Magnificent Morocco – 19. Fez first impressions

fez station inside

This station looks even better than the others I saw!

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Stepping out of the station on to this neat garden

fez taxis

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At this point I resisted getting a taxi, as I wanted to get some lunch and thought I’d just have a wander around although the little wheels on my trolley are probably almost worn to the metal, as they are more suited to a shiny airport floor rather than gritty Saharan Africa…

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Fez is characterised by these ancient perimeter walls, this is an exciting place….

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Magnificent Morocco – 18. On the train to Fez

This was Casablanca station when I originally got there, not a great pic, but its quite a huge looking station

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So now, I’m leaving for another city, Fez.

There is quite a large array of platforms as it seems Casablanca is quite a central hub for the rest of the country.

Once getting going, this was a 5 hour journey, with an hour stop in Rabat.   I found I could track my location on my Android phone as the GPS would show in Google Maps even with cellular data switched off which would be costly if I had this on.

Rabat is Morocco’s capital.    I didn’t get to venture out properly except from with these pictures.    It looks quite modern and I like these tree lined boulevards that you see on a lot of streets here.

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DSCF8260 1024One of the tough parts of this whole trip is seeing some severe poverty.

Looking out of the window there are people living in shacks by the side of the track.   These people look ethnically different from average typical Moroccan (Berber or Arab or inbetween)   These people look like they were from more central Africa.    I’m guessing they are immigrants from maybe neighbouring Mauritania or Senegal.

This was just approaching Fez itself.

On my train in the same carriage, there was young couple very in love who looked in the early 20s, the girl looked Arab and the boy looked more Berber.   Although Morocco does seem to be loyally Islamic, I wonder if showing affection in public in much of the middle east would be possible.

I was looking forward to seeing the ancient city of Fez.

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Magnificent Morocco – 17. Scooter shops

scootersIn Casablanca, a common way to get around is to get a motor scooter.

These are quite different from the mostly plastic bodied scooters I see in the UK.

I think the city could be characterised by the lot of small scale garages that do servicing and also small shops that do accessories and parts.

Previous – 16. Synagogue and Jewish museum of Casablanca

Next – 18. On the train to Fez

Magnificent Morocco – 16. Synagogue and Jewish museum of Casablanca

Until today, the only sign of Casablanca’s Jewish community I saw was this;

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I don’t think this building is used any more.  Like the first synagogue I saw in Tangier, there are no symbols of anything to show the Jewish faith, just a temple looking place which looked all locked up.

There is actually 17 synagogues in Casa, apparently there is just one that is still active.  Had to walk about an hour and 15 mins to the other side of town to the Jewish museum.

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Its very quiet here, there are no other visitors apart from me.

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Nicely looked after artifacts, Torah scrolls, lamps, clothing

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I think this museum is run by the Moroccan government as they are keen on preserving history including non-Islamic cultures.   This is fairly unusual in a lot of Muslim countries.  The lady who took my money and asked for a tip was a religious Muslim who was friendly and kept the place immaculately clean and offered to take pictures of me.

There is no mention of the Shoah (Holocaust)  I don’t know if any Jews fled to North Africa from Europe.   There is no real mention of Israel, Jerusalem, Zionism or antisemitism.   There is no mention why Jews have left Morocco.   There seems to be very few left.

What I did learn is this community have had a few tragedies, a typhoid break killed thousands.   Many of the Jews left in 1956 when Morocco came independent.   Later, I read online there were multiple suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003, the same time as the intifada in Israel.  Still, I think Jews in this country have been treated better than much of the rest of the Islamic world.

There has been a problem with Jizya – this is the Arab name for a term for a unfair tax paid by non-Muslims, this happens other parts of the Arab world.

Check out this blog for music and historical culture of Moroccan Jews http://jewishmorocco.blogspot.co.uk/ 

I’ll explain more of the Jewish history of Morocco by the time I get to Fez.

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Magnificent Morocco – 15. Islamic toilets

Yep these are absolutely horrible!

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No mechanical process to flush, you meant to wash your behind with a hose or a specially provided water jug which looks like a watering can.

I’m sure people are reading this thinking I’m horrible and nasty and judgmental for criticising how other cultures relieve themselves.   I know this to be mostly uniform in Islamic places, as I’ve seen it in Arab parts of Israel (but not in the Palestinian ruled cities of Bethlehem and Jericho which rely on tourism) in Petra, Jordan, even in my own city of Portsmouth (sitting an IT exam) in a small office run by a religious Muslim, and in a house of a Muslim man in Leicester who sold me a car had these water jugs next to the lavvy.

This link here, explains Islamic teaching on toilets
http://www.myreligionislam.com/detail.asp?Aid=6096

For a lot of tourists considering visiting a nation like this, its something of a deal breaker having a civilised way of using the loo.   This will put them off coming completely.

In places expected to be used by foreigners, then in restaurants, hotels, you will find ‘orthodox’ type of toilets.   In railway stations and tea salons you may only be limited to just these….

Previous 14. Tea salons

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Magnificent Morocco – 14. Tea salons

In the middle east, going for a drink is more likely to be coffee than a beer, if you are meeting up with a friend.

