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AFRICA!!

Days 1 and 2

Flight to New York, then wait around all day, then flight to Casablanca. The flight was 6 1/2 hours, not much sleep, then taxi ride to the hotel. The hotel is about 100 years old but updated. It actually has Air Conditioning! 
As usual, I am a MacGyver. The one window to the street was stuck open, so I fixed it, the trash container that has a foot pedal to open the top, just threw the top off, another challenge...got it fixed. My shoes had been laying around for years, the sole came off in New York, fixed that too.
I did have a failure though, I had an 8 outlet for plugging in 8 things. I plugged it into the wall. Everything went black. The 240 volt system fried it! I fished out my flashlight and made it down to the front desk, they sent a guy up to throw the breaker back on...whew, that is all it was.
Went for a walk, found a hole-in-the wall where, for $3, I got a chip (a SIM card) for my phone so that I could make and receive calls here in Africa. 
One thing that I found is that they do not sweep the streets and do not repair the sidewalks. Lots of gray, dirt, and grime everywhere. Also beggars quite prevalent.
Then went out to dinner. The Dolphin for scallops. Four large ones. A meal there was $20..a tourist trap! Then took a Petit Taxi back to the hotel. $4 !!!
The bed has not fallen through, but is narrow and very hard. Three foot wide is tiny compared to my King size one at home. 
I am exhausted, very little sleep sitting up in that airplane.

PhotosDay1


In CASABLANCA!! Day 3
Up early, went down to breakfast. No one there but two waiters! They had everything out, five tables laden with anything you could imagine. From dates (a huge bowl) to pastries of all kinds, to bowls of fruit. The waiters had eggs to make us an omelet with ham, and various vegetables, the grill was hot! They had what they called "pancakes", the pancakes were more like seven layers of thin hard pita bread! They heated it up and I covered it with strawberry jam, not too bad, I had an omelet and the "pancake" and about 4 pastries! They did have milk (lukewarm) but good. Last night at the Dolphin the milk was warm so I had them bring a glass of ice and I poured it over the ice so I could drink it. 
Off to the Mosque Hassan. Took a Petit Taxi, it was sprinkling and about 20 of them went by already with passengers. A couple stopped and when the doorman told them we anted to go to the Mosque, the shook their head no, and drove off! I have no idea why. Finally one stopped and off to the Mosque. 
The Mosque is huge, and that is not exaggerating. They have 30,000 people that come inside during holidays! They have huge mushroom shaped fountains where they have to wash their hands 3 times before coming up to the hall. There are no chairs, all 30,000 just stand, and then bow down. They are very proud of the titanium doors, and the roof that opens up! Down in the baths the pool is only for show!
Then grabbed a cab and off to the nation's largest shopping center. It is new, glass, steel, and marble. The Istikbal Morocco Mall has all the newest shops. Even the Gap, American Outfitters and 123 (in French). They have an IMAX theater and a nice three story high, 50 foot diameter glass tank that you can go down in a elevator in the center!
The cab waited. Back to the city and RICK's CAFE!! The Cafe is abutting a garage - a dirty one man shop! But the Cafe is very elegant! When approaching the Cafe a lady we had met at the Mosque came over to me and said that she and her husband had been turned away, he had shorts on, and they have a strict dress code!! The Mosque had a dress code (women covered their heads, no shorts), but even the ladies who were the guides did not have their heads covered, and the couple in shorts went right in!
Rick's was all I had dreamed it to be. The waiters had white shirts, vests, black pants and a fez cap. They were very attentive, picked up the bag I had put down and placed it out of sight. He took our order, posed for photos, and in general made the visit quite special. I had lamb and vegetables over a huge bed of couscous! It was so much that I could only eat about a third of it! 
Off to the hotel. cabbie wanted double what he had agreed to. They are not shy about shaking you down!
Had a nap and worked on downloading all the photos. The hotel supplied tea and water and a table in the breakfast area to eat the leftovers!

