On our honeymoon in the year 2000, we journeyed to Spain, Morocco and Portugal.
It is a journey we took quite some time back, at a time when digital photography was still in its infancy – in terms of mass appeal and use.
So our grainy pictures scanned from film printed photos are all we have both in our scrapbook albums and also in our own travelogues.
It was a 3-week journey which also took us to Morocco for near 7 days, crossing over to Tangiers from Spain. Unfortunately we did not cross over via Gibraltar, so missed out on pinning the flag there! Although Morocco is in the Africa continent, it was not all desert as we expected it to be. Rather it was lush as the photos suggest!
Fes and the Souks
We had arrived Fes in the late afternoon and thus did not do much in the way of exploring the city. Instead we were driven to view the panorama of the city. Dinner was a rousing affair, cooking in nice little pots that would make lovely souvenirs. While Morocco is predominantly Muslim, there are synagogues and churches as well. But the city has 320 mosques!
Key to our exploration today is a visit to the souk at the medina. As with all souks, it is a local market and caters to all sorts of products for daily use.
Tough negotiators, Moroccans drive a hard bargain and are really persistent. We eventually bought our beautifully hammered brass plate. Be careful not to get lost here. It’s a real maze and it will be a catastrophe to lose your wife here. And especially when you are on honeymoon!
Now markets can be permanent or they can be makeshift. An open market souk exists too, though only on a transient basis. The one we found in the background traded more “durable” goods such as camels or perhaps slaves…lol.
Like much of Africa, Morocco was colonized by the western powers. In specific, Morocco was split between France and Spain. Marrakech was capital and part of the French protectorate, but in practice almost all of the country’s governmental functions were managed by the colonial masters.
Bahia palace is one place that we visited. Interestingly the palace was built by the grand vizier for his personal use rather than the sultan! Today, it is a shadow of its former self as we toured the facilities. It’s actually a far cry from the Alhambra that we had just seen barely a week back!
As with Fes, it was “light and magic show” in the evening replete with many different groups of dancers featuring local cultures. And of course how can we not mention the horse carriage ride? Six of us crammed on small seats probably meant for four, it was a 20 minute ride through the streets back to the hotel.
Part of our journey was to spend some time to know more about the indigenous culture. Nowhere is that better than to visit the homes of the local Berber people. Normally associated with nomadism, it was a surprise to find settled Berbers. In fact, their more aggressive kin roam the Sahara, trading and robbing as it suits. Not an easy lot to manage.
We are in the Ourika valley and the Atlas mountain range is in the background. In this corner of the world, we see people living with their poulty and cattle. And they were probably dressed in their finest as they greeted these foreigners that disembarked from the coach. A nice tea was served with bread garnished with olive oil, which they also seem to cultivate.
The drive along the coast back towards Europe was not impressive, although we did stop for a short while in Casa Blanca (as if anyone watched that movie), to visit the place where the filming took place.
The King Hassan II mosque is quite impressive but we were more intrigue by the ”water man”. He is one of the vendors walking around in a really colorful “dress” carrying a backpack of water and many small brass cups. No, we did not drink the water but we did pay him for the privilege of taking a photo with him.
We are back in Tangiers, a port city that faces the southern tip of Spain. A grimy city, it was not exactly the safest place to go walking about on your own. So, we were more like holed up in the hotel (which was pretty nice). Probably then (as now), there are lots of migrants in this city preparing for their dash across the straits to Europe.
All-in, it was quite a whirlwind journey across the semi-arid country. Interesting enough the northern coasts are greener, but gets really dry as we drove into the interior, getting to the edges of the Sahara.