From Rabat I took the train to Casablanca to join a 14 day GAdventures tour called Highlights of Morocco (http://www.gadventures.com/trips/highlights-of-morocco/DCHM/2013/). It was fun to have traveling companions and to have all the logistics done for me so all I had to do was follow our able CEO, Ismail (a Hanafi but only in the positive definition as someone with lots of knowledge). The tour went from Casablanca east to Mekness and Fez (Fez has a huge Medina, almost ½ a million people live there, it is the largest pedestrian area in a city in the world), then south to the Atlas mountains to the Sahara (where we rode camels into the dunes and slept in nomad tents), then over the winding roads back to the ocean then back inland ending up in Marrakech.
Muslims celebrate Eid twice, the smaller Eid is after Ramadan and the bigger celebration is after the pilgrimage to Mecca, which occurred on Wednesday, Oct 16th and so during our tour. They celebrate Eid by sacrificing an animal, which in Morocco was typically a sheep. As a result we saw people bringing home their sheep, similar to how we buy our turkey in the days or weeks before Thanksgiving. We saw sheep in the backs of vans, sheep being hauled into apartment buildings, sheep in the trunk of a car, a sheep being carried on a man's shoulders, sheep being led or pushed down the street, sheep in small carts towed by a motorbike, and sheep for sale in a temporary tent outside a supermarket (think of the Christmas tree lots outside Safeway, only perhaps not smelling as nice). Then on the actual day they sacrifice the sheep, and start inviting family and friends for meals. We were fortunate enough to visit a nomad Berber family on Oct 16th and watch the sacrifice - I didn't post the more graphic photos, but I did post afew so anyone who likes to keep separation between their food source and their plate should skip those ones. The sacrifice was done with very little ceremony - other than the increased audience I doubt it was much different from a typical butchering.
Eid is such a big deal that many people take the whole week off and businesses might stay closed until the following Monday. On Sunday, the last day of Eid week, we went to the High Atlas town of Imlil, packed just what we needed for one night into small bags that were loaded on mules (the lucky mules also got to carry some of us, including me, for part of the trip) and we walked up the mountain about an hour to a small village. There were men dressed in goat costumes (using real goat skins and heads, kids: don't try that at home for Halloween!) and were chasing everyone else (men, women, and kids, though one roof seemed to be off limits and fortunately the tourists were also safe) and throwing bags of sand at them or hitting them with sticks. The teenage boys were scrambling over the rocks like goats themselves, taunting the goat-men then yelling and running away.
One of the best parts of the trip was going to the Sahara desert and riding camels. We again packed a small bag with enough for one night, then at 5pm we got onto our camels that were tied together into two camel trains, and headed into the dunes at sunset at a walking speed. Getting onto a camel was quite easy, they lay down and you put your leg over to get on the saddle then you hang onto the metal bars really, really tight because the camel gets up with the back feet first then the front feet so for a while you are leaning way forward. Their walk is quite uneven but our camels were very docile and just plodded along so you didn't have to hang on except when going downhill. After 1.5 hours, just as it was getting dark, we arrived at the Bedouin tent camp where we had mint tea and snacks, ate supper (a tagine, of course), and enjoyed singing and dancing to drums. We pulled our mattresses out of the tents and slept outside under an almost full moon. In the morning we got back on our camels (and realized that even that short trip was enough to cause a sore butt, can't imagine what an entire day on a camel would feel like) and rode back to the hotel as the sun was rising.
When the tour ended in Marrakech, I found a nice hotel in the Medina with internet access and a nice courtyard, to spend my last week in Morocco. The two young men who worked there shared their meal with me a few times and we talked (very carefully on my part!) about Morocco and religion and politics. I spent my time going out to visit tourist sights, getting food in the nearby square, and catching up with my email, photos, etc. Djamaa El Fna Square is the attraction in Marrakech, it is a large square full of snake charmers, people with monkeys or doing henna tattoos, freshly squeezed orange juice stands (Travis, you would have really enjoyed it, less than $.50 for a large glass), food stalls that set up just for the evening and more.