Monthly Archives: December 2013


It’s all about the ramparts.  The waves breaking on the rocks just beyond, the rows of sombre cannons facing the sea
P1010476(even if the only thing left to aim at is a stray seagull).
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The fabled isle of Mogador lies just offshore, amid the crashing waves, on the far side of the smaller Iles purpuraires (the purple islands): this one with the fort is Dzira Sghira; it was disarmed by the French when they bombarded the town in 1844.
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The Phoenicians established some trading posts on Mogador, or the iles purpuraires, back in 1100 BCE (Amazigh tribes had been fishing in the bay for a couple of thousand years before that).  In about 600 BCE, the Phoenicians established the settlement of Migdal, or watchtower, on the island now known as Mogador.  Then, in 500 BCE, Hanno the Carthaginian visited Mogador and established the trading post of Arambys.

Starting in 25 BCE and lasting until about 300 CE/AD, Juba II established a Tyrian purple factory, processing murex and purpurae shells found in the intertidal pools between Mogador and the mainland
into precious purple dyes used to color imperial Roman senatorial togas.  (Tyre is a city in Lebanon where these dyes were also produced.)  Tyrian purple was valued in part because the color was supposed to improve rather than fading with age.

Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans: oh my!

I want to go find a tidal pool, but this seems challenging.  In the meantime, James chooses a cannon, ready to repel an attack from the sea,

and we encounter our Ifrani friends, the Dye family.
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Jeremy, Zoe, and I climb the tower to peer down on things from above.  Beware incoming seagull!P1010600

The town was known as Mogador until Mohamed III had it rebuilt by French and Genoese architects and builders and renamed it Essaouira (little fortress souira, or well-drawn picture souera).  The name Mogador may come from Migdal, or from the saint Sidi Mogdoul whose shrine is here (he was reputedly a Scot–MacDougal–shipwrecked on the coast, and endowed with baraka).  The French changed the name back to Mogador, but independence brought a return to Essaouira.

Baraka Mohamed: maybe some of it will rub off on us.

Jem and Zoe pose in the circle close to the entry to the ramparts.P1010606 P1010608

But it looks a little different from the other side, in the evening light.

That’s one of the interesting things about Essaouira: it’s both a tourist center and (still) a fishing village, even though the fishing industry has suffered in recent years.

As tourists, we enjoy the wandering musicians (whose music Zoë hopes to share),
P1010614 P1010613and we go horseback riding on the beach in the afternoon.

I like talking with our guide, Brahim.  He sits on his horse so comfortably, kicking a leg over now and again: half the time, it looks  little like he’s lounging on a sofa.P1010621

“Were you a jockey?” I ask.  He’s got the physique and the professional comfort level.  Brahim nods.
“Did you get hurt?”  He nods again.  It’s a stupid question.  All jockeys get hurt.
“Break some bones?” Nod.  Enough already, Betsy.  It’s like picking at a scab–I can’t quite stop–but at least I can stop with the personal questions.Brahim
photo Zouina cheval

“Where is there racing in Morocco?”
Marrakesh, Rabat, Casablanca, Tangia: all the major cities.  The responsibility for organizing the year’s racing rotates among the cities, so each one takes a turn.  Ibrahim rode for an owner with a large stable–nine jockeys.  But then the owner married a French woman, moved to France, and sold all his horses.  Ibrahim was a little unsure what to do next.  He came to Essaouira to meet a friend at the Gnawa music festival–he’s also a musician, in his spare time–and he discovered Zouina Cheval was in need of a manager.  He and the boy leading Jeremy run the stable, just the two of them.  Ibrahim likes it better than being a jockey–likes talking with the tourists, meeting people from all over the world.  He has a wonderful face, with wise eyes.
brahim photo Zouina cheval
Brahim only worries when the riders are a mixed group, like us.  “Your son is doing well, but sometimes the children cry.  I worry they won’t be happy.”

