Monday, 26 September 2011

Rabat & Fes, Morocco

Hi from Clare,                           Sunday 25th September 2011

We have now been in Morocco for a week.  We are staying in Bouregreg Marina in the capital city of Rabat.  Along side are two other Aussie yachts, two New Zealand yachts and one American yacht plus a few other nationalities.  So we have plenty of company and some traveling buddies as we explore the area. The marina is fairly new and visiting yachts are very welcome. The security is excellent with many guards on duty 24 hours a day. The visitors are allowed to go anywhere within the marina but the local folk are not permitted to walk along the finger piers amongst the visiting yachts.

                  Bouregreg Marina                                                   Kasbar (fort) at Rabat
Once leaving the marina however the many contrasts in standards is very apparent. On one hand there are excellent quality trams, trains, cars and freeways.  The hotel and private homes we have been to are spotlessly clean, beautifully decorated and have leafy green interior courtyards. The more prosperous people are well educated, well dressed and well mannered. We have had teenage boys give us their seat on the tram.

Rabat Railway Station
Then we venture up to the local market place.  I think the people must be very hardy but for me who is soft in comparison, the smell of the fish market, blocked drains and rotting vegetable matter is enough to almost knock me out. It breaks my heart to see beggars on the street, stray cats and kittens only a few days old, dying of starvation. It is uplifting to see on many occasions a local person giving money or food to a beggar. So it all seems to work but it is very different to our way of life.

Hotel in Fes
We went (with Mark and Amanda from ‘Balvenie’ and Arnie and Jo from ‘Just Jane’) on a two day excursion to Fes. This was a 3 hour train trip inland. We traveled first class and enjoyed air conditioning and light refreshments. There was only one first class carriage on the train.  Second class looked less comfortable and very crowded.

Blue Gate - Fes Medina
The attraction at Fes is the Madina which dates back to 808AD. It has 9600 winding streets and is one of the oldest souks in the world.  On day one, we split up and just wandered around town. We managed to explore quite a bit of the Madina and eventually found our way back to the hotel. That evening we all went out to a traditional Moroccan house for a dinner. The house was seven hundred years old and three stories with a garden courtyard on the roof. The family had owned the house for one hundred years. It had beautifully tiled floors and walls and ornately carved wooden ceilings. The lady of the house spoke fluent English and although she had three boys (including twins) under the age of four, she provided a most comprehensive and delicious Moroccan meal. The family had converted their back yard into a tented restaurant and as it was highly recommended by the hotel it was making quite a good living; very enterprising of them and good luck to them.

Mark, Jo, Arnie, Amanda and us at dinner
Fes market and the satelight dishes
The following day we had a guided tour through the souk. We visited the Mosque, The oldest university in Morocco, a pre school centre, the community bakery (where families bring their bread and pastry products to be cooked in a community wood fired oven) an ancient water clock and a carpet weaving cooperative with show room of course. However the highlight of the trip was a visit to the tannery.
Fes University and the carpet cooperative

The Tannery

Upon our arrival at the Tannery we were given a small bunch of fresh mint. This was to put under our nose to combat the smell. Without it I am sure I would have been ill. In fact without the mint, I would not have been able to see the tannery. The photos tell it all, stinking, back braking work. It is piece work and a beginner earns (in Australian money) $20 a day, once proficient he can earn as much as $40 a day. There was a young boy working there, our guide said he was just helping his father as it was Friday afternoon and Friday is a half day at school. He also said that if the man’s son does well at school then he is free to go ahead, but if he does not do well at school, then he will work at the tannery; what a dismal prospect.  

Tomorrow we will visit Casablanca. If the weather is right we will leave for the Canaries on Tuesday. This is a 450 mile leg and we want good weather.  There are two particularly nasty named storms in the mid Atlantic that we are watching carefully. 

You may notice we now have a Google map showing the area we are in. If you want to see exactly where the boat is, you can click on “Where are we now?” under Links below the map.   Andrew updates this regularly while we are moving about.

Love Candy xx