Cat out of Casa – Erfoud to Casa

In February I had the pleasure of staying for 2 weeks at Café Tissardmine*, an artists retreat and guest house, situated in the small village of Tissardmine in the Moroccan Sahara, 30km from Erfoud at the eastern edge of the country. I had traveled there by overnight bus from Casablanca, which meant I could not see the changing scenery, which I had been told was spectacular. So for my trip back I decided to take the long way by day, 11 hours by bus to Marrakesh then a train to Casa

We left Tissardmine at 7:30am, driving 30mins into Erfoud, in time to buy tickets, have some breakfast and make the 9am bus. Well almost, after a small drama that involved a rushed toilet break and a run to catch up with the bus that had taken off without me, I was on my way. For the first few hours I left my camera in its bag, I had thought to just sit back and watch the scenery pass by. After a couple of hours  I could no longer resist.

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It was an overcast day, but even under grey skies the scenery was spectacular

For many hours we drove with a view like this to our left.

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we traveled beside these mountains for hours

On the right we passed by and through many towns and villages. As I mentioned in a previous entry, there is a lot construction going everywhere in Morocco. The new grey concrete makes a stark contrast to the rammed earth construction of the Kasbahs.

At around 4:30pm we started to climb up into the mountains that had been on our left for most of the day, passing more picture book villages nestled into crevices.

At 5pm we were high enough to see snow and soon after the  clouds cleared providing photo opportunities worthy of an Apple screen saver.

With the day drawing to a close we started our descent down the winding roads and I took my final images in the fading light.

Arriving in Marrakesh just after 8pm, I went straight to the train station and caught the next train to Casa arriving there at around midnight. In one day I had traveled from the rocky desert, along green valleys filled with palm trees, through snow-capped mountains to arrive back at the Atlantic Ocean. I was home in Casa, travel weary and in love with this land.

click on the images to see them at full size

* Café Tissardmine is a magical place – get there if you can! http://www.cafetissardmine.com/

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Cat out of Casa – Marrakesh to Casa

Early last November I went to Marrakech for a series of talks, workshops and Exhibitions hosted by the MMP+ (Marrakech Museum of photography and visual art) It was an excellent event and I came a way feeling inspired and happy to be in Morocco.

The following images where captured on the train ride back to Casa afterwards. I have only done this trip once, so I don’t know the countryside as well as the route from Casa to Fes, here we see mainly red earth and lots of space, oh and the odd Eucalyptus tree.

Cat out of Casa – Casa to Fez

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Over the last few months I have taken a few trips to explore other parts of Morocco. For a small country it has a rich variety of landscapes, from the temperate coastal areas around Casablanca and Rabat to the semi arid farming areas of the middle Atlas. From snow capped mountains to the Sahara desert. On these journeys I have stared out the window watching these changes and grabbed whatever photos I could as the train or bus whizzed by. Over the coming weeks I will publish some of these images, they include dirty windows, smudges, blurry figures, reflections in the glass and I hope something of the character of this beautiful country.


Last October Faouzi and I took a trip to Fez so I could catch a plane to Spain to refresh my Visa. We left Casa very early so that I could make the plane early that afternoon. The morning light made the early rise worthwhile.

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Faouzi on the platform at Casa Voyageurs while we are waiting to leave

 

The Casablanca Skyline is shaped by Palm trees and construction cranes. There is a huge amount of construction going on in all Moroccan cities and Casablanca is no exception. This and the traffic produce an incredible amount of dust, that I spend much of my time cleaning off every surface in our apartment. All I can say is Al-ḥamdu lillāh (thanks to God) for the Palm trees.

 

This trip was only a few weeks after the death of photographer Hilla Becher, I had been looking at the collections of the functional and industrial architecture that she made with her husband Bernd. There are a lot of such building along this train line.

 

After Rabat the train line turns east and away from the coast. I love watching the change in landscape and the country around Meknes is my favourite on the Journey.

 

We arrive in Fez, the train station is very beautiful, the air is dry and clear and you can see beyond the city to the mountains that surround it.

that’s all for now, next time we travel from Marrakesh to Casablanca

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hitched

From My Journal

Monday 09/11/2015 6:11pm
I am sitting in the Adoul’s office, Faouzi is in the Mosque a few doors down saying his evening prayer. We have just signed the register and we are now officially married. After all the delays and waiting, suddenly today the judge gave his authorisation and the Adoul processed us on the spot (I was expecting to be sent away and told to come back in a few days). In a way it could not be more perfect, it is dusk, we are in the Ancient Medina just around the corner from the sfeng* seller that Faouzi bought me to on my first night with him in Casablanca 13 months ago. The street outside is full of the sounds of Moroccan life, motorbikes, people talking, and somewhere there is singing…

After writing this Faouzi and I walked through Medina, he phoned a bunch of relatives to give them the news, we bought fish to cook for dinner and then battled the Casablanca rush hour to get a taxi home.