We too were worried that Jeremy would be unhappy–but now I only worry for the young man leading Jeremy.  Jeremy is as happy as can be–and demanding as well.  “Vite! Vite!  Ma mère a dit wakha, c’est bon.”  Jeremy mingles French and Darija like a Moroccan.  “Fast, fast!  My mom said it’s ok, it’s good.”  The young trainer gets his boots splashed by a sudden wave, and runs up the sand.  Jeremy laughs and laughs: “Encore! Dans la mer! Encore!”  Again! In the sea! Again!
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Nancy and Jeff look very professional–Nancy says it’s her first time “running” a horse.  She did beautifully.

J and Zoë and I splash through the surf with Mogador in the background.  Visible on the island are the mosque and a women’s prison, now defunct, originally built by Moulay Abdelaziz in 1897 to lock up rebellious member of the Rhamnna tribe.

Here are two photos of the prison from (a great resource): first, “Berber prisoners” sent to this prison by Moulay Abdelaziz, 

and then a view of the four gates constituting the only way in or out of the prison.  island_prison_2_h300
The structure had no roof.  Prisoners evidently had to take the rain or sun as it came.

By contrast, this sunny, breezy afternoon on the beach feels like such a luxury–as indeed it is.  It turns out that we’re in Essaouira during the non-windy time: the wind blows constantly from April through September.  Brahim tells tall tales, of the village down the coast where every house has two doors.  All summer, the wind blows from the north and villagers use the southern door.  All winter, the wind blows from the south, and villagers use their northern doors.  (The town now hosts a wind farm, so there’s definitely an abundance of  wind.)

After our ride, we head back to Essaouira, which is gleaming in the evening light.  The juice sellers here decorate their stands with what strike me as orange “scalps” (sorry):
And the fishermen are hard at work, preparing their sun-bronzed boats for the next day or week or month:


À vendre: for sale.  Fishing boat, anyone?  Or shall we settle for supper in a bag on a bike?

At evening, the seafront is full of hidden corners,P1010709

And the sunset heightens the magic of the iles purpuraires:
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Christmas in Imlil and the mountains

Despite Jeremy’s worries, Santa managed to find his way to Imlil on Christmas eve.  Jeremy woke and was sad not to see any presents, but when he went back to the foot of his bed, he felt something that rustled! Like wrapping paper!  (Wrapping paper is not exactly prevalent in Morocco. Thanks, Jeff.)  And the definition of Christmas morning delight was that the whole bed was covered in wrapping paper–which we then popped into the fire at breakfast.  Best of all was the fact that Santa had brought Jeremy things his parents had refused to get him: a “magic” lipstick that starts out green and turns red, a toy that shoots up into the sky on a rubber band, and a variety of scarves.
Jeremy went to town with that magic lipstick.  Luckily, Zoe reminded us in the nick of time that the magic lipstick worked because it included henna, which might last significantly longer than 24 hours–we scrubbed his face, but his arms remained pink for several days.

The room came with some djellabas, presumably on loan against the cold (and it was cold!): we dressed up for a family Christmas photo:
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Zoë looked the best in her get-up, though:

After breakfast, we packed up, and then went out to the road, where a mule and muleteer were waiting for us.  Jeremy was very nervous about getting on the mule to start with, but soon he was having a blast:

And when Zoë’s asthma started to kick in up the steepest ascent, she caught a little ride too.  Think about Mary on that road to Jerusalem.  Or maybe not.  Peekaboo!

Family Christmas portrait number 2:
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The mountains were beautiful, and the mule meant that we were all having a great time on this hike.  Jeremy got to feel very independent and strong…
and we all enjoyed the cloud-scapes
P1010370the patchwork hills
P1010389the clever terracing of the hills and towns (OK, maybe that was just me enjoying it for all of us).

We had hoped to find deep snow here, to answer Zoë’s longings, but this was the closest we came, really.

The second half of the path led through a “forest” full of fruit and nut trees and carefully dug irrigation channels (I’ll spare you the details just this once).  I want to come back and see it all in blossom in the springtime (insh’allah).
We were sad when we reached the end of our trail, but at the same time, we were ready to get on the road to Essaouira, to meet up again with Jeff and Nancy.

Bonus point if you can find the goat below in less than five seconds:
They’re everywhere, really.  As are vibrant colors and designs.


