In Photographs: Cities of Morocco

header

Last summer, as I mentioned in this post, I had the opportunity to study Arabic intensively in Morocco. It was a fantastic experience, and I also had the good fortune of being able to travel and see some of Morocco’s amazing cities. Each has its own character, especially because of Morocco’s unique location at the tip of Africa — in the North, most locals speak Spanish as a second language because of the country’s proximity to Spain (literally — you can see Spain from Tangier), whereas in Rabat (the capital), French is much more common. Tourism is also a huge part of the Moroccan economy, and many of its more popular cities (Casablanca, Fes, Marrakesh, etc.) are centered around this industry, with markets tailored for a Western audience. This means that it’s a bit challenging to get the authentic Moroccan experience (if that’s what you’re seeking), but often if you can bargain effectively with shop owners in Arabic (read: know numbers in Darija) you’ll avoid most of the tourist pricing.

Anyway, I wanted to share some of the photographs from my trip, so I’ve organized them by city here. Missing are Tangier and Marrakesh, because I usually didn’t have my DSLR on me to keep it safe (that camera is my baby, no kidding).

rabat-4

Rabat is the capital of Morocco and where all of Morocco’s government buildings (including its brand-new parliament) are based. Because French is one of the official languages used in government, most of the upper class in Rabat speak French fluently (convenient for me, because my French is far better than my Arabic). Above is an inscription on a souk wall in Rabat (which I’ve posted before, if it looks familiar). The quote translates, roughly: “but in the remembrance of God does the heart find rest.” (Correct me if I’m wrong…)

rabat-8

There are cats everywhere in Morocco, especially Rabat. Most of them are strays, but this one belonged to a neighbor in the city. I’m really not a cat person, but this guy’s adorable!

rabat-3

This was taken on the drive from Casablanca to Rabat. Satellites are very popular in Morocco, and television is a big part of the culture (although its not as bad as it is here in the US).

rabat-daralhadith-6

The rest of these images are from Dar Al Hadith Al Hassinia Institute, which is a graduate-level Islamic school in Rabat (with a rigorous application process, if I remember correctly). It is pristine and absolutely stunning, inside and out. The architecture is gorgeous — lots of intricately carved wood, colorful tiling, and stained glass. We were able to go on a tour of the school and sit down for a conversation with the director, who served us traditional Moroccan tea.

rabat-daralhadith-1

rabat-daralhadith-2

rabat-daralhadith-9

rabat-daralhadith-5

rabat-daralhadith-7

 

fes-4

Fes (not Fez, which is an incorrect transliteration of the Arabic spelling) was hands-down my favorite city in Morocco. It’s a really popular tourist destination, and it’s claim to fame is that it’s the leather capital of the country. If you bargain effectively enough in the souk, you can purchase a leather jacket for 300-400 dirhams (about 40 USD). You’ll probably get ripped off while you’re here, but Fes definitely has one of the coolest souks in Morocco — not just for shopping. There’s also a lot of history in the city, and it’s home to University al-Karaouine, founded by Fatima al-Fahiri in 859. Many still refer to it as the oldest university in the world.

fes-5

fes-1

fes-2

The above two photos are from an amazing riad (ree-ahd) we stayed at during our visit to Fes. (A riad is a traditional Moroccan house style — common in Fes and Marrakesh — with an open interior courtyard. This one had rooms looking over into the courtyard as well as a huge rooftop with a full view of the old city.) Stay at Riad Ahlam (“Riad of Dreams,” literally) if you’re ever in Fes; it’s definitely one of the best bookings you’ll ever make.

fes-3

Above: the old city of Fes at night.

 

meknes-6

Meknes is close by Fes, in northern Morocco. We were only there for the afternoon, but again, it’s a tourist city. It’s also home to Bab Mansour, which was at one point the biggest door in Africa (although it’s really not that impressive in person, in my opinion). It’s a cool stop, but definitely not on the top of my list of favorite Moroccan cities. Above and below are images from a huge historic grain store that runs under the city. The lighting come from holes in the ceiling.

meknes-7

meknes-1

Above: Bab Mansour, supposedly the former biggest door in Africa.

meknes-2

meknes-5

meknes-3

meknes-4

The above four photographs are from the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail (one of Morocco’s greatest sultans) in Meknes. The interior was beautiful, although we weren’t allowed to see the tomb itself.

