Last weekend I participated in a school trip to Chefchaouen and Tangiers in the North of Morocco. I had heard people gushing about the beauty of Chefchaouen, and it was the last place on my list of top spots in Morocco I had yet to check off. I’m glad I went. Indeed, as a sea of blue, white, and violet houses built along a mountain, it was perhaps the most picturesque city in Morocco I’ve seen so far. The only problem for me was that we only spent one day there. I might have to go back, especially to do some hiking in the nature parks on the city’s outskirts. Some people do complain about the city being too “touristy.” This is kind of true, but wasn’t a big deal to me (actually, it probably makes the city more secure). Though I might have to add another destination to my list of places to see in Morocco: Tetouan, which I’ve been told is like a less-touristy version of Chefchaouen, though a bit run-down. I also got to go back to Tangiers for a day with the group. I hadn’t seen its Medina, Casbah museum, or Hercules Cave the first time around, so it was well worth a second stop.
The following shots are from the end of my journey through Morocco with my parents. We spent New Year’s eve in Essaouira, a charming port city.
Marrakesh, end of December, touring with my parents.
More photos from my journey through Morocco with my parents. This bunch from the South of Morocco, perhaps my favorite part.
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel through much of Morocco in a ten day road trip with my parents who came to visit me. There are simply too many photos and thoughts I’d like to share to share them all in a single post. But here’s a start, and perhaps later I will periodically post other snap-shops form the journey.
Saturday I decided to travel to Casablanca with a friend to check out what all the hype is about Morocco Mall, which just opened to the public a couple weeks ago. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who had the idea. Luckily, we got there in the morning and didn’t have trouble getting in, but when we left around 5PM, there was a long line leading to the front door. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a ginormous mall like that (since my middle school band trip to Mall of America). I heard it’s the fourth largest in the world.
Strolling into the mall, it was pretty amazing to see the glittering store signs of all the major European and American brands, such as Payless Shoes, American Eagle, H & M, and Gallerie Lafayette. For many of these stores, this was their debut appearance in Morocco. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just fashion the mall shared with Paris, but the price tags too. …Continue Reading
On a Saturday night a few weeks ago, I attended a Latin festival in Tangier, in the Northern tip of Morocco, where Spanish mostly replaces French as the second language of choice. The festival, “Tanja Latino” took place in a beautiful Italian palace. On the ground floor, there were tango and salsa lessons, and on the top, there was live music and partying.
The demographics of the festival were interesting: There was a wide range of ages, from tweens to their grandparents. I didn’t see any other Americans or any real Latinos other than some of the performers. In attendance were mostly French and some Spanish-speaking expats or visitors, as well as many Moroccans of the secular elite. I describe the Moroccans as such since the entrance fee was rather steep, and there was alcohol being served. And I was surprised by how many people could really dance… Apparently, salsa is very much an “in-thing” amongst certain segments of the Moroccan population. Anyways, I had fun.
This weekend I journeyed through Morocco on a whirlwind tour of Volubilis, Meknes, and Fez and learned about different periods in Morocco’s history.
Volubilis (called “Wallili” here) is a city of Roman ruins, dating from ~200 BCE to ~300 CE, and a UNESCO world heritage site. Most fascinating to see there are the well-preserved ornate mosaic floors, with themes ranging from water nymphs and Roman gods to animals, everyday life, and even an acrobat riding backwards on a donkey.
Meknes is known as the “City of a Hundred Minarets,” and indeed on a rooftop there, one can spot multiple minarets in different directions, all decorated with green tiles. Most impressive to see there was a beautiful, medeival-era madrassa, like the Islamic version of a monastery for monks. Other important sites are the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, his palace, and gardens (now a golf course). Meknes had actually been the capital of Morocco (1672-1727) under the reign of Moulay Ismail, and he sought to model his contemporary Louis XIV of France in beautifying his city with elaborate monuments, earning Meknes the name, “Versailles of Morocco.” Moulay Ismail was known for marrying/ taking as concubines about 80 Berber women from all the surrounding tribes in order to solidify alliances with his Arab-Islamic monarchy and the Berbers, and was said to have fathered some 1,000 children. He is also said to have murdered tens of thousands of people during his sometimes harsh reign, though he is very much still revered. In Meknes, we also travelled to a silver workshop, where we were told the craft has long roots in Morocco, originating from gold and silver craftmanship brought by the Jews. We ended the trip to Meknes with an evening in Lahdim Square, to experience the ever-busy, present day city-center.
Finally, it was off to Fez. First, we passed by the 17th century Royal Palace and nearby Jewish Quarter. It was interesting to see the structure of the houses in the Jewish Quarter with craft stores on the ground floor and open air balconies on the top floor. Our guide told us that the open balconies differed from Muslim ones, because Muslim households had to have closed balconies so their women could not be seen from the outside, whereas this did not apply to Jewish women. Next, we saw al-Karaouine, the world’s oldest university (and still functioning!), dating from the 9th century. Then we toured the Medina of Fez, which is thought to be the largest urban area in the world without cars. Many “streets” of the Medina are barely wide enough to allow more than one person at a time to pass through, so obviously one could not use motorized vehicles there, though I did see a few horses. I’m glad we had a tour guide, otherwise I definitely would have gotten lost in the Medin’as labyrinth. In the Medina, we visited various craft shops/ factories, including the leather tannery, the potters, mosaic-makers, weavers, and beauty-products/perfumes/ cooking spice mixers. (Please see previous post for pics of people working in these crafts). Overall, a wonderful trip.
This past weekend I finally got to play tourist in the city where I now reside, Rabat. When you live in a place and get into the routine of daily work and activities, you sometimes forget to discover what more it has to offer. Well, the truth is that it’s pretty easy to see all of Rabat’s tourist attractions in a single day, so I really don’t know why I waited until I had a guest visit me to get to them. Anyways, we hit up the three main tourist areas: 1) Old Medina with market and Oudayas leading down to the sea. 2) Hassan Tower and Mausoleum, and 3) Chellah fortress. We also dined out in Agdal, a classier area. And, I owe a big thank you to my host family for their hospitality in treating my guest and me to a wonderful, traditional Moroccan tea and dinner Saturday that extended late into the night.