James took a brave back road to Essaouira, taking us past another massive dam and reservoir
and along the side of this carefully cultivated wash, or dry river bed.  Farmers must have to brace themselves against the likelihood of disaster if the rains ever come in earnest.
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Ironically, the worst of the road was not the part marked as a possible piste through the mountains, but the heavily traveled road not quite wide enough for two cars.  Too many games of chicken were played that sunny afternoon.  At least the road was swept for us.


Marrakesh: a few architectural landmarks

The Almoravids founded Marrakesh in 1062 (four years before the Normans landed in Hastings, England), but the only architectural remains are this small shrine or Koubba (qubba), half hidden by the streets of the city rising up around it:

The shape of the crenellations can be found throughout the middle east and North Africa; their origins are lost in time.  Along with the keyhole arches, the dome, the decoration over the dome, these architectural details will carry forward into Andalucian architecture.

The Almohads, who succeeded the Almoravids, destroyed most of the city, including the mosque, the foundations of which were not properly aligned with Mecca.  But they rebuilt the Koutoubia mosque, with its fabulous minaret:

Towering above the medina, the Koutoubia minaret glows from dawn to dusk, orienting the entire city.

The Marinids were major builders in Marrakesh, looking back to the Almohads with their Medrasa Ben Youssef, a Quranic school attached to the Ben Youssef mosque.  P1010257
But the Saadians embellished on the Marinid work, both in redoing the Ben Youssef Medrasa and in creating the famous Saadian tombs.

We loved the Ben Youssef Medrasa.  I liked the way the zellij played with slightly different patterns than the ones we had seen in Fez and Meknes.
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The plasterwork also stood out, both for its coloration (reflecting the colors surrounding and defining the “Red City”) and for its more severely geometric patterns (at least in some parts).P1010281

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We wondered about the source of this cedar in Marrakesh:  was it brought all the way down from the cedar forests around Ifrane, or was there a closer source, in the High Atlas?

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The courtyard was peaceful, empty at certain moments, filled with quiet tourists pushing strollers at other moments.

But what we liked best were the student quarters, with all their corridors and quiet nooks.  P1010278 P1010272

The rooms were arranged around a number of separate courtyards, each with its own access to the sky, each with its own collection of resting birds (?) if you look closely enough…
P1010277 P1010263As with the Meknes Bou Inania, you could see that students would have been tightly packed into these rooms.
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But the living quarters were a little less dilapidated than those of the Bou Inania, and James with his public school (boarding school) background, said that he could feel the spirits of the boys who had lived here, looking on in bemusement as we (and thousands of other tourists) wandered through their haunts.

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At the other end of the medina, the Saadian Tombs, built by Ahmed Al-Mansur,  were famously walled up by Moulay Ismail.  Even now the entry is through a narrow corridor that Jeremy found a little spooky.  The gloomy grandeur of the Chamber of the three Niches is hard to capture in a photograph,P1010322

but I could have spent hours gazing at the ceiling alone:

The mausoleum for Al-Mansur’s mother is drenched in light and thus easier to grasp, somehow.
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My favorite detail: the carved wooden khatems high above one side entrance, almost lost in the honeycomb pattern defining the arch…
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It’s as if they’re floating in space.

Jump forward in time several hundred years to 1860, when the grand vizier Si Moussa began the Bahia Palace, further embellished by his son Abu “Bou” Ahmed.  Bou or Ba Ahmed was born to a slave woman, and he himself was dark-skinned, but he rose to become vizier or chamberlain to Hasan I, who succeeded in reunifying much of Morocco after years of disruption.  After Hasan’s death, Ba Ahmed arranged for his younger son Abd el-Aziz to become sultan; Ba Ahmed ruled for six years as regent until his death in 1900 (he’s believed to have been poisoned).  Various stories told in the Djemma el Fna tell of a black slave becoming sultan, presumably with the story of Ba Ahmed in mind.  During the Protectorate, Thamis el Glaoui occupied the Bahia palace.