In most of the Arabic world, they have their own style of coffee, espresso sized, strong with cadomine flavouring.    You also have Turkish coffee, also strong, but large amount of sendiment, means you need to leave the last 5mm or so in your cup.

In Israel coffee shops are all over the place (even the throw away cups I have seen with a symbol of a possible place that Jesus visited!) DSCF8434 1024

However in Morocco, tea is the national drink here, just like India and China.

Its actually normally served with mint and plenty of sugar.   It often has the slang name “Moroccan Whiskey” being a similar colour :)    its common to see someone delivering a bundle of fresh mint leaves to cafes.

Its custom to offer this beverage before any kind of business is done.   Often you may get offered some whilst in a shop, because the owner hopes you are going to plonk down a decent amount of cash for something or he is just being purely hospitable.

The tea salons seem to be a common social place for men, people chat, smoke, read the paper and watch the news (Al Jazeera) on television.  Its rare you see females in these places, they are more like a working man’s bar of some sort.  They are different from the other types of cafes, they feel like a very manly sort of place, where chaps of all types come to get away from the worries of work or the missus.

I was sitting in a tea salon when everyone stood up.   When I stood up as well to see what spectacle was happening.   Its was a small Renault ambulance converted van driving slowly with the rear doors open, a lot of men walking behind which was part of a funeral procession.   Its good to see the people in here have respect for those in community who have passed on.    I noticed all the people in the funeral procession are entirely men, just like a similar event that I saw in Akko, Israel a DSCF8414 1024few years ago.

People sell mint along with other herbs at random points of the main road also too.

There’s only one thing I really don’t like about these establishments, I’ll explain tomorrow.

Previous 13. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI

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Magnificent Morocco – 13. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI

Everyone here seems to love the King.

So you see his face everywhere;

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This is a big hall used for the busy market for selling meat and fish I saw in Tangier,

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Above every electronic signage system in the railway stations.

In many cafes, restaurants and hotels there he is also, sometimes in a suit, or sometimes in a Arabic or African type of outfit.    Its nice to see people have such admiration for their leader.

In addition to being a monarch, he is a pretty shrewd businessman from what I have read.   He’s been leader since 1999, coincidentally the same year Jordan’s current King Abdullah also came to power.

Several other pictures were seen in a few shops I visited, whose owners told me that they were lucky enough to have the King come and visit their business.

Previous 12. Catholic church in Casablanca

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Archaeologist believes he found the site of Jesus’ trial by Pontius Pilate

(I’ll go back to blogging on Morocco later this week)

This is apt for this time of the year! (As we are in Easter and Passover)

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http://www.timesofisrael.com/archaeologist-believes-hes-found-site-of-jesuss-trial-by-pontius-pilate/ 

(Worth mentioning that this is from a secular Israeli news source)

Magnificent Morocco – 12. Catholic church in Casablanca

I’m not sure how long Morocco has had an indigenous Christian community.

I originally thought this building was a synagogue, as the patterns at the top give the illusion of looking like Magen David stars

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Actually its a Catholic church.  The doors are covered in some kind of crude chipboard like a repair done in a hurry.

It looks disused, but some people told me it is open later on.  There was a static caravan with some people running some kind of youth club.  Round one side part of the building adjoining appears to be government offices.

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Round the side.  Signs of arson.   Building looks robust enough to not sustain much damage.

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Lots of rubbish, and a ‘free Palestine’ scrawled onto the wall.   Perhaps someone’s idea of a Palestine is full of rubbish and graffiti. Probably like this part of Jerusalem.

Like to know what the interior of this building looks like.  The outer doors looks like some kind of chipboard or some temporary repair which makes me think its not so well maintained.

If the King is reading this, how about please get this building and grounds smartened up? :)   Talking of such, I’ll talk about about Morocco’s monarch tomorrow.

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Magnificent Morocco – 11. The Grande Mosque in Casablanca

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This is a big attraction of Casa;

Its huge, its one of the biggest houses of worship in the world.

I was stunned when I read up about it later.  They started building it in 1986 and didn’t finish until 1993 and cost over 600 million Euros (it was built a French construction company Boygues)  they used a lot of Morocco’s very talented artisans to get all the detail exactly right with the style of architecture in this country.    When you think people in this country probably earn 30% or so of salaries in UK this is a colossal project, that stratospheric price tag could be even bigger for the equivalent build in UK, US, France or wherever.

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These collection of archways across the plaza look quite nice, they look similar to the collection of arches at the Al Asqa mosque on the temple mount in Jerusalem, so I guess its a characteristic of these.

With a couple of rare exceptions, the mosques in Morocco cannot be visited by non-Muslims.

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The Mosque looks out to the Atlantic Ocean.  Apparently, another 50 million euros were needed to fix structural problems to do with the steel bars in the concrete rusting.

205 1024I only ever thought that Morocco was just another Islamic country, but actually Fatima, the grand daughter of Mohammed came here, this place has far more significance than I realised.  Around peoples business, homes and cars, you see an obvious devotion to their faith.   Some message of the Koran was in this taxi which I traveled to the station later.

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