Sunday, July 8, 2012

2 hours in Marrakech & half a day in Casablanca

I left cascades d'ouzoud for a 2 hour drive to Marrakech before boarding a bus for essaouira. So i decided to take a 2 hour break in Kech before the 3 hour bus ride to the beach.

I was amazed at how much I remembered, and I knew exactly where to go. So i stored my bags at the bus station and grabbed a cab to the djemma al fna. Since the stalls were still in the process of being set up, and thus food wasnt being served yet, I remembered to go to mechoui Alley. Just the mention of that makes my mouth salivate. I got 1/2 kg of meat, bread, and went to town. Sooo delicious. Ironically, with the place empty since it was the end of their day, we sat next to a middle aged American couple from florida. They were so friendly and curious and I admit that I felt like the shit to be doling out advice to my countrymen in this country. I still am impressed at how much I remembered about all the cities, wayfinding, etc. It was just the perfect break we needed to endure another 3 hour journey to Essaouira.

On my last day, i again had to take a 3 hour bus from essaouira back to kech, where i would take the train up to Casablanca to later catch my flight. So I took another 2 hour break in marrakech and this time, went to the Jardins Majorelle again. They'd recently painted the place and the colors were more vibrant, and the air was so cool here compared to the rest of the city. After, of course, i wound back up at Mechoui Alley right at their peak time and went big this time: 1kg of meat AND a tanjia- which is a type of cooking kech is known for. Loved every last bite.

I'm still in my itis, nearly 24 hours later.

Then I finally got to Casablanca where I finally got to see BFF!!! We didn't have as much time as we originally wanted, so we did a tour through the parts and caught up over ice cream and cigarettes. Sooo crazy how this small, amazing world works.
i still and now more than ever, love morocco!

Friday, July 6, 2012


essaouira. the windy city. and boyyyy is it windy!

the trip to essaouira was great. got a grand taxi from ouzoud to azilal, where i got another grand taxi to marrakech. from marrakech, i got one of those "chicken buses" to essaouira bc the CTM and Supratours were fully booked. the "chicken buses" are not as fancy as the others. typically they dont have AC, the chairs don't recline, the clientele is lower class, and they stop in soooo many villages along the way to either drop off or pick up passengers. some even stand, it's so strange. so i couldn't wait to get the hell off this bus, and finally we did arrive in essaouira.

the riad i booked was adorable!

essaouira is great! it's old, it has so much character, there's fresh fish everywhere, the wind is extremely strong... it was such a great time.

since the winds are so strong, it's not exactly the kind of beach that you sit on or swim in... I tried to walk around without being blown away, and come sunset, it got really cold, so snail soup (best i ever had) was the best way to warm up. while walking through the medina, i passed this pizza restaurant that was blasting live music that sounded like a mix of moroccan and andalusian, so i had to try it. the band was so entertaining, they played gnawa music, andalusian music, old moroccan political music, and really had the crowd going. everyone was singing and dancing along, it was so much fun.
the next day i was off again to casablanca to spend the day with my BFF and count down the hours to my flight back home.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Off to see the waterfalls: Cascades d'Ouzoud

They say that you learn a lot about a person when you travel with them, and I, the world traveler, am so embarrassed at how I acted like a total brat.

Because the bus ride was leaving at 6am, and was going to be anywhere between 6-8 hours long, I decided to stay up all night and just sleep on the bus... come to find out, the bus was sold out!

In the midst of an all out temper tantrum, decided to go and rent a private car to take us there. great idea in theory. very expensive alternative. but at that point, i figured there was no other option if we were going to get there.

The car had no air conditioning.

So for 8 hours, I drove to this arbitrary destination in the middle of Morocco, in the Moroccan heat, all afternoon... without air conditioning. I was soaked through my clothes by the time i arrived. The heat and the crankiness were my own personal recipe for disaster. by the time we arrived, i didn't even want to be there, and the waterfalls totally lost their appeal. I physically lost the energy to care. It was so hot, and there was just a tiny little town surrounding the waterfalls. so while the waterfalls were stunning and beautiful, (which are a hike down to/up from), you don't feel the mist which keeps you cool unless you are at the base. so pretty much, not worth trekking 8 hours to. if you're in marrakech and it's a quick 2 hour taxi ride, ok. but NOT from fes.
i woke up with a better attitude the next morning. I soaked in the river above the waterfalls, took some great pictures, and had an excellent breakfast of msmemen with olive oil, with pink floyd and the gipsy kings playing in the background. yes, totally random, but extremely enjoyable.
finally, finding nothing more to do in ouzoud, i decided to trek out to essaouira that afternoon. this would involve taking a 2 hour taxi to marrakech, and a 3 hour bus from marrakech to essaouira. another long, tiring day...on the road again.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

