As we left the souk in Marrakech, the crescent Moon hung low in the sky near a mosque. // Liz Kruesi
Since the eclipse
, our group has traveled out of Gabon and back to Morocco — a welcome change of pace from the adventure in Gabon. We spent about 36 hours in Marrakech and drove across the High Atlas Mountains into the northern Sahara desert. While in Marrakech we toured La Bahia Palace, the Saadien tombs, the main market (called a “souk”), an apothecary, and other sites. Although touristy, the city’s sites gave the 30 of us on the Gabon & Morocco tour insight into the Moroccan culture and Islamic religion.
When built in the 19th century, the palace housed the Sultan Abu Ahmed, his wives and concubines, and his servants. The more important someone was to the King, the nicer the rooming arrangements were. The servants lived in plain rooms surrounding a white-walled courtyard; the concubines had rooms with ornate tile mosaics, engraved-plaster walls, stained-glass windows, and engraved-wood ceilings. One-third of the 150-room palace is now open to visitors and tourists.
One of the most entertaining places we visited in Marrakech was an apothecary. Our group had a blast! There, a pharmacist introduced us to local herbal products like ointments for eczema and chapped lips, oils for sore throats and puffy eyes, and even natural lip color (from poppies). We certainly left there with less money in our wallets. (I think one reason that we were so spend-happy was because many of us have come down with a cold, and one of the featured products — Nigella seeds — clears the sinus and nasal passages.)
Our group visited an apothecary, which held hundreds of canisters of herbal remedies, incense, and other local products. // Liz Kruesi
Content with our purchases, we moved along to the next location: the Menara Gardens. A sophisticated irrigation system composed of a large basin (filled with water from the nearby Atlas Mountains) and underground canals feeds the 220 acres of olive and fruit trees.
While wandering through the gardens, and actually many of the sites in Morocco, we’ve also seen dozens of stray cats and dogs. I’m an animal lover, and therefore I notice animals wherever I travel to. In Gabon, we saw few cats but many stray dogs. Nearly all of them had pointy ears and were medium-sized. (In a way, many reminded me of my own dog, who had been a stray before we adopted her from a shelter.) It breaks my heart to see so many animals wandering the streets. When I saw a pack of puppies today, I suggested to fellow travelers that seven of us should each take one home — I was only half-kidding. (In case you’re curious, there were no takers.)
There are many differences between the ways Morocco and America works, but that’s part of the charm of traveling — to learn about the variations and appreciate different cultures. We’ve visited a few shops to showcase Moroccan crafts like embroidery and wearable art like kaftans. The artistry throughout this country is incredibly beautiful — and we still have nearly a week left to explore it.