May 16, 2013 GMT
Meknes a real gem
When we drove into Meknes for the first time we did not notice what a gem this place actually is as all we wanted was getting to Marrakech as quick as possible
Its one of the places I would definitely visit again
On the way back we unexpectedly had to extend our stay because Harry was not feeling well .
He was feeling fine when walked up to the medina on the evening we arrived and but we think there was something in the salad that did not agree with him.
Meknes was once the capital of Morocco under the reign the mighty Moulay Ismail in the 17th/ 18th century.
He built the impressive gate Bab Mansour, that leads into the medina with the palace and his mausoleum
Sadly, the palace and mausoleum of the Moulay were closed that day, so I decided to head for the Place
el Hedim and visit the palace Dar Jamai
The place much smaller than the Djama el Fna in Marrakech but full of life and cafes were you can relax and watch the world go by
There are all the gates that lead into the souks and unlike the markets in Marrakech there were almost no Europeans wandering around
The atmosphere is more relaxed and when we sat there the night before the local kids were brought there by the parent for a ride on the donkeys , ponies or a spin in little electric cars .
I dived right into the souks and a wold of colour,, the smell of spices, sweets, secret beauty potions and
food from all corners of the country open up in front of me .
Fresh dates, dried apricots, figs lemon and , almonds ,large varieties of nuts, spice, herbs and huile d’Argan were sold in the lane with olives, pickled lemon and fresh herbs.
Butchers selling fresh cuts of lamb and goat, fish mongers and the chicken were still alive when they were sold.
But what really caught my attention was the large selection of sweets and pastry, I have never seen such a large amount of little artfully decorated pastry, petit fours.
I treated myself with a small selection of sweets and when I finally eat them they tasted delicious.
It was time for a break and nothing tasts bettter than 2 glases of delicious fresh orange juis, the best in the world, and a salad before I decided to visit the Palace Dar Jamai
It was built in 1882 as the residence of the illustrious Jamai family, which included two of Moulay el-Hassan's ministers. Later it was as a military hospital after 1912 and was converted to The Museum of Moroccan Art in 1920.
The museum retains the rich traditional decor of painted wood and sculpted plaster and features an exquisite Andalusian garden similar to the Badi Palace in Marrakech .. The museum is devoted to the arts and crafts of the region, including wrought ironwork, wood carving, weaving, leather-work, brass and copper-
smithing, and other metalwork.
And like many other museums and sites in Morocco you can walk around freely .The infrastructure is simple and works well. No shop selling merchandising, no coffee shop. You can always hire a guide if you want some detailed information and there is loads of cafes and shops outside in the nearby souks.
I could not see any expensive surveillance camreas and I noticed no graffiti or other traces left behind by visitors.
In many places we visited it seems that vandalism is not common in Morocco
Things like public parks or place might need some maintenance, might look a bit shabby , but you would not see deliberately damaged park benches, bins set on fire or littering.
Posted by Barbara Halter at 05:02 PM
April 30, 2013 GMT
The Todra gorge
When it got time to head north again towards the Atlas mountain we had the option to visit the Dades- or the Todra gorge
But due to the delay cause by my bike breakdown we choose the Todra gorge
Thursday evenings are always busy in Moroccan towns, Friday is there day of rest( like Sunday in Europe) and most men head to the mosque for there evening prayer.
The roads in Tinghir were crowded and we just got to an ATM and then out of town towards the gorge. It gets dark very quickly in North Africa, time is 2hours behind Ireland.
So we decided to head for the nearest hotel we found on the sat nav we saw the very inviting Kasba Amazir, right beside the Todra river An oasis of peace, with a lush garden, pool and as usual tbey served the traditional very delicious evening meal
I never thought that my henna tattoe would be the key to so many friendly conversations with local people. Oh, you're hands look nice , were did youget this done.? Everybody in the hotel noticed it and in shops and restaurants I had a chat here and there , it seems that not many visitors get have the honour of getting a real berber tattooe
The next morning we had you breakfast in the garden where the birds gave us an concert
It was time to checke the bikes and the hotel manager came out for a chat, people are very relaxed in this part of Morocco,
they also share all the tasks in the Kasba hotels, many of tbem have only a few rooms and not a lot of staff
Cooking, serving food and cleaning is all done mostly by men, woman work mainly in tbe background and not directly with the guests.
The Bikes and finally ready we drove in to the Todra gorge and the narrow road was busy with cars, buses and 4x4s. The shallow river attracts not only visitors but also the local woman who come there to wash there clothes and carpets in the water.
Posted by Barbara Halter at 07:51 AM
April 27, 2013 GMT
The road to Zagora
I'm sure many have seen a picture of the sign that says "Timbouctou 52 jours"
You find it in the town of Zagora .
For centurys the caravans started there journey across the sahara desert from here and the town was an impotant centre of trade It is mainly occupied by berbers and you can feel there is a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere than north of the Atlas mountains.
The town is very modern and a park with an arena, kids playground and a big pond with geese and ducks has just been opened and invites for a stroll in the evening Zagora is built along the Draa river and on the way from Ouarzazate along the valley you can see one Kasba after another
A stretch of palm trees about 1mile wide grows all the way along the riverbed likea big carpet.
We decided to leave the main road and try a dirt track that leads along the river. It was merely wide enough for the bikes but to small for cars
We got on very well at the start,the track ran smoothly though small towns and along palm trees, we stopped for some water and people came walking along to see the u usual visitors.