PhotosDay3

Day 4 in Morocco.
Woke up early and had the wonderful breakfast (no corn flakes though). Another omelet, lots of tasty treats.
Grabbed a Petit Taxi to go to the train station. $.60 cost.
Got a ticket to Rabat, the capital city 90 km away (56 miles). A cost of $3.50. Living high on the hog! Train was not the high speed one, but I got to talk with a 24 year old guy all the way. He lived with his wife and 3 year old son in Casablanca and was going to visit his parents in Rabat where he was born and grew up. He had worked in many places all over Europe but had started his own company in Casablanca. Talk strayed to Trump. He said it was hard to talk about politics, but then went on to say that Trump was all talk and no action, that he wondered how we could have elected such an illiterate person. Germany does not like him, the UAE does not like him, no one in the world likes him, and he thought that it was good that we could get rid of him in 3 years.
Another petit taxi to the Kasbah des Oudia. We passed the largest cemetery I have ever seen - it overlooks the Atlantic Ocean! A guide walked out and led us through the narrow footpaths that twist and turn . He was talking all the way. Telling us how it was built 1000 years ago, etc. He asked for $40 but settled for $15 which I thought was a bit much, but I would have been lost forever in there otherwise! I can see why they have filmed movies there, perfect for a foot chase down winding ways! 
We came out at the top overlooking the ocean, a grand view!! Two surfers out in the waves, a few people out on the wide beach. 
Then we started down and came to a cafe where I had the best tea I have ever had! It had a plant inside, mint! They offered cookies and sweets, but did not get any. The ladies came around wanting to put henna on the ladies, no one bit. There were a lot of cats and kittens around, but they were just lounging, not begging or bothering. Just aloof.
After tea we crossed the 6 lane highway and entered the market. Ancient buildings on either side and hundreds of shops, a lot of fun wandering through. I had purchased a clay cup up in the Kasbah and refrigerator magnet in the market.
Upon leaving the market found a cafe and had a pizza. Then grabbed a Petit Taxi back to the train station, and I slept on the train back to Casablanca. Walked back to the hotel, it was an easy walk but hazardous having to cross about 20 lanes of traffic on various streets!
Later went across the street and had a paninni for dinner. Scrumptious!
Long day but fun.

PhotosDay4

Day 5 of 14, still in Casablanca.
Today had my omelet and pastries, then we were off to see the shops in an ancient part of town. We took a Petit Taxi (only took a minute to wave one down) and off to the shops.

There are a bewildering number of pathways, you walk down one way, see an off side path, take that one, then you go a ways and there is another path. One could get lost here very easily! Decided to go into a building. Wow, what a huge warehouse with thousands of packages of the native dress. It was a wholesale place but eventually someone came to wait on us. There were a number of workers, but we were the only customers! I purchased two very nice djellaba. One for my daughter and one for my granddaughter. They also had racks of boxes of shoes, actually I would call them slippers as they have no heel, nor laces.
We went wandering down the "streets" of the old town, each door was totally different than the rest.
Stopped for lunch at a cafe. Met some nice people there, a lady from Casablanca who now lives in Chicago, and a guy from San Francisco. I had an orange juice, a large bowl of soup and a coconut drink. Each was fabulous. The OJ was fresh squeezed, you do not find as good as that in Florida without going to the farm! The soup was thick and rich, you ate it with a wooden spoon that I was tempted to take home with me, but did not. I should have asked if they would sell it, but did not. 
The cafe's waiter took a huge bowl of couscous and meat to the police who were parked nearby, the lady from Casablanca said that they were really like the mafia, "law and disorder" is what she said. Then the waiter took another two huge bowls of couscous and vegetables across the street where two homeless people were waiting. Amazing.
When the talk went around to Trump, both the Casablanca woman and the man were quite disgusted. One of her daughters had majored in environmental engineering, and now she cannot find a job because of Trump she said. She wanted to stay here in Morocco because she felt the country was more stable than the US with Trump as President. 
He said that San Francisco was covered in smoke and he was glad to be out of there.
We went on investigating more crooked paths and interesting doorways, shops, cats and people! Then grabbed another Petit Taxi back to the city and our hotel The driver got lost on the way and had to stop and get directions! He finally got us close and we walked the rest of the way, I am getting comfortable with finding the hotel now!

I had a short nap, then went to meet our guide that we will be with for a week starting tomorrow morning. Abdellah is a native Moroccan who has a wife and a 3 year old. He has been a tour guide for 10 years. Our group consists of two people from Australia, two young Americans from LA who have been touring the world the last four months, two from Rhode Island, a lady from the US, one lady from NY who said she was native American, five from New York, and one lady from Canada. Sixteen in all. Half in their teens and twenties!
Off we went to dinner, I had spaghetti with seafood. It was very delicious with seafood in every bite, mushrooms, fish, shrimp, etc. and a wonderful sauce to hold it together.
Others had couscous or tajine, Not so good. No spices!
Came back to the hotel and packed as we need to be down at 6:30 tomorrow morning!!! Exciting time off to our adventure around the country.

PhotosDay5


Day 6 Casablanca to Fez via Roman ruins!