cooling down in ifrane

it was so hot one night in fes, that i couldn't get a wink of sleep, and i was being attacked by mosquitos all night. frustrated, i got up to watch tv around 5am- nothing was going to get me back to sleep. so instead, I decided to embrace this opportunity to go out and get some fresh b'sara soup at 7am, and then race over to the Merenid Tombs for the sunrise. it was a great idea and so much fun. the medina was totally empty, the alleys were silent, the birds were chirping, and the air was still cool.
So how was i going to stay cool for the rest of the day? take a day trip to ifrane. the adorable swiss ski town about an hour south of fes. I took a grand taxi and spent the afternoon there. it felt so much cooler and it's so quiet and peaceful there. I had lunch and walked through the town, snapping pictures along the way.

Whoah, really?

I'm back in fes trying to resolve some unfinished business.

Fes left a very overwhelming effect on me. I really loved it and felt that I could follow some dreams there. Just a few months ago, before I even went to Morocco the first time, I promised myself that I would focus on making a 5 year plan for myself to create and enjoy a life in what i love: travel and food. A few lights switched on when I visited Fes the first 2 times, so I'm back here chasing a couple of dreams. My potential future may be here and I'm doing some research to see if this is true.

One of my tasks is to look at some riads in fes to potentially buy, restore and then run as a guesthouse. This has always been a dream, and I saw it being possible on my last trip. Initially, I was finding the prices of real estate there to be favorable to our exchange rate. but i soon learned that those blogs and prices were from 2008, and since then, prices had nearly tripled. not so great. in doing lots of research this past month, I was able to get in touch with some Americans who have already done the same and met them to ask for advice and ideas. Such wonderful resources. I was even suggested to start a project management business here to oversee the nuances of construction that non-construction ppl or foreigners not living there full time, want to deal with. Another option. It already made me feel like I could create a sense of community there, and I haven't made any moves or decisions yet.

I did eventually see a riad that left me a little speechless. I was shocked at how much I liked it-- almost like I didn't want to find a place I would like, and I was surprised I did. I liked all the original features, the character, and the potential. I can't stop thinking about it... but the price isn't exactly where i want it to be, and one important factor in this process is the fact that there are basically no mortgages on these riads. these homes are so old and have been passed down through generations of families, so they typically do not have titles, or paperwork, or debts. when you want to buy a property, you have to go through a long process of having ever living member of the family that is tied to the property, sign over the sale to you. if you want a title, that takes about a year and many fees. THEN, maybe you could get a mortgage. but the harsh reality is that these are almost always cash transactions. so let's say that you find a place you like that is at a great price of $70,000, you need that in pure cash, and you need nearly the same amount in renovation costs.

my whole thing is, if i had $150k in cash, i doubt that i'd be looking to invest in a small business in morocco- could do enough with that in nyc. not to mention that beurocracy is ever present and extremely frustrating to deal with. i've read too many stories of people with power looking for hand outs and bribes to allow you get your permits, licenses, etc. and doing all that alone in a country i don't know, with a language i don't understand seems risky...

I've been carefully analyzing each experience to kind of gauge my attitude about living here, but so far all the same feelings and reasons for wanting to come back in the first place hold true. That's a start.

I have a lot of thinking to do and even more decisions to make. It's really crazy. I've had all these ideas and dreams, but them coming true??... is that even possible??

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Maroc - le deuxieme fois

After flight delays and having serious doubts that jfk's terminal 1 managed to get my bag on the right plane, I finally got out of casa airport, with my bag, to find great weather in Casablanca.

We almost made it to casa voyageurs train station (the main station in casa, 40 min from the airport) to get on our train to fes, except we got off a stop too early. So there we had to wait an hour for the next voyageur-bound train. We laughed about it. But I admit that was a little annoying.

I totally overestimated the heat and was expecting far worse weather. it is so warm, without humidity- so in the shade, you feel cool. And at night it feels like a cool summers night. There don't seem to be as many tourists as the last time I was here, which is weird. Morocco feels a little empty.

The first day was a wash, as I was extremely tired, and by the time we eventually got to fes in the early evening, i only had enough energy to go out for dinner and called it a night.

The next day, I slept off my jet lag and after a delicious breakfast, decided to spend the most perfect day at a pool in a nearby riad. This riad, more like a palace, was absolutely gorgeous. It was several riads combined and one of the gardens was converted to a pool. It couldn't have been a better way to spend the day. I swam, sunbathed, and repeated that cycle.

By dinner time i was starving, so we set out to the ville nouvelle to go get pizza. now of course, with the euro cup final happening, every tv was turned on to this game, so we watched Spain win, and afterward, walked to the major grocery store acima, to get my favorite: pistachio yogurt. I may have all 8 before bed :-)