Did you know the Spanish word for pomegranate is “grenade?” I didn’t know that either, but pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits. When I was a little girl, my mother would buy me a pomegranate now and again (these were not common where I grew up) because of the legend of Persephone. I was heavy into Greek and Roman mythology and she encouraged my explorations.
Grenada in named for the pomegranates. They grow everywhere in Grenada, and were in full fruit when we visited. After some of the rainy touring days we had, Grenada shone forth in warm sunshine and blue skies with perfect clouds for photo-taking. We toured the town, and then (dramatic pause) (hushed voice) we visited the Alhambra.
What I have loved about this journey is the intermingling of Arabic in the Spanish; Guadalquivir River “wadi al kebir”, Alhambra “al hamra”, and it really is very red. And it really is very beautiful, so very beautiful in glorious detail. I’m going to bore you with more photos than you ever wished to see because . . . well, I hate to be rude, but . . . it’s my blog. I love each and every photo.
This is our group, gathering around our guide to enter the Alhambra.
If this were a fabric, I would have a dress made of it. I loved the intricate intersection, and the blending of the blue and cream and brown.
This is my favorite photo, for any number of reasons, cats, light and shadow, intricate tracery on columns, etc. but it is also a reminder of a very strange occurrence. I had just finished taking this shot, hunched down for a low angle, when a young woman in a group of four came along and shoved others, and then me, out of the way. Literally, she took my arm and started to move me and said “we’re taking a group photo now.”
Normally, I tend to defer, but her arrogance, and her disregard for the feeling of others prickled me, and so I pulled my arm away and looked at her cooly, and said “as soon as I am done with my photo, I will move and you can take your shot. Or you can shoot it from another angle.” I don’t know why I did that, I am surprised at myself. I don’t like to cause trouble. But who has the right to shove others out of the way???
That is the memory this photo brings back.
Please look at this photo, not that it is anything special but because there are people in it. I want you to appreciate how really, really, very hard it was to take some of these photos without people in them. I had to wait and wait, sometimes, (gasp!) I even got separated from my group for a short time, in the interest of getting an unimpeded shot. We were there at a lovely time of the year, perfect weather, and we thought there would not be too many tourists. We were astonished, in Seville, in Cordoba, in Grenada just how many tourists there were.
And here is where AHI Travel did something really right. This is the last day of the tour, tomorrow we all disembark and head for the Malaga airport and from there, to places scattered around the world. Just a short walk from the Alhambra is a beautiful hotel, beautifully situated, the Alhambra Palace. We’ve made note of it because we intend to come back to Grenada, and we want to stay in this hotel. This is where we ate lunch.
Our group had a closed in verandah with a beautiful view. Lunch was served in courses, and each was carefully prepared, and delicious. Very very clever way to end the tours on a high note 🙂
The room was beautiful. The table service was beautiful.
The view was beautiful.
After the meal, we got back on the bus to head back for the ship. Once on board, we had a Smithsonian meeting and then another lecture and then dinner, and something happened that has not happened to me for a long time, I had to pack at the last minute. Our suitcases had to be outside our door before we went to bed so they could be loaded to go, very early the next morning, to the airport.
I was coming down with something. I felt hot and feverish, and my nose was running. All my life, I have had nightmares about last minute packing. I hate doing last-minute anything, I am a planner, I like having a certain amount of control over my life, even though it is an illusion, it is an illusion I work hard to maintain. How did this happen to me? How is it that I am packing at the last minute, feverish and anxious?
It all got done. Fortunately, there are a limited number of places you can put things. For some reason, I am not able to download all our boarding passes, so we have only the first ones and will have to get the rest at the airport. I know where my passport is (I never have found the one I lost somewhere in my office) and my tickets and somehow we are finished and all is well by bedtime. I just hate that feeling of being rushed; when I am rushed, I make mistakes.
