Archive for March 2012
Although I live in Doha, with it’s “traditional” Arabian souq, the real souq I have seen and which fascinated me was the souq in Aleppo. However, we are in Fez today, our tour started from the Jewish Quarter, and our guide said that this is the ‘organized’ area of the city compared to the real Medina. I thought this facade in the alleyway is similar to the alleys of Mykonos in Greece only this one is not in white and blue. However, this is far busier than Mykonos.
To my surprise, the road was not that long, soon we were back on our bus again…. that’s it; it turns out that the fabulous Jewish Quarter is located outside the Medina, as we rode the bus heading to the real Souq.
The Walled City of Fès ,
OK, a bit of information about the city which I copied from Wikipedia, that Fes is the third or fourth largest city in Morocco today but it was the capital of Morocco during the Moroccan Empire, and as many historic places, Fes also has bits of the Old City called the Medina. It comprises three distinct parts, Fes el Bali (the old, walled city), Fes-Jdid (new Fes, home of the Mellah) and the Ville Nouvelle (the French-created, newest section of Fes). “Fes el Bali” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; this medina, the larger of the two medinas of Fes, claims to be the world’s largest contiguous car-free urban area.
To see Fes el Bali, one has to be there, feel the life and vibrant of the life of Fes, but we can see Fes from the distance as well, that is from the ancient walled city is from the ruined Merenid Tombs on a hilltop to the east of the city. From here you can see the skyline with its profusion of satellite dishes, and a general mass of palaces, green-roofed holy places, the tanneries, as well as the adjacent Karaouine Mosque.
Behind the Medina’s high walls is a magical, medieval city just teeming with life in every one of its 9000 narrow streets. As Fes today is the cultural and spiritual capital of Morocco what I experienced there was really different, the alley ways were smaller, there were no cars at all as the streets are not wide enough, the idea of the visit is getting lost in the labyrinth of the Medina. When our guide took us for a whole day tour, I was amazed that he did not got lost in the very small alleyways all over the place.
Fes is a colourful old city, everything is interesting: the vibrancy of the people doing their daily life activities, the noise of buying and selling, the elusive traditionally dressed Moroccans, veiled women going about their work and bell-ringing water sellers as well as the main transportation inside this Medina, the donkey.
To avoid getting lost, a guided tour is the easiest way to tackle the buzzing hive that is traditional Fez, but if you are brave, you can negotiate the tiny alleyways, too narrow for cars whilst risking getting lost and then haggling with a local to be guided back out!
More picture could be seen on my Facebook Page
Rabat is less well known than Casablanca, and many do not know that today Rabat is the capital of Morocco. However, the history of Morocco says that it has experienced several capitals, and Rabat became the administrative capital only since Moroccan’s Independence from France in 1952. It is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
What many people also don’t know is that Rabat consists of two cities, Rabat and Sale, and divided by a river, called Wadi Bou Regreg?
Compared to Casablanca, Rabat is more modern, it has modern tramway system as the main city public transportation. However, as Morocco has a long history, so is the city of Rabat, thus like many cities, it has the old part of the city, called the medina and the newer part of the city where most people live. There is also another part of the city that is brand new, which houses government buildings and a palace.
In the North part of Rabat, there is the picturesque Oudaia Kasbah, which is partly enclosed ramparts that was built during the Almohad Period.
One of the biggest local attraction is the Mohammed V Mausoleum (the father of Moroccan Independence), where during the weekend this is a popular destination for the locals.
This Mausoleum was built to the memory of Mohammed V, the father of Moroccan independence. This building was commissioned by his son, Hassan II and was design by a Vietnamese Architect, Vo Toan. Included in the building complex is a mosque and a museum devoted to the history of Alaouite Dynasty and as the annex of Hassan’s Tower.
The Picture I took above is the closest distance the public or tourist can get to the building/gate.
More picture can be seen on my Facebook Page
The city of Casablanca was romanticised by the movie Casablanca. However, today, apart form being Morocco’s economic capital, Casablanca doesn’t offer much to the tourist.
The only tourist attraction in Casablanca is the Hassan II Grand Mosque, which is the biggest mosque outside the Holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
Regardless of all that, Casablanca was my first introduction to Morocco. I was very impressed, for a developing country Morocco is doing very well. We stayed for the night in the area near the port where a lot of infrastructure works are going on. According to my guide, Casablanca is now building a tramway system across the city, just to improve public transportation.
The most interesting place in Casablanca for me is the Corniche. Like many Arab cities that are located by the sea, they all have a Corniche. However, unlike the Corniche in Doha, which is very beautiful overlooking Westbay, Casablanca’s Corniche has no such view, but it has atmosphere and one can sit there for ever just ‘people spotting’ and enjoy the sun (provided it’s not in summer).
To me it’s more like Bondi Beach in Sydney, where all restaurants, bars and clubs are, and across the street is where the people doing their people watching, and being watched.
More interesting picture of Casablanca on my Facebook Page
Finally I managed to arrange a holiday to Morocco, a country that I’ve been planning to go to for years. As I don’t have so much time to spend, I do what I did last year where my husband and I visited Syria and Jordan, using the facility of escorted tour. Unlike last year where we did it with Exodus Travel, this time we just bought a holiday package from Qatar airways. This is the map of our route, which I excerpted from Google map:
The tour called ‘Imperial City Tour” and it seems a lot of travel agents run the same tour, the same route thus, the route is no secret:
- A – Starts in Casablanca
- B – Rabat,
- C – Meknes,
- D – Fez,
- E – Beni Mellal,
- F – Marrakesh, and
- G – Back to Casablanca.
We will traveling by bus of about 20 people with multilingual guide that will explain us of the places visited. (you need to zoom out the map to see the destinations above)
I will try to post all the pictures I take along the way
photo is aerial view of Tunisia, which I did not know that Africa is green