Thursday, 8 January 2009

My desert jinx

Again I tried to go to the desert, this time for New Year's Eve, and again my desert jinx surfaced. Last time it was a sandstorm that stopped my nephews and myself spending the night in the desert. This time it was rain! Mind you I did get to ride a camel into the desert ( in the rain) and I did get to spend the night in a tent in the desert, but listened to the pitter patter of rain drops of the hessian as the water pooled above. Thank goodness the hessian had plastic below so I remained dry inside but it didn't help that I had wet jeans to sit and sleep in. So no campfire and no starry sky for New Year's Eve, but I survived.

Instead got up in the morning; the rain had stopped but the clouds interfered with the sunrise.

Although some people staying there were happy to greet the New Year.

Then it was time to get back on that noisy camel of mine The one that didn't like being at the end of the line, but had no choice.

It was a pleasant camel ride back to the auberge without the rain. On the way we saw a number of camel trains heading out to pick up large groups from their overnight camp.

As we neared the auberge there was lots of evidence of the recent rains (not just the previous night) as the lake was much larger than when I visited 9 months ago with my nephews. Then to top it off, we got stuck in the mud when driving out!

Just my luck, after breakfast at the auberge, I walk outside to be greeted by blue skies and sunshine!!Maybe it is thrid time lucky for my desert trip.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Fes on Al Jazeera

Recently on Al Jazeera was a BBC TV show on the street food of Fes, that featured Lahcen Beqqi with whom I did a cooking class in Fes a year or so ago. Here it is:

Telouet interior

On my way to the desert, I visited Telouet and the ruins of the Glaoui kasbah yet again, not that it is a hardship. It is an absolutely beautiful building, especially some of the interiors but with the exterior walls earthen it gradually decaying. Each time I visit (and this is the third) there is less and less of the minaret standing. So sad. Anyway my new camera took much better photos of the interior than my previous cameras had so maybe you will appreciate the beauty too.

Inside the pasha's section are beautifully carved wood that looks like the carved plasterwork commonly seen today (see the photo below), plus beautifully painted wood both on the ceiling and walls. And of course zellij and attractive wrought iron window grilles.

But what will happen to it? Apparently the people of the village have realised its value in attracting tourists and providing a source of income so they are looking at restoring it somehow. However, it is complicated by the fact that nobody is sure who owns it. Is it still the Glaouis? The ownership papers seemed to have disappeared so the saga will no doubt continue for a long time yet.

Djemma el'Fna at night

Given the opportunity, one evening I decided that I would go and try out my new camera at night, specifically to try and capture the action and atmosphere of the Djemma el'Fna. This has been the main square in Marrakesh for many hundreds of years: a meeting place, a place of entertainment and a dining room with a ceiling of stars. There are snakes and monkeys, entertainers, fortune tellers, henna-painting ladies, storytellers, the range juice and dried fruit stands and the plethora of smoke-producing food stalls that roll out in the late afternoon.

Here are my photos:

These are the food stalls.

Snails anyone???

This is the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque that is close to the square.

Here is a light illuminating the mosque walls.

How did the camera go? Well I thought the photos weren't too bad considering that I just turned off the flash and clicked away. I didn't even try it on the night time setting - only realised that after I had finished! Well another time.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Cascades D'Ouzoud

A couple of hours drive out of Marrakesh is a place I've always wanted to go - the Cascades D'Ouzoud, a spectacular waterfall that is also home to Barbary apes.

The drive there was stunning with a back drop of the High Atlas Mountains with their jagged cap of snow. In front were fields of bright green sprouting barley, groves of olive trees and some palm trees, often bordered with concrete irrigation channels.

On the road it meant dodging carts transporting people and goods from place to place, mules with grass laden baskets on either side of their bodies and a smattering of cars of all types and vintages. A very pleasant drive in the sunshine.

Heading up to the first lookout that looked over the falls, soon the crowd grew as the Barbary apes scampered around, no doubt clustering in the hope of food. All I tried was to get photos of them but often they were to quick for me. This is a photo of one I took later indulging on a fresh olive feast on the edge of the olive groves.

The falls themselves were spectacular: three cascading torrents tumbling onto rocks two-thirds of the way down and then spraying into a curtain of water. The gorge created is tall and I especially liked the golden coloured tree on the top of the falls. Its autumn colour a contrast to the blue sky, white water and red rocks. I walked to the bottom of the falls, past souvenir shops and small cafes many of which were closed due to it being the off season.

Down the bottom were a couple of boats if you wanted to cross the water at the bottom of the falls as the water level was high and rock hopping was not an option. Mind you much of the track on the other side was washed away.

Then went for a walk around the top of the falls, first up to a local village then around the other side, through the olive groves to the edge of the falls where the Barbary apes congregated and the view of the falls wasn't that spectacular. It was also a chance to see some local life such as the ploughing below.

Back in Morocco

Having been back in Morocco for a month, in many ways it felt like returning home. Lots of familiar faces, friendly smiles and hugs in greeting. I even got to share in some of the Christmas spirit go to a Christmas party and a Christmas concert. Plus it was nice to go out and have the option of having a glass of wine with your meal. Morocco's reds sure are good. Unfortunately one of the 2 bottles I brought back in my luggage didn't make it - poor packing on my behalf meant that I ended up with some wine coloured things in my bag!

I also got to see my friends 3 month old baby for the first time, even babysitting him for a while. Luckily he didn't cry too much.

On the down side, the weather was colder and wetter than normal but it has made the countryside look great. Green crops and grass everywhere. Plus this combined with my wonderful coughing friends resulted in me getting a cold so wasn't great for a few days - no voice, a sore throat and a horrible cough. But it is mostly gone now although I think the Bangladeshi pollution is doing its best to bring on a recurrence!

I also got the opportunity to revisit some favourite haunts plus some new ones. There is so much to see and do in Morocco. Plus I got to try out my new digital SLR camera. I'll put some pictures of these places in some following posts.