Every now and then something good happens. There is a huge line in Malaga, but our new friends also have tickets that put us in another line, and we get through quickly, with no problems. We say goodbye, we’ve exchanged e-mail addresses, and we go our separate ways. We have time to relax.
We arrive in Paris barely on time, and it is a Sunday morning with long lines at security, and there is no way out, we have to stand in line. We watch one very elderly man, unsteady, but with a great sense of humor, cope as he has to go through the full-body scan. Even though it is a few days before the bombing, security is tight. The airport is a nightmare. We have no idea where our next gate is, and we are almost running, as it is already our boarding time and we are not there. We have to go down this hall and that, then down to some gate where we catch a bus, then from that bus to somewhere else where we get to our plane with five or ten minutes to spare. That is cutting it way to close for me, but I know by now that I am coming down with one of the world’s worst colds and I sleep all the way from Paris to Atlanta, waking up now and ten to drink some Pomegranate Pizazz with honey to make the cold go away.
Not only does the cold not go away – I very generously shared it with AdventureMan. We both felt so bad we were sleeping all the time and didn’t even notice the jet lag 🙂 so by the time we were well again, we were also sleeping on Pensacola time. As soon as we were well, we got the super-strong flu shots to protect ourselves from anything worse than we’ve just had. 🙂
We’ve never been to Tangiers before, and although we have had a couple sprinkles, it looks as though we may have a great day to see Tangiers. Tonight is our next-to-last night on board, we are meeting friends for dinner tonight in the big dining room where they are serving duck (!) and life is sweet.
We start with a drive through Tangiers, on our way out to The Pillars of Hercules and Cap Spartel, where the Atlantic Ocean crashes into the Mediterranean Sea.
Pillars of Hercules
This shop was really special to me; I found a pair of hand made silver earrings for my daughter-in-law. I only had 270 Moroccan Dirhams on me, and the earrings were D540. The store-keeper said 270 was impossible, surely I had dollars or euros to make up the difference? Yes, but I really wanted those earrings for 270 Dirhams. So I walked away, walked back up the street to the store where the guide had taken the Smithsonian group, and then, ten minutes later, we were following the guide back past this shop and I heard a voice calling loudly “Madame! Madame! I want you to have the earrings!” and I said “But I only have 270 Dirhams and we are going now!” and she said “Take them, take them!” and I stuck them in my purse and quickly paid her and that was that. They are beautiful earrings 🙂
The only little gold shop we passed our entire tour in Morocco:
The American legation. Interesting, the tour was supposed to be over, but our Smithsonian guide said we were supposed to see this, and the guide didn’t want to take us there, but the Smithsonian guy insisted. So then we went through what I call the “real” souks, where instead of all the hawkers, there are real people buying food and clothing and daily necessities. If the Smithsonian guide hadn’t insisted, we would have missed a really cool part of Tangiers.
This is the view from our cabin of Tangiers. It was beautiful.
Somehow the scheduled departure this morning is delayed due to problems getting the buses to the ship, and some sort of negotiations are going on. We leave for Rabat, getting there late morning, and it is pouring. We start at a Marinid Site, Chellah, and I walk down and take photos, listening to the guide, getting wetter and wetter, and then I think “Hmmm, I don’t really care that much” and head back up hill to the nice, dry bus.
I like taking photos, but trying to take photos with rain rain rain is not so easy. This is an overview of a structure at Chella, and if you look closely, you will see a stork on the top of the tower on the left. This site is covered in storks! I had to wonder, what makes this site so attractive to storks, and the guide said they had been coming here forever.
This marabout must be for a woman; it has a green door:
We go to visit a mosque that never got built, and another mosque that someone built for some reason, and I don’t have any photos because it was POURING rain and I just stayed on the bus and read my book. Around noonish, we headed for the Golden Tulip, another place that is feeding hundreds, buffet style, forgettable food.
We make a photo stop at the Kasbah of the Udayas
We are in a bit of a rush; we want to get to Volubilis, an ancient Roman site, before the sun goes down. When we get there, it is raining, and slick, and the sun is going down.
It is very beautiful, and every time we have come here, to Volubilis, it has rained. AdventureMan liked this stop a lot more than I did.
I can be a pain in the neck when I don’t get my way. When we booked, we had been told our room would be at the Sofitel Marrakech, and I was excited. When we got our final package, we found we were going to the Meridian N’Fis, not the same kind of hotel at all.
“Oh, but it is one of the finest rooms!” we were assured, and they explained that it just was too cumbersome to have some of the guests in one hotel and some in another. Umm. OK.
We hopped in a cab from the Jamaa El-Fna; it was easy. The cab ride cost a dollar. We could have walked, but we didn’t know where the hotel was, and it was maybe a mile away. Our guide had called and said we would be arriving separately (our guide, Antonio, was superb) so they were expecting us. They gave us an orientation, and showed us to our room.
Entrance to the hotel:
Passage to our room:
Gardens and pool:
Gorgeous serene spa:
Lovely seating areas:
Hallway to bar, lounge and restaurant:
You can see, it is a lovely hotel, modern, clean, has some atmosphere. Here is our room. It is spacious, the bathroom is large, and we have our own sitting area with complimentary wine and fruit, and our own patio outside. It’s lovely.
You can see it is very modern and very clean. We also discovered it is across from a mall, which, when we visited, reminded us greatly of Qatar and Kuwait, and we wondered if Gulf money was invested in creating the mall. It had a Carrefour, and many modern stores. It was fun wandering around with the Moroccan shoppers. The hotel is only a short distance from the oldest and newest shopping areas in town.
I tried to be a good sport. (I am betting AdventureMan would roll his eyes; I was quiet, and disappointed, and not very happy.) I would never stay here in a million years if I were not part of a group. It is western. It is Morocco-lite. I remember with great nostalgia the homey hotel we stayed in years ago, with its wonderful tiny restaurant and genuine food, tiled walls and beautifully worked wood and I wish we were staying somewhere “more Moroccan.”
The bed is wonderful. The bath is wonderful. The promised Wi-Fi is non-existent.
We had a “garden” view. I asked the conceirge where the rooms were that had the view of the Atlas mountains, and he said only a few rooms, at the top of the hotel had a view, and only on a very clear day. It must have been these rooms:
The food in the dining room is pretty good. In fact, we ate pretty well. Breakfast featured one woman making thin, flaky Moroccan pastries, worth waiting in line for.
As we left the hotel for El Jadida, there were souvenir vendors at the bus. Our fellow travelers who had stayed with the group were a little shopping-starved, and these vendors did great business. The prices seemed reasonable, too, as shoppers snapped up silver bangles, earrings, clothing and shawls. As the buses began to pull out, the most popular vendor hopped on her motorcycle to head for the next stop. I admired her entrepreneurship.
Free at last!
We are as giddy as children let out of school as the groups head left and we head right, going deeper into our favorite territory, the souks (small shops) in the great city of Marrakesh.
Before we ever went to Marrakesh, many years ago, we read a book by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, author of Guests of the Sheikh, called A Street in Marrakesh, talking about how her family lived in the center of Marrakesh, among Moroccans, and the adjustments they made as they grew to learn more about their environment. You know how you can read a book and feel like you had lived it? We felt we had lived in Marrakesh.
When we visited with our son, we had a car and were driving all through Morocco. We had left Ouazazarte and driven over the Atlas Mountains, stopping here and there to buy fossils and “thunderballs” which are also called geodes. It was late, and dark when we got to Marrakesh, and we had to stop and ask directions at a gas station how to find our hotel. We knew we were near, and we didn’t know how to close the distance. This was before smart phones and Google Maps.
Our son and I watched AdventureMan from the car, and as we watched him ask the two men working there, one pointed left and one pointed right. We were dying laughing. And, actually, both were right, there was an obstacle between us and the hotel and you could go right – or you could go left. At that moment, a motorcycle drove up, listened to the question and offered to guide us to our hotel. This is the essence of Morocco to us; the kindness and the hospitality of the Moroccans.
I wish I could remember the name of the hotel, but our room was huge, and full of tile work. Our son had his own area, on a separate level in the same room, and his own TV. It was a far cry from a sterile, modern hotel; this was full of color and detail, tile and wood work.
The next day, we hired a private guide for a tour of Marrakesh, and had a wonderful time exploring all kinds of wonderful places.
So now, off we go, and the smells and the feel of the souks almost make us giddy; we are back in our element.
As we wander, we can hear roosters crowing, and, in the middle of the souks, we find a souk devoted to roosters. It is the middle of the afternoon, a quiet time of day, perfect for wandering.
Me and my attraction to light fixtures 🙂
A mural of the Koutoubia mosque; one of the reasons we felt so secure in this souk is that if you get lost, you just look for the highest tower around, and that is the Koutoubia mosque, which takes you to Jemaa el-Fna.
We walked to our content, and then settled in at late afternoon to a cafe with a terrace high over the Jemaa el-Fna, where we had our choice of tables and could watch the market come to life. As we sipped our mint tea, the other tables filled; Moroccan families, tourist couples, assorted characters. The day is gorgeous, we have a shaded location, life is sweet. We’ve soaked in the sights and the smells. We’ve done more than our 10,000 steps. We enjoyed this afternoon immensely.
We have driven a couple hours to get from Casablanca to Marrakech, and the bus lets us off just a short walk from the restaurant, the Dar Es Salaam. I don’t believe this restaurant is open to the public; I believe this restaurant is a dedicated group-tours service restaurant.
I admire what they do. They have a lovely venue, it looks like it might have been one of the grand old homes in the city, or even an old mosque. It has elaborate decorations, and lovely spaces. Whatever it was at one time, it has been gutted, and turned into a restaurant that can seat and feed many many people in a very short amount of time.
Those are not leftover bread crumbs on the table, they are rose petals to welcome groups.
Tables were marked with signs indicating Smithsonian and/or Purple, and as soon as eight people were seated around a table, service began, first hot towels, then water and small appetizers/mezze. They were pretty good. Most were not heavily spiced.
Appetizers were some kind of lentils, a beet salad, a mashed potato and pea combination, something maybe with a little lamb, and olives. The olives were delicious.
They served a huge tajine with some kind of beef dish. It was well cooked, like beef and carrots, with little or no spices that I could detect. Nourishing. Filling.
The venue is spectacular. It is truly a fabulous environment in which to take a meal. The catering service has paid attention to detail, with rose petals on the table, good settings, enough water, good sweets at the end of the meal and hot mint tea poured with a flourish. The restrooms were clean and there were several. I admire the way they can serve so many people so quickly, get-them-in, get-them-out and give them a meal in which there is little to object to . . . unless you’ve had Moroccan cooking before, and like a little taste in your food. We like taste in our food.
We’ve been married and traveling together for so long now that we know we aren’t going to be able to stay with the group. We love Marrakech; we’ve been here before. The last time was with our son, about fifteen years ago, but not a lot has changed. Our group leader looks a little worried, until we explain that we know the city, we speak Arabic and French, we know the customs, and we can find our way to the hotel on our own when we are finished. We walk – we almost run – away before anyone else knows we are gone.
Before we even get underway, we hear the big engines start to rumble. AdventureMan wants to sleep a little longer, but I am exited and want to watch us cast off and head down the Quadalquivir, which is Spanish for the Arabic Wadi El Kebir, or big waterway. Or valley. I always think of wadis as dry, a place to potty under the bridge when you live in a country with few public conveniences, but the Guadalquivir is big, and deep, as wide as the Neckar River when we lived in Heidelberg.
The sun is coming up as we depart:
Most of what we pass is countryside, low and fertile.
Now and then we encounter another boat.
We meet and chat with other passengers as we watch the countryside go by. Soon, there is a lecture (none are mandatory, but all are interesting) about the context of the voyage, which is called Passage of the Moors. We get a lot of information from different lecturers, some of it repetitive, which is good, because when you hear it more than once, it might stick. There are lectures for the whole boat, and lectures for separate groups, and as we are in a gathering of the Smithsonian group, we pass Cadiz, en route for Casablanca. My heart grieves; I had dearly wanted to see Cadiz, but instead we had the wonderful day seeing Seville on our own, hopping on and off the bus and visiting the two museums.
This is an oddity. This is a small ship, and does educational trips, but educational trips for grown-ups. There is not one single child on board the ship, nor are there things for a child to do. There is a swimming pool, but it is outside, and unfilled; the weather is probably too cool. There is a spa, and there are lounges and a library, there is a lot to do – if you are an adult. (You can find the ship by Googling Voyages to Antiquity)
I skip the afternoon lecture to sit out on our balcony, which is large, and has beautiful wood fixtures, deck chairs, and a nice table. I read, I watch the waves go by, and wish I had a fishing pole. We are on the sunset side of the ship, so I get to take a photo of the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.
We dock, and for a while watch other ships come in, watch dock life in Casablanca, and pack for our day and overnight in one of our favorite cities in the world, Marrakech. The ship we are watching coming in is a sister ship to the ship that went aground in Italy not too long ago, a much bigger ship than we are on.
Our entry visa into Morocco:
AdventureMan and I are planners. We are headed out on a great adventure, and the first thing I did was pull my shiny new passport out of it’s place, put it on my desk and work on other things. Actually, I was looking for something else when I pulled the passport out, and still had it in my hand as I searched for the wallet I couldn’t find, and as I was looking, I thought “this is stupid, I could put the passport down and lose it” so I took it back and put it back on the desk.
Then followed a morning of trying to figure out which bags would be the best combination for this trip, what to take as carry-ons, what to take for a handbag, what to use as baggage, what clothing, what needs washing, let’s go ahead and change the beds while we are doing laundry, and oh, my hair needs washing and at ten a.m. I realized I didn’t know where my passport was. It wasn’t on the desk. For six hours I hunted everyplace I had been, like, just how stupid to you have to be to lose your passport in your own home?
I spent another six hours the next day, and then last night made an appointment in New Orleans, the nearest passport agency, to get an emergency expedited replacement. I keep thinking that once we get the new passport, the old one is sure to show up, isn’t that the way things go? On the other hand, I can’t afford to count on finding it when I won’t be able to go on the trip if I don’t have a passport.
I’ve been beating myself up. I can’t believe this has happened to me, but every now and then, things like this happen to everyone. It’s not like death, or war, or famine, or those brave refugees just trying to find a safe place where no bullets are flying and no one is trying to tell them that the way they practice their religion is just not right. It’s a luxury, but one I need if we’re going to do this trip.
So instead of mocking me, or making me feel worse, AdventureMan reminds me that there is an Ethiopian restaurant in New Orleans, not too far from the passport agency, and we might as well laisser les bon temps rouler while we are in the fair city. We’ll get up really early, be on time for our appointment, have a nice lunch and a leisurely drive back to Pensacola. He always knows how to turn a negative into a positive.
And pretty cool that we can take a day trip to New Orleans, take care of business, have a nice lunch and be back home for dinner.
It’s time to celebrate, and, my friends, we have to do it fast because September 11th is nipping at our heels, and September 11th is a day that makes me very sad, very sad, indeed. So for now, forget September 11th! For today, we will celebrate nine years, yes, nine years of blogging.
So many times I have thought “why bother?”
I do it for me. I do it because writing is what I was born to do. I do it because from the beginning, you have given me such wonderful support and feedback.
I’m in a Paris frame of mind 🙂 I’ve gathered some wonderful cookies and cakes for you; you can nibble, peruse, re-acquaint yourself with old friends in the comment sections – I know I did, and it re-inspired me.
Back in the beginning, back in 2006, the blogging scene in Kuwait was such fun, so wide open. Bloggers had really interesting things to say, and said them. I learned so much from the Kuwait bloggers, and made some great friends. 1001 Nights and I became life long friends, even though we are far apart. Other bloggers, one in particular from Saudi Arabia who is now deceased, and another from the Netherlands, Aafke, with whom I have stayed in touch and maintained a friendship were full of ideas, started great conversations, it was like being in a salon in France when ideas were steaming and popping and revolutionizing everything.
While the newness of blogging has long worn off, the need to write has not. Mostly, I keep blogging because every now and then I have something to say, and this I where I say it. Yes, there are other, newer platforms, but sometimes you need a place where people with a longer attention span can come and work through an issue alongside me.
Of course, I also continue because we still love to travel, and I love to share my adventures and my resources with you of similar interests 🙂
Life has greatly changed, once again. This year, our oldest grandchild started kindergarten, real school, and comes to our house where his parents pick him up from work. He is so much fun! We are loving seeing life through his eyes, hearing about his day, learning his new song and his joy in learning. We also get to see either our son or our daughter-in-law every day; it may be just a few minutes, but it keeps us up to date. Life is sweet.
This coming week we also have Grandparent’s Lunch Day with our granddaughter at her school. She is now fully two, and as my favorite nephew Earthling says about his daughter of about the same age “she is very opinionated.” She is also very sure of her right to be right, and to have her way, and she is full of spirit and energy, so she, too, leads us on a merry race. It is a joy to watch her struggle to express herself – and increasingly, to succeed. She is learning new words every day, and you can see the excitement on her face as we understand what she wants so desperately to tell us.
We never have plans for just one trip; we always have one coming up and one in the plans 🙂 so here’s a hint:
Thank you, thank you, all who have remained with me so loyally, those who comment and those who lurk, those who check in now and then and those who write to me in the background to bring me up to date on your lives. You, and your feedback, are what makes this all worthwhile.
Have a cookie, or three or four and some cake and some of this wonderful Moroccan mint tea we’ve brewed, and celebrate nine years and still standing.
My mind works in quirky ways, and yesterday as I was setting up for the hands-on Heirloom Feathers workshop with Cindy Needham, one of the good local Pensacola quilters was telling her how you can tell a Southerner from a Northerner.
“If you go to a Southerner’s house, they’ll ask you first thing if you’d like a drink of water, or iced tea or something, but if you go into a Northerner’s house, you can sit there for five hours and they won’t offer you ANYTHING!”
I grinned to myself, no, I have learned to censor these thoughts. But I couldn’t help it.
“You’re not a Southerner,” I am thinking, “You’re ARAB!”
I thought about a long ago trip through Morocco, we have a rental car and on our way from Ouazazarte to Marrakesh, on an isolated stretch of the road, we see a car in trouble. We stop and ask if we can help, if the man would like a lift to the next town. He tells us no, he wants to stay with the car, but asks if we would go to such and such service station and tell his uncle he needs help, and where he is.
We drive into town, find the service station, and find the young man’s uncle, who is the owner. He sends help.
Did I mention it was Ramadan? No eating or drinking in public from dawn to dusk?
The owner insisted we come into his house, and seated us in his diwaniyya, and sent in mint tea and luscious almond-filled dates to refresh us. We said “No! No! It’s Ramadan!” but he told us it was his honor. He sat while we drank and ate.
Such enormous hospitality. Such grace. We only stayed a very short time; we still had a long drive, but I’ve never forgotten his hospitality.
Then again, it was Southern Morocco. 🙂 Maybe he was Southern.