CFFC: All About Cities (Skylines to Street Photography)

Marrakesh and street life go well together.

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A colourful combination.

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For more street photography and skylines, click here.

Travel theme: Camping

I have done much camping in my days…many of us have. As a child I loved it, then as a young woman in love, we camped all over Europe during the summers. Some camping in the mountains, hiking and some camping with my students…but now, it is over.

Or… almost.

If staying at a Berber camp for two days, in tents, and having a camp fire in The Sahara Desert, is camping, then I have camped again… last month. Our tent was the one to the right, with a yellow entrance carpet.

At the far end of the camp were the toilets – and to my great disappointment, they were ordinary toilets – just like those at home…The washing basins outdoors though.

The adventure started with a marvellous camel ride over the dunes, and enjoying the colourful sunset from the top dunes.Back at the camp, we were treated to a real feast – or at least it felt so after our long day…

We had some delicious tagine by candle light in the main tent, and then we sat by the fire under the stars, listening to each others’ stories. Just existing.

We all slept well that night, but some of us woke up early…trying to find our way in the dizziness of the silence of unfamiliar surroundings.

I had expected it to be very cold during the night – we had been told to bring warm clothes. But three o’clock in the morning the air was soft and smooth, fresh and only a bit cool.

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Finally back at our tent, I admired yesterday’s fireplace in the clear morning light, went inside the tent, and fell asleep again.

Before leaving the camp the day after, I enjoyed the sun seeping through our carpet, and the joy of photographing our tent in daylight. The bed was very warm and comfortable, and we were provided with all sorts of bed linen, blankets, duvets, etc.

A last look at the camp and the ”restaurant”, then we left what had been the highlight of our journey.

IMG_6755_copyThe rest of my desert adventures will have to wait for a post of their own.

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I was just thinking that, maybe one day…we will be back in the Sahara again…

Go for more camping here.

Djemaa el-Fna – ”assembly of the dead”

Everywhere you look in the Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakesh’s main square, you’ll discover theatre  in progress. The street theatre has a natural home here ever since this plaza was the site of public executions around AD 1050. Even if there are discussions on the origin of its name, Jemaa means ”congregation” in Arabic, probably referring to a destroyed Almoravid mosque. ”Fanâʼ” or ”finâ'” can mean ”death” or ”a courtyard, space in front of a building.” Thus, one meaning could be ”The assembly of death,” or‘assembly of the dead’.

 

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It is not just a tourist attraction since many locals also enjoy the activities that make Djemaa el- Fna come alive. During the day, the square has numerous stalls, most of which sell fresh fruit juice, water and fruit.

 

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By 10am, the daily performance is under way. Snake charmers with their hissing cobras and men with chained Barbary apes, despite the protected status of these species under Moroccan law; henna tattoo artists ( women with piping bags full of henna paste, ready to paint you with “tattoos” that will last up to three months – though beware of synthetic “black henna”, which contains a toxic chemical; only red henna is natural. The Henna Café guarantees to use only natural henna).

 

Water-sellers in fringed hats, with water-bags hanging and brass cups clanging. Medicine men display their cures, and tooth-pullers display trays of extracted molars to prove their skill. And if you wonder…fortune-tellers sit under umbrellas with packs of fortune-telling cards at the ready.

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At dusk people come out for an evening promenade, and the square gradually fills until it becomes a whole carnival of storytellers (telling their tales in Berber or Arabic, to an audience of locals), acrobats, musicians and entertainers.  If you want a respite, you can move over to the rooftop terraces, such as the Café du Grand Balcon, or Café Glacier, for a vista over the square and all the activities, and the crowds who come to see them. Very much recommended. We enjoyed a rather expensive bottle of juice and a less expensive mint tee – having a great view without being crowded.

 

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Arrive early in the evening to get a good seat. Applause and a few dirhams will encourage the performers. It’s a great show, but be prepared…taking photos immediately brings at least one man to your door…dirhams!

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In 2001, Djemaa el-Fna was recognized by  UNESCO  in the project Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity – the initiative coming from people concerned about the Djemaa el-Fna. Since long known for its concentration of traditional activities by storytellers, musicians and performers, but now threatened by economic development pressures. The residents wanted protection of their traditions, and called for action on an international level. In 2001, this ”cultural space” got its protection.