Up early and had my omelet, then off on a long trip. It was interesting driving through the farmlands. I did not see any machines at all. I did see (but missed taking a photo) a man with a single bladed plow being pulled by a horse. The fields are bare this time of year, all of the hay and grains have been harvested. Many poor living in shacks, but most live in the cities. When you leave a town there is a stark difference, from 4 to 6 story boxes with satellite antennae all over the top to vacant farmland, in an instant.
We stopped one time after 2 hours driving, then drove another 2 hours before stopping to view two gates to a town. Stop, take picture, drive to another gate, take picture, move on.
But then we stopped at a huge building, the roof of most of it had fallen in during a massive earthquake in the 1700's, but what was left was impressive. The ruler had kept 2,000 Arabian horses here! Very high ceilings, immense rooms, but most had gone to growth.
Lunch was at what was a cross between a McDonald's and a restaurant. The food was fast food served by waiters who were dressed like clowns. I had a panini, it was still cold (not the hot bread with cheese etc, but a sandwich. 
Off again, this time to a 2000 year old town that had partially been excavated by the French. At one time Morocco had gone bankrupt, the French came over, ruled the country and brought it back. Our guide said that the country used to be very dirty, the current Monarch has cleaned it up immensely, and it shows.
The Romans 2000 years ago had come here and built a nice town. They had a walled city with baths, market places, homes, temples, municipal buildings, etc. The floors in the homes were decorated with tiny tiles telling stories of Hercules and other heroes! And the floors exist today!! It is an amazing site, even though only half of it has been excavated. Walking through and down the roads with aqueducts running alongside the streets and all the waste lines underground - a marvel of engineering - made you wonder at the people living here. Miles from anything, a little Roman enclave.
Then we moved on, stopping at a nice hotel in a decrepit part of the town of Fez (or Fes, no one can agree on how to spell it). A quick shower and off to the entertainment for the evening. A seven course meal and entertainment - for the equivalent of $30. I would soup to nuts, but there was neither. They brought out dish after dish of fruits and vegetables, then the main meal of either chicken or beef. Lastly were huge platters of oranges, bananas, and apples. The some very sweet cookies.
The entertainment was started off with five guys with dulcimer, and other musical instruments, then came drummers who ran around and made a racket, followed by dancing when they invited the audience to dance. Then a belly dancer, a matronly lady. Next another dancing routine with the audience participating (the audience was always running up on stage!).
Next another younger more buxom belly dancer who doubled as a flame thrower and fire eater. Then the magician. More wanted (and unwanted) audience participation. He had one cute act at the end, but otherwise the evening was worth the admission price.
Back to the hotel where it was closing down for the night.
PhotosDay6

Day 7, Internet was on this morning so I was able to do my blog before breakfast.
Breakfast was almost the same as prior days, heavy on the breads and pastries, a little meat, a bit of fruit, and an egg. This hotel however has no one cooking omelets, they just have a bowl of hard boiled eggs you have to peal yourself.
No milk either, but upon request they produced a nice glass full. One good change was from sweet colored water as "orange juice", they have the real thing here! Cold and good.

Today was a day to explore the ancient market. Off we went first to look at a gate (it seems that we have not seen enough of them yet), and up on a ridge where we got a great view of the city of Fez. I purchased a skull cap from a peddler. It is beautiful! He wanted $10, I got him down to $3.50. Our guide told me that I had done a good job haggling. He called me Abbou Daibi.

Then off to the market we go. More shops selling trinkets, as we wander through. Perfumes, incense, wedding outfits for men and women, food, hardware, all sorts of stuff. It is crazy crowded, we were told that if we stopped to purchase something we most likely would get instantly lost, and to just stand there. The guide will retrace their steps and find us. If we try to find the group and make a wrong turn it may be a week before e are found.

There were several highlights to the souk. One was as we went along there was a stall selling camel meat. Hanging on a hook outside of the stall was the head of a camel! If you were not careful you might get a face full of camel hair!

The next was an atrium that was at the end of a tunnel about 4 feet high and 4 foot wide. We skooched down and made it down where it opened up into an area that had five looms hand operated making the most wonderful cloth. The looms ere under roof, but it was open to the sky in the middle. The men operating the looms seemed as old as the looms themselves! They said the looms were 100 years old, but they really were older than that, even 100 years ago they did not make looms out of hand hewn wood.

One of the looms had some of the wall excavated to make room for the shuttle, very, very ancient work making these looms. My mother had a loom 50 years ago that was a hundred years more advanced! They made cloth out of the hairs inside a cactus (much like silk!) out of cotton, out of silk, wool, and other fibers. Shear cloth, heavy cloth, whatever you were looking for. They tried all kinds of scarves on our group, an Arabian style, a Bedouin style , a different style on each of us. I purchased the scarf they put on me, it was cool looking and I will be able to wear it on the camel ride tomorrow.

Next we went to the area where they dye material, they dye all kinds of fabrics, wool, leather, anything. They have 500 year old concrete "ponds" into which they put the dye, then they add water and the material to dye. The men collect the hides, cloth, whatever, then put the material into the water. They wade into the ponds and move the material around as it is dyed.

The route we took to see the outside dying ponds was through a leather shop. They said that they can take your measurements and make up a jacket for you out of lambs skin, cow skin, camel skin, (but not rabbit skin), in whatever color you wanted in three hours and would deliver it to our hotel today!!

Off we went on a half hour drive to a building where a group of women have special events. The women who are poor, battered, divorced, or whatever are helped by this group. They made a nice meal for us, then our guide told us who they were. It is a great thing they do!

Next off to a real grocery store! The first modern building we have seen in a while! We were told that we need to purchase food for our lunch tomorrow as we will be traveling where there is nothing! I got cheese and turkey, we will be purchasing fresh bread before we go! 
Off to dinner now. More later.

