Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Zagora: Kasbah

At the sights

Part 1: Desert Excursion

Part 2: Heading Out

[Hooray, I'm getting things done today! And I'm determined to get my last Morocco post finished before I leave for a family reunion on Friday. You'll be hearing about camels soon!]

The main reason I picked this excursion was to visit the Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, one of Morocco's many must-sees. [Of course, I would have loved to go on a longer one that stopped more places, but I just didn't have time.]

Like the Chellah in Rabat, this was one of my favorite spots, and again, one that I didn't get enough time to fully enjoy. After dropping off the poor sick Danish kid in our group at the restaurant where we'd be eating lunch, we met our guide and walked over to the river. The "new city" is on one side and the Kasbah is on the other.

First, he pointed out the gates that were made for some movie or other. All of the other artificial movie constructions have been removed, but these are still there. We walked across a makeshift bridge over the river, where kids begging for money tried to help us cross, and then saw the open area where the arena in Gladiator was filmed.

Movie trivia...not the most auspicious start to a visit to an ancient historical fortress-city.

We passed a man making bricks - they're working on moving families back into the city now that the film studios don't have free reign - and entered the city. Finally we got some history. The walled city was built to protect one of the tribes against the others. There were four main tribal groups, often warring over water. Eventually, they started working towards peace.

The word kasbah really refers to the buildings with 4 towers that form the front lines of the city, the area which needed the most defense. [Kind of similar to the alcazars and palaces often found up against the city walls in medieval Spanish cities.] There were 4 towers for 4 wives, each of whom would have come from a different tribe. Marriage, everyone's favorite way of signing treaties.

We passed by the Mosque and some smaller houses, stopping to sit a minute in the shade. [The Danes were shocked to hear that in the summer, temperatures in the desert could reach 50 C - or about 130 farenheit.] The thatched roofs on these houses used to be replaced about every 4-5 years, but now they have a sheet of tin covering them, so they last closer to 12 years.

I was also surprised to learn that there was a Jewish Quarter in the city. Its inhabitants left a long time ago, but according to our guide, they still return maybe once a year for their holy days [I think ones that have to do with the dead, so they visit their old cemetery near the city].

We watched a fascinating demonstration by a man who paints postcards using saffron and a gas tank. The "paint" is made of saffron tea and doesn't appear on the paper until it's been exposed to some heat [hence the gas]. I'm still kicking myself for not buying one.

(Found via Google image search)
At another shop, we saw the most interesting lock and key I have ever seen, made entirely out of wood. The key, which looks more like a comb than anything else, fits sideways inside the door handle to open it.

(Not my picture. Also thanks to a Google image search.)
And of course, there was more movie trivia. They were especially excited about Katie Holmes' most recent movie that wrapped just a little while ago and the parts of Game of Thrones that were filmed there, last year I think. Even though I'm a big movie person, the history nerd in me was disappointed to not hear as many stories about the history of this incredible city.

We then walked back to have a delicious and, by Moroccan standards, expensive lunch. [It cost less than 10 euros. I was a happy camper.] The rest of the afternoon was spent driving, driving, driving through the mountains until we reached the town of Zagora, where we met our camels...

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Apology and An Update

I'm sorry it's been so long since I got a travel post up. I want to be the kind of person who blogs regularly [among a host of other things], but I'm just not. Somehow, the "summer" times of my life, whether they happen during the summer or not, devolve into marathon TV-watching sessions, with a bit of reading and family socializing thrown in on the side.

So today I told myself I'm not allowed to turn the TV on and am finally getting at least something written, even if it doesn't turn out to be anything.

And luckily for me, my TV-less day has gotten full pretty quickly [because let's face it, otherwise I would be on the Internet all day which is probably definitely even less healthy than TV]. I cooked myself avena [oatmeal] for breakfast this morning, although it turned out disastrously. Clearly that recipe needs to be tweaked now that I'm back in the land of cups and tablespoons. I'm making dinner for my family as well, which could take me a good hour. Even though this is the house I grew up in, I never know where to find anything in this kitchen.

Anyways...there's really no point to this post, I just wanted to say that...I'm working on it. I've promised to finish my posts about Morocco, and now I have dozens of stories to tell about Bulgaria and Romania and Istanbul and London and Edinburgh on top of those. And all the places in Spain that I posted pictures of but never really talked about besides that.


I'm going to try really hard to not be lazy about all those. So I need to ask for a little patience, as I organize my scattered thoughts and finish uploading the thousands [literally thousands] of pictures that are still on my computer. It was a fantastic experience, all this traveling, and I'm really mad at myself for not sharing all of it sooner.