For a wedding phobic like me it was a perfect…

All I had on me was a crappy old android phone camera (my iphone crapped out about 6 weeks ago) so I did the best I could to collect some images of the night to share. here they are

*sfeng is a deep fried dough, like a donut served with sweet tea in the afternoon. http://heymorocco.com/sfenj-moroccan-donuts.aspx

My First Eid

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It is currently Eid here or more specifically Eid al-Kabir, an Arabic term meaning “the Greater Eid” (the “Lesser Eid” being Eid al-Fitr, which occurs at the end of Ramadan)

It is also called Eid al-Adha the Festival of the Sacrifice, It honours the story of Abraham’s willingness of to sacrifice his son, as an act of submission to God’s command, before God intervened, and informed him to sacrifice a sheep instead. Anyone one who went to Catholic school like me will remember this story from the Old Testament. The Festival goes for four days, most businesses close down and it is a time to spend with Family and for feasting.

As part of the Festival most families sacrifice an animal, usually a sheep. Last Thursday, the first day of Eid, 8.8 million sheep lost their lives in Morocco, I was witness to three of these, outside our apartment in the common grounds of our building.

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I watched, as the sheep’s throats were cut and the redder than red blood drained out. Once dead a small hole was cut in the leg and air was blown in to separate the skin from the flesh. Then the bodies were hung and the skinning finished, once skinned the stomachs were cut open and the internal organs taken out. The carcasses were then taken away into homes to be hung for 24 hours before being butchered.

While the meat is hanging the offal is traditionally eaten on the first day. The liver and some fat from the abdomen that looks like lace is made into kebabs, called boulfaf and cooked over charcoal – it is delicious!

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Every part of the animal is eaten as part of the celebration including the head. This presents opportunity for enterprising young men who want to make some cash. They set up fires with any wood they can scrounge and, people bring the heads to them to have the horns removed and the wool scorched off. The streets of Casablanca where an incredible site with fires set up, young men walking around with butchers knives and trucks loaded with sheep skins being taken away.

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I know for many back home reading this will be difficult; we sanitise and hide from our selves the reality of what it means to eat meat. I cannot say that I enjoyed watching an animal lose its life, but I think it is healthy to look at death front on. If nothing else it helps you appreciate life. Life here in Morocco is more difficult, less streamlined, more tiring, and there is a lot less to be taken for granted. Casablanca is full of sounds and smells, dust and dirt, and on Thursday it was full of scorched sheep’s heads.

I may be tired but I do know I am alive.

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Medina to Mosque

On Wednesday I got to play host and show some friends around Casa. Faouzi was away in Fes for the night so I was the local in the group… I stuck to spots I have already seen so we took a walk through the ancient Medina and arrived at Hassan II Mosque in the late afternoon.

Spice Market in the Medinathe colour, the aroma, the chaotic order, the way every nook and cranny are filled, I love these stores in the markets and Medina’s of Morocco.

MM-4268We are renovating the apartment at the moment so I always keep an eye out for hardware stores this one at the edge of the Medina is a beauty.

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What the? This place on the edge of the Medina is a fascinating mystery to me…

MM-4297Our theory is they are drying it like this to avoid ironing…

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In the late afternoon early evening we arrive at the Mosque. At this time of day Moroccans are all out and about and the area around the Mosque is full of people. There are children playing and flying kites with their families, young men hanging out together. perched on the edge of the Atlantic nothing in these photos demonstrates its scale, it is huge and at this time of day one side basks in the light of the setting sun. I only had a 50mm lens with me so I have put together some composite shots to try and give you an idea…

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MM-4302There are several of these fountains outside the Mosque

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a close up of the mosaic (zelij) that you can see either side of the fountain in the photo above

MM-4318one of the many doorways into the Mosque

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A photo taken standing right underneath the Minaret, it is very foreshortened by the angle.

 

First Friday in Gauthier

My First Friday in Gauthier, (The suburb where I am living in Casablanca) sitting in our Salon, looking at Facebook on my phone feeling pretty heavy, it has been a big week of adjusting to life in Casa and life with Faouzi (my Fiance) Then I hear this from the lane way out side. The view is from my window looking up…

Wedding Lawyers

Habous is the suburb in Casablanca where the wedding lawyers are to be found. We took a Petit Taxi there to start finalising the details for our wedding. My presence complicate things when it comes to price negotiations so I visited an Art Gallery in the Neighbourhood while Faouzi conducted our business with the Lawyers. This is a view of the suburb from the Gallery’s top floor window.

Casablanca on a hot bleary summers day, someone on his way home from School.

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