Sevilla, Spain; Cadiz, Spain; Fes, Morocco; Marrakech, Morocco; Southern Morocco
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.
We visited the royal palace of Alcazar, which was orginally a Moorish fort:
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.
Cadiz has a great beach, where we figured about 40% of the women are topless.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
We rode camels into the Zagora Desert, ate dinner and slept in a berber tent.
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.
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