The zellij at the Bahia palace is still interesting and intricate, as is the plaster…

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but the artwork I found most compelling was the zouaq, or the wood painting.  Some of this remains in older styles and colors, but the influence of European aesthetics begins to be seen in different color palettes:

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The ceilings in particular were mind-boggling in their detail and precision:

But the palace overall was defined by its age: an age of complex negotiations with European powers, as seen in this Europeanized aesthetic:

Marrakesh overload and the Rabia qdima

Marrakesh was predictably a little overwhelming for us–one result of which is a shortage of photographs.  But this one kind of captures our range of responses to the endless call to buy something:
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Zoë: I’m not even looking.
Betsy: Nice try.  I like the patter.
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Nancy: Did he just say what I thought he did?!
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The famous snakes of the Djema elFna made Jeremy nervous (and their handlers, demanding high payment for a 20-second pause while strolling) made his parents nervous.

We took refuge for a while in a café above the Rabia qdima, where the shops selling herbs and spices (and tourist trinkets) are complemented by stands of hats and gloves (and tourist trinkets) in the center of the square:

People-watching is always our favorite thing, anyway.
 P1010235Nancy bravely bought some things at one of the herb shops: was it the “Moroccan Chanel #5” (musk) or “Moroccan mothballs” or something else altogether?

But it took Jeffrey’s arrival to make us understand that Marrakesh is indeed a city for shoppers, and it embraces those who understand and embrace the delights of the urban market.

Centuries of olive oil

We had stopped by La clé de huile the afternoon we arrived in Ourika, but it was closed.  A housekeeper came out to tell us the boss was in Marrakesh but would be back tomorrow, so we said we’d come by about 10 a.m. We arrived to find the gate once again closed, but we banged on the door and eventually a man came out.  “No,” he said, “the museum is closed.” “Dommage,” said James: polite French for “Bummer.”  He points out, gently that we came yesterday and were told it would be open this morning. “Ah, oui,” says the man.  “Elle m’a dit.”  The housekeeper told me.  You can come in. He swung open the gates and let us in, not only to the museum, but to his day, a small slice of his life. We started in the museum, full of informative posters about the history of olive oil production, both in Morocco and around the world: P1010155 P1010159 There was also an old Roman-era grinding stone, P1010186 plus an example of an ancient oil press, with technology even more “beldi” or traditional than what we saw outside Demnate: P1010190 And here you can see a little more clearly the bags that are filled with crushed olives in order to be pressed: P1010187 The metal press (outside Demnate) certainly seemed easier and less dangerous to run! But the museum was just the beginning.  We went out into the olive grove, to see people harvesting the olives with a hydraulic rake: P1010191 The yellow battery pack will run for the best part of a day; the prongs of the rake swing back and forth, shaking olives out of the trees.  People on the ground gather up the fallen olives: P1010192 P1010197 Under trees that have already been harvested, a small group of women gather up individual olives, gleaning in a traditional way. P1010199 The workers are paid 20 dirhams–about $2.50–per container of olives.  This is a little over the odds: our host didn’t want any trouble or argumentation over hours or labor.  (Nancy points out that this is also more than the minimum cash wage for tip employees in the U.S.) Nancy asks about pests and spraying, and indeed the trees are sprayed twice a year, first to prevent the growth of a particular fungus, Verticillium wilt, and then to limit the attacks of the  olive fly. Abdelhaq manages La Clé des Huiles for a French patron: a lawyer who has been involved in politics on a national scale, associated somehow with a prominent lawyer who recently committed suicide.  The patron had originally planned a large retreat center, where everything would be available on-site.  There are separate houses and apartments dotted about the property, a swimming pool, a massive professional kitchen and dining hall.  The place is beautiful: as we walk around the property, we can imagine how fabulous it would be to stay here.  But everything is shut, in limbo.  The aging patron, focused on his own troubles in France, wanted to fire all the workmen in the middle of Ramadan two summers ago.  Abdelhaq told him he could not do that–it would be unethical.  He tried to broker an agreement by which the 18 workmen would each work one-third time for the month of Ramadan so that everyone could have at least enough to support their families, but the workmen refused and all went on strike together.  What a misery, to be attacked on all sides.  The owner has now passed decision-making power to his son, who wants to sell the property.  Our friend was hoping that a friend of this son would help him negotiate a means of taking the property forward. P1010203 After our tour, we pulled up chairs in the courtyard of the living and office space, moved the buckets of olives off the table, and feasted on mint tea, olives, beldi olive oil, and warm fresh bread. We tried to offer Abdelhaq at least the listed admission fee for the museum, but he would have none of it.  We asked to see his store, up on the main road, where we tried to buy enough products to compensate in some small way for the time he had spent with us–and he kept knocking down the price as a gesture of friendship.  He set us on the road again, loaded with special honey, preserves, limited edition olive oil–and a plastic water bottle filled with fresh beldi olive oil.  We think of Abdelhaq every day as we dip our crusty bread in that delicious, warming, filling fare. P1020308

