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Morocco 2011
By Kirstine Mackay
We met everyone at Heathrow Airport, Jo, Stephen, Peter, David, Graham, Martina, Jacintha, Martin, and John & Kirstine. Soon we were on the way to Casablanca. We arrived, collected our luggage and got through customs with little trouble, however we were wondering about Moroccan hospitality! We then made our way by bus to our lovely hotel and soon became impressed all though there seemed to be a few translation problems when ordering lunch. However after a while we all got our very Moroccan lunch of Pizza! We then retired to our rooms to unpack and rest, as it had been an early start! Later that afternoon we went for a walk and found a restaurant for dinner.

Morocco 2011Morocco 2011Wednesday
This morning we woke up to beautiful sunshine. After breakfast we went to see the beautiful Hassan II Mosque. It was very impressive and we were privileged to be shown round. We then walked along the beach front & had drinks in a cafe. Then our tour of Casablanca took us the beautiful gardens of Place Mohammed V, Cathedral du Sacre Coeur, the Grand Mosque, Clock Tower & the impressive Marrakech Bab (which means gate) to the Old Medina.

This morning we took the train to Rabat. After checking into our hotel, we walked to Kashbah des Oudaias which is the site of the original Rabat. The main gate, Bab Oudaia is Almohad like so many of Morocco’s great monuments. It was built around 1195. Kirstine expertly navigated our way through the Kasbah with its tiny streets and out the other side to the beach. After a well earned drink in the cafe we sunbathed on the beach while David frolicked in the sea, joined at various times by Jo, Peter, and Martin (who took an unexpected dip helped by a rather large wave!) Stephen, Martina & Graham also joined in the fun. Every now & again the waves would increase & we watched the surfers. In front of us a group of young men set up an impromptu game of football. After expertly making our way back through the very busy Medina streets where people sold everything from old electrical goods (not sure they still had the guarantee or even worked!!) to brand new washing machines, scarf’s & leather goods. Jo who had a talent for spotting postcards at 100 yards, found every stall that sold them! People bought a collection of paintings, key rings, jewellery, t-shirts & Jo added to her collection of fridge magnets and Martina her bracelets! We had a lovely dinner next to the hotel where some people tried the couscous or Tagines.

Morocco 2011Friday
Unbelievable we woke up to rain!! We walked in the opposite direction to see the Bab er Rouah which was almost as impressive as the Oudaia Gate. We walked along by the Palace to the Grand Mosque. Just behind was the archaeological museum which we looked round. It had an impressive collection of roman era bronze, which was found mainly at Volulilis and some pieces in Challah. There were also some Morocco 2011impressive statues of Cato the Younger & Juba II. In the afternoon we visited Chellah reputed to be the most beautiful of Moroccan ruins. It was certainly an impressive & beautiful site as we approached the gate & walls. No one has lived there since 1154 when the people moved to Sale. Before then it was a busy city with a port and one of the last cities to cut its ties with the Roman Empire. It was the first city to proclaim Moulay Idriss founder of Moroccos original Arab dynasty. The ruins also contained the mosque of Abou Youssef, and his tomb. Abou Youssef was the 2nd Sultan who married an English lady who converted to Islam her name was Shams Ed Douna. There were over 600 storks’ nests in the grounds. We went to the spring pool which is held sacred and women come to feed the eels with hard boiled eggs to help with fertility, all the girls were forbidden to feed the eels!!!!! Although Graham gave them some egg!

Morocco 2011Saturday
We set off after breakfast on our next train journey to Meknes, we arrived by taxi in the main square of the Medina and took our suitcases through the narrow cobbled streets to a big door to our Riad. Once inside we received a very warm welcome from our hosts and were given some traditional mint tea. The Riad was simply beautiful with little terraces on the roof top where we could sit & relax. We ate our picnic lunch in the little court yard outside Kirstine, John and Martins rooms. Some of us explored the Souks and Kirstine, Jo & Martina went to the Hammam for the traditional Moroccan bath!

