Sunday, January 20, 2008

Some photos of Morocco

Some photos of Morocco, taken by Roberto Loi. We are too lazy, so no photos os Cipri or mine - yet. Hmmm, there are a few on my fotoblog.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Story from Morocco (1)

We were in this tent in the desert, chatting with the owner of the tent business, who seemed an wise and experienced man. The three of us listening carefully to everything he had to say, like three kids listing to grandpa's childhood stories.

Cipri: - so, were you already alive during Mohammed V's (*) reign?
The wizard (I can't remember his name, but it meant "life" in arabic): - No, I didn't see Mohammed V govern. Not even Hassan II. But I prefer Mohammed VI to all of them. He works very hard.
The wizard: - so any of you have children?
Us: - not yet. Too young.
The wizard: how old are you?
Chris & Cipri: 30
Roberto: 34.
The wizard: - 30!?!?!? I thought that you (me) were 20. And you (Roberto) 20. And you (Cipri) 22. You know, because of the beard.
Us: - how old are you?
The wizard: - 26.

(*) Mohammed V was Morocco's Sultan and King from 1927 to 1961, when he died. He was replaced by his son Hassan, who died in 1999. The actual king of Morocco is Mohammed VI, Hassan's son. His picture is all over Morocco like a popstar. Our trip was delayed in a few hours because the roads were closed to him.

Back to normality

Morocco was an interesting experience. Overall it was very good, but I have to say that I underestimate the cold (or was expecting to be as cold as Rio's winter). So many stories to tell that I don't even know where to start. Photos? When Roberto and Cipri send them, as my camera stopped working on the second or third day (and I am too lazy to download the few images I have).

So, a quick summary of the trip:

We were supposed to flight at 3 pm from London Gatwick to Marrakech (ishalá) with Atlas Blue, the budget arm of Royal Air Morroco, on the 23rd. The plane left Brimingham at 3 am on the 24th. Why Birmingham? Because apparently the plane couldn't land in Gatwick due to the bad weather (a common thing during Christmas) and had to be diverted to Birmingham. Then, they couldn't get authorization to go back to London. But until we find out what really happened we had to wait and wait and wait. The agents for Atlas Blue in Gatwick didn't have a clue of what was happening and they had to call Marrakech (?) to find out. One of the passengers managed to get in touch with Morocco and find out what had happened to our flight! To cut a long story short, they put us in coaches and we went to Birmingham to get our flight. End of story. Not. They managed to check us in (Cipri and I) in the wrong flight and we found out almost 2 am.

We arrived in Marrakech at 7 am. As you can predict, we weren't in the best of the moods. It didn't help the fact that the cash machine wasn't working and that all the taxi drivers in the world were waiting for us (tourists in general). A 10 minutes trip to the hotel cost 100 dihrams (approx. 10 euros). Looking like that is not that much, but if you think that with the real cost is less than 20, you can't help but feeling robbed! Whatever. We met Roberto, Mihai and Angelique in the afternoon and we visit the famous Djamaa El Fna square - as I read somewhere, a huge open space circus - where you can see the real Morocco. The first impression is shocking, but then you start enjoying. We also went to the souk (traditional market), the museum and the madrassa (Islam school). Not gonna go into details, otherwise I will rewrite the bible here.

After a couple of days in Marrakech (we spent Christmas there, but we didn't realize it), we took a train to Fes. 7 hours in a, hmmmm, not very luxurious train. Let's put it like that: comparing to it the train I get everyday to work is a TGV. But at least there were no goats, chickens, ... I managed to sleep a bit (I can sleep anywhere now) and we arrived in Fes on time for a very late lunch. I have to say that I liked Fes more than Marrakech. It's an organized mess, and people are less "agressive" when it comes to selling you things. And I also saw more interesting things to buy - but I didn't buy anything. We had very bad experience foodwise. Very expensive and not that good. Again the hotel wasn't a big deal, but the people were very friendly and the taxi drivers honest (i.e. using the meter).

Speaking about food, just a parenthesis: overall the food is not that impressive. We overdose of Tajine (some sort of stew made of chicken, beef, fish, quail, or even camel) and couscous and I guess I'm not having moroccan food in this life. In the middle of the trip we went very low and bought stocks of canned tuna and sardines to avoid the "traditional" dishes. On a more positve note, the orange juice was really special. They have orange trees everywhere and it is absolutely tasty! I would risk to say that the orange juice was even better than the ones I remember having in Brazil.

