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The Pillars of Hercules

Sevilla, Spain; Cadiz, Spain; Fes, Morocco; Marrakech, Morocco; Southern Morocco

أصدقاء (Friends),

The most recent leg of our trip was breathtaking. Traveling by land and sea from Sevilla, Spain to Merzouga, Morocco was a journey that we´ll never forget.

Sevilla and Cadiz in Spain are two cities that have a lot in common. Besides being great to visit, these two places share a unique history involving the Spanish Conquistadores and the taxes they paid to the Spanish government. Both cities fought for the tax money from goods stolen from the New World during the Spanish Siglo de Oro. For a few decades all of the ships sailed from the Americas up to Sevilla to deliver their cargo, then for a few decades after that, they ported in Cadiz. This distribution of wealth went on for quite a while. In our opinion, Sevilla seems to have benefited more from the destruction of the early American Empires than Cadiz. Although, Cadiz does have a great beach and the temperature is much more comfortable, with its ocean breeze, than the hot inland air of Sevilla.

Flamenco dancer at the Museo del Flamenco, Sevilla

Flamenco dancer at the Museo del Flamenco, Sevilla


Jennifer with a typical Arabic doorway in Sevilla

Jennifer with a typical Arabic doorway in Sevilla


Fountain in the square next to the Cathedral, Sevilla

Fountain in the square next to the Cathedral, Sevilla

Narrow alleyway outside of the Alcazar, Sevilla

Narrow alleyway outside of the Alcazar, Sevilla

We visited the royal palace of Alcazar, which was orginally a Moorish fort:

Walking inside the Alcazar in Sevilla

Walking inside the Alcazar in Sevilla

Cadiz was considered the edge of the world for centuries by the Mediterranean people. In fact, before Columbus sailed to the Americas, this was the end of the world.

Many windows around Cadiz are blocked out.  A few centuries ago, the King of Spain was looking for new sources of income; he implemented a tax on windows.  The Cathedral blocked off 10 of its windows to avoid the tax.

Many windows around Cadiz are blocked out. A few centuries ago, the King of Spain was looking for new sources of income; he implemented a tax on windows. The Cathedral blocked off 10 of its windows to avoid the tax.

A few hundred years ago, this alley led to a brothel in Cadiz.  Most of the clientele were sailors, except one regular who was small in stature and was always completely covered by a cloak.  No one knew who he was and they referred to him as the gnome.  One day, someone followed the gnome out of the brothel and observed him entering the Bishop's house.  Definitely not OK to accuse the Bishop of such behavior during the Inquisition, so they just called him the gnome and named the street the gnome

A few hundred years ago, this alley led to a brothel in Cadiz. Most of the clientele were sailors, except one regular who was small in stature and was always completely covered by a cloak. No one knew who he was and they referred to him as the gnome. One day, someone followed the gnome out of the brothel and observed him entering the Bishop's house. Definitely not OK to accuse the Bishop of such behavior during the Inquisition, so they just called him the gnome and named the street the gnome

Cadiz has a great beach, where we figured about 40% of the women are topless.
Walking along the beach in Cadiz

Walking along the beach in Cadiz


Sunset in Cadiz--the same beach where Hally Berry walked out of the water in the James Bond film Die Another Day

Sunset in Cadiz--the same beach where Hally Berry walked out of the water in the James Bond film Die Another Day

Enjoying Tapas with our friend Annick in Cadiz

Enjoying Tapas with our friend Annick in Cadiz

After Cadiz, we decided to cross the Strait of Gibralter into Morocco, Africa. Ancient myths state that the demigod Hercules separated Spain from Morocco to create an opening to the Atlantic Ocean.

Playing Crazy Eights on the train from Tangier to Fes

Playing Crazy Eights on the train from Tangier to Fes

Our first stop was Fes, where we stayed in a Riad. A Riad is a house that has been converted into a type of hostel. Usually they are uniquely decorated with intricately carved wood and beautifully tiled walls.

Jennifer eating breakfast at our Riad in Fes

Jennifer eating breakfast at our Riad in Fes

Fes was a whirlwind of craziness. There are people and donkeys everywhere. The Medina is a tightly packed neighborhood of merchants selling their wares. We really enjoyed looking at the beautiful works of art created by these traditional artistians, from shoes and bags made of brilliantly dyed leather to silver bowls and lanterns with detailed designs.

