Author Topic: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes  (Read 1757 times)

Offline ponash123

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #15 on: September 19, 2017, 02:20:24 PM »
Day Six: Casablanca

We woke up early, said our goodbyes to the amazing staff at Kheirradine, and set for the 3-hour trip to Casablanca. We had a pleasant drive, and there are nice rest stops along the way with drinks, fresh fruit, souvenirs etc.
Once we reached the outskirts of the city, we made a stop at the Jewish Museum. The reason we did this is because it’s far out and hard to find, so we figured it’s easier doing it this way then trying to go after we check into our hotel.
The museum was an interesting look into the history of the Jewish people of Morocco. They had old Torah scrolls, jewelry, wedding outfits and lots more.





We spent a bit of time there and then set out to our hotel – Gray Boutique Hotel & Spa.
We chose this hotel mainly due to its close proximity to the Jewish community and because they were used to Jews and ‘Shabbos problems’. We didn't mind having a standard hotel for Shabbos, vs a Riad, which we did for the other 2 cities.
It was really nice and we got upgraded to bigger suites, which was great (I don’t think there are any regular rooms in the hotel).



The hotel was situated in the upper-class part of the city, with stores like Bvlgari, MaxMara and Saint Laurent just a few steps away, yet you would never know walking the streets. Casablanca is Morocco’s largest city, but in general, it’s very gritty. The streets and buildings are decrepit and nothing is very well kept.
After settling in and eating a small lunch we headed out. We walked to the Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Morocco and the third largest in the world. 
It was built by King Hassan II (the current king’s father), and took 6 years to build. The size and elaborate decoration of the mosque is simply spectacular. Although it is open to non-Muslims (the only one in Morocco), we chose not to enter and viewed it from the outside.
It’s absolutely magnificent and is a showcase of Moroccan artisanship: hand-carved stone and wood, intricate marble flooring and inlay, gilded cedar ceilings and exquisite zellij (colorful ceramic tiling) abound. Even just viewing it from the courtyard was awesome.





We then took a taxi to the beach where we spent some time. Interestingly, although it was brutally hot outside, the ocean water was frigid, way colder than any beach in the US.



One thing to note is that the general beach is for ‘averages’ as the Moroccans say. To enjoy your beach time, it’s probably better to pay the entrance fee to one of the beach clubs (preferably a hotel such as the Four Seasons).

We went back to the hotel, got ready for Shabbos and left to our host.
Our host lived about a 5-minute walk from the hotel. We swiftly learned that finding your way around Casablanca is not easy, and the 5-minute walk turned into 15. But, eventually we found our way and had a beautiful Shabbos meal with a lovely Moroccan family.

Day Seven: Casablanca

We got a late start Shabbos morning, as we didn’t attempt the 20-minute, 100-degree walk to shul.
We walked back to our hosts for lunch and relaxed in the hotel for the rest of the afternoon.
After Shabbos was over, we walked over to Sky 28, a bar located on the 28th floor of the ‘Twin Towers’, where you get a great view of the whole city.

In comparison to Marrakech and Fes, Casablanca is definitely meh. We spent one Shabbos there, which was more than enough to get a feel for the place. We were happy that we got a chance to check it out, but other than the Jewish community, there’s not much there and we were glad we didn’t spend more time there.

« Last Edit: September 19, 2017, 03:22:44 PM by ponash123 »

Offline shwarmabob

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #16 on: September 19, 2017, 03:08:42 PM »
Beautiful TR. Morocco was just moved higher on my bucket list.

Offline ponash123

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #17 on: September 26, 2017, 11:46:27 AM »
Day Eight: Fes

We left Casablanca early and drove the 3 hours to Fes.
The difference between Fes and Marrakech is hard to grasp when reading about, but once you’ve been to both, it’s pretty stark.
Marrakech is colorful, hectic, fascinating, and loud. It’s fairly simple to get around and navigate on your own. Most people there speak English (or some variation of it) and they are much more used to tourist. This lends itself to a slightly more commercialized, touristy feel.
The locals are also very wary of tourists and if they even spot a camera pointed in their direction, they go berserk (unless you offer them money first).
Fes, on the other side of the spectrum, is a cobblestoned, medieval labyrinth, which within you’ll find souks, mosques, children running about, and lots of artisans. If you lost sight of your guide, chances are the 9th century maze of over 9,000 streets, alleyways, lanes, and derbs (dead-ends) would swallow you up instantly.
The locals are friendlier, gladly posing for us when spotting a camera, and welcoming us into their stores.
In general, Fes is much older, a bit more authentic, less crowded, less tourist-oriented, and locals were not as persistent in their harassment. 
Something to note – While in Marrakech we felt safe walking around at night, we did not do the same in Fes. There is very little nightlife in Fes and much less people out and about after sunset.
Both were amazing in their own way, and I wouldn’t be able to choose between them.

