The Wonder of Marrakesh

In his list of 100 wonders of the world (previously covered here*) Howard Hillman includes the city of Marrakesh Morocco, citing its famed public square, its souks*, and its minaret. Mr. Hillman hasn't led me astray yet, so I figured I had to stop by to have a look.

While the minaret was great, everywhere you turn in this country there are minarets. And besides the normal beauty of almost all the minarets I've come across, this one didn't stand out so much. As for the souks, it's hard to get excited about an attraction where the main activity is to buy stuff. I long ago gave up buying souveniers/trinkets for folks back home, which makes the draw of markets, aside from their energy and bustle, largely lost on me.

But the public square, Djamaa el Fna, was something that I haven't really seen before*. At first impression, it doesn't seem like much, just a big square with the occaional fresh orange juice stand. But as evening sets in, the large chunk of pavement become totally covered in street performers of all kinds and the people who come out to watch. There were snake charmers, acrobats, storytellers, impromptu boxing matches, dudes with monkeys, henna artists, traditional musicians, and more. Much of it was lost on me because I don't speak Arabic so couldn't quite figure out many of the clusters, but the excitement and bustle of it transcended language barriers. The only letdown was the lack of jugglers*. Alas.

I can't say whether Marrakesh would make it to my top 100, but it would definitely be in the running. But in my write up, I might skip the minaret and souks and instead highlight the Majorelle Garden and the Bahia Palace. But to each his own. Whatever the case, Marrakesh is a city worth visiting.
Wednesday May 15 2013File under: travel, Morocco

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Walk the Casbah

Everywhere I travel, I can't help but notice the architecture. In Europe it is narrow streets, gigantic cathedrals, and pillars and columns. In Thailand, it is thatched roof huts raised up on poles. And here in the Moroccan desert, it is mud bricks and neat almost Navajoan designs.

While I have seen this style throughout the past couple stops here on the hot* and dry side of the Atlas Mountains, the best example of it was seen near Ouarzazate* at a place called A�t Benhaddou. The reason for its exemplary condition is that it is somewhat of a tourist destination. Many films were made here include Gladiator, The Jewel of the Nile, and Prince of Persia. It's just my type of tourist destination, though, because the main activity is to roam around and look at the buildings.

I took some pictures too, not because I think they'd be any better than what's already out there, but because, when rolling solo, it is a good activity to extend your roaming around a place. Oh, and I found a geocache there too!


(Would you look at that...I made a picture oriented blog post without one of those silly self shots in it. I guess this is what it feels like to be a grown up.)

Sunday May 12 2013File under: travel, Morocco

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Sahara Sahara!

One of the big reasons Morocco has been on my want-to-go list for some time is because of the Sahara. It is storied, it is beautiful, it is different, it is mysterious--basically, it is all things I look for when traveling. While not all my super high expectations were realized*, after a two-night camel trek into Erg* Chebbi outside of Merzouga, Morocco, I've got a little better understanding of this place I've been so anxious to see for so long.

One of the things that I learned was that riding a camel isn't the most comfortable experiences in the world, both physically* and mentally *. But they are incredible interesting creatures, and to be so close to them was really great.

When I wasn't busy holding on for dear life on the camel*, I was constantly engrossed with the vistas. The desert, esp. sand dunes, are really beautiful! Very few of the pictures I took turned out*, but I'm okay with that. I've got the necessary imagery up in my noodle.

Yep, it was quite an adventure ("nomad village", an oasis, scarab beetles doing it, traditional Berber drumming, a frisky scorpion/spider getting intimate with my leg, bright stars, isolation, and more) and I'm so glad to have done it.
Friday May 10 2013File under: travel, Morocco

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Sometimes Photos Just Dont Cut It

Some places, no matter how good a photographer you are or how good your equipment is, defy being captured to any sufficient degree. No photo can convey the feeling of being there, whether it is an issue of sounds or smells, scope, or merely an issue of geometry. That's not to say, of course, that good photos can't be taken, but they just don't do the place justice.

Medersa Attarine in Fex, Morocco, is just such a place. Among the elements that can't be captured are: the agreeable drop in temperature from being surrounded by stone that's been in the shade, the surrounding nature of it, and the drastic calm compared to the bustling Medina just outside its elaborate gates.

I stumbled upon said Medersa while aimlessly meandering* the narrow descending avenues of Old Fez which made the impact of it all the greater: I didn't know what to expect. "Oooh, that looks like an interesting gate. I wonder what's through it."

I am heartily comforted by the fact that some places you just have to visit to understand. It helps justify travel*, as opposed to looking through beautiful National Geographic photos. So while I always attempt a few photos, just to spur my memory later, I basically just end up staring in wonder trying to soak up the moment.
Tuesday May 7 2013File under: travel, Morocco

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