Ourika and saffron

P1010138Driving the back road between Demnate and Ourika, we have these wonderful views of snow dusting the high Atlas, with green fields and harvested fields alternating below.

The main road of Ourika is a bit of a come down: it feels a little like an American strip mall, with hotels, restaurants, shops and workshops all stretched unendingly along the road.  It’s hard to see how a saffron growing center or an olive oil museum would fit in here.

In fact, the saffron center is about a kilometer down a side road, with another turning off that road.  Suddenly we’re pulling up in front of a gate that seems to have no space for visitors.  We park and open the gate and find ourselves in something like a secret garden.

December is high tangerine season, and these trees are loaded with fruit.  The evening sun picks out each “golden apple of the sun,” supposedly the fruit of Hesperides’ mythical garden.

Pathways lined with rosemary or lavender keep the evening air sweet, and provide a secondary harvest, with herbs drying on racks behind the main display center.

James, resister of goats, is the first to spot this small herd on the other side of the path:
P1010144 P1010148More permaculture! Multiple layers of productivity, with livestock integrated into the growing cycle: eating pruned tree branches, contributing manure to the fields.

But we are here to see the saffron: first the small display fields at the front:

Not much to look at now, but imagine this field in early fall, with the saffron in flower:

 (web catch of a field in Taliouine, Morocco)

Even near the children’s school, October crocuses spring up in the fall:

The owner of this land is a medical man based in Casablanca, who has managed to grow truffles on about ten acres outside Immouzer Kandahar, near Ifrane.  Mohamed Amine manages this property for him, and has a part to play in the truffle farming as well.  We hope to meet up with him in Ifrane or Immouzer sometime this winter.P1010150

In the meantime, Nancy is going to try growing saffron in her garden in southern California, so Amine digs up a few bulbs to send home with her.  (Will they get past the airport sniffer dogs?)


Around Demnate

After our pottery mudslide and olive press visit, we made our way to Demnate, where we wanted to explore the Mellah, the historical Jewish section of the town.

Storks on top of the minaret at the central mosque in Demnate

The first Mellah to be established was in Fez, when a Marinid sultan persuaded the Jews living scattered through the old medina to move close to the royal palace.  (Many a Moroccan sultan saw himself as a protector of the Jews, those handy artisans and financiers.)  The word Mellah evidently came from the word for salt, milha: the Mellah was the place of salt, the place where salt-traders gathered, the place where the salt-trade was financed and organized and run.

Demnate historically had a large Jewish population; we had hoped to take a tour of the Mellah with a guide specializing in this history, but he was in Agadir for the few days of our visit.  We stopped by the veteran’s center, on the edge of the Mellah, to see if anyone there would talk to us a little about history, but everyone was deep into a game of backgammon or cards, so we wandered off on our own, dropping into a courtyard near the entrance.

This was something like a tailor’s souq, with many small shops braiding djellaba trim and sewing it onto djellabas.

One older man here knew a little about the Jewish community.  There was only one well-known Jew remaining–a cantor.  (Nancy was delighted to recognize the Arabic word by its resemblance to Hebrew.)  Everyone else had left for Israel, as Jews across Morocco had emigrated en masse within a brief span of time.

