Monday, June 05, 2006

Travelog 9 From Morocco
Dear Friends and Family,
We are now quite a few days behind in these travel tales, and once again we don’t have much time.
Last time we left off in Casablanca, having just met our group. The next day we started our group sightseeing by taking taxis to the very large Hassan II mosque. This is the only mosque in Morocco which allows non-Muslims to enter. It is a beautiful building on a very large plot, which is situated so part of the mosque could be built over the Atlantic. It is made of all Morrocan materials, such as cedar, marble, titanium, and other beautiful materials and is said to have cost more than 800 million dollars. We learned a lot about Islam and were glad they offered
tours in English, because the two major languages here are Arabic and French. Then we again took taxis to the train station to go to Fez.

This train ride was similar to our first one except there seemed to be quite a turnover of people in our compartment and all were interesting. One of them was an Arabic lady from Oujida, near the Algerian border. She now lives in Paris but was going back to handle some rental issues on her various properties. She said that there were many more women dressing in traditional dress now than when she was growing up and she is now 60.

In Fez, we stayed in the newer part of town in a modern hotel but spent a lot of our time there in the old town, called the medina. Here there are about 300,000 people living within the walls which were built in 808. Of course, they have been expanding
them and maintaining them over all these years. There are 9400 streets, like a maze, and we had to have a guide to see everything and not get lost. It was fascinating, especially the dyers souk and the tanners souk. Souk means the area where they live and work. We will post some pictures on the blog when we get back and you will see how great it was, although a bit stinky. While we were in there, we had to be on the alert because the streets are too narrow for vehicles so all is moved around by mule and donkey, or people carrying things on their heads. Our group also visited an area outside the medina where a ceramics workshop was and we saw every part of the process. There used to be a fairly large Jewish population in
Morocco, most of whom left for Israel after that nation was create in 1948 but the place they lived was quite different than the other areas so we visited that too. Of course, the people dress differently in this country, and that has added to the interest. It is hard to get pictures of women because they think that if their picture is seen by anyone it ruins their reputation and their chances for a good marriage.

This is getting long, so I will send it now and try to get off another one in a short time. We are both doing well, although Elaine and some other group members have had a short bout with food poisoning. The food is generally good and they serve large amounts. We are sending big hugs to you all.
Love, Mary and Elaine

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