PhotosDay7

 

 

Day 8 and day 9 
Well, survived two days with no Internet! They had solar panels at the tents so we had a small light to see dinner! They also had solar at the hotel. Every one's cell phone died, but that was OK.

Back to Day 8, we got on the road before dawn, headed for Fez. We drove for 10 hours stopping only for a few minutes every 2 hours we did not stop long at Fez, just mostly right on through. Lots of farm land, all harvesting had been done so it was just dirt! Sand was a problem in many areas, they had wicker staked out in what looked like huge baskets to stop the sand from covering the roads. I saw my first piece of farm machinery, a huge caterpillar with a huge rake behind. Also a regular tractor with a disk behind. 
Lunch was hectic, then more dirt and tiny towns. Then up into the mountains! A beautiful ride through the forest and over the 6000 foot mountain range. Our guide said that they get several feet of snow every year, they had the stakes beside the road to see where it was when the snow obscured it. They also had snow fences to stop the snow from drifting over the road. It was much like Maine, changing leaves and all!! It was great seeing the area they call the Swiss Alps of Morocco! Rich people live here! We saw a house that had its own huge helicopter parked out side!

We then got to the "hotel" where we were to get onto the camels!! Almost 15 minutes after we got off the bus and we were mounting the camels. The camels were sitting down and we climbed on one at a time. Then the handlers had them get up. We were pitched forward like a ride on a roller coaster as the camels got their hind feet up under them. You had to hang on or you were going to be pitched over the camel's head! 
Off on the 5 kilometer ride out into the desert. We had a guide who walked in front so it was not a fast ride, but it was quite comfortable. Plodding along, it got darker and darker. When we got to the camp the sun had dropped behind the dunes. The dune was 600 meters high over all - as high as the World Trade Center!!! Most of our crew went climbing the adjacent 200 foot dune to see the sunset, they got some photos but not the real sunset as the dune was so high to climb.

After dark we sat around on some low stools having tea, then they brought out our dinner, a typical meal of vegetables and potatoes with some meat. We were hungry and pitched right in, then we each told a story about something nobody knew about us. Next they built a fire and we sat around as the natives entertained us on the drums. There was dancing, our crew trying their hands on the drums.

Off to the tents. The beds were very hard, but OK once I put a blanket under me. The second blanket went on top as it got quite cold.

Up before dawn, immediately up on the camels and off to see the sunrise over the dunes. Then off on the 5 KM camel ride back to the hotel where we had a breakfast of breads, dough nuts (fresh made) and hard boiled eggs. I filled an empty water bottle halfway with sand from the Saharan Desert!!
THIS CAMEL RIDE WAS THE BEST PART OF THE TRIP!!!!!

Off on a bus ride through more and more desert. Then up over a 4000 foot mountain. We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant and had lentil soup and turkey on a skewer, quite good. Their orange juice is the best!!

Next was the walk through family plots down by a river where people were growing vegetables, most of it was harvested already but we got to see the irrigation system, water pulled off of the river and guided through small channels to each plot.

Next was a short stop at Tonga Gorge, a neat place for experts to climb the tall rock walls.

Lastly to our hotel, the best hotel we have been to yet. The group went to have dinner, but I decided to type! We have been eating so much, those huge lunches!! No Internet in the rooms, so I am in the huge lobby. Moroccan music playing. Time for bed, but we will have a late start tomorrow, 8 AM.

PhotosDay9


Day 10, (day 6 of our tour) Todra Gorge to Aït Ben Haddou

The drive here was long, many small towns and mountains in the distance. We stopped at a few high spots overlooking valleys and buildings. We stopped at one shop for a rest - it overlooked a valley. I purchased a tiny tajine (more about this later).

At a small town in a hidden shop on a side street we were treated to perfumes and oils at a Herboristerie. The proprietor plied us all with perfumes and oils. I ended up purchasing some argan oil. Argan oil is a nourishing and hydrating oil derived from the Mediterranean Argan Tree. Ladies collect the nuts and then the nuts are crushed for the oil. He put some of the oil on my still healing scar and it feels better today.

Off to Aït Ben Haddou. The castle Haddou was built at the base of a huge rock adjacent to where caravans on the way from the east to Marrakech passed by. The Haddou's stopped the caravans and demanded a toll. Any caravan that tried to go around was stopped by soldiers, the leaders summarily were killed and the goods stolen. This way the Haddou's got very rich and had many slaves and soldiers living here. Our guide told me that his ancestors were slaves here and were only released 60 years ago when there was an uprising and the Haddou family escaped to France.

In a shop (overlooking the castle) were three looms with ladies painstakingly making rugs, one piece of yarn at a time. We were told that the ladies of the town all had such looms and they produced the fine rugs. The looms here were mostly for show I think, as not much could be done with customers coming and going and the ladies doing the packing of the rugs we purchased. The silversmith next door told me that the ladies got 80% of the proceeds, and so talked me into getting a small one! Who can go to Morocco and not come home with a fine rug!!

