Morocco

NINE THINGS ABOUT MOROCCO

this post is by Lili

 

MOROCCO OBSERVATION

1  The winter is cold

2   Donkeys pull carts of stuff

3 People ride mules around

4 There are lots of people and animals

5 In the square you can see people with cobras

6 You will definitely find kittens

7    The train is nice and warm if you take 1st class

   8They sell yummy food and snacks in the market

  9The cats stare at the fish in the market

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MOSQUE HASSAN II

I actually did not have any idea that Morocco would have one of the largest mosques in the world, but the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the third largest in the world, right after the huge ones in Mecca and Medina.

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On our last day in Morocco, we went to visit the mosque. They offer guided tours, which is the only way non Muslims can see the building. We got there right at 11 am and after buying the tickets we did a strategic move and decided to take the tour in Italian. This turned out to be a really good idea as the Italian group only had one other couple and us three so we basically got a private tour.

Waiting for the tour to start. The plastic bags are for us to put our shoes in. 

Waiting for the tour to start. The plastic bags are for us to put our shoes in. 

Our guide, Mohammed, was so nice - he talked with a twinkle in his eyes and took a quick liking to Lili. She got to go through into the roped off areas with him 'because she is an angel'.

Lili got to go to the cordoned off area to see this speacial dedication inscription. 

Lili got to go to the cordoned off area to see this speacial dedication inscription. 

 

The building is extremely impressive. The construction took over six years, and gave employment to hundreds of local builders and artisans. The mosque opened in 1993, and over 12 million individual Moroccans contributed to its enormous construction costs (close to USD 800M).

The mosque is like a palace inside. It is really really beautiful. 

The mosque is like a palace inside. It is really really beautiful. 

During Ramadan, over 100,000 people can pray here at a time.  It is mind boggling but it also helps to know that Casablanca is Moroccos's largest city - it has over 5 million people. (That is like having the entire population of Finland in one city.) The official capacity of the mosque is 105,000 at a time, of which 25,000 can be accommodated indoors. The rest pray on the enormous plazas surrounding the mosque.

Lili also got to sit on the chair of the catechism instructor. Note the odd socks and the look of deep reflection ...

Lili also got to sit on the chair of the catechism instructor. Note the odd socks and the look of deep reflection ...

The fiv  pillars of faith for a muslim are

- commitment to monotheism: ther is no other god than Allah (confession of faith, sharada)

- commitment to praying five times a day (salat)

- commitment to fasting, especially during Ramadan (sawm) 

- commitment to making a trip to Mecca once in a lifetime, if possible (hajj)

- commitment to almsgiving: donating 2,5% of one's income to the poor (zakat)

 

Here we are - in the space under the minaret. 

Here we are - in the space under the minaret. 

This is the area underneath the sanctuary where the ritual washing, or wide, takes place.

This is the area underneath the sanctuary where the ritual washing, or wide, takes place.

 Wudu involves washing the hands, mouth, nostrils, arms, head, and feet with water, and is an important part of ritual purity in Islam. One of the guides showed how he washes his ears as well. It made a nice symbol - you can hear God's words better with clean ears.

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There is also a hammam in the basement. Each bay is heated to a different temperature.  

And how about a Turkish bath? 

And how about a Turkish bath? 

The quality of arts and craftsmanship is amazing. 

The quality of arts and craftsmanship is amazing. 

Stunning lattice carving. 

Stunning lattice carving. 

Enormous doors. Just enormous. 

Enormous doors. Just enormous. 

Hassan II was the father of the current king of Morocco, Mohamed the VI. He passed away in 1999. While this mosque is named after Hassan II, he had envisioned it as a monument to his own father, the previous king.

 

The minaret, from which calls to prayer are broadcast five times a day, is over 200 meters tall.

The minaret, from which calls to prayer are broadcast five times a day, is over 200 meters tall.

PIZZA BY THE METER

Yes! We fearlessly eat any kind of food in any country and Rabat offered us a new experience: pizza by the meter! We were all super hungry and piled into the restaurant. The system works so that you can order 25cm sections, and as many as you like - four making a full meter.  And that is a good start.

We are all hungry! 

We are all hungry! 

Mommy when is the pizza coming? 

Mommy when is the pizza coming? 

Wow! Anchovies, Vegetarian, Cinque Formaggi and Meat. Something for everyone!

Wow! Anchovies, Vegetarian, Cinque Formaggi and Meat. Something for everyone!

...and digging in. It was awesome! 

...and digging in. It was awesome! 

Not much later it was all gone. 

Not much later it was all gone. 

YAY FRIENDS - CAREY AND ABDOU

Just sayin'.... how great is it that two friends who haven't seen each other for some thirty years, can just meet and pick up from where they left off like nothing ever happened?

This is how great it has been for us in Morocco with my friend Carey and her husband Abdou. (For those asking - Carey and I went to the same private school in South Africa, well, some thirty years ago.) And now we have been able to enjoy Carey and Abdou's lovely hospitality for over two weeks in Rabat. 

It will be hard to leave, but we have invited them to visit us Vancouver - hopefully before another thirty years.

 

 

Abdou Lili and Dante. Lili is still wearing her bindi from India.

Abdou Lili and Dante. Lili is still wearing her bindi from India.

Going to the countryside. It was cold. 

