Morocco must be the country of 10,000 doorways.
Or at least thats how many photos of doorways Im going to come home with.
I began with several shots of doorways at the Hassan 2 mosque and finished the day photographing the Bab el-Mansour gate to the imperial city of Meknes.
We caught the train from Casablanca to Meknes, and were treated to a first class air-conditioned cabin with six seats. Nice ride. The journey was just over three hours but about half an hour in my little peepers couldnt hold out any longer. Some time later I woke up with a start and freaked out my tour mates by gasping loudly and yelling out "Oh my god I cant believe how green it is!!". The landscape was so lush, and I wasnt expecting Morocco to be this green, especially after a month in the desert. Its quite simple though - rain mainly falls in the north of the country, west of the High Atlas Mountains. The desert is to the east of the range (western Sahara). The north is the agricultural heartland of Morocco.
On arrival in Meknes it was a short walk to our hotel (followed by a longer walk up 4 flights of stairs to our rooms), then we were straight into it. Meknes is one of four Moroccan Imperial Cities, and dates from the 17th century. The Bab el-Mansour gate is the largest on the outer wall of the city, but is rarely open. So, armed with a "local guide", we entered through a sidegate, passed through another at a second wall, then a third to get to the Mausoleum of Moulay Ishmail, the Sultan of Morocco in the late 1600's. He was reputed to have four wives and 500 concubines, producing 1000 sons and daughters. He also had 12,000 horses. I daresay all that "riding" would have left him rather saddle-sore! The mausoleum was beautiful, by the way, and we were treated to a lesson in Islamic tile-art and calligraphy.
Next door was a large walled garden where Ismail apparently rode his horses. Today it is a golf course, of course! Across the courtyard, the old underground prison where our guide said Christian slaves were kept, although this is just part of the "spiel". The alternative theory says they were storage tunnels. Regardless, it is a massive network of barrell-vaulted tunnels that are still being excavated.
We left the imperial city and crossed the road to the Place el-Hadim, the main square outside the Medina. El-hadim is full of street stalls where you can buy dried ostrich legs, dried Moroccan iguanas (good for rheumatism apparently!), snake skins, goat hides, all manner of oils and ointments, and water from a traditional water-seller dressed in colourful robes with brass cups attached and a hat with pompoms!?
Our guide raced us through the medina at a blinding pace, though it reminded me of the Freo market or the night market in Cairns. Then it was up to a rooftop terrace for tea, overlooking the square, where we watched snake charmers, street performers and fire breathers (re blog photo: I timed the shot as he blew the fire - it looks like he's set himself and half the crowd ablaze, but it wasnt nearly as exciting!)
I need to have a whinge at this point. The food just isnt stacking up. We all have such high expectations I guess, but Morocco has a reputation for amazing food and we just aint seeing it. It may just be the places our guide is taking us to, so we're going to have to tell him we want the real deal.
Otherwise, Morocco is turning out to be as colourful and architecturally beautiful as Id hoped.