Off to a cooking class. We prepared our own Tajine dish! Moroccan tajine dishes are slow-cooked savory stews, made with meat, poultry or fish together with vegetables and fruit in a ceramic container. The ceramic dish and the dish itself are called tajine. Spices, nuts, and dried fruits are also used. The spices we used included ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and saffron, as well as salt and pepper. We put the chicken in the tajine along with the onions, oil and spices. We then put the tajine on the burner to cook. We then put on a plate the potato, tomato, and all the other vegetables. We then turned the meat twice before adding the carrots, potatoes, squash, etc, adding the lemon and tomato last. An hour later (at 8:30) the food was served, each of us got our own cooked meal!!

We swapped stories and pictures of families (our guide has a wife and a 3 year old boy) and then off to bed!

PhotosDay10


Marrakesh and a mind blowing (and ear piercing) market like no other!!!
Day 11, from Aït Ben Haddou to Marrakesh
The last day of our tour but not the last day of the trip.
I went out onto the balcony, a super starlight show! Here at Haddou you can see every star, they are close!! The roosters are competing, first one then the other.
Breakfast before dawn, not so many pastries; the nice chewy "pancake", two hard boiled eggs, and then loaded up in the van, ready to go. We do not mess around on this tour!
Off we go, more and more desert, but climbing. We stop at a gas station for a pit stop for 5 minutes as we usually do. Back on the road going through small towns up one side of the river, then down the other side. We went by a movie studio! People's homes are stuck into the foot of the mountains, but they terrace down by the river for their gardens. These homes are almost the color of the rock on the outside, but they say they are beautiful on the inside.

At the top of the mountain we ran into a lot of construction, they are taking the really winding road and cutting across to make less curves. They have to excavate about 100 feet of rock and truck the rock to where they are going to cut a corner. During this trip we have seen bridges being built, roads being improved, and now a huge project straightening a curvy road, lots of money being spent! We stopped at a little pull out to see the valley below a ways down from the top of the Atlas Mountains. I purchased a geode from a peddler there. It is gold on the inside! When the magma erupts as a lava flow, so much gas is released that not all of it is able to escape. Some of that gas can be trapped in the lava to produce a large cavity when the lava solidifies. Then minerals migrate to the inside and form crystals. Mine has gold colored crystals on the inside!

Down we go, on this side of the mountain they have done a huge improvement, two lanes for the uphill portions! We go by the driver's home, well almost, he points to the left, over those mountains he said!

And down we come through a few more towns, then we arrive in MARRAKESH! Well, it is a city just like the rest, huge traffic, motorcycles and mopeds abound. We are dropped off at our hotel and told where food places are. I got some fresh orange juice from across the street. We met our van and leader at 2 PM to go see the Bahia place. Nice ceilings and doors, nice small gardens, but not much. Supposedly the ruler of the day wanted to unite all 24 tribes in Morocco, so he married a girl from each tribe, and Morocco became one big happy family! The ruler had musicians on staff, but only blind ones.

Off to the famed Marrakesh market. Only about 2000 stalls here. Many wagons in the square selling fresh orange juice, the best. But give them back the glass. I wandered for a while and then decided to go back to the hotel.

I had thought that we were taking the bus back to the hotel, nope, I was on my own. I found the taxi stand and spelled the name of the hotel to the drivers. Blank stares, attempts at other hotel names. Of no use. I tried calling our leader, he did not pick up the phone. Now I was quite at the loss. In Marrakesh, no way to get anyone to help, no way to get them to understand. I was quite lost. Finally one of the cab drivers called me over to his cab. I told him that the hotel was up off of Mohammad V street. So off we went. Several miles later I finally recognized The Renaissance Hotel, just two blocks from the Oudaya Hotel! I do not know how they pronounce the name, I guess that is why they could not understand me. But I made it.

8 PM we went to a very swanky restaurant for dinner and to say our goodbyes to the group. The conversation with our native guide strayed to politics. He said he does not normally want to talk politics, but Obama was a great and very smart man. A credit to the US. Trump however is very stupid, he is only in it for the money. Moroccans know that Trump is not representative of the US.

We walked back to the Hotel, hugged and parted ways.

PhotosDay11


Some housekeeping notes:

This was a G Adventures tour, a fast paced tour of 80% of the country according to our guide.

Animals.. we saw many donkeys, a few horses, mostly doves and sparrows, many cats and a very few dogs. Sporadically small herds of camels (dromedaries - one hump) out in the wild. Many flocks of sheep and goats, some up high on the rocks. Flies, many flies in the country. Only downside!!

The hotels were very clean, we never lacked for toilet paper except for one side trip. Many places have both the stool we are accustomed to and the hole in the floor for the natives. We never had a problem until last night when the AC did not work, I opened the window and got nice cool air so it was not a problem. Someone is working on the AC as there is a pressure gauge hanging from it. All hotels did have AC and were very interesting. If we had more time it would have been fun to take pictures of them, but we left before light many times.

