Morocco Code : Saad no more!


Day 9

Sigh, the last day of our vacation. The nice folk at the riad gave us a good breakfast, and set us off on our half day tour. Our guide’s name was Khaled, and the first stop was less than 100m away! The Palais de la Bahia, part of the Jewish quarters, was built by the king’s vizier(s) as a harem, and later occupied by the French, who did that by throwing out their host! Only a portion of this palace is open to the public, but it does live up to its name in terms of craftwork – brilliant!

Khaled was not very jovial and preferred dry sarcasm and sharp verdicts – the original occupants of the palace being his victims in this context. But he knew what he was talking about, and seemed to be well respected judging from the way he was greeted as we walked around. It was not the typical familiar greetings that tourist guides normally get.

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Morocco Code : Courtyard or death?


Day 8

The scene from the previous day’s breakfast played out again, except we changed the battleground – to another table. The bees really did like the other table – we weren’t disturbed, and the poor folks sitting on that table were busy swatting them away!

We set out a little late to Marrakesh since the distance wasn’t much. Ismael Lo was the soundtrack for the drive, some amazing music. We made a couple of stops on the way, or rather D did. The first was an Argan cooperative. The fruit of the Argan tree is used to make oil for cooking as well as cosmetic purposes. D was given a demo of the whole process, and finally bought flavoured soap, even as I snoozed in the car. The next stop was also Argan based. Apparently, goats like the leaves so much that they were willing to climb the tree for it. We stopped for photos. (and barely took them before their owner came around to ask for a tip!)

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Morocco Code : Ess, more please!


Day 7

We woke up around 9 only because breakfast would be served only until 10. The riad had a lovely terrace, and we chose a table that gave us a view of the beach and beyond. Some bees apparently liked the table too. After attempts from both sides, the bees successfully shooed us away! The staff very kindly sent the breakfast to our room.

Essaouira, formerly Mogador, (that sounds so GoT!) seemed to have a very active market, and Marrakech was the only stop left, so we planned to exert our shopping muscles a bit. The WIFi was working fine and we mapped our entire walk. It helped that the routes were pretty straight forward and the places weren’t far off. Our first stop was supposed to be the Bab Doukkala, but we managed to distract ourselves and wander into the side lanes. There were a couple of shops which made some very interesting figurines with vehicle spare parts, cutlery, cameras etc. We reached Bab Marrakech, another corner of the medina, before we realised we had forgotten our original destination.

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Morocco Code : The coast is clear!


Day 6

Breakfast was standard fare, except for an omelette that arrived in a tajine, and some excellent vanilla yogurt! We checked out from Riad Maktoub, and happily got into the car, when Hisham told us that we’d be walking up. That took us about 20 minutes, and we were early enough to miss the crowds that would soon arrive from Marrakech. The site is a kasbah which apparently still has a few families staying inside. The rest of the population had shifted to the opposite side of  the river, (that looked more like a stream) because it had electricity, transportation etc.

On the way up, we met “Picasso Abdullah”, who painted using indigo, saffron and tea+ sugar. The fantastic part of it was how the colours changed when he heated the paper. This was an old ‘encryption’ technique, he said. Ait Benhaddou has also appeared in Hollywood fare, (including Gladiator) and more recently as Yunkai in Game of Thrones. The view from the top was fantastic.



Morocco Code : Ain’t Hollywood, but..


Day 5

The sun apparently woke up early in this part of the world. So we did too, to watch it rise. 6’o clock, brutal! A little over an hour on camels took us back to Yasmina. Though we had to ask for some tech support in between, the bath felt really refreshing. The breakfast brought us back from our elated state – stale, and the worst mint tea we had on the trip. But, to be fair, they’re in the middle of nowhere, so things must be tough to maintain.

We returned the way we came, and chose to skip an archaeology museum visit on the way. For the second day running, we had a long way to go – close to 400km.

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Morocco Code : Enter sand man!


Day 4

We had a day long drive ahead, and had to make an early start. Breakfast done, we set out, towards the Sahara. We first passed a town called Ifrane. Set in the Middle Atlas, this town is locally called the Switzerland of Morocco and has snow during its winter months. Its “hill station” image meant that it had a huge number of villas which were apparently rented out for weeks. The town is also famous for the Al Akhawayn university.