Palais Faraj is a beautiful riad and looked like a palace. We met the owner who showed us pictures of what it looked like when bought it and how he renovated it.
While nothing can compare to the privacy and personal attention that Kheirradine gave, it was amazing in its own right and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
It is located right outside the medina and has the most magnificent view.


Being greeted at the riad with mint tea:




View from the rooftop terrace:


After settling in and eating lunch, we set out on foot for a short, guided tour.
We entered the medina through the iconic Bab Bou Jeloud – Blue Gate. Front and back:



Just walking through the medina is amazing. Everything is so old and so many things still done the old-fashioned way. Our guide told us that he teaches Arabic to lots of Jewish kids. Unfortunately, most of them were away for summer vacation so we weren’t able to meet anyone.

Standard alley in the maze that is the medina:




A couple of days after we left Morocco was the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha or the Sacrifice Feast. This is a holiday in remembrance of the Akeida (of Yishmael as it turns out) and they slaughter sheep and have a feast in celebration.
It was interesting to see the preparations taking place wherever we went. Sheep were being brought every which way. One funny sight was a bunch of guys stuff a herd of sheep into the luggage compartment on a coach bus. Unfortunately, we passed that on the highway and don’t have a picture.





We visited a carpet cooperative where we got an impassioned speech from one of the owners about the cohesiveness of the country, and the great relationships that existed between Muslims and Jews. He served us mint tea and showed us a couple of gorgeous pieces. After looking around, we went up to the roof for an amazing panoramic view of Fes.






We then visited another herbalist where we got a similar presentation to the one we’d gotten in Marrakech.
After that, we went to an amazing factory/shop where they had a giant loom and were sitting there weaving the most amazing scarves, pashminas, and tablecloths. One of the workers told us that he makes an extra-long, white tablecloth special for the Jews.






We got a ride back to our hotel in a special ‘cab’.


We ate dinner and relaxed by the pool for the rest of the evening.




Offline ludmila

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #18 on: September 26, 2017, 05:25:00 PM »
Your trip report and photos are both +++. Enjoyed it very much.
I was the Best,still the Best, and will always be the Best.
Pele Good,Maradona Better, George Best.

Offline ponash123

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #19 on: September 26, 2017, 09:54:44 PM »
Your trip report and photos are both +++. Enjoyed it very much.

Thanks!

Offline SuperFlyer

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #20 on: September 27, 2017, 09:03:59 AM »
Thanks for the very nice and in depth TR.
I did only Marrakech and a bit less intense and without guide (if I were a girl, I'd for sure take one to brush off the men, which I now I had to brush off myself).
I climbed (from Imlil indeed) the Jibl Toubkal, the highest mountain of North Africa.
It is a lovely country but I would not have dared visiting it in the summer (I'm not good with heat).
If pictures are requested, I could post, but I don't like to unfocus your nice tr.

Offline ponash123

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #21 on: September 28, 2017, 02:17:47 PM »
Day Nine: Fes

We started off the day by having breakfast in the rooftop restaurant. All riads offer a complimentary generous breakfast of which we were able to parcel out a couple of things, and supplemented with our own food.
We then made our way our over to Poterie de Fes, a pottery cooperative. It’s a fascinating place where you can see how the craftsmen mold, glaze, and paint all things ceramic like big fountains, tables, and dishes.




The oven where the pottery is baked:


Some of the items being sold:


I got a stern lecture from the Muslim worker when I dared to call this a menorah and not a chanukiah:


The zellige (mosaic tilework) is all done by hand:


Beautiful table getting ready to be shipped out:



Fes is famous for its leather products and is home to ancient tanneries, which is almost a thousand years old. There is a tannery in Marrakech too but it’s not worth visiting if you will be in Fes.
There are numerous vessels filled with a vast range of dyes and liquids spread out like a tray of watercolors. 
The best views of the tanneries can be found from the surrounding terraces where the leather shops are located. The salesperson from a shop will give you a rundown on what products are used (all natural) and how the process works.
The hides are soaked for a few days in vessels full of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt before being picked at and dried. Next, they are sent to a different set of vessels filled with diluted pigeon poop and water to be softened. It’s really fascinating to stand on the rooftops and watch the tanners standing in the vessels using nothing but their bare hands and feet to dye the leather. They then turn the hides into high quality leather products such as bags, coats, shoes, and babouches.
There is a pungent smell so everyone gets handed sprigs of fresh mint to help overcome the odor.
Keep this in mind when purchasing any leather items (from any city), as it will have a rather strong smell for a while.



Hides being hung out to dry:


Some of the leather products being sold:


We made our way to the mellah of Fes, making a stop right outside at the king’s palace. The king, Mohammed VI, has several palaces located throughout the country, with the main residence in the capital, Rabat. In Marrakech there are 2, one for him and one for his family.
There are 7 golden gates to represent the 7 days of the week.

After walking through the mellah, we went to the home of the Rambam. It’s been completely renovated and is now a restaurant, but you can see the alley outside and exterior of the home.