Our guide Abdellah was great, always saying "Excuse me" then telling a story about this or that. Our driver was cool, a couple of times at a roundabout he sped around and around with all of us cheering him on! He as the most careful driver I have seen, never passing until he had a clear view of what was ahead, even if we had to go a ways behind a donkey and cart.

The people...we never felt threatened or had any problems with pickpockets or such that we were warned about. There were many people who held their hand out, but they were not at all pushy. Our driver did give some some money, and so did we, but if we said no or shook our head, they were fine with that. In general everyone was willing to be very helpful and tried their best. Not many speak English, so it is nice to have someone near to explain what we want, our guide was always helpful in that. It can be frustrating when you are alone and cannot speak their language, but as with the cab driver, hand signals do wonders.

The food...always fresh orange juice, the best. They are heavy into breads, morning noon and night, fresh bread in 6 inch to 9 inch round bread, it is very flavorful and does not need butter. Eggs are always there, no cereals or bacon. No ham and little cheese, and cold milk only if you ask for it. Vegetables and couscous are great.

I did not lose anything, but brought way too many clothes. I left behind four pairs of pants (I only wore long pants on the first day and at the farewell dinner so far) in order to make room for my rug. The rug was the only purchase I have made so far that was more than $10. Things (including the restaurants) are very inexpensive. $25 for a very complete meal is the usual. They tip 10% in places. No tip for taxi's. The Petit Taxi is much less expensive. When I was lost and the real Taxi driver got me to the hotel he charged me $20, but it was well worth it, he really had to go out on a limb to find the hotel!

Traffic in the country is usually great, they have very good roads, just have to slow down for the slow drivers, scooters, motorcycle trucks, man carts, donkey pulled carts, etc. But usually very fast. In the cities it is totally different. People walk across the streets all over, the traffic just goes around them. The lines in the roads are just suggestions, people drive lane to lane with no signals given and usually quite abruptly. It is amazing that there are not more accidents. In Mexico all cars have dents and bashed in doors, but not here. I have only seen one accident where a car failed to stop and hit the back of the car ahead of him. Otherwise it is like roller derby, everyone watching out for each other, but no one driving in one lane for long. The roundabouts are interesting, you may have two lanes going around, but people ignore that and just plow in! Horns sounding if anyone is a second late starting after the light turns green! Everyone runs the red lights but everyone expects it and there are no problems. Everyone jay walks, but that is expected and no one gets run over.

The infrastructure (roads and water lines) are being heavily invested in with new roads and new waterlines going in all over. We were told that new wastewater plants were being built as well. The new bridges to replace the old ones are very impressive, they are not skimping at all. The rivers are all at their lowest point right now, but from the looks of it, they are raging when the snow from the higher elevations melts in the spring!

All in all this is a very vibrant country, they are super industrious people, always moving, no matter that they have nothing more than a bike, a donkey or a truck, they are on the move. If they have no vehicle they walk, carrying their wares to market to sell.

A wonderful country!!




Day 12 Marrakech

An uneventful day. Changed hotels, the new one is a 500 year old building which once was a rich man's home for his four waives and children. The bathroom in the room is solid marble, walls, ceiling, floor and the entire huge shower! The ceilings in the room are beautiful carved plaster, and the floors are tile. The door has an interesting key, but the lock still works.

To get to the front door of the hotel/house the taxi stops at the end of the road and a porter takes your luggage in a man-cart. We went down a narrow passage, then turned right, down a low ceilinged alley - I asked if we were going the right way.. did he understand what hotel we were going to? He laughed.. Down a tunnel with no lighting we went!! Finally we ended up at the front door. It is an amazing warren of alleys, but 500 years ago there were no such things as cars!

Inside there was a beautiful atrium and stairs up to the rooms. I sat in the atrium and filled out paperwork, then went up to the room. There are many outside rooms and terraces, also an exterior shower and ,,,wait for it...a Jacuzzi!

Off to the market for lunch, I had a egg omelet, very flat and cold by the time it got to me. The orange juice was wonderful though!

I PURCHASED A MAN POUCH. LEATHER AND NEAT!

More shopping and wandering. Then back to the hotel (home) for dinner. Bread and a mixture of tomato and crushed olives to eat on the bread for the first course. Then a half chicken. No vegetables, just the chicken. Then slices of orange for desert. They had just said be here at 8 for dinner, no money was asked for, I guess it is included in the room. Breakfast is at 7:30, then a trip to see some falls tomorrow!!

