Sunday, April 13, 2014

cats of morocco

If there was one thing there were a lot of all over Morocco, it was cats. Cats under cars, cats on roofs, cats riding bikes - well almost. It was refreshing to see how nice the Moroccans were to the cats as well. You'd see a guy walking down the street with a bag of fish, cat hot on his tail and he would stop, take out a fish and toss it to the cat. How nice and giving everyone was to them made you feel good about what otherwise could have been a cat overpopulation problem.

With the amount of time we spent in Morocco, we became friends with many of the cats. We knew where to always find certain cats and what type of day was best to pet them. Morocco's a cat's world and they're just letting us live in it.

Of course we took many photos of the lovely Moroccan cats, so without further adieu, Cats of Morocco.

In Marrakesh, this cat helps out with selling rugs.

A herd of hungry cats approaches us as we come home with a pizza.

Is it his bike, or is he just guarding it?

A kitten playing under the watchful gaze of momma cat.

One of the regulars just outside our Marrakesh hotel. He let us pet him sometimes. Sometimes not.

A fisherman feeding his spare parts to cats and seagulls at the Essaouira port.
Spring was on us in Essaouira with lots of kittens in tow.
He thought he was hiding.

A kitten who wanted nothing to do with us.

A favorite spot for cats to congregate was under cars.

Some cats just couldn't get enough pets.

This is Sofy and that is her cannon.

Everyday these three cats could be found in this exact position.

Maggie making a kitten's day.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

essaouira is très tranquille

From Marrakesh we headed to the small beach town of Essaouirra. It's on the Atlantic coast of Morocco and famous for being a musical center during the 70s. Artists like Cat Stevens and Jimi Hendrix spent time there as well as Orson Wells, who has a much abused bust in one of the town squares.

It was surprising how much the drive to Essaouirra from Marrakesh looked like New Mexico - minus the goats in trees, which unfortunately, we didn't get pictures of.

There are some goats near a tree in the middle there.
Essaouira is supposedly the best Atlantic port close to the Mediterranean, so it has been fought over for many hundreds of year. As a result, there is a pretty impressive wall full of cannons that goes right up to the ocean's edge. Since this isn't the US, you can climb all over it and take some great pictures.

 We ended up spending quite a lot of time in Essaouira, a month or so. As a result we got to do a lot of exploring, and lucky for us, Essaouira actually had quite a lot to offer for a small town. We stayed in the old Medina inside the city walls, but right outside there was a very active port and next to that, there was an amazing beach that stretched for miles along the natural bay that gives the town its famous reputation. In the bay there is a little island that is now a national park, so you can't go to it. But on the island there are Phoenician ruins that are visible from the beach, and supposedly gave Jimi Hendrix the inspiration for his song, Castles Made of Sand. But since Jimi first visited Essaouira a few years after writing the song, we knew it was just tourist hype.

Part of the wall the circles the whole Medina.

The Medina's main drag.

The other direction of the Medina's main drag.
The major square in the Medina where a lot of restaurants are located.

One of the many tight streets the weave their way through the Medina.

The view from our hotel room.

They like to try and sell you art in Essaouira. The cat wasn't for sale.
A view back towards the Medina from the Port.

Essaouira's beautiful beach.
Camel rides, anyone?

A nice dinner on the beach boardwalk.

Dinner with a little entertainment.

The rocks just outside the walls the surround the Medina.

Phoenician ruins out in the water. Castle made of sand?

At first we weren't too enchanted with Moroccan cuisine, but Essaouira had some great food. Olives for days and some really good Charmwa made our time eating in Morocco quite enjoyable. We also ate a lot of pizza, which was everywhere in Essaouira for some reason, and they did pretty well (our favorite was the veggie pizza with potatoes and rice, since they consider rice a vegetable here).

Lots of olives in every color of the rainbow.

Nothing better than a Charmwa with fries.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

the marrakech express

Not knowing where to go after Spain, but looking for some place cheaper than Western Europe, we decided upon Morocco after a shining recommendation from Maggie's host sister Marghe. Neither of us had ever stepped foot on African soil, so we decided it was the right choice to continue our continent-hopping.

We flew into one of Morocco's major cities, Marrakech. It was pouring rain the day we arrived so we found accomidations in the Medina (city center) very quickly and stayed indoors. Luckily the next day was much nicer and we went searching for nicer accomidations as well.

Marrakesh hotels--at least the traditional ones, called riads--are very cute, with all the rooms centered around a courtyard with a open roof. The one we found also had a nice deck on the roof that you could sit and eat at - or work.

Courtyard of our riad.
After settling ourselves in, we headed out to explore the city. Marrakech is an ancient town with habitation going back to the B.C.'s. It's called the Red City for obvious reasons and for moments you almost felt like you could be in Santa Fe with all the stucco. We were staying in the old part of the city, but we occasional made excursions into the new city to find grocery stores and other new world conveniences.

The symbol for Marrakech.

The Atlas mountains in the distance.

The old walled city we were staying is a hodgepodge of souks (markets), each on leading to the next. It was easy to get lost wandering the tight, twisting streets. But there was always so much to see.

One of the souks.

I don't know why so many people sell these. I thought Aladdin was from the Middle East.

Shoes anyone?

Many Hand of Fatimas.

A kitty perusing the tajines, a device they cook much of their food in.

A Moroccan wheelbarrow.

So many amazing doors.

We didn't know what to expect from Moroccans, but we were instantly overwhelmed by how nice and hospitable they all were. Their vendors can be a little pushy, but overall, they are a genuinely nice group of people. One thing that went on a lot in the Medina was snake charming and monkey handlers. I understand that people got to make a living, but neither of us wanted to encourage the practice, hence the bad quality photos from afar.

Snake Charmers.

Monkey Handlers.

 A popular dish in the Medina was snails. So we had to try it. It wasn't great, but we are glad we at least gave it a try.

In Morocco, a constant companion while eating is a begging cat.

At night the Medina really got going with restaurants, cake shops, nut vendors and a million other things going one. It was quite the spectacle.

We stayed in Merrakech for a while, so we found some nice places to go and work. One was a park just outside of the Medina that was full of cats (not much different than the rest of Morocco). It was a very peaceful place where you could find a quiet spot and work while basking in the sun... and watch the cat society play out.

How many cats can you find in this picture?