Next up was Azrou, which means ‘great rock’, and is home to forests where the Barbary macaque is found. We stopped at what seemed a tourist spot. Our first attempt to shoot a family pic resulted in an NSFW image! We also caught an aspiring Formula 1 driver! More

Morocco Code : Two Fez’d


Day 3

We woke up reasonably late, at least by our usual itinerary standards. Our guide was scheduled to meet us at the hotel around 9.30, and that gave us time for a relatively simple breakfast (that’s a distant cousin of the Kerala porotta on the plate) and a mini tour around the riad. The view from the terrace, as had been indicated by our elderly host, was amazing, though I oscillated between freezing to death and being blown away by the wind in the five minutes I spent up there!


Abdul, our guide for half a day, promised to show us the ‘real’ Fez. Dressed in a djellaba, he was a middle aged man, with a son who was born the same year as the one in which the current king took over the rule. He was also quite talkative, as most guides are wont to be, and had a great many adjectives for himself – great, modest (in the same breath), honest, and lucky were a few. Hisham drove us to the (old) medina, and he described how it had many quarters, and each quarter had five essentials – a mosque, a hamam, a bakery, a school for the kids, and a fountain. These days, Batman as well. (check the image for the bat mobile) More

Morocco Code : Fez down!


Day 2

We woke up to a bright morning, and a lovely view of the mountains from the riad’s balcony. But despite having a restaurant, ‘their’ breakfast was served in a restaurant at the medina. Hisham joined us for a heavy fare that included hung curd, homemade butter, olives, and their version of peanut butter (but of thinner consistency, and made with almonds and olive oil) called amlou. During the meal, a gust of wind almost dropped a patio umbrella on me. I escaped, and the panicking restaurant owner rushed to thank the local gods by splashing some ‘holy water’ from the top of the umbrella on to me! 😐

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Morocco Code : Blue Up

Morocco was never a plan, until it was! We have a running list of places we’d like to travel to, and had zeroed in on Africa this time. Yes, that’s not really zeroing in, but you get the idea. Our choice of vacation spot and our timing didn’t match, and Morocco became the wildcard! There is a connection though, but that I shall get to in the end.

We took Etihad’s night flight to Abu Dhabi, but not before eating some lousy Chinese at BIAL! Something surreal happened at Abu Dhabi – right next to the gate for our flight to Casablanca was one for Cochin, of all the places in the world!  After confusing fellow Malayalis by speaking to D in Keralese, and boarding a flight to Casablanca, I realised that I had massively underestimated the flying time for the second leg – it was almost 10 hours! But sleep and in-flight entertainment meant I had no reason to complain. The Big Short was a fascinating watch – what performances, and what a tale! Also managed to watch Creed – a lot of it at 2x though.

Day 1

Immigration at Casablanca was a breeze. I had been a little worried because the visa (at roughly Rs.7000 pp) had our middle names only as an initial, unlike our passports. But except for one idiot, who whacked D’s Reynolds pen, the experience was smooth. Free WiFi helped! :) A bit about Casablanca. My romantic notion of that place, courtesy a song and a movie, had been shattered during the planning stage thanks to our tour operator and the internet. Apparently, it’s now just a big cosmopolitan city like any other!  More

Turkish Baat 10 : Istanbul and The End

Continued from Days 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

Day 10

We were supposed to leave only at 11 from the hotel, but we woke up early because…shopping! In addition to the more famous Grand and Spice markets, there is also one near the Blue Mosque called Arasta Bazaar. The internet had some good things to say about it. It was very close to the hotel, and we reached by 9. The shops were just beginning to open. It is smaller than the other two. We found some super cushion covers, but otherwise, it actually seemed pricier than the other markets.

We bid goodbye to the hotel by 11, and this time, reached the airport in just an hour! After doner kababs for lunch, we did some duty free shopping and boarded the flight. The flight to Doha had no in-flight entertainment and I had to restrain myself from finishing the book I had brought! The flight was a bit delayed and we had to make a run for the connecting flight! We were warned by the Istanbul duty-free salesman that they might not let the liquor through, thankfully spirits dampening didn’t happen. More