 

walili-4

Walili/Volubilis is the site of a well-preserved Roman city between Fes and Rabat. Although it is only partially excavated, the city is still huge (although it’s difficult to tell from the above photo) and visitors are free to walk around through the ruins (which feature some amazing architecture, views, and mosaics) without restriction — which is one of the coolest parts about visiting Volubilis, in my opinion. You would never get away with something like that in America. The city, built in the 3rd century BC (!!!), is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1997. It’s another popular tourist stop, but it’s a stunning historical experience, especially if you’re like me and “old” for you is 200 years back in US history.

walili-3

The view from the edge of the agricultural city is spectacular and overlooks a massive rolling plain.

walili-2

walili-1

 

chefchaouen-1

Chefchaouen is nestled in the Rif Mountains of Morocco and is known for its traditionally blue houses — in fact, most of the city is painted entirely in shades of blue. (It’s also the hashish/cannabis capital of Morocco, but that’s another story.) We stayed at Dar Echchaouen, which I definitely recommend — it’s situated slightly above the main city, so the views are really spectacular, and they had the best showers during my time in Morocco (small detail, but important).

chefchaouen-2

The mountains around Chefchaouen are also great for hiking. We spent a day hiking nearby, which was exhausting, but we got to cliff dive with some really awesome Moroccans in the mountain’s waterfalls.

chefchaouen-3

chefchaouen-4

chefchaouen-5

Bottom line: Chefchaouen is a really charming city (sans the drugs) and a photographer’s paradise.

We ended up at a few more cities during my time in Morocco, and I wish I had taken more pictures. Maybe next time I’ll be a little more adventurous with where I take my camera….anyway, hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for reading!

{All images by me. Please contact me for permission before use.}

2012: One Year, Ten Photos

In keeping with the WordPress Daily Post‘s weekly photo challenge, I present to you my 2012 in photos. Originally I wanted to do one for every month but, you see, my life is not exciting enough for that to make an interesting blog post. And since I tend to take photos in bursts at various unpredictable points around the year, it would also be unrealistic. But anyway, here the top ten highlights of my photographic wanderings this year:

0IMG_8712

Sheep | Okay, so I technically took this picture on December 31, 2011. Close enough, right? And practically one of the first shots of the new year. This sheep belongs to one of our family friends — they have a beautiful home tucked away in the woods, and lots of animals. I really tried to capture this little guy’s facial expression here.

0IMG_9093ec

0IMG_9345ec

Abu Dhabi | If you’ve been following this blog for a decent length of time, you’ll have seen these images — from my January trip to Abu Dhabi — already. (And if you want more, you can view all my photos here and here.) The first is a sunset above the desert, and the second is a image from the exterior of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The columns are decorated with gold leaf and precious stones from around the world, and border the entire structure. It is truly breathtaking, and the beauty — of both and mosque and the desert — is just overwhelming.

0IMG_0267

Washington, DC | A capture from the White House lawn during the annual White House Garden Tour — it’s a fun experience for the public, although the gardens themselves are not too exciting. The view is spectacular, though, and you can see clear through the Jefferson Memorial if you zoom in enough. It was a bit overcast; sorry about the exposure.

0IMG_1939

0IMG_2267

0IMG_1880

Morocco | These are just a few of many shots from my trip to Morocco this past summer, where I studied Arabic. It was a fantastic experience and by the end of it I barely felt like a tourist. (It’s especially rewarding when you can bargain in Arabic and avoid tourist pricing in the souks.) The first image is from the city of Meknes, the second is a beautiful riad in Fes, and the third is of Arabic writing on a souk wall — I thought the colors here were especially beautiful. Anyway, I’m planning on doing a big photo and culture post of my trip in the near future, so this is just a small sneak peek!

0IMG_0068

Plant | Just a random shot of a plant in our dining room. Not sure why I took this in the first place, but I think it’s really simple and refreshing.

0xmas

Christmas Desserts | Just a sampling of all the baking I did for our Christmas dessert party. Clockwise, from upper right: lemon cherry tea cookies, candied orange peels, baklava, and a chocolate orange tart with toasted almonds. All very delicious — the baklava and chocolate tart were especially popular. Hopefully I’ll have some recipes up soon!

0IMG_3406

The Puppy | Here’s your daily dose of cute. And proof that I have the cutest golden retriever in the world. He’s actually getting a bit old, but he still thinks he’s a puppy. Or a person — we haven’t really figured that one out.

These images, I think, adequately wrap up much of my 2012 in photography — of course there are many images I didn’t include, but I hope these photos paint a more varied picture. Here’s to a happy 2013 and a another year of photos.