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Day 13, Ouzoud Waterfalls trip from Marrakech

Up early, breakfast of eggs and bread, orange juice and milk. 
Our host here at the hotel led us through the maze of alleys to get to where the bus was to pick us up. It was another beautiful day, cool in the morning but 80's and sunny the rest of the day. A 2 1/2 hour ride to the falls. Shortly out of the city and through farmland. Lots of scooters, donkeys pulling carts, motorcycle trucks, and trucks all carrying something from hay to vegetables. That and old ladies carrying bags or buckets.
We stop and I got an ice cream, they make the best ice cream covered with caramel then chocolate!
Finally we get to the trailhead near the falls. All of us disembark, then start down the trail. At first it was pretty flat, and we went through farmed land. Plots set out for vegetables and olive trees painted with the family color. One tree was painted yellow and red, someone from one family married a person from another family. Another tree was painted with a red 2 - signifying a second son from the red family owned that tree! We jumped over canals carrying water to the plots, in one larger canal there was a lady doing the wash. A stick in hand, she was beating the heck out of some poor piece of cloth!!
Then we started down, down, down, steeper and steeper. Sometimes slippery, sometimes have to climb down rocks. Then finally about 300 feet down we came to the river down 1/4 mile below the falls. There were several smaller falls as we walked back toward the main falls, the Ouzoud Waterfalls are the tallest in Africa they say. At one of the smaller falls one couple went diving into the frigid water!

On we walked until we climbed up and then down to the pool by the main falls. Our group (two from Ireland, two from Belgium and me) hopped aboard a flower covered boat. The captain rowed us out to the falls, then let each of the men try their hand at rowing. The falls were throwing up quite a mist! We saw where another group get to walk up a path almost to the falls, but our captain did not take us there.

OK, now that we are down, there is no way to go but to climb up! 735 steps our guide told us. Half way up we came across the monkeys! One monkey really took to Shawn, the guy from Belgium, he hopped right up Shawn's shoulder! After playing with the monkeys for a while we kept going climbing by all kinds of shops! Also passed a horse in full regalia, ready for someone to climb on.

Near the top I had a tajine at the OUZOUD falls! Actually the owner brought six dishes, first a salad, then a meat and vegetable tajine, bread, a couscous and vegetable tajine, skewers of chicken, oranges and grapes, a Moroccan omelet, and a mystery dish, then a Moroccan fried something smothered in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds for desert! All that and a 2 liter bottle of water and a glass of tea for $10!

We rode back, and most of us slept after that workout!!

I had a light supper of bread and tomato/crushed olives spread and some dates. I took a Sudafed and was out like a light!

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Day 14 Marrakech - Touring the city

Off with an English speaking guide, we told him that we wanted to go to some interesting sights here in the city. It was nice having a guide - first because we did not wait in any lines, second we knew what we were looking at, and third he took us places no one would know about!!

Our first stop was Yves Saint Laurent’s secret garden and museum. The Musée Yves Saint Laurent opened just last week. Bergé — who died just a few weeks before its debut our guide said— spearheaded the project, using Paris-based architects Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty (of Studio KO) to design the new 46,000-square-foot space. Its red-brick and pink-stone edifice stands adjacent to the Jardin Majorelle, a 2 1/2-acre botanical garden that Saint Laurent (who died in 2008) and Bergé restored.

The museum displays a selection of more than 5,000 items of clothing, 15,000 haute couture accessories and tens of thousands of sketches and art objects from the YSL archives. We were not allowed to take pictures however. The permanent collection in Marrakech includes 50 YSL haute couture pieces, organized around themes that recurred in the designer’s work: masculine-feminine, black, Africa and Morocco, imaginary voyages, gardens, and Art Deco. The museum also houses a library, bookstore, restaurant and a host of temporary exhibits.

We left there and went to a "hotel", a building where the caravans would end up when they arrived in Marrakesh. The camels would line up in the atrium and people would come to see what they had brought. The camel drivers had rooms to stay in. Now they rent out the rooms to be used as storage or small manufacturing rooms.

Next was a school where kids went to study the Koran. Kids who had memorized the entire Koran went here as a boarding school to further study religious texts, astronomy and astrology. They house 150 students here in tiny rooms. Our guide explained how the symbol we use for OK is used here. The little finger represents the letter A, the ring finger L, the middle finger L, and the forefinger and the thumb make AH. Together they spell ALLAH. The people wash their hands three times, then each part of the body two to three times, then they go in to pray.
The prayer routine is 
1) stand up straight - A
2) lean forward - L
3) lean forward again - L
4) forehead to ground (round like the OK)- AH
Spelling out Allah with their body, dedicating themselves to him.
They do this several times, then listen to a recitation of verses in the Koran. It is less of a mystery to me now!!

Next was a bakery. A one oven bakery. People who live nearby make their own dough, then bring it to the bakery for this one guy to bake it in his wood fired oven. The oven had been in use continuously since the 16th century, more than 500 years. He did not bake bread for sale, but it would have been nice to have fresh bread!!

Then there were people who cut up leather, and next was a guy putting the pieces together to make sandals. Next was a guy making the slippers.

In another area people were dyeing wool, leather, all fabrics. The drying area was on the roof and one guy was flinging huge bundles of wool up to him!

Another area people were working in steel and other metals, making cages for birds, lanterns, bowls, chess pieces making anything you could think of out of metals!

These are ambitious people, they do not import much from China, they make it here!!

Next was another spice shop where I purchased spices for cooking

Had a great soup at Kif Kif while the Muslims were in the Mosque. Twenty were next to the restaurant praying.

