Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Traveling west from the Sahara dunes at Erg Chebbi, we drove along “The Road of a Thousand Kasbahs.”  A “kasbah” is the Moroccan version of a medieval castle keep in Europe — a large walled structure that provides protection to those that live around it. There are lots of kasbahs in Morocco, especially in the desert waste areas between the High Atlas Mountains and the sandy stretches to the east that form the true Sahara. Over time, the Kasbah became a style of architecture, like the one in the photo above which sits on the outskirts of a Berber village…

Magical Marrakech: Morocco Travel

Mysterious medinas, magnificent mosques, palaces and squalor, snake charmers and water men.  Marrakech is a magical place that blends incredible sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. It’s sensory overload for western monkeys like Kongo. You have to go there. The monkey spent two days in Marrakech.  It should have been longer.  Actually the monkey succumbed to a bad cold (still recovering) on the second day so he needed a do-over but he saw quite a bit on the day he was healthy. Marrakech is one of the imperial cities of Morocco and was founded sometime in the 10th century.  It’s the…

Roman Morocco: Morocco Travel Tales

Rising from the fertile plain north of the city of Meknes in Morocco stands the remains of the Roman city of Volubilis.  Volubilis was the capital of the Roman state of Mauretania which passed to Roman control after the fall of Carthage in 146 B.C.  It remained under Roman control until it fell to rebellious Berber tribes in 285 A.D.  Other pressures on the empire prevented Rome from retaking the city and they basically gave up on it.  The town remained occupied until the 11th century when Fez became the predominant center of power in the Islamic dynasty in Morocco. The…

Morocco Travel: L’Ma Lodge

Driving through the desert waste west of the Sahara in Southern Morocco gives one a unique appreciation for water. Where there is water there is life. Where there is no water there is nothing but rock and sand.  The photo below, taken of a small village oasis south of the High Atlas Mountains illustrates this. Water from mountain snowmelt feeds a river, often underground, and the village springs up next to groves of date palms. Kongo will write about the desert and the rare oases he travelled through later but this illustrates the point. A day’s drive from our desert…

Morocco Travel: Sunrise in the Sahara

“Can you hear the silence?” one of Kongo’s group asked as we gathered before dawn to mount camels and ride to a vantage point to see the sun rise.  You CAN hear the silence in the Sahara.  It’s deafening.  And the stars are like being at sea far from land.  Billions and billions of stars that seem close enough to touch.  It was one of those moments you will remember forever. The day before we raced the sun and the sun won. Life happens like that sometimes. We were attempting to make it to our desert encampment in the Sahara…

Into the Fez Medina

A medina is a walled city filled with a maze of narrow streets and alleys and jammed pack with people, noise, and activity.  Stepping through the gates of the medina in Fez is like passing through a portal into another world.  The medina at the ancient Imperial City of Fez, Morocco is a UNESCO heritage site, home to the oldest university in the world, and to most westerners a riot of colors, sounds, smells, and feelings. Kongo has scuttled through back alleys in Hong Kong, visited the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, and gone on liberty with fellow sailors in Olongapo,…

Casablanca to Fez

The day started early (about midnight California time) when Kongo and his troop headed out to explore the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.  This magnificent edifice is built out over the Atlantic Ocean. As numbers go, it is the second largest mosque in Africa, the 13th largest in the world, and boasts the highest minaret in the world at over 60 stories tall.  In the evening a laser strobe light points the way to Mecca.  25,000 worshipers can be accommodated inside the mosque and the wide plaza surrounding the building can hold another 80,000. Said, our guide, gave us  detailed…