While James and Nancy chatted with the men surrounding this djellaba shop, Jeremy was making friends.  One man in the center of the courtyard let him run the braiding machine for a moment–
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–he didn’t even mind when Jeremy ran it backward by accident.  Another man hunted around in his shop for a present for our boy, finally emerging with an onion!

After a wander around the town, ducking in and out of bright sun, and dodging through dark and chilly corridors, we headed out of town again, looking for the Imni n’Ifri cave or bridge or geological formation.  We didn’t really know what we were looking for, but the guidebook said it was worth a stop.

In the end, it was both a cave and a bridge, with an interesting geological formation taking shape under the natural bridge.  Guides wanted to be paid to lead us through, so (as at the Cascades), they showed us the least appealing, apparently most difficult approach first.  We declined their help, thinking we might just walk down the easy steps on the other side, and look at the passage from the bottom.  One of the guides followed us down and again offered his help.  “We’d rather do it ourselves, thank you.”

In fact, James and I were the ones who really wanted to keep going, so Nancy volunteered to stay behind with the children.  At which point, Zoe, with a maturity beyond her years, noted that while she didn’t want to go, she would be mad at herself later for missing something interesting.  Of course then Jeremy was unwilling to be left behind.  So we all girded our metaphoric loins–prepared for wet feet–and kept going.
P1010118We were so glad we did!  The “map of Africa” is the formation’s claim to fame, P1010128

but we were most taken with the structure of the walls,

the water misting down in a beading curtain, capturing the light.
It was a magical space–these photos don’t really do it justice.



Beldi (traditional) olive oil

P1010086 P1010088After a delicious breakfast in beautiful surroundings, we set off in the car to try to visit a traditional pottery village outside of Demnate.  Our host gave us directions and told us the road was a dirt piste, but in good condition: it should be fine.  Unfortunately, despite the fact that the day was sunny and the weather had been dry, the road was a massive mud slick.  James drove us part way through, fishtailing wildly, and then paused in a relatively dry spot, and ran a way further down the road to see if the village was in easy walking distance.  No joy.  We decided discretion was definitely the better part of valor here, and we turned back.

On our way back to the main road, we passed something that looked like a mechanics’ shop, but I noticed people bringing large bags of olives, loaded on donkeys, to the door.  “Hey, is that an olive press?” I asked.  James stopped the car, we all climbed out, and Mohamed, who was running the press, very kindly let us look around.

P1010089First, the olives are poured into this big stone bowl to be crushed, pits and all, by the millstone moved by the donkey in the corner.

Then the crushed olives are packed into burlap bags, round and flat, and stacked into a traditional press.

What looks like a rope wound in coils under a vise are actually some 25 of these burlap bags, full of olives, with the juice trickling out of the sides of the bags.  If you look closely, you can see it.
P1010093I thought of Keats’s Autumn, “watching the last oozings.”

The oil collects in the bottom of the press and then goes through a channel under the floor to be bottled outside the building.  Mohamed shows us a kind of solid surface to the oil, but I can’t follow what he’s trying to tell us as he reaches in, grabs a handful, and squeezes the oil out of it.P1010092After we get home, Fatima explains to me that the solids of “beldi” olive oil are wonderful for your health.  Just as a spoonful of honey in hot water each day is guaranteed to keep us healthy, so drinking a spoonful of beldi olive oil each morning will do wonders for us.

Outside the press, there’s a slag heap of the olive residue, left over from the pressing.  Traditionally, this material is burnt, either to heat pottery kilns or occasionally to heat hammams and bakeries.

P1010099In a traditional way of life, nothing is wasted.

There’s an Arabic or Moroccan proverb which states: “There is something good in every delay.”   I can’t always agree, but surely we would never have stopped here if we had not had to turn back from our pottery adventure.  Serendipity intensifies the pleasure of discovery.





