Archive for ‘2. North Africa’  

Morocco : Fascinating Fez

Saturday, 5th April 2008

Our first night apart ended up being not so traumatic after all and it actually enabled us to meet alot of new people.

The youth hostel served free breakfast in the garden (pain ou chocolat and cafe au lait) and we met a very nice Brazilian couple, Luiz & Karla, (see photo below) who invited us to join them on a guided tour they had previously organised. The guide picked us up at 10am and very kindly offered to store our bags in the boot of his car for the morning. As it is apparently illegal to store any luggage at hostels (unless you are staying the night), there was absolutely no way to convince the them to help us.

Official tour guides cost 120 Dirhams for 3 hours and the tour was definately worth every penny! He took us through a maize of alley ways to all the different mosques, markets and factory work shops – wood, metal, leather, embroidery, etc.

The highlight was the leather tanneries – huge pits in the ground each with a different colour natural dye (red = henna, yellow = safron, green = mint leaves, blue = indigo and brown = sedar wood). The guide took us to a leather shop high above the tanneries from where we had an excellent view over the pits. It was quite amazing to watch the workers prepare and colour the leather.

Our tour ended at about 2pm and since then we’ve been stuck with our bags and have spent 4 hours slowly sipping mint tea at a cafe on the main street.  We have another 3 hours to kill before our overnight bus (actually airconditioned!) to Tangier, and we will be spending most of it in this little internet cafe uploading photos. Watch this space..

Tonight starts perhaps one of our longest non-stop journeys departing on the 5th and arriving only on the 7th of April:
– Overnight bus from Fez to Tangier (23:00 to 05:00)
– Ferry from Tangier to Tarifa (09:00 to 11:35 – Spain 2 hrs ahead)
– Bus from Tarifa to Algeciras (12:30 to 13:00)
– Train from Algeciras to Bobadilla (15:50 to 18:35)
– Train from Bobadilla to Barcelona (21:27 to 09:27)

Obviosly we will not be updating the blog tomorrow, so we will touch base again in the beatiful Barcelona!



















Luiz & Karla:

Thanks again for the lovely time guys – best of luck on your travels

Morocco : Finally in Fez

Friday, 4th April 2008

We left our lovely hotel in Marrakech this morning to catch the 9am train to Fez, but only got here an hour after the scheduled arrival time at 5pm. Another quite interesting train journey..
At times we could put our feet up on the seats in front of us, and at others there were hundereds of people standing in the isles – dozzens of stops along the way, no air-con or any proper ventilation. We went through 5 litres of water during the trip – it was a scourcher.

The weird thing is that all the locals seem to think it’s winter. Everybody is wearing multiple layers of clothes and it must have been at least 35 degrees on that train!

It took us a while to track down the Youth Hostel, but while standing on a street corner looking lost we were approached by a British guy offering assistance. Turns out that he is one of the co-authors of a few of the Lonely Planet guide books, and obviously knew Fez very well. What are the odds..

The Fez Youth Hostel is very nice, clean and friendly, but unfortunately we are staying in seperate rooms with hot showers between 8 & 9 am only.

We’re off to grab a quick shish kebab because we have a 10pm curfew but tomorrow we’ll be exploring the old Medina and markets of Fez.

PS: Neil & Fee, we had our first huge laundry session and thought of you while using the washing line.
PPS: Juan & Marli, we hope you guys had a wonderful honeymoon – send us details!

Morocco : Marrakech Medina

Thursday, 3rd April 2008

Our experience of Marrakech and the Medina is simply awesome!

After quickly updating our blog, we headed straight for the Medina. Right from the start we were overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and especially smells of the old town.

Without a guide or a proper map (Lonely Planet map is not very detailed) we decided on a direction and started exploring. The markets are amazingly varied and people literally live in or underneath their shops. We managed to get a few very good photos, but in general most people are quite shy of the camera and you always have to ask permission first.

We had lunch at a small cafe and loved the Moroccon Safron chicken and “Gobse” (flat round bread) and of course the mint tea.

After about 4 to 5 hours walking around soaking up the weird and wonderful atmosphere, we somehow arrived back at the main square where we sat on the pavement amongst some of the locals and just watched the people go by.

With about 2 hours to go before sunset, we found a great rooftop terrace (we had to pay a fortune for a bottle of water to gain entry) from where we had a great vantage point over the entire Main Square. Before our eyes the square slowly came to life: dozzens of food stalls started to pop up, many people with snakes and monkeys entertaining the crowds, dancers and drummers going crazy and the crowd growing to thousands.

We sat on the terrace and took way too many photos until after sunset and then decided we were going to brave the local cuisine at one of the traditional food stalls. It took a while to decide which one to go for and in the end found one with no sheep heads (with the cooked brain on the side) on display. We had a mixed grill and chicken couscous and absolutely loved it!

We ended the day with a few more photos and a frantic search for a taxi back to the hotel.

Marrakech is a truely MUST see destination – we loved it!















Morocco : Melting Marrakech

Thursday, 3rd April 2008

Hi all, what can we say.. it’s hot!

Thanks so much for all the posts and requests for photos. Sorry about not having posted any shots, the internet shops we have been going to are a bit dodgy to say the least. We will do our best to get some up soon.

We arrived in Marrakech at 8am yesterday morning after a very hectic overnight train journey from Tangier. Hectic because we hardly got any sleep.. There were dozzens of stops along the way with people moving through and selling stuff in a less than discreet fashion; not to mention the train police checking tickets every couple of hours.

After all that we went straight to the Terre Resort hotel (another 5 star beauty that Marizanne organised) just outside of the city in the desert and decided to saddle-off for the rest of the day. We slept for a few hours and lazed next to the pool for the rest of the time. Hardly a backpacker experience.. but we’re taking it!

This morning after breakfast we took the taxi back into town and are about to start exploring the Medina and Souks in the old town. Tomorrow morning we are catching a 9am train to Fez.

PS: Happy birthday Karike for tomorrow – we’ll have a cup of Morrocan Mint tea on you.
PPS: Anree & Brad, glad to hear your house move went well – thanks for the cool comments!






Morocco : Out of Africa

Monday, 31st March 2008

After our stay in lovely Seville, we caught the 09:45 train to Algeciras via Cordoba. From there a short bus trip took us to Tarifa where we got a very expensive (for our budget at least) to Tangier in Morocco.

It is a completely different scene here from anything we have experienced sofar on this trip. After many “friendly” harrasments by tourist “un”-officials (ie hostel touts) we were taken to an okay 1 star hotel, Pension Hollanda, which seems reasonable enough.

We are probably still a bit culture shocked, especially after walking around the Medina markets, so we will just grab food somewhere and head back to our sanctuary. We have another full day in Tangier tomorrow and hope to be in the right frame of mind by then.