So, from Fes - where we visited a tannerie, (very bad smelling) place where they work the leather of cows, sheep and camels - we went to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Rabat is a big and modern (as modern as it gets) city, therefore with less say personality. Being an urban girl myself, I quite enjoyed. Also it's by the beach and the vision of the sea itself overwhelms me. But yeah as a traditional place is not a big deal. Funny enough, it was in Rabat that we saw a public religious manifestation. I'll explain. In my ignorance, I always imagined that during the prayer time, muslims would stop whatever they were doing and pray. As simple as that. It didn't happen in Marrakech and Fes. All the mosques have speakers outside, so the public can listen to the prayers - can you image the sound pollution of 20 mosques very close to each other screaming at the same time? - but outside the mosques nothing changes. Not in Rabat. There was this mosque near our hotel (there are mosques everywhere) and loads - I said loads - of people (men) with their praying carpet on their knees. In the middle of the street. The guys from the hotel were there. All the time men in their working suits were coming to pray. That was something that really impressed me and I had to stay there until it finished. Roberto took pictures (and with them, his ticket to hell), so I'll post them here when he send them.

From Rabat we went by train back to Marrakech to get a coach to Essouira. It was a Saturday, I guess, and it seems that everybody decided to travel (we weren't sure if they were going to spend the weekend somewhere else or if they were commuters going home for the weekend). The trains were packed and we couldn't find seats. We had to travel near the door and use our luggages as seats. If it wasn't for the five-hour trip, it would be fine. Anyway, there we were, chatting and laughing and cursing when all of a sudden BOOM! I thought the woman next to us had exploded but in fact it was the window next to us. It was a horrible glass rain all over us. Some kid threw a stone exactly where we were. Have you seen Babel? Instead of a bus a train. Instead of a bullet a stone. Fortunately, it didn't hit anybody and despite the shock, nobody got really hurt. Cipri and Roberto were a bit annoyed, but coming from Rio de Janeiro, I could only find it funny and add to my "story to tell my grandchildren" book.

Essouira is a lovely little place. Organized, clean, nice people. Again not very traditional. We stayed in a Riad (riads are highly recommened as opposed to hotels). The beach is not big deal if you compare to places like Brazil (hehe), Greece, Thailand, Australia... but as Roberto said Morocco is not a beach destination (although I read an article in EasyJet magazine... well, whatever). It was very interesting to see the kids playing football on the beach; it reminded me of Rio. *sigh* Some guys were even wearing the Brazilian team shirt. Cipri rode a horse (I so regreat not having my video camera to produce The Lonely Cowboy - the sequel), I got some sun, and we had one of the worse fish ever (as bad as in Rabat). The sunset was very nice and we have some nice pictures. Next time. Mihai and Angel met us there - they went to the mountains after Marrakech and we were supposed to meet in Agadir, the next destination) - and we went for a walk and we had a nice meal by the fish market. Then we went to Agadir, where we spent the New Year. Agadir is a no-go. A place for British and Nordic tourists that are looking for resorts where they can eat, eat, eat and stay by the pool. Boring to death.

From Agadir we took a car and went to the desert/mountains. It was an interesting experience. If you don't know (I didn't, until this trip), the morrocan people are formed by Arabs and Berbers. They've mixed, but you can see the difference when you go south towards the desert, where the Berbers are. Sorry if this sounds very amateur and non-journalistic at all, but I am too lazy to produce a decent text about Morrocan history and Arabs/Berbers dysnaties. Anyway, people from the desert are very very very nice people, friendly, helpful and less beggers than in the cities. I felt more comfortable there than in Marrakech. We decided to spend a night in the desert, sleeping in tents. Very interesting experience, but due to our ignorance, we didn't get the most of it. It would be nicer if we were a bigger group and if the wind wasn't so strong, but you can't always get what you want... Very interesting also are the houses and hotels, all build of mud. Apparently it keeps the inside cool in summer but doesn't freeze in winter. Oh, well, it wasn't as cold as in the north so we wouldn't be able to tell.

After the desert we headed back to Marrakech via the mountains, where I could play a bit with the snow (since this year we might not get even a hint in London - boring) and see some amazing views. Some of the mountains are red and the contrast with the white snow and green trees is so beautiful...

We arrived today and tomorrow I'm back to work. I could use a day off to rest, but again you can't always have...

I'll try to post pictures asap, because sometimes an image says more than 1,000 words. And if I remember, I will write down some highlights of the trip.


Oh, man, I thought that global warming was supposed to warm the world. I want 20°C not 5°C (which is already warm if compared to certain places in the world). Am I asking too much?