For this trip, we signed up for every optional tour available. One of them was a culinary demonstration. We learned how to make couscous. Open a box and pour it in boiling water? Surely you jest. This is a three hour commitment every Friday for families in Morocco. It's a religious thing. And so on our last Friday in the country in the city of Marrakesh, we attended the class. As we found out time and time again, we would go through a nondescript door and on the other side would be this fabulous scene. Sometimes my mouth would hang open at the fabulousness of it all. Pools, palm trees, fountains, mosaic scenes, intricate carvings in the walls, beautiful furniture, etc. Same thing happened when we showed up for our cooking class. It was in a beautiful room at a beautiful restaurant. The woman below is our teacher and the man is Rasheed, our tour guide and interpreter.
After watching the demo, we were treated to couscous, lamb and veggies that had been prepared earlier. Our table was outdoors surrounded by lush vegetation. We were also treated to some more tagine dishes. Using a tagine to cook meat makes it very tender because the moisture is constantly falling back into the food. And the meal ended like all the others: a huge bowl of oranges, dates, and bananas. They even threw in a plate of pastries.
After lunch we were taken to the Majorelle Gardens and Marrakesh Museum. Gorgeous. (picture of that below)
At the Bahia Palace in Marrakesh.
On our way to Ouarzazate, we stopped at a place that makes and sells (of course) Argan oil. We had a demonstration to see how it ends up as the expensive oil that we all love and use. What -- you don't use it yet?? Pay attention here.
The argan fruit is shelled and the bitter covering is fed to animals. The nut is then cracked open by hand by these women that are in a co-op. They each have their favorite rock to open it up. They let me have a crack at it. Not easy!
And then the nuts (a nut within a nut) are put through a rock grinder and the stuff that comes out looks like peanut butter. Then the "peanut butter" is squeezed and the oil comes out. The dry leftovers are again fed to animals. Argan oil is delicious. Dipping bread in it is yummy. And it's also used in cosmetics. And then there was a store of course. I bought the spray for hair. I was ready to buy a small bottle for eating, but the lady said, "Get the bigger bottle. It's more economy." Their use of English was very amusing. And yes, I got the bigger bottle. Look up the virtues of argan oil. It's good for you.
They have tried to plant more Argan trees, but they won't grow. There is only one way for it to happen: goats climb up in the trees to eat the fruit after the grass on the ground is all gone. The nuts pass through the goats and that is the ONLY way to grow a new tree. You're welcome for that information.
Yes, we saw those awesome goats. And their shepherds were right there to get paid for the privilege of taking the picture.
This was a full day tour of the coastal town in Essaouira on the Atlantic coast. Back in the day, they had to protect themselves from pirates.
We ended our tour of Morocco in Casablanca. The picture below is the Hassan II Mosque. It's the only mosque that non-Muslims can go into. So we did. It was built over the Atlantic ocean.
Thousands of Muslims pray there. Only men on the ground floor. There is a mezzanine for the women.
Can you say STUNNING? And downstairs there are fountains for the people to wash first so that they are symbolically clean before praying. Interesting, huh?
The view of the Hassan II Mosque from across the bay.
Our boys noticed the waves and talked about the surfing done in Morocco.
|The royal palace in Rabat. Like I mentioned in the previous post, I really like those keyhole entrances. David -- wanna remodel the house?|
And of course the snake charmers and their enforcers are watching for anyone that dares to take a picture. You must pay for the privilege of using your camera!
These guys are water bearers. Drink their water at your own risk. They are mostly there for the picture opportunity. Which of course, you will pay for. I shot this from inside the tour bus. Does that make me a cheapskate?
Here's our itinerary:
Day 1) Arrive in Casablanca. Transfer to Rabat.
Day 2) Tour of Rabat. The Royal Palace. Chellah Necropolis. Mohamed V Mausoleum with Hassan Tour. Oudaya Kasbah. Afternoon: (en route to Fez) Volubillis. Holy City of Moulay Idriss.
Day 3) Fes. (That's how they spell it there.) Quaraouine Mosque. Medersa Attarine. Caravan Serail Nejjarine. Medina. Tanneries. Jewish Cemetary. Mellah. Mosaic factory. (rainy day)
Day 4) Enroute to Erfoud. Cedar Forest. Middle Atlas Mountains. Ifrane (ski resort). Azrou (handicrafts), Errachidia. Ziz Valley. (oasis') Kasbah Asmaa for lunch.
Day 5) Sunrise at Merzouga Dunes. CAMEL RIDE! Travel to Ouarzazate via the Tinjdad Road, Todgha Gorge, Dades Valley, Rose Valley, Road of the thousand kasbahs.
Day 7) City tour in Ouarzazate. Atlas Film Studios. Kasbah Taourirt Village (12th century). Ait Benhaddou Village.
Day 8) Travel to Marrakech via the Tichka Pass. High Atlas mountains. Half day Telouet Kasbah with 4x4's. Stop in a village for tea and bread with a host family.
Day 9) Marrakesh. Saaian tombs. Koutoubia Minaret. Bahia Palace. Shopping in the Medina. Culinary demo, Majorelle Gardens. Berber Museum. Dinner with a horse drawn carriage ride. (the entertainment during dinner was the best ever. Musicians and bellydancer.)
Day 10) Essaouira. Seaside. Shopping in the medina. Bought gelato. Twice.
Day 11) Travel to Casablanca.
Day 12) Hassan II Mosque. Corniche seaside. Mohamed V Square. Habous quarter. Notre Dame de Lourdes Cathedral. Shopping in a medina. Farewell dinner along the Corniche. (what we would call the Strand)
Day 13) Fly to NYC. Fly home to L.A.
We had a wonderful time. Traveling with Jim and Sharla was really fun and gave us the opportunity to share the experiences. We made wonderful new friends within our tour group. We highly recommend a Moroccan vacation. The whole trip can be summed up in one word: Wonderfulness. (That's a word, right?)