Going to the countryside. It was cold. 

Abdou and Lili soon became best buddies. 

Abdou and Lili soon became best buddies. 

Carey with a client. This gentleman (head of Volvo Morocco) has built a beautiful house outside Marrakesh. I got to see the finished job as an interloper on a site visit! 

Carey with a client. This gentleman (head of Volvo Morocco) has built a beautiful house outside Marrakesh. I got to see the finished job as an interloper on a site visit! 

Lili got a stunning handmade Moroccan dress!

Lili got a stunning handmade Moroccan dress!

Thank you! Merci! Shukran! 

Thank you! Merci! Shukran! 

Almost going away pic. 

Almost going away pic. 

VISITING FEZ

We are currently in Fez, the old capital of the country and current spiritual and arts and craft centre of Morocco.  It is a beautiful city about 2,5 hours Northeast of Rabat.

 

View from the roof patio of our riad. True to style, Lili is practicing her cartwheels.    

View from the roof patio of our riad. True to style, Lili is practicing her cartwheels. 

 

Dante and Lili at breakfast at our riad.    

Dante and Lili at breakfast at our riad. 

 

One of the gates to the old Medina. This famous view frames two minarets inside th gate. 

One of the gates to the old Medina. This famous view frames two minarets inside th gate. 

View into the tanneries. Leatherworks are superb here, and all the materials are local. The leather comes mainly from camels, sheep and cows. 

View into the tanneries. Leatherworks are superb here, and all the materials are local. The leather comes mainly from camels, sheep and cows. 

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Lili with a Berber headscarf style. 

View inside a women's craft co-operative carpet showroom. The carpets were so beautiful, and some were being made on site as we visited. I started to feel that a handmade Moroccan carpet would be a great addition to our living room... 

View inside a women's craft co-operative carpet showroom. The carpets were so beautiful, and some were being made on site as we visited. I started to feel that a handmade Moroccan carpet would be a great addition to our living room... 

Buying prickly pears with our fantastic guide Jalil. (That's right - don't even think of touring the medina on your own. You will just get lost and miss many hidden gems).  

Buying prickly pears with our fantastic guide Jalil. (That's right - don't even think of touring the medina on your own. You will just get lost and miss many hidden gems).  

CAMELS, DONKEYS AND CATS

It is a fact that Lili remembers  places based on whch animals we have seen. Marrakech will go down in history as the place of the camel ride. That was the first thing Lili wanted to do when we said we were going to Morocco.

Most often people go to the desert for an overnight trip and then ride a camel there. It is close to freezing here at night so sleeping in a tent was not that attractive an option - not to mention the price. Luckily our riad was able to get us to a camel spot just outside of Marrakech, and they had camel babies too!

 

Lili getting on the camel. No fear at all - and they are high! 

Lili getting on the camel. No fear at all - and they are high! 

Cuddles after the ride. 

Cuddles after the ride. 

Saying hello to the camel baby. It was only about 3 weeks old. 

Saying hello to the camel baby. It was only about 3 weeks old. 

There are lots of donkeys and mules pulling carts in Morocco. Lili of course would like to stop and pat them all. Here are a couple of pictures of carts in the Marrakech medina souks. 

 

This one was really cute. 

This one was really cute. 

The owners of this donkey saw me taking a picture and quickly came to ask for money!   And did I mention that there are cats everywhere? While Dante and I scan the market for art and fabrics, Lili is constantly scanning for animals. Here are some kitten cuddles from the last 48 hours.    

The owners of this donkey saw me taking a picture and quickly came to ask for money! 

And did I mention that there are cats everywhere? While Dante and I scan the market for art and fabrics, Lili is constantly scanning for animals. Here are some kitten cuddles from the last 48 hours. 

 

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This place had three kittens!

This place had three kittens!

NOT FOR VEGETARIANS

In Morocco, almost everyone eats meat. That's great. Couscous is normally topped with some beef. Lamb is eaten a lot too as is chicken. Obviously, pork is not - this is a Muslim country. On the way to Abdou's birthplace we stopped to buy some meat. Here you can really see where your meat comes from... 

Beef and lamb, so fresh that the blood was still dripping onto the pavement. 

Beef and lamb, so fresh that the blood was still dripping onto the pavement. 

Cutting off a big chunk for Abdou. They used a big hacksaw. 

Cutting off a big chunk for Abdou. They used a big hacksaw. 

Our purchase being weighed. And silly me - I thought the lamb's heads were for decoration - or just showing the brand of meat. No no, you cook the head and eat the meat - delicacies being cheeks, brains .... and eyes. Eeeeuw. 

Our purchase being weighed. And silly me - I thought the lamb's heads were for decoration - or just showing the brand of meat. No no, you cook the head and eat the meat - delicacies being cheeks, brains .... and eyes. Eeeeuw. 

WE ARE IN MOROCCO!

And we are having a great time. Getting over jet lag is going well and our bodies are also recovering from the shock of the local cold snap: as we got off the plane in Casablanca, the temperature was +5 C and it was raining! Our first purchase was a tuque for Lili!

 

In front of the Bab Oudaia. 

In front of the Bab Oudaia. 

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In Rabat with Sale in the background. 

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At my friend Carey's door. 

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Going out with Abdou, Carey's husband.