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September 19, 2018

Casablanca is not the capital of Morocco


Morocco with Back-Roads Touring

Hands up those who think that Casablanca is the capital of Morocco?

Then you should join up for a Back-Roads Touring adventure!

Michael Osborne begins his Moroccan odyssey in Rabat, Morocco's capital. Rabat is on the Bou Regreg River and adjoins the Atlantic Ocean. It's known for architecture that salutes its Islamic and French-colonial heritage.

Our tour took us to the majestic Hassan Tower. . The city's iconic 12th-century minaret, which towers above the ruins of a mosque. Unmissable, it's been the symbol of Rabat for eight centuries. It remained unfinished after the death of its founder in 1199, but its solitary splendour overlooking the river amid a wasteland of broken columns is eerily poignant.

Facing the tower is the sumptuous marble Mausoleum of King Mohammed V, grandfather of the current King, who died in 1961 (free entry). Unusually, non-Muslims are permitted to visit its hallowed interior, patrolled by royal guards and draped in heraldic banners.

We were lucky enough to be there to witness the changing of the guards. The superb horses and the brilliantly attired guards create a visual spectacle that really had the cameras clicking away

Next was the oldest part of Rabat - Kasbah des Oudaias. Ancient narrow stone stairs between brightly painted white and blue walls of the houses. Hassan took us on a wonderful walk through the maze of alleys, along stone paving that has been worn down by many hundreds of years of pedestrian traffic.

FES

This special journey of discovery continued as we boarded our coach and headed east towards Fes, as the locals know it, not Fez as often seen.

Fes El-Bali is the oldest walled part of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You enter through the archways of the stunning Bab Boujloud (Blue Gate) and you'll get a sense of what lies ahead in the 19th-century medina.

The medina is one of the world's largest urban car-free zones. Here, mules, donkeys and pedestrians flow steadily through the streets. 'Balak - 'Balak' it's the cry of the porters who transport, on trolleys, all the goods to the hundreds of shops. Balak is a warning to cling to the wall as the porters make their way past.

Fez is also famous for its leather products and most of it comes from the leather bazaar (souq). The souq is home to three ancient leather tanneries, the largest and oldest being the Chouara Tannery, which is almost a thousand years old.

Fez's tanneries are composed of numerous stone vessels filled with a vast range of dyes and various liquids spread out like a tray of watercolours. This process is all achieved manually, and the process has barely changed since medieval times, which makes the tanneries absolutely fascinating to visit. Well, besides the odours!

The hides are first soaked in a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water and salt. The hides are then soaked for two to three days after which tanners scrap away excess hair fibres and fat in order to prepare the hides for dyeing. They are then soaked in another set of vats containing a mixture of water and pigeon droppings. This contains ammonia that acts as a softening agent which allows the hides to become malleable so they can absorb the dye.

Our accommodation for the next three nights was in a Riad, which is like a small palace, with a central courtyard and fountains. The rooms are all en-suite and our meals were served in the courtyard, which had rewarding views over the valley and across to the Medina.

Historic City of Meknes

Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknes became a capital under Sultan Moulay Isma├»l (1672–1727), the founder of the Alawite dynasty. The sultan turned it into a impressive city in Spanish-Moorish style, surrounded by high walls with great doors, where the harmonious blending of the Islamic and European styles of the 17th century Maghreb are still evident today.

Bab al-Mansour is the main gate between Meknes' Medina and Imperial City districts. It's an immense and highly photogenic structure that many experts proclaim as one of North Africa's finest examples of surviving gateways. Finished in 1732, it was built by Sultan Moulay Ismail (though completed after his reign). The intricate architectural detail on the gateway includes lavish use of tiling and carving work. Today, the gate isn't actually open, instead you enter and exit through a neighbouring, much smaller side gate. This allows you to fully admire the gate's artistry unheeded by traffic.

Volubilis

The ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis are the main tourist attraction for Meknes. This is Morocco's most famous Roman remnant and for good reason. Sitting atop a hill, with the countryside rolling out below, the surviving columns and temple fragments of Volubilis are an impressive and powerfully atmospheric site.

The city's heyday was AD 24-285 when it served as capital for the Roman province, and most of the ruins date from this period of prosperity.

Why not have a look at all the other award winning adventures: https://backroadstouring.com/

Michael Osborne was a guest of BackRoads Touring.

Words and images: Michael Osborne

Feature supplied by. www.wtfmedia.com.au

 

Images:

1.      Hassan Tower

2.      Our guide, Hassan, relating the history

3.      Changing of the guard

4.      Mausoleum of King Mohammed V

5.      Fes El-Bali

6.      The Tannery

7.      Peter relaxing by the pool in our Riad

8.      Volubilis

 



September 10, 2018

The trouble with Spain: Too many Spaniards


HOLIDAY WOE, TOO MANY SPANIARDS IN SPAIN

David Ellis

LIKE something straight out of your favourite TV comedy show, two holidaymakers from England have come home from Spain to complain to their travel agent about fellow-holidaymakers they had to put up with on their vacation.

And they demanded – unsuccessfully as it turns out – a full refund of the cost of their trip, because according to them "there were too many Spaniards in Spain."

"They were all around the place," the ladies said, before going on to ask of their agent in a written complaint "why can't the Spanish go and holiday somewhere else?"

An octogenarian pensioner and her 61-year-old friend, the two went to the popular getaway of Benidorm on the Mediterranean coast in Spain's east, and which has been a favourite of international holidaymakers since 1925, and also happens to be easily accessed by travellers from Spain's inland.

According to the English ladies, their hotel was "teeming with rude Spaniards" and worse still "all the hotel's entertainment was aimed at a Spanish audience."

"The audience really got on our nerves," they said, "we became so upset that one of us ended up in tears."

We wonder where their agent may be game enough to send them next year?

 
PHOTO CAPTION:


[] SPAIN's Benidorm beach is a magnet for sun worshippers, but according to a complaint by two English holidaymakers their Benidorm vacation there was spoiled by their hotel "teeming with Spaniards, and with all the entertainment aimed at Spanish audiences who really got on our nerves."