In Marrakesh, this meeting place is a must. Remember – this is far from only for tourists. Most people strolling here, enjoying themselves, are locals. This is, even today, a genuine piece of Arabian Nights…no ”assembly of the dead”.

 

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Cee’s B&W Photo Challenge:Heads or Facial Features Human or Animal

I was sitting in a van in Marrakesh, waiting for the driver, when I saw this gorgeous man relaxing with his friends. A long shot, through the window, I just had to…

For more facial features, click here.

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Thank you for being featured last week!

CEEB&W

Thursday Thoughts – Desert Inhabitants

Life in the desert – we all know there is life, but for me it was rather a shock to see how Much life.

Human beings might turn up – like in the header – but seldom without camels.

If you walk the dunes of the Sahara Desert an early morning, waiting for the sunrise, there are other creatures catching your attention…

…like this super fast moving gerbil, or desert rat. Puffs of sand coming up of this hole made me curious…

I waited for him to show himself properly…but swooosh, and he was up and back in his hole in less than a milli – second, digging along again. At least I got a glimpse of his fascinatingly big eyes!

After the sunrise, we walked over the dunes towards the camp. The grey light had shifted into pink, and was now turning more and more into a warm yellow. But who is making these patterns then? And, looking at the tiny footprints, there must be a multitude of these creatures…

And here he is – a scarab beetle scuttling the big sand waves. I guess a cousin to those scarabs highly revered in old Egypt. In the shadow of a dune I found this little one digging along.

We rode camels to the dunes and watched the sunset from one of them. A beautiful experience – beyond words. One of the Berber men told us we had been followed by a desert fox – I was sorry he did not tell us when the fox was still there.

Lastly – a picture of the scarab footprints…and something else…Who made these tunnels under the sand? I hope someone out there in the blogosphere has the answer!

A Moroccan Piece of Paradise

 

Back in 2004, Alain Ribet -a friend from Bordeaux- told me « My brother Bernard has gone quite mad: he’s bought a farm in an oasis in deepest Morocco”.

These are the words of Catherine Quenisset, the charming French lady who now, together with her husband Philippe, runs the ecolodge Sawadi in the palm grove of Skoura, Morocco. Read their story and about their sustainable concept by clicking the links above!

The Sawadi farm has the comfort of a riad and is implanted in a 4 hectare domain, This means a huge garden, and here they grow almost everything they need for themselves and their guests. For example roses for making rose water, flowers for the calendula oil, and all vegetables for the kitchen.

The hotel part of Sawadi includes only seven living houses, and is consciously restricted to that. In fact, Sawadi is the only establishment in Skoura to receive the “green key” a sign of their commitment to tourism and sustainable development.

All the buildings at Sawadi have been designed and built respecting the traditional local Berber architecture. The ancestral technique means that the houses are daubed with a coating of mud and straw and they all have narrow window frames. This to make the  interior of the house remain cool in summer and warm in winter. The area has a constant dry heat which also means you can visit any time of the year.

 

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Sawadi is a place for both body and soul. Mindfulness. After leaving the luggage and changing clothes, we sat on the porch for a long time this evening. Just listening to the silence, only interrupted by the birds and the occational sound from the farm animals.

There is a beautiful pool and the kind of traditional hammam (a steam room for 3, maximum 4 people simultaneously ) you can find in the wealthy families of southern Morocco. Here they offer you a scrub and massage with the famous Argan oil.

Callistemon – in abundance

Food preparation is consistent with Sawadi’s  ”natural” ideal. In Sawadi they do not use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides. This is one of the reasons to why there are so many birds on the premises – and no mosquitos.

Sawadi is situated close to several places of interest. For example Aït Ben Haddou, the Todra and Dades Gorge, the valley of the roses, the valley of Draa, Telouet, Ouarzazate, Zagora, the road of 1000 Kasbahs.

Much thought has been given to children and their families. The playground for volleyball for example, and the offer to take care of the children for a whole day, should their parents want to go hiking or visiting some of the tourist spots nearby.

 

After an interesting walk through the gardens, kindly guided by the gentle gardener, we returned for a delicious dinner by the pool.

Unfortunately we only had a few hours in Sawadi – late evening and early morning…So, if I ever go back to Morocco, I certainly know where to stay. Thank you again , Catherine and Philippe!