrakesh, which is still stunning today.

Not suprisingly she lauded the work of the French, and yes a couple of there major works - the railway system and the roads including across the Atlas, are still lauded today. However, she also looks down on, and is critical of the local people, their crumbling buildings, lack of motivation and particularly the bare, barren landscape.

However the reading of the book did set us to thinking about where in Rabat is the Pasha's Palace and the Medersa. Our decision was that the medersa is today one of the museums adjoining the Andulusian or Rose Gardens inside the kasbah walls. Meanwhile the consensus was that the Pasha's Palace is now Cafe Maure.

One other area of particular interest was what was visible at the Chellah in Rabat and Volubulis, prior to the extensive archeological excavations that have since occured. At the Chellah, there is mention of the Islamic structures but no mention of the Roman ruins or those from the Phonecians. Volubulis of today would bear little similarity to the one she saw. There were no high arches, no mosaics and few stone columns.As Rabat residents, the book had more interest to us than it would to the general public, especially as we'd all travelled to the same places Edith visited 90 years ago. It was encouraging to see, once I checked the copy I'd bought here in Morocco for A$6, that a number of books about Morocco written in English that may still be of interest to those readers of the English language are now being published in Morocco since copyright has expired.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Ramadan is soon - How do I know?

Ramadan begins the middle of this week. In the days prior it is a time for me to stock up on wine (as the wine shops are usually closed during Ramadan), work out the best way to deal with students who haven't eaten or drunk anything all day and visit restaurants that may close during Ramadan.

Here's how I know Ramadan is approaching:
  • there are large boxes of dates at the entrance to the supermarket
  • Direct Usine is crowded as people buy new plates, cups and glasses
  • the students remind me, not just once but many times
  • the medina has many carts, pulled by men, that are packed high with boxes of dates
  • in the supermarket people are buying very large containers of honey
  • the bottleshop section is full of expats stocking up
  • I start to here of shops that will be closed
Ramadan certainly does make life interesting in Morocco! I know it is here when all the coffee shops are closed as I walk to work in the mornings, no tables on the footpaths, and no cups of coffee in sight.

Monday, 3 September 2007

International Blog Day - I'm late

Apparently August 31st was International Blog Day, and I just found out, but better late than never. So here are some of my favourite blogs:

Chaotic Life - a blog of a friend of mine, it is a never-ending saga of the dramas of everyday life. As a writer, she even makes these everyday events interesting. Plus it keeps me up to date with what is happening in her life.

The Journeys of Captain Oddsocks - I only recently found this one, but it written by an Australian who runs a hostel in Olomouc in the Czech Republic where I stayed on my recent holiday. It has lots of fun photos and information about the Czech republic and life in it.

Cat in Rabat and The Morocco Report are two Moroccan-based blogs written by expats who have both unfortunately left the country for greener pastures. Many hungry cats are now wandering the streets of Agdal.

Andy Rouse for some stunning wildlife photos. If only I could take photographs like that!

After writing this I have decided I need to do some more explorations in the blog world, so stay tuned for an update.