Our first of many Chicken Tajines in Morocco

Our first of many Chicken Tajines in Morocco


Handmade silver bowls in the Fes Medina

Handmade silver bowls in the Fes Medina


Walking in the narrow alleys of the Medina in Fes

Walking in the narrow alleys of the Medina in Fes


View of  the walled-in Medina of Fes from Borj Nord Fort

View of the walled-in Medina of Fes from Borj Nord Fort

Leather is a big deal in Morocco. Men work in deep pits filled with water as they have for centuries. The tannery we visited is a co-op used by hundreds of families for dying leather to eventually be sold and made into purses or shoes.

Natural Dye Pits at the tannery

Natural Dye Pits at the tannery


Handbags available for purchase at the tannery.

Handbags available for purchase at the tannery.

We met a couple of great ladies from Canada who invited us to join them on a day trip to Volubilis, an ancient Roman city in Morocco. We are so happy we decided to join them. It was quite a sight!

Volubilis, ancient Roman city in Morocco

Volubilis, ancient Roman city in Morocco


The two of us with a Roman Arch in Volubilis

The two of us with a Roman Arch in Volubilis


Ancient mosiac in Volubilis

Ancient mosiac in Volubilis


Roman Arch in Volubilis

Roman Arch in Volubilis


Hangin' at the Tangier Gate, Volubilis, Morocco

Hangin' at the Tangier Gate, Volubilis, Morocco


Entering the Royal Palace, Meknes, Morocco

Entering the Royal Palace, Meknes, Morocco


Celebrating a great day with some Moroccan mint iced tea with Elaine and Wendy

Celebrating a great day with some Moroccan mint iced tea with Elaine and Wendy

From Fes we took an eight-hour train ride down to Marrakech. We were surprised because we were under the impression the train ride was to be five hours, so needless to say, we struggeled through the last three hours. At least we had a seat, unlike many of our fellow passengers who had to stand. The best part of the ride was when a group of guys started to play drums and sing happy songs. This continued for awhile until someone who worked for the train, unfortunately, told them to be quiet.

Here is our room in the Riad in Marrakech:

Jennifer figured out how to tie a turban!  Riad Fantasia, Marrakech

Jennifer figured out how to tie a turban! Riad Fantasia, Marrakech

One of the top sites to see in Marrakech is the Dajamaa El Fna, one of the busiest squares in Africa and the world. During the day there are mostly ladies offering Henna tatoos and oranges juice vendors. But when the sun starts to set the craziness begins. You can find snake charmers, fortune tellers, lady-boy dancers and generally crazy people walking around trying to get money anyway they can.

Nuts and dates for sale in the main square in Marrakech

Nuts and dates for sale in the main square in Marrakech


Donkey preparing to haul a lot of stuff

Donkey preparing to haul a lot of stuff


Snake Charmers in Marrakech; if you walk too close to these guys, they will throw a snake around your neck and expect a tip for doing so.

Snake Charmers in Marrakech; if you walk too close to these guys, they will throw a snake around your neck and expect a tip for doing so.


Moroccan Whiskey (Tea) stand at Da Jemaa el-Fnaa square

Moroccan Whiskey (Tea) stand at Da Jemaa el-Fnaa square


Robert with a huge lantern at a museum in Marrakech

Robert with a huge lantern at a museum in Marrakech


Medersa in Marrakech

Medersa in Marrakech

From our Riad in Marrakech we planned a four day, three night trek into the desert. We traveled by van for several hours to the first stop, the Zagora Desert. On the way to Zagora we stopped off at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Aït Benhaddou. It is famous for the many movies Hollywood has filmed here such as Lawrence of Arabia, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Mummy and Gladiator to name a few.

Aït Benhaddou, Morocco.  Hollywood's favorite spot in North Africa

Aït Benhaddou, Morocco. Hollywood's favorite spot in North Africa


This image was created with this magnifying glass and the sun

This image was created with this magnifying glass and the sun


Aït Benhaddou, Morocco

Aït Benhaddou, Morocco

Goat Herder in the Atlas Mountains

Goat Herder in the Atlas Mountains


It gets windy high up in the Atlas Mountains!

It gets windy high up in the Atlas Mountains!

We rode camels into the Zagora Desert, ate dinner and slept in a berber tent.

