Friday, November 30, 2012

Morocco, Day 3

The third day, we travelled to the Middle Atlas.  Along the way to visit the Barbary Macaque Monkeys at Tazekka National Park, we stopped in a tribal town called Bahlil.  Here, people live in caves.  

Children of Bahlil celebrating 'Ashura.  Shi'as remember Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet, and his brutal murder in 680 A.D. in Karbala (modern day Iraq).
 A view from the top of Bahlil.
 Typical home in Bahlil.
 This woman was working for a tip!  I couldn't even lift that bucket of water if I tried, much less balance it on my head.  At one point, she was dancing.
 I girl doing a craft of some kind.
 Kids banging on drums to celebrate 'Ashura.
 Where are we?!
 The beautiful Middle Atlas.
 And me :)
"Are we going to be friends?"
 "I think we are!"
 "Don't be so greedy, Mr. Monkey!"
How cute is this?!

Morocco, Day 2

Day two was all about touring the medina.  It was completely indescribable.  The whole experience was like stepping back in time, where craftsmanship was one's livelihood.  Our guide, Halid, was so gracious.  He was born and raised in Fes, and takes such pride in his city.

 Me at Bab Bou Jeloud - the Blue Gate.  It was constructed during the French Protectorate, in 1913. Also, thought it is known as the Blue Gate, the reverse side is green! 
 Andalusia Mosque - dates back to the 9th century.  It is the second most important religious edifice in Fez after Qaraouiyan. It was built at the end of the 9th century by Meryem, the sister of Fatima Al-Fihria, the woman who built Qaraouiyan Mosque.  The gorgeous Almohad door was added on in the 12th century.  Right next door, the oldest public restroom I've ever encountered - also from the 9th century!
 Halid was so proud that the medina offered camel the day we toured.  He kept telling me I had to take a picture.  Reluctantly, I handed over the camera.  I'm sure s/he was a great camel...
 Seffarine Square - where all the copper/brass is "tinked" (that's what I call it).  It's a peaceful square among the bustling medina.  I would own everything from this square, if I could.
 Bou Inania Medersa.  It distinguishes itself among other magnificent buildings in the city because it has a water clock and a mosque, in addition to the school.  It dates back to the 14th century.  Something I thought when I stepped in was the Golden Age for Arab science/art/literature, which is something we so often forget these days.  Fes, Baghdad, and other major Arab cities were once the epicenter of Academia, as well as Fine Arts.  This building blew my mind.
 Bou Inania 
 A girl taking her family's bread to the bakery.  Moroccan bakeries are different, at least in the medina.  Families make their bread at home, and then have someone deliver it to the bakery, where they cook it. Homes do not have ovens.  In the afternoon, they send someone to pick it up.
 The girls at the co-op were very willing to show us up close and personal how they make rugs.  Their fingers move so fast - it's unreal.  I tried, and failed, several times.  
 The first of many rugs rolled out for our viewing pleasure after a traditional tea ceremony.
 This fine gentleman is an expert tea pourer.
 We stopped by a shop to watch how thread is spun from agave.  Yup, this scarf is made out of cactus!
 At the tanneries.  Here they take animal skins and dye them in the vats you seen in the background.  This was incredible to see, though I'm so happy they gave us all a sprig of mint at the beginning to combat the smell of rotting flesh :/
 I honestly have no idea what this door is all about.  I just thought it was gorgeous, and typical of what you see in the medina.
 Zaouia Moulay Idriss is where Moulay Idriss II, the founder of Fez is buried - he is the great-great-grandson of the Prophet.  
 Halid wanted me to photograph the men in the background killing chickens, but he said they wouldn't like me to take photos directly of them.  So, he stood with the sign I made to celebrate the Iron Bowl, with them in the background.  Cringe, smile, cringe again.
This kind sir was carving cedar wood.  I knew that cedar wood was durable and all, but it is on every single ancient structure I think we saw in the medina, and some of it dates back to the 9th century.  All of it in pretty amazing condition.  What an art!

