Monday, November 22, 2010

Morocco Cueta to Fes

Traveling through Morocco so far has been like traveling back into time. Donkeys, camels, and goats walk freely in the streets, houses are created out of brick, most no more advanced than the ruins of their past. Their artwork is both stunning and beautiful. Today's Morocco is changing fast, but still has lots of culture left to share.

The people so far have been very friendly, the northern mountain sides more lush then I ever could have imagined, and the quiant towns filled with as much culture as I have ever seen. Some towns have been like a time capsule, preserving the past.

The first town I camped in was a cute mountain town, called Chefchouen. The town reminded me of the beautiful photogenic towns on the Greek islands. No doubt having been influenced with the same Mediterranean style of small meandering streets, with many levels, ocean blue doorways and windows, stunning arches, and white adobe walls. I could spend a few days walking the streets photographing the buildings, but instead I as engulfed with a more amazing experience.

As I walked through town early in the morning, I noticed every house had a sheep tied up in the front, like a family pet. As the day went on though, I watched family after family killing the goat and together preparing it for their meal. As you look down over the small town tucked into the mountainside, every building top, back yard, and street corner, had a family preparing a goat. It was a religious tradition that every Muslim in the world celebrated on that day. So many goats where being killed that the streets were running red with blood, even though they are very careful keeping the place clean. It was an amazing experience to watch each family member having a different, yet important job in the process. It wasn't easy watching them slit the throat of the goat and watch him die, but it allowed me to realize how easy we have it back home. From talking to locals, they said that it was a tradition followed since Abraham gave their God, a goat as a gift. So every muslim kills a sheep in that honor and shares it with family, friends, and even the poor. Noone in the country goes hungry on that day. Some families let me photograph the killing, some waved their finger and told me to leave. Either way it was an amazing experience to have witnessed.

From Chefchouen I continued through the Rif Mountains and made my way to the large town of Fes. If you love Moroccan pottery and rugs, mosaic tiling, and high quality leather, you would love this town. The Medina, is one place in town you have to visit while you are here. Without a guide you would easily get lost in the maze of streets, but it's the maze of seeminly endless streets to travel down that make it such an experience. It made the streets of Venice seem easy to navagate. If you want to get a feel of what life was like hundreds of years ago, for Moroccans, it has been preserved in this place. I have never seen anything like it on my travels. So much goes on it that part of town. Keep your eye out for mules and carts racing down the narrow streets. Markets full of anything from spices to meat parallel the streets. Tiny businesses are run in closet size spaces, Mosques are on every other corner. After a few hours you feel like you are really back in time.

Another tradition I couldn't miss is relaxing in a local Hammam. Similar to a spa, you visit it to relax and clean your body. You sit in a big steam room full of other Muslims and wash your body with only buckets of warm water. Once you clean your body and open your pours you have someone scrape your body to get rid of any dead skin. I have to admit I didn't go as far as having someone scrap my body, becaue every guy in the room was using the same luffa . I was feeling completely out of place, but it was a pretty funny experience. I got just as many stares walking in my shorts and towel for an hour through town, to make my way back to the camp ground.

Driving over the Rif Mountains

The local garbage truck
Sheep tied in front yard before being killed.

Business in the Medina

Local kids playing soccer in an open parking lot.

Traditional sandals.

Traditional way of making leather. Looks like hard work

Looking out over the Medina from a roof top

Family skinning a sheep
Markets are a fun place to visit in Morocco

local transporting some hides from all the sheep that were killed.

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