Our camels resting after our 2-hour trek to the desert

Our camels resting after our 2-hour trek to the desert


Camels diggin' in the sand to rest for the night

Camels diggin' in the sand to rest for the night

Bathroom in the desert outside of Zagora, Morocco

Bathroom in the desert outside of Zagora, Morocco


When we woke up we discovered this enormous scary-looking spider in our tent. That is a 1.5 liter bottle; the spider was bigger than Jennifer's palm!

When we woke up we discovered this enormous scary-looking spider in our tent. That is a 1.5 liter bottle; the spider was bigger than Jennifer's palm!

The next day we joined a different group of travellers and continued on our journey to the coveted Merzouga desert. Along the way we had an opportunity to check out the agricultural fields and a Kasbah in southern Morocco. We discovered they were growing the same alfalfa we grow in Wisconsin. The difference being that we feed it to cows and horses and they feed it to camels and donkeys.

Irrigation in Southern Morocco

Irrigation in Southern Morocco


Water source for a collection of Kasbahs in Southern Morocco

Water source for a collection of Kasbahs in Southern Morocco


Wheelchair in Morocco

Wheelchair in Morocco

The two of us in the Dades Gorges, Morocco

The two of us in the Dades Gorges, Morocco


Roadside pottery stand in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Roadside pottery stand in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Our camels relaxing in the shade before our sunset journey

Our camels relaxing in the shade before our sunset journey


Camel Train silhouette, Merzouga, Morocco

Camel Train silhouette, Merzouga, Morocco


Silhouette of Jennifer on her camel

Silhouette of Jennifer on her camel

Robert on a camel in the Sahara Desert

Robert on a camel in the Sahara Desert


Jennifer and her camel going up a dune in the Sahara Desert

Jennifer and her camel going up a dune in the Sahara Desert


Our camels resting after the trek to the desert

Our camels resting after the trek to the desert


24/5/12 in the Sahara

24/5/12 in the Sahara


Jennifer trying not to fall off the dune, Merzouga, Morocco

Jennifer trying not to fall off the dune, Merzouga, Morocco

It's not Bangkok, but it's beautiful

It's not Bangkok, but it's beautiful


Robert:  "My best girl and my best camel"

Robert: "My best girl and my best camel"


Camel silhouette, Merzouga, Morocco

Camel silhouette, Merzouga, Morocco


Sunset, Merzouga, Morocco

Sunset, Merzouga, Morocco


Our multi-national group (or "mixed salad" according to our Moroccan guide) getting ready for dinner, Merzouga, Morocco

Our multi-national group (or "mixed salad" according to our Moroccan guide) getting ready for dinner, Merzouga, Morocco

Robert taking in the sunrise in the desert, Merzouga, Morocco.  It's cold in the morning!

Robert taking in the sunrise in the desert, Merzouga, Morocco. It's cold in the morning!


Sunrise over the dunes, Sahara Desert, Merzouga, Morocco

Sunrise over the dunes, Sahara Desert, Merzouga, Morocco


Our outside sleeping quarters, Merzouga, Morocco.  We preferred to sleep under the desert sky as opposed to the tents.

Our outside sleeping quarters, Merzouga, Morocco. We preferred to sleep under the desert sky as opposed to the tents.


Silhouette of our camel train

Silhouette of our camel train

Fist-pumping into the Sahara

Fist-pumping into the Sahara

We took a flight from Marrakech to our current location of Barcelona, Spain. The weather is perfect; a strong sun accompanied by a cool breeze off the Mediterranean.

Time to hit the beach. Talk to you soon,

J & R

Posted by JennyandRobert 14:33

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Comments

Hello Bobby and Jenny,
Oh how I enjoyed your post. They are all so educational. Wow! Traveling on a camel looked interesting. I love the videos and hearing your voices, especially hearing you both laugh.
Thanks for sharing.
Have fun.
Love,
Aunt Milissa

by Milissa

This is my favorite of all your posts - Spain and especially Morocco. KP was right! Both countries are right up my alley as they were his so many years ago when he was a young US Marine! Your postings were beautifully done - right up there with professional travel writers and photographers! Jenn on the camel was THe Best! And sleeping out under the stars shining down on the Sahara Desert. Dreams come true. However, when are you returning to the USA and where do you go from Spain? Love Buffalo JP

by Janet Pratt

WOW! Love the desert pictures and videos! Jenny, you look wonderful in your turban.

by Carolyn MacLaurin

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