Archive for December, 2006

Happy New Year…

Posted by len on 31st December 2006

…from a land far away (Morocco to be precise).
Today Morocco is in a festive mood being the biggest day on the Moroccan calendar.
Lots of lamb sacrificing and merriment all around town.
Speaking of partying, here’s a little something we found in Barcelona, Spain that you LA in-the-know folks may recognize (and that we miss alot).
Who knew it was an international chain?!

Posted in Spain | 8 Comments »

Things I liked about Spain, after having spent time in Morocco

Posted by sue on 31st December 2006

•Heated buildings! Hotels, cafes restaurants, museums, all with heating!
•Clean streets. The streets of Casablanca and Tangier were particularly dirty (noticeably worse than Fez or Marrakesh), so when we arrived in our first Spanish destination of Seville, we were particularly impressed with how sparkling-clean everything was. We actually saw city workers vacuuming and hosing down the streets late at night! Barcelona, being a much bigger city, wasn’t quite as clean but they still managed to keep most of the garbage under control.
•Wine, wine, and wine. Morocco makes wine, and it’s not expensive to buy in stores, but on the whole I haven’t found it to be very good. We’ve had some that is honestly undrinkable (and let’s face it, sometimes our standards are not all that high!), and the restaurants that offer wine usually mark it up pretty substantially (like in the U.S.). But in Spain the wine flows plentifully, cheaply, and deliciously! There are high-priced wines, of course, but you can easily find a decent bottle in many restaurants for 7 euros, or walk into a bar and order a glass of the house Rioja and be very happy.
•Chocolate, especially in Barcelona. Chocolate in Morocco is often pretty tasteless and of low quality, but the Spanish really know their chocolate. We had the best chocolate croissant of our lives in Barcelona—a big flaky, buttery croissant, filled with rich tasting, just-the-right-amount-of-sweet chocolate that formed a firm spine inside the croissant, that would keep it’s shape as you tore away layers of pastry, and both ends were dipped in similarly yummy chocolate. Okay, not exactly health food, but very satisfying!
•Traffic laws and emissions standards. Lots of traffic lights, with protected crosswalks where cars actually yield to pedestrians, and absence of black exhaust smoke from every car and scooter. Morocco’s streets are a bit more chaotic and hard on the lungs, to say the least.

Posted in Spain | 4 Comments »

Back in Fez

Posted by sue on 29th December 2006

Just a quick post to let y’all know that we made it safely back to Fez yesterday at 3:20 a.m. We had a great time in Spain (Seville, Granada, and Barcelona) and after a fairly challenging train ride from Tangier, we’re back home. This weekend is the biggest holiday of the Muslim year, Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice, commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God), so the trains in Morocco were overloaded with Moroccans traveling to be with their families for the holiday, so we were particularly relieved when our standing-room-only train arrived in Fez.

More photos on the way from our vacation and final scenes of Fez before we leave. We have our (cold, cold, cold) apartment rented through January 4, at which time we need to go somewhere. We’re moving to Egypt, but trying to find the cheapest way there, so we may go to a coastal town in Morocco like El-Jadida (south of Casablanca) or Asilah (just south of Tangier) for a week or so before flying to Cairo.

Posted in Fez | 2 Comments »

Fez to Seville

Posted by len on 21st December 2006

Sadly, the first Hero of the Voyage ™ Sandra C. left this morning for New York and if our dehydrated hangover eyes could have teared up, they would have. It was a great time and we experienced many fascinating things together.
We’re spending our second night in Granada, Spain as of this writing.
We found a relatively affordable hotel (68 Euros/night) right in the middle of the ‘Tapas Zone’ and Granada, though not as cute as Seville, is still REALLY nice.
We plan to hit the famous Alhambra palace tomorrow.
The next day we fly to Barcelona for the finish to our Spanish travels.
Here are some photos from the last couple of whirlwind days.

Posted in Spain | 8 Comments »

Planning our next move

Posted by sue on 20th December 2006

We visited the huge cathedral in Seville today, which is one of the largest in the world. Part of it was originally built as a mosque during Muslim rule of Spain days (8th-13th century in Seville), and the bell tower definitely looks like an Islamic minaret with a baroque belfry on top, because it is just that. And the cathedral has the tomb of Christopher Columbus in it, though it turns out that they’re not altogether sure that the remains inside it are really his.

The blogging action of the last couple of days is thanks to an conveniently-located internet cafe right next to the cathedral.

