The Volubilis Visitor Center was designed to leave a minimal imprint on visitors to the Roman ruins and UNESCO World Heritage site. The new buildings fold themselves into the hills and the ruins take center stage.
The project was completed by Kilo Architecture. I appreciate the intention of clean, considerate, and lovely architecture. If I were in Morocco, I would go to Volubilis to see the new as well as the old.
My mother in law is a helpful person, which is to say that she isn’t very good with people. She full of information on the right way of doing things; the right way to eat, the right way to clean, the right way to pray. She is there to remind you to turn off the light, air the bed linens, and say “Bismillah” before eating and “Hamdullah” after burping. Her knowledge of Islamic practices and Moroccan superstitions is vast, which is to say that she doesn’t know or care much about what people want to hear. She is the harbinger of “hashuma.” More
People smile at me as I walk with my daughter through the medina, my thumb and index finger wrapped around her billowy wrist. These standing witnesses seem like the collective soul of the world, yawning, like a baby awakened with a gentle rub on the back. When my daughter and I are together playful and chatty, we become a catalyst that causes a deep, dear memory to show itself as a smile on the face of strangers. This floating memory is so primal that it cannot enter the conscious mind as a coherent thought. Instead, it enters the semi-toothless mouth of a fruit seller who, in broken English, asks my daughter if she wants some melon. More
There was a group of Americans at the tapas reastaurant where we I ate with two girl friends on a Saturday night. I had grown accustomed to not hearing my native language around me and gravitated towards their words. I knew they must be part of an organized group, perhaps a conference or fellowship of some sort. On my way back from the bathroom and after a second bottle of wine, I stopped by their table to ask. More
If you are lucky enough to travel to Morocco, don’t miss a visit to Chefchaouen. It isn’t an easy spot to travel to – there are no trains – but it is well worth the effort. When I think back on last summer in Morocco, I miss Chefchaouen the most. More
Up river some boys rinsed gold tea pots with an acid finish. Down river, a group of men pound animal skins in the water. The river that runs through Fes serves many purposes. None smell or look particularly beautiful.
Magharebia.com wrote an article on Morocco’s efforts to promote rural tourism. The article fails to mention USAID-funded efforts to identify and establish Moroccan rural tourism projects. The report which was completed by Chemonics for USAID has some lovely photos.
Now that I am safely at home I can confess that I locked my keys in the car at Chellah. And my cellphone. And my wallet. I had my camera bag with me which held a few dirhams, and my three year old daughter, who was wilting under the midday sun hovering a few thin inches above our heads. I had memorized only one local phone number, which rang a house where no one was home. This is the kind of moment that tests Moroccan hospitality.
In the medina of Chefchaoen there is a tiny shop where a happy guy knits the night away making funky hats, scarves, legwarmers and more. Tiny rainbow hats with animal ears for kids are particularly cute. This past December, I left with a hat and scarf to provide warmth in the mountain town’s cold night. I thought it was a steal compared to what I’d pay for similar set at Urban Outfitters or the like.
Chefchaouen is cool even when its 110 degrees outside ; think dreadlocks mixing with laid-back mowhawks. Walking through the medina, residents greet me with a friendly “Hola,” “Bonjour” or “Hello.” They ask me for nothing as I walk the medina alone, except perhaps a visit to their store or restaurant. This must be the friendliest city in Morroco.
I wish I knew about this the day I got to Morocco. Wireless, pay-as-you-go internet. Life is good.
After hanging out at hotels and hanging out of windows trying to pick up a wifi signal, I went to the Wana store in Hassan (Rabat) accross from Yum Yum and bought a wireless modem. It cost 700 dirhams (about $100 USD – ouch, the dollar is low) for the modem and first month of unlimited connectivity. You can buy additional months and pay-as-you-go (Meditel offers a similar service, but at the time they require a two-year plan). Based on the access map I saw at Wana, it looks like it should work along the costal areas of Morocco. You can ask them about coverage, but I don’t expect it would work for a trek through the desert. I’m using it now in Rabat and plan on using it when I get to Restinga, between Tangier and Tetuan.
Since I work as a freelance web designer, this is a very, very good thing for me. A bit pricey, but worth it if you need to work while traveling. Wish I knew about it before I started my travels, so I wanted you to know.
Note: if you are American, Riad D’Or doesn’t need your business…see update at the end.
It should have been perfect and for a few hours it was. Our room was large and light. We had a semi-private salon just outside our door. It felt as if we had the place to ourselves; a perfect escape from my in-laws house; a perfect place for my daughter to play and be loud; finally, a place where we would not disturb anyone. We ran around a zillij column in the main salon and pretended it was a tree. We giggled. We admired: “Mommy, it’s so beautiful!” The water was hot for our shower. So what if they forgot to leave us any soap? It was a fraction of the cost of staying at a riad in Fes.
Although I’ve been in Rabat for about five weeks now, I have just begun to appreciate how much there is to enjoy around the Moroccan capital. Take for example this madrasa in Sale, just on the other side of the Bou Regreg estuary. It made an excellent day trip for me and my three-year-old traveling companion.
The guide, a man of about 20, at the entrance to kasbah was lying. He told me the café didn’t open until 6pm. It is in fact open from sunrise to sunset. But, I had a few hours to kill while waiting to meet with some friends and little else to do for a distraction as most shops were closed for lunch. I decided to follow him, interested in what he would show, tell, and expect from us at the end. He showed me his national identity card in lieu of a guide license. It showed was that he was a resident of Oudaya.
Riad 20 Jasmins is the reason why I skipped half of the Morocco Business Forum. I left the conference early on the second day to take a much needed nap. My room, the smallest and, ahem, least expensive room in the house, was towards the front of the building. I could hear medina life at all hours of the day and most of the night. People watching was off limits. My room’s window was above the alley, so all I could see was the small garden where black birds made a ruckus in the morning just after the morning call to prayer. Instead of napping I enjoyed the quiet of the riad when all other guests exhausted themselves with tours of the medina. I essentially had the salon to myself, wireless Internet access, and excellent examples of zillige tesselations, borders, and stars to contemplate.
Each city in Morocco likely has its own saint. The Moroccan cult of saints grew from African traditions and Islamic monotheism as a means of providing a bridge between believers and God.
Believing in saints has allowed Islam in Morocco to accommodate pre-Islamic ideas and adapt to the histories of local communities. But make no mistake that the belief in saints in Morocco is still an expression of Islamic ideals. Moroccan saints are socially important persons who can connect their ancestry to the Prophet Mohammad.
I imagine Hamlet could hang-out in a city like Essaouira. The air in the coastal town felt particularly damp after the desert drive from Marrakesh. The sky was overcast, the fishermen wore knit caps, and the Portuguese fort overlooking the water had an air of melancholy. As I walked the fortress looking out at the ocean, thoughts of Shakespeare vaguely formed in my mind, interrupted by sounds of chanting and music. I looked down to see Thuya wood artisans crafting inlaid tables. Young apprentices were busily working on their project and stopped to bring the older men mint for their tea. The men played drums while one man made music with his work by chiseling wood to the heavy beat.
In December 2007 I went to visit a friend who is living in Morocco for the year. She had already done the obligatory tour of Fes and Marrakesh with a friend. She had already seen Essaouria, Asillah, Tangier, and the Sahara. So, the problem arose as to where we should go together. One city stuck in our minds: Chefchaouen.
Donkeys, farmers markets, traffic, active turn signals, and traffic lights you can’t see; expect to encounter them all while driving in Morocco. The following observations were gathered during my first roadtrip as driver from Rabat to Chefchaouen in December 2007. What to Expect when Driving in Morocco.