Morocco 2011Sunday
After a relaxing Moroccan breakfast we sunbathed on the terraces and relaxed in the beautiful surroundings. We went to Dar Jamai Museum which was originally a palace built in 1882 and is possibly one of the best museums in Morocco which houses beautiful examples of Meknes pottery, jewellery and carpets. Without all the artefacts the building itself was well worth the visit with the gorgeous upper floor reception rooms with the intricate wood carving on the ceiling. We had a leisurely late lunch in the Place el Hedim and explored the souks buying bargains! That evening we returned to the square for dinner and watched the hustle & bustle of life which included a fire eater & musicians.

Morocco 2011Monday
Everyone was sad to leave the Riad including the staff at the Riad who had made us feel so welcome. But it was time to get our bus to Moulay Idriss. We arrived in the small town which takes its name from its founder, Morocco 2011Morocco's most admired saint. He brought Islam to Morocco. His tomb is in the heart of the town which gives the town its sacred status, a trip here is worth a fifth of the hajj to Mecca. However non-Muslims are barred from the shrines. We did get as close as we could. We had a guide who walked us up the hill (we all need to go back to the gym!) When we eventually arrived at the top we were all glad we had made to journey as the view was well worth it. After we left Moulay Idriss we headed to Volubilis which is an old Roman City. It was the Roman Empires most remote base; the Romans were here for over 2 centuries. We had a guide to walk us round and show us the public baths, Basilicca and the various houses named after the impressive mosaics. We walked up Decumanus Maximus which was the main street where all the shops would have been. We then moved onto Fez and our hotel.

Morocco 2011Tuesday
We spent the morning recharging our batteries by the pool of a local hotel. After Lunch Kirstine arranged our tour guide to give us a walking tour of Fez. Fez was founded by Moulay Idriss but developed into a city by his son Idriss II. Our guide took us to a traditional weavers place. They explained how the looms worked and we had a demonstration. They Morocco 2011then all kitted us out with the traditional scarf for a picture. From there we moved on to the metal area where the men made all sort of pots by hand. It was very noisy but impressive. We then moved on to the tanneries, as we walked in we were handed some mint. It soon became obvious what this was for, the smell was something else! We looked down at the most striking sight in the medina. Hundreds of skins are spread out on the rooftops to dry having been through the process of soaking in pigeon poo to loosen the fur, after it has been removed the skins are then dyed. They use turmeric for yellow; poppy for red, indigo for blue, mint for green and antimony for black. Little has changed to the process since the 1600s. It was certainly very impressive. Our guide took us to see the oldest university in Morocco, the water clock, the library (a very impressive building with huge doors, Kairaouine Mosque and the tomb of Moulay Idriss II. We had walked our socks off by the end of the day but everyone agreed it was worth it and our guide was very knowledgeable and informative.

Morocco 2011Wednesday
This morning we got up not really looking forward to our 8 hour train journey to Marrakech but it actually went very quickly. We arrived at the train station and were happy to see that we had cabins like the Hogwarts Express. Most people caught up on some much needed sleep, this sightseeing is very tiring! When we arrived in Marrakech we got out of the train and were amazed by the heat, it was a lot warmer than everywhere else we had been. We transferred to our hotel which had a traditional Moroccan feel. That evening we had dinner on the roof top terrace and then headed out to Djemaa el Fna, the world’s most amazing city square. An open air circus of snake charmers, fire-eaters, acrobats and musicians, which was quite an experience. There were hundreds of stalls selling things from clothes, traditional Moroccan Morocco 2011products, freshly squeezed orange juice and food such as dried figs and almonds.

The next morning everyone voted to take a tour of Marrakech in a horse drawn cart. So we set off for our 2 hour tour. Luckily we had the covers up as the sun was very hot. For some reason our guides thought we would like to see the lovely hotels that were out of our pockets! We were all impressed at how clean Marrakech was especially in comparison to the other cities we had visited. We saw the royal palace, Ben Youssef Mosque and through the Medina with all the wonderful stalls. Morocco 2011Our trip was far too quick and we were amazed to return back to the hotel and find we had been out for 2 hours. For lunch we headed to the Djemaa El Fna. It was then time to get those gifts we were after. We walked round the stalls selecting our goods and bartering for a better price. Graham spotted a monkey so we went over but the monkey did not seem to be too friendly! David managed to get a sneaky picture of it. When we had shopped till we dropped we headed back to the hotel but stopped and had ice cream sundaes on the way.

Today we said goodbye to Morocco and flew back to London. We were all exhausted but agreed that we had a truly amazing trip.