Morocco, Day One

I'm so sad Matt missed out on our trip Fes, but I must say, I had a great time!

My second year at Auburn, I enrolled in a course called "Islam and Politics".  We studied Arab nations extensively, and I just fell in love with the subject matter.  It was then I decided to travel the Middle East and North Africa.  

Israel was beautiful, and it is still so dear to my heart, but it is not the same as diving in to an Islamic country.   

But when I woke in the morning to the day's first call to prayer, I felt I finally made it.  

Arab culture is so warm, welcoming, and hospitable, and my small taste of Fes immediately made we want to plan a trip to Turkey (and countries influenced by Islam) as soon as possible.

But you don't care about that...let's get to photos!

 Spices galore!
 Am I in heaven?  Oh, no?  A date and nut stand you say?  SOLD.
 Making my first pot of mint tea.
 Just one of many beautiful tea sets.
 Chopping up peppers.
 Holding cous cous and veggies :)
The group.

Monday, November 19, 2012


While our husbands were away, Lindsey and I decided to take a trip.  Just so happens we thought Sweden would be the perfect place.  I've heard the most amazing things about Stockholm, and Scandinavia has been on my list for years.  

There are so many things I love about Stockholm - the architecture, history, and royal family.  And stepping into Sweden is like moving at least 15 years forward.  Everything is beautiful, high quality, and posh, and people are nice; you don't have to worry about getting mugged at say, gun point.  

The people are gorgeous - men and women.  They are fit, tall, and dress smart.  They are kind, happy, and, did I say gorgeous!??!  What I am describing here is heaven.  

My tie for favorite country ties with Israel, and Stockholm rivals any city I've visited.  Just beautiful, even when it's cold.

Oh, and the Swedish greeting is "Hey!"  Perfect.

 First street I deemed photo worthy
 Even though it rained all weekend, it was beautiful
 Me in front of the Royal Palace.  Can't wait to take this photo in front of many more palaces!!  See you in December, Buckingham ;)
 One of the main shopping streets in Stockholm
 We happened to wander upon the Stockholm Film Festival.  Lots of people and paparazzi!  No idea which films/stars were there...haha
 View from bridge to Gamla Stan (Old Town)
 Cheese again!
Lindsey and I woke up at 6:30 the last morning we were there to take photos with no one around.  I must say, this is genius, and I'm doing in every city, from now on.

Matt and I were supposed to head to Fes (Fez), Morocco on Thursday, but it seems he will have to work.  Looks like I'm still headed there.  I sure wish he would be there with me.  I'll make sure I bring back plenty of goodies for him :)

Venice, Second Go

Our very first vacation in Europe was Venice.  When we were there in March 2011 it was chilly (though sunny and beautiful!), quiet, and the Bridge of Sighs was covered.  This time, it was gorgeous, though a bit toasty, packed, and the bridge was exposed!!!

This means so much to be because during WWII, when he was stationed over here, my Daddy Joe sent my Dot Dot a postcard of the Bridge of Sighs.  In March 2011, I sent Dot Dot nearly the exact same postcard (shot of the bridge), that my grandfather did.  The bridge is more than a structure for me - it ties me to my grandfather.  I know he walked all over the city, with it looking more or less as it does today.  Perhaps that's why I love Venice so much??

We also took a short day trip to Padova, or Padua.  Sound familiar?  Taming of the Shrew, anyone!??!   

 The beautiful Bridge of Sighs
 Matt checking out St. Anthony's Basilica in Padova (Padua)
 You had to cover up to go in.  Not that I mind purchasing a new scarf...
 Sarah & I wander in to an Italian co-op and find diary free ice cream!
 Thinking of the world's greatest grandfather in front of the Ponte dei Sospiri
 "Gondale, gondale, gondale!!"
 Really?  Perfect photo op.
 The Rialto is magnificent.
 Love birds.
 Street in Padua
 Matt in front of The Basilica of St. Anthony
St. Anthony's Basilica and me