Went on to the market square where the snake handlers were, they put a snake on my shoulder, but went on. I did pay a man to put a hawk on my shoulder and had my picture taken though!

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Day 15 - Badi Palace in the morning before catching a Tok Tok (a "cab" consisting of two seats mounted on a three wheeler) back to the hotel, and then a man cart (a two wheeled cart with one or two handles a man uses) to get our luggage to the cab to get to the airport.

In the morning I took a real cab to the Badi Palace. Now this was a palace! About 14 acres of building, five pools 300 feet by 66 feet, an orange grove in the courtyard: the atrium was 443 feet by 361 feet, amazing. It was built in 1578 through 1594. It was partially destroyed in 1677, less than 100 years later to reuse the marble in a palace in Meknes. The walls were left, they are about 50 feet high and 12 feet thick. What we see today was excavated in 1953. The government is now spending $9 million to bring part of it back to life.
One feature of the castle is the storks that seem to guard the walls! They have built their nests way up on the walls and are there year round. An interesting peek into the past.

The Marrakech airport was very interesting, a huge open hall with no supports! We flew from Marrakesh to Casablanca, then to New York (where prices were 10 times that of Morocco - a glass of orange juice was $1.00 in the airport in Morocco but was $10.00 in NY). We had a 7 hour layover in NY, then down to Tampa where my neighbors picked me up!! Thanks Jim and Diane! So absolutely wonderful to see good friends after being gone 2 weeks.

Notes on the trip
..So may cats all over Morocco, they all were quiet, mostly well fed and cute. They do not beg, just are there.
..Many, many types of transportation. On the roads there are as many scooters as cars, they pass all the cars at intersections and are the first to leave a red light. They ply the alleys in the city and pedestrians need to hug the walls to let them pass. There are as many women riding them as men it seems.
..Costs were very low on all foods and trinkets. The cabs were the only thing that costs were what you would pay here ($20 for many rides). A liter of water was $1 to $1.50. I spent $800 on the 14 day trip, much on taxi's. A taxi to and from something in the morning, then another in the afternoon amounts to $80 for the day! I purchased a dozen trinkets, the most expensive was a $90 rug, and a $30 manbag. A fine dinner in a great restaurant will cost $11 however!! So deducting the rug and manbag the trip was very inexpensive.
..Hotels were very nice and had great beds (I slept like a log after such active days). Most had pools but we were moving so fast I had a bathing suit but it never got wet.
..Everyone was so helpful. Few spoke English, but wanted to help anyway. In the markets many were actively promoting their wares, but a definite "no" was respected. If you are traveling in pairs, at assaulter can break free if the partner gets in between. I spoke to one lady from England (Sally) who was very timid. Her story was not so good. She was traveling with another lady. She said a woman in the market grabbed her hand and said that she was giving her a henna tattoo for free. Sally said no, she did not want it. Lady said it was free, and held her arm in a vise grip and continued. Finally she finished a not so good looking pattern that was a yellow/brown (a bad material, NOT henna). Then the lady demanded $90. Screamed at her to pay. Sally said that she was in fear for her life if she did not pay, so she did. I was told that if such as this happened there was a Tourist Police station (I had seen it on the edge of the market) who would catch that lady and make her give the money back, but Sally did not know that and was quite intimidated. Sally's partner was not right there to help. Lesson learned. 
..At no time on the trip did I ever feel in danger of pickpockets or any unsavory character. This was great.
..I was told to bring a bag, not a roll around suitcase. I as glad I did not listen, my roll around suitcase was perfect. Those with bags with no wheels were totally in pain from trying to carry them or find someone to carry then for them. At no time was I not able to roll, other than some steps.
..I was also told that it would be wrong to wear shorts and short sleeves, and not to bring them. Guess what, I did bring two pair of shorts and three short sleeve shirts. I wore long sleeve shirts and long pants exactly two days, the day I arrived and the day I left. The other 13 days..shorts and short sleeves.
..Weather..in a word..beautiful.
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HOME
I arrived home after a 23 hour (lack of real sleep) trip. From ordering the man cart to getting home took 23 hours with layovers. My kitty is really excited to see me home. She is bouncing all over the place, grabbing my hand and just being frisky. More so than ever before. Finally at this moment she is sitting beside me. I slept 16 hours (two 8 hour stretches) after getting home!

What a wonderful, learning experience!!

Couple more things.

>>I purchased a phone from Best Buy to use in Morocco, then purchased a $3 chip there so that I would have a phone there. It was not necessary. I did get lost one time and tried to use it, it did not work, the person I had called did not hear his phone. It worked out anyway.

>>Every cab driver, flight steward, anyone I spent time with, I asked how they liked Obama. To a person they loved him. And spontaneously to a person they continued with the fact that they did not like Trump. Comments ran from he is a joke, to he is not the President of the people of the USA, to he is a fool, to he is all mouth. There was not one of the twenty or so comments that I got that had anything good to say about Trump. So sad that we have lost the world's respect.