And man invited us even to have tee in his garden
But we were on a mission to get south so we kept going and the track started to get twisty
Soon the smoth hard surface turned into big loose bits of gravel and we had a few brown trouser moments before we reached the to of the hill.
We were later told that this track is usually done on smaller lighter bikes, not heavy ones like ours. The local berbers, of course drive two up on there small 50cc mobilettes and even overtook us
Or they use donkeys as they do forthe last 2000 years.
Well ,we did fine and after a rest by the river it got easier again and we decided to get back to the main road
After this we needed a rest and spent an extra day at the pool in the lovely Fibule du Deaa hotel
Posted by Barbara Halter at 07:36 AM
April 20, 2013 GMT
Miracles happen !!
While I'm typing this I sit in the house of the beber family of Mohamed surrounded by his family and enjoy hospitality as I never did before and it started with a bike break down in the middle of nowhere......
After a relxing restday in La Fibule du Draa Zagora we had an early start and headen first for a quick visit to the sand dunes near Tinfou
A small strech of Sand dunes on the road to Mhamid, just about 100km from the Algerian border. We took some pictures with Camels included and then we took a new piste north to Tazerin
Fantastic scenerie, no traffic a bit like a moon landscapeand now and then some bushes and all went smooth until disaster struck;
After a water stop the bike started normally and out of a sudden all lights started flashing and then the bike went dead. Battery was okay but as soon as we hit the start button all went dead again We checked all the electrics , the side stand switch .....still nothing.
The sun was burning as out of nowhere a few kids appeared with a bowl of couscous Hospitality Morocccan style, I dug out some soap books and sweets and they were happy But me and the bike were not, Harry tried everything and still nothing changed.
Towing was next, and we even got an escort from some locals until we hit the tarmac. Another 50 miles to go and it started to get dark we stopped as a guy on a motorcycle stopped and said he would know a mechanic that can fix the bike
He invited us into his house and Mohamed' s Mother took care of me and made me sit outside the house and drink sweet and hot tea.,everybody sat along the outside wall relaxing in the warm evening air.
Harry took off with Mohamed to get his friend the mechanic.
The whole neighbourhood came to say hello to the crazy woman from Ireland who came all the way on a big bike.
Mohamed and Harry finally returned after an hour with the mechanic, after crashing three times... off piste... in soft sand ... in the pitch dark ... breaking the bikes screen, luckily that was all that was broken.
After checking all the electrics the culprit was found, the side stand switch was faulty, and the battery that I was told is okay by bmw motorrad in dublin, was also faulty, bummer!
I was not allowed to work on the bike , thats a man's thing I was told. I got a scrub in a mini hammam and though we did not speak the same language we understood each other.
There were woman , children, men all enjoying the evening and when the muezzin called for the evening prayer the older men rolled out there carpets facing east,
The rooms in the house have little furniture ,carpets are rolled out and pillow spread out Little tables are used for the food and man and woman eat in seperate places after the Mohamed's father as the head of the house had his dinner Couscous with vegetable and chicken and as dessert fresh oranges and bananas
When we had all finishes the meal Aisha, the youngest sister of Mohamed went around with a washing bowl and soap so everybody could wash there hands
Then it was bed time ,carpets and blankets were rolled out.... The family slept out sider in the courtyard and we were offered to sleep in the front room. The girls would not let me go to sleep before they covered the palms of my hands withe henna and then they were stuffes into plastic bags for the night.........
Sleeping on the floor on carpets was more comfortable than we thought and it was so quiet and you could here only the sound of insects and crickets
The next morning we got up early and berber breakfast was served. Mint tea,flat bread with a filling of cooked onions that they dip in oil when they eat it and a large dish of noodles.
With renewed energy Harry and Mohamed groved once more to the next town to get a new battery. They returned quiet quickly with a brand new gel battery. 300 dirhams ,about 30 Euros was the price for it and it is as good as any ones they sell in Europe for more than 100 Euros
As they went on to fit the battery the mechanic arrived again ,much to our surprise and one..
two....three they bike was running smoothly again
He was delighted when we sent him off for a test ride
While the lads worked on the bike I sat with the woman and children and more neighbours arrived to say hello .
The tv in the back played some moroccan soap, a mixture of Indian drama and Coronaition street. The woman do not understand why I dont have children, for the berbers the family is the most valued asset and to have 4-5 children is normal and they said I could have one or two o f theres.
While Mohamed's oldest son Yussuf went off to school ,Ibrahim and baby Sidi played with the few toys they have .Self made things like a some ribbon with a stick tied to one end and an empty PET bottle to the other and a cuddly toy that looked like a dog, I haven't seen any happier children, they get so much love and attention.,amazing..
The town Ait Izzou was also part of a very old ksar or castle and some of the buildings including the remains of a hamam, a public bath, are still in good condition. Aisha and her witty little friend Miriam gave me a private tour through narrow alleys and into courtyards. Some parts that are still used as stables for goats and sheep or storing goods
The family has a small garden in the courtyard where they grow some vegetables and herbs.
it is amazing what can be done on smallest patch of land
Time passed so fast and Yussuf was back from school just as it was time for lunch A delicious tagine, bread and fruit,magic We haven' t experienced so much hospitality in a while It soon was time to pack the bikes and get back on the road towards Tazerine.
The whole family came to say goodbye and wish us luck for the journey I was sad to leave and hope I have the chance to return.....
Posted by Barbara Halter at 08:36 PM
April 16, 2013 GMT
It' s too hot for a lot of writing , so a full report will follow soon We are in Zagora andit is 36º C in the shade ....
So here a few pictures insteadf
Posted by Barbara Halter at 10:24 PM