Jewish cemetery:



One of the things we had been really excited about visiting in Fes was the grave of Sulika. This is considered an extremely holy site by Jews and Muslims alike and everyone there knew immediately what we were referring to.
You can read her story here:



We walked through the souks and spent some time shopping. After that we went back to the riad where we had dinner and cooled off for the rest of the evening.

Views from around Fes:





Day 10: Fes -> CMN -> NYC

We woke early, packed up our things, and had a quick breakfast. We warmed up our remaining Pomegranate meals to be eaten later that day and headed out.
The evening before we remembered that we had completely forgotten to go to the Jewish synagogue in the mellah, so we asked our driver to make a quick stop on our way to Casablanca.
There a few synagogues in Fes, one of the oldest being the Ibn Danan. It’s interesting to see, and they have a Torah from the 17th century. The caretaker is an elderly Muslim fellow, whose face literally lit up when he found out we were Jewish.


We were running a bit late by the time we reached CMN airport. The security is the most intense I’ve ever seen, with there being a security line just to enter the airport.
We went straight to the gate and boarded. By the time we took off and were ready to eat it was about 4 PM. We hadn’t eaten a thing since our meager breakfast at 7:30 AM and we were famished. To our chagrin, when we pulled out the Pomegranate meals, we saw that the wrapping and seals on all the meals were opened. I’m not sure what happened since the same riad had warmed up our food the previous 2 days and listened to our explicit instructions, but either way, we were out of food.
The airplane food was barely edible - a bottle of grape juice and some crackers. We had a couple of snacks with us, but NY pizza never tasted so good as it did 8 hours later!

With our unbelievable and incredible trip coming to a close, we all conclusively agreed that we wouldn't have changed a thing about our itinerary. If we’d been able to stay a couple days longer, that would’ve been ideal as we unfortunately didn't get to the Sahara, Essaouira, and Chefchaouen, all of which are supposed to be beautiful.

Morocco was an unreal experience and we are thrilled to be coming home with memories, gifts, and photos that will last a lifetime (or at least until our next excursion!)
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Offline 12HRS

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #22 on: September 28, 2017, 03:43:57 PM »
Absolutely one of the most fascinating TR's here.

Offline ponash123

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #23 on: September 28, 2017, 04:09:29 PM »
Thanks for the very nice and in depth TR.
I did only Marrakech and a bit less intense and without guide (if I were a girl, I'd for sure take one to brush off the men, which I now I had to brush off myself).
I climbed (from Imlil indeed) the Jibl Toubkal, the highest mountain of North Africa.
It is a lovely country but I would not have dared visiting it in the summer (I'm not good with heat).
If pictures are requested, I could post, but I don't like to unfocus your nice tr.


Thank you!

The heat was extremely intense, there's no denying that. It was something we were definitely worried about, especially since 2 of us are really not good with heat either. However there were a couple of factors we took into consideration that made it bearable.

1 - It's dry heat which is so much more manageable
2 - I set up the itinerary with this in mind. We took it slow and allowed extra time for things. Most days, we planned to be indoors for the time when the sun was strongest.
3 - We embraced the heat and didn't get bothered that we were drenched in sweat at all times. It definitely takes the edge off if you're in the mindset.

Another thing we did was bring packets of Gatorade powder that can be poured into a water bottle. This helped if any of us were feeling dehydrated.

Jibl Toubkal looks incredible! Just the views we had from the valley were magnificent.

I'd love to see some of your pictures. Post them in the Morocco thread please! 

Online Something Fishy

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #24 on: September 28, 2017, 04:18:58 PM »
Beautiful TR. Morocco was just moved higher on my bucket list.

+1000

Wonderful TR, definitely makes me want to go now.
Check out all my Trip Reports here!

Offline aygart

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #25 on: September 28, 2017, 05:37:19 PM »
Wow, sounds just like the bursiki in the gemara!
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used to start a religious discussion.

Offline moisheyb

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #26 on: September 28, 2017, 07:23:45 PM »
Wow super amazing looking trip!

Offline ponash123

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #27 on: September 29, 2017, 10:31:44 AM »
+1000

Wonderful TR, definitely makes me want to go now.

Thanks. It should definitely be on the list!

Offline SuperFlyer

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #28 on: September 30, 2017, 08:47:11 PM »
My compliments for this TR were from before the Fez part.
Still as impressive.
Interesting that th terrible story about the girl, if you read the English part (the French one is cut off), it's written in quite a anti Muslim way. I guess no one can read English overthere, and they used Google translate.
I'll look up this Morocco thread.

Offline SuperFlyer

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Re: A Summer Trip to Morocco: Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes
« Reply #29 on: September 30, 2017, 09:10:05 PM »
So I looked up the Morocco master thread.
Seems more like a dry text thread.
No time to write up a tr + my way of traveling isn't too useful for the folks here.