Right now we’re figuring out where to go next, whether to go to Granada tonight, or to Malaga, from which Sandra flies out tomorrow at about midday. It depends on bus and/or train schedules.

No, we didn’t get a haircut from a Barber of Seville, though Len did buy a new electric razor yesterday. Does that count? We haven’t heard any flamenco guitar music, which is a bit disappointing. Cheap and tasty Rioja wine and tapas keep our spirits up, however.

English is certainly not widely spoken here, and I’m embarrassed that we know next to no Spanish, but communication happens when you really want it to.

Posted in Spain | 4 Comments »

Seville is Impossibly Cute

Posted by len on 19th December 2006

Maybe it´s 2 months of Moroccan habitation talking but we arrived in Seville, Spain last night by bus and this city is incredibly cute.  Narrow rough hewn brick streets winding every which way, twinkly christmas decorations around every corner, ornate old buildings, tapas, cheap wine, cute stores….

Another day and we´re forced to move on to Granada to escort Sandra towards her exit from Malaga.  Christmas day should be in Barcelona. 

Posted in Spain | 2 Comments »

In Memoriam: Bill Means

Posted by len on 18th December 2006

On Dec. 7th our dear friend Gary’s father passed away.
A true Californian; raised his family there and in the Sheriff’s department for many years.
He was a funny guy and a nice man.
He will be missed.

Posted in Fez | 1 Comment »

Night Train to Tangier

Posted by len on 18th December 2006

Where have we been?!
Sandra Chilazi, the first Hero of the Voyage ™ arrived last week (Wednesday).
We started a round-Morocco trip that has taken us from Fez to Marrakesh then on to Casablanca and we’re now in Tangier for a few more hours. We cross the Straits of Gibraltar later this afternoon and enter Spain! We take a 3 hour bus to Seville and stay the night. Two days later we head to Granada for a night. Sandra leaves on the 21st. Sue and I then head to Barcelona for Christmas! (which you’d otherwise have no idea is coming up when living in a Muslim country).
Lots of pictures to put up but as usual we’re on the run and don’t have enough time to do it right now. Plus this internet cafe is freezing!
If Spain has good internet cafes then we’ll be getting some cool photos and video up before Xmas so check back! Have a wonderful white Christmas!

Posted in Fez | 4 Comments »

Observations of Fez in our waning days–Clothes

Posted by sue on 7th December 2006

One thing that’s interesting about Morocco is the great variety in what women wear (and some men) wear.

The traditional garment that people wear on the street is the jellaba, a long wizard robe. It’s a simple garment, all one color (any color), with a hood. It goes over your head and over your clothes (shirt and pants for men and women, usually), and it comes down to about your ankles. Many women wear it when they are out of the house, and some men too, especially on Fridays, which is the day Muslims go pray at the mosques.

The interesting thing about women’s wear, though, is that although it is traditional to wear the jellaba with a scarf that covers a woman’s hair and neck (no matter how hot the weather), some women wear the jellaba without a headscarf. And some women wear headscarves but not jellabas, but instead wear some other modest long shirt or coat with pants. And some wear headscarves with tight-fitting, very Western style clothes. And some don’t wear a headscarf at all, but still wear a jellaba or long shirt or coat, or some other more Western style outfit. The point is, you can dress however you want here and still blend in with the great variety of dress as long as you don’t wear shorts or short skirts.

These days, dress is dictated by the weather, which has turned rather cold, and most Moroccan buildings are not heated. Our apartment is COLD! It’s bearable because the sun usually comes out enough during the day to warm things up a little, but these days I’m piling on layers and layers of clothes, and that’s just to stay warm while I study at home.

Posted in Fez | 5 Comments »

Last Week of Classes

Posted by sue on 5th December 2006

Sorry that the blogging output isn’t what we’d imagined when we started it. I dreamed of gobs of free time and blogging creativity and trouble-free internet access, but days seem to disappear and the internet access can be spotty.

Anyway, I’m in the home stretch of my studies at ALIF. I’m still not thrilled with my classes, but I’ve managed to wring what value I can out of them, and I have learned a lot. I hadn’t been studying Arabic with any consistency for several months before I arrived here, so this 6 weeks of full-time study has certainly whipped me back into shape and given me some good learning momentum.

Looks like we’re only going to be based in Fes for a couple more weeks or so. We’re probably going to Cairo– we’ll let you know.

Posted in Fez | 5 Comments »