Thursday, November 29, 2007

Excursion to المغرب

المغرب(Morocco)
Morocco is an ethnically diverse country with a rich culture and civilization. Through Moroccan history, Morocco hosted many people coming from East (Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Jews and Arabs), South (Sub-Saharan Africans) and North (Romans, Vandals, Andalusians (including Moors and Jews)).

Modern Morocco is an initiation into the exotic magic of the Islamic, Arabic, African world - the world of medinas and minarets, desert and mountain; yet it almost touches western Europe and, for all the differences, retains a European patina, the legacy of the French Protectorate.


The Berbers The original inhabitants of Morocco, the Berbers, have experienced a series of invaders over the centuries. The first Arabs arrived from the west in 682 AD and established a series of dynasties which have ruled Morocco ever since. As in much of North Africa, the conflict between Arabs and Berbers has been a central feature of the country’s history. The Berbers have lived in North Africa between western Egypt and the Atlantic Ocean for as far back as records of the area go. The earliest inhabitants of the region are found on the Saharan rock art. References to them also occur frequently in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman sources.


Cuisine

This was my first time to eat pigeon. It tasted like turkey, not bad.
Spices are used extensively in Moroccan food. While spices have been imported to Morocco for thousands of years, many ingredients, like saffron from Tiliouine, mint and olives from Meknes, and oranges and lemons from Fez, are home-grown. Chicken is the most widely eaten meat in Morocco. The most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco is beef; lamb is preferred, but is relatively expensive. Couscous is the most famous Moroccan dish along with pastilla, tajine, and harira. The most popular drink is green tea with mint. The tea is accompanied with hard sugar cones or lumps.

Craft traditions are still going strong in Morocco. Moroccans excel at woodwork, especially in Essaouira, where beautiful thuya or cedar inlay work is produced. Fes is famous for its blue-and-white designs of pottery. The majority of the jewellery found on sale in Morocco today comes form India, Indonesia and Niger.
-From Wikipedia.



Fès

This is the city I flew into to meet up with collegues from the UN. We spent the weekend exploring the city and getting lost. It is suggested to always use a guide, but we decided not to and everything worked out just fine. In reality, everyone around you is a guide. This place is great for shopping and haggling deals. The smells of the taneries are horrendous. This is where they make leather goods, from any animal skin you can think of. They then use bird shit and goat urine to soften the leather. Smells great!


Fès is the most ancient and impressive of the imperial cities. Built in the eighth century, it has more history and mystery than anywhere else in Morocco. Officially encompassing two cities – El Bali and Jadid – Fès is famous for the Nejjarine Square and Fountain, the Er Rsif and Andalous (Al-Andalus) mosques, the Royal Palace, the Kasbah and Karaouine (Al-Qarawiyin) University, which is older than Oxford University. The old part of the city – Fès El Bali – still retains the magical, bustling atmosphere of an ancient time and it is centered around the two famous mosques of Al-Qarawiyin and Al-Andalus. It is a huge maze of winding streets and covered bazaars where, if one is not careful, it is easy to get lost. The medina (market) in Fès El Bali is one of the largest in the world and is also on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Here, one can buy almost anything. It is particularly good for carpets, rugs and ornate metalwork. Fès is, perhaps, one of the most fascinating cities anywhere in the Middle East or north Africa.

Here is a little video of Fes, during a Muslim prayer.
video

Meknes
Fez can drive you nuts and can take your wallet. I decided to venture to Meknes by myself. It has a very impressive royal palace and a huge medina, similar to Fez. Since it's relatively ignored by most tourists, it's also free of the usual hassles. While Meknes is an imperial city with a lot of historical monuments and natural sites; It is also the nearest city to the Roman ruins of Volubilis (I wanted to go, but didn't have time!).

You will notice in the pictures that I met some locals (Fouad, Safiart, and Annan- excuse my spelling) and they gave me a personal tour that made the Morocco trip such a wonderful experience. They showed me their town and we spent the day together. I'm thankful for people like this and it is hard to find this kind of hospitality in the States.

Click below to view ALL the pictures from the trip:









2 comments:

David Pierce said...

Hey you got to keep this up cause I am going to send this all to the travel channel! or better yet Seth's travel guide!

nuria said...

This is my favorite!