Driving south by the Cascades d’Ouzoud

My friend Nancy came to see us for the midwinter holiday, and after learning to make a traditional Moroccan bean soup (secrets: buckets of garlic plus paprika to keep the beans from clogging the pressure cooker),

we drove six or seven hours south to Demnate, stopping at the Cascades d’Ouzoud on the way.
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We were amazed by the massive water pipe snaking down the mountains near Beni Mellal,
by the fertile plains it irrigated,

and by the river and dam that fed it:
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I want to be a bee-keeper right here:

We were weary by the time we got to the Cascades d’Ouzoud.  It was cold and the insistence of the guides wanting to give us a tour made us a little cranky.  But the falls were beautiful.  We thought the rainbow appeared specially for us, but it’s actually a reliable feature of the cascade.P1010030

The intrepid father-son team went all the way to the bottom of the falls and we met them coming up on the other, calmer, less touristy side.
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Then James climbed out into the middle of the falls to take this kind of photo from “a perfectly safe place.”  All I can say is, it didn’t look that safe from where we were standing.

Then we jumped back into the car to drive another hour to our eco-farm hotel in the hills above Demnate.  The rolling hills were beautiful in the early evening.

After we dropped our bags in our rooms, as Zoe and Nancy settled themselves in, Jeremy and I went to explore the farm and James came along to play with his new camera.
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I love my boys, both big and small.
One of the many facets of happiness.

Dropping into the Fez medina

One of the wonderful things about living in Ifrane is how easy it is to drop into Fez for the day.  The road down the mountain is often slow and crowded, but on our way we like to pass the stored onions
and the drying olives of early December.
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Roughly an hour later, we’ve arrived.  One of these days, I’m going to go around the city and visit each one of the many many gates.  But today, we’re just starting off at Bab Boujeloud:

Yes, that’s close to the camel meat souk.  Friends tell me camel meat is really quite tasty.
But I’d rather ride a camel than eat one, personally.

Someday, I’d like to learn more about how the waterclock by the Bou Inania was supposed to work, but today, we drift on past, focused on colors and scents (and grabbing a bag of pricey almonds to nibble as we go).

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Today’s great treat is the honey souq, with over a dozen varieties of honey: some of our favorites were lavendar, rosemary, and thyme.  Carob honey is supposed to lower cholesterol, forb honey (from the cactus that looks like little fingers) is supposed to be good for the lungs.  There’s jasmine, date, fig, cedar, even cumin honey.
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Our chosen honeys are weighed and packaged for us.  Note all the different colors of honey.

Our (new) friend is named Nouredine or “the light of faith;” he has a family tree stretching from Adam to Mohammed above the door to the honey storeroom. SONY DSC
(Special figures appear as green rounds on a date palm: Adam, Idriss (?), Noah, Abraham (with offshoots of Isaac, Israel, etc.), up to Mohammed.  Nouredine is a wholesaler: he works with a number of other men who purchase honey from different sources around the country.  Mostly, he sells to bakers who might use the honey to create a particular kind of wedding cake or other sweet treat.  His honey is carefully monitored by the state: he has to have it tested to confirm the purity, in contrast to the sugar water sold as honey by the roadsides on the way to Ifrane and elsewhere.

Powered by a massive honey buzz, we continue down the Talaa Kbira, the main street of the old medina.  James particularly likes this view of the Qaraouyine minaret:


I think it’s the combination of the soaring minaret, the building supports below, and the donkeys on the ground.
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We also like the fact that so many of the Fez mosques are still such active spaces, so much a part of the community:


Nearby, a woman carries bread to be baked at a public bakery:

And djellaba makers are busy braiding trim:

In his workshop, a little off the beaten track, a man is painting a door in the time-honored traditions of zouaq, but with bright modern paints:
P1000968 P1000969In Morocco, of course, a teapot is never very far away.

In the Seffarine square, brassmakers are polishing their wares
while another man peddles poultry.  Chicken for dinner, anyone?

After lunch at a small family restaurant, we visit the Nejjarine fundouq, with its fabulous collection of craft artifacts (no photos permitted), and we climb to the rooftop café for a view down into the street,

across the domed roof of a local bakery/hammam (the two neighborhood institutions are usually built together to share their heating),

over the populated rooftops,

and finally over the hills to the Merenid tombs:

And then it’s time to be on our way home to the Ifrani sunset.