Friday, May 28, 2010

Against All Odds

Against all odds, I remembered it was Self Portrait Friday! So, very early this morning, I took a couple of shots of my buddy, Orcie, giving me morning loves. He thinks that the best place to nap is right up against my computer while I do my morning email. It is not terribly convenient for me, but that doesn't matter a whit, to his mind. What does matter is that it's warm, I'm right there (at his beck and call) and should the mood strike, he can attack my typing hands at any time. He's full from breakfast and life is good.

Please forgive my hair....bedhead is not pretty!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exploring the Souk/Marrