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Trip to Morocco September 17 through October 3, 2017

by Jenny and Charlie Plesums

This is the intro - there will be separate "chapters" for each major part of the trip.

Intro and a bit of history

Jenny and Charlie normally travel alone and only occasionally take a "day trip" local tour. Morocco was our first ever "Tour" for the entire trip, covering the country of Morocco in a couple weeks. Based on many recommendations we chose to work through Overseas Adventure Travel, OAT, a company that creates tours for groups of 8-16 people. This is the plan for our two week trip.

Our Travel Group

To Jenny's dismay, the men included 4 engineers, a geologist (who could pass as a civil engineer) and a retired airline pilot. (How could being among so many engineers be a vacation?)

We departed Austin Sunday mid-day, and landed in Casablanca on Monday afternoon September 18 (Via Austin to Chicago to Madrid to Casablanca). We were met at the Casablanca airport by OAT and immediately driven to Rabat. After checking into our hotel and taking a brief walk, we had a welcome dinner and met our host for the next two weeks. Halim El mansouri is a former flight attendant for Emirate, fluent in English, French, and Arabic, and extremely knowledgeable about Morocco history and culture.

In most groups, we are considered the well traveled couple. In this group, our travels didn't even merit consideration. Practically everyone had been to FAR more places than we have been. One of the group had even lived in Morocco for a couple years, back in Peace Corps days.

Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as a country at the time of the revolution. The first land owned by the USA in a foreign country was for the US Embassy in Morocco.

The coastal part of the country is populated by "Arabs" who are quite westernized, and are Sunni Muslims of the Maliki school. The inland portions are populated by "Berbers," an ethnic group of tribes that pre-dates the Arabs and is unified by a unique language. Only recently was a written form of the Berber language created, and made one of the official languages of Morocco (Arabic, Berber, and informally lots of French). Most Berbers are Sunni Muslim, and are more conservative than the Arabs.

Tuesday September 19 - Rabat

Rabat is the current capital of Morocco. We stopped by the Royal Palace, but the well loved King Mohammed VI didn't invite us in. The guards in white are the honor guards (secret service); the others are representatives of several military services.

The Prophet Mohamed loved cats, so there was a national respect for cats, but only a few dogs, mostly as working dogs for the shepherds.

Outside Rabat is the 14th Century Arab town of Chellah, which was built on an earlier Roman town of Sala. Looking to the left is the Roman side of the site. Note the city wall in the background behind the trees

As we look to the right we see the Arab side of the site. That is a stork nest on the top of the Minaret. The doorway on the right leads to the mosque.

We walked through the mosque, still in remarkable condition after 7 centuries.

There were stork nests everywhere you looked.

Our next stop was the Mausoleum of King Mohamed V (grandfather of the current king). There was a mounted honor guard outside the area.

Across from the Mausoleum is the unfinished mosque (based on the pillars) and the Hassan Tower which was to be the Minaret. Construction was stopped in 1150 AD.

In the other direction on the same plaza is the Mausoleum of King Mohamed V, grandfather of the current king.

If you thought the outside was fancy, try the inside! The center is the late King, the back corners have the King's brother and wife

These fortifications near the sea were not to protect from pirates, but to house the pirates. For years, the Europeans had pillaged the Moroccan shipping, so they were only "getting even," as long as the king collected 30-50% of the pirated loot.

Outside the city wall, we passed an Arab cemetery. The funny angle is because the person is buried on his/her right side, facing Mecca. Funerals are cheap, since the body gets a free trip to the cemetery in an ambulance-like vehicle, donated for the purpose. Graves are often dug by family members, with no casket or embalming. If someone dies overnight or first thing in the morning, they are usually buried by mid-afternoon. Only women get simple coffins for modesty. There are headstones at this cemetery, but not at Berber cemeteries.

The fairly tall tree on the left is a palm tree. The very tall thing on the right is not a palm tree, but a cell phone tower in disguise.

The old section of town, inside the city wall, is called the medina. Part of the medina is the souk, or shopping area, characterized by random alleys and countless corners, laid out over the last 500 or more years, understood only to the natives. Our dinner this night was in the souk. A local (in traditional dress) met our bus and led us in and out of the Medina.

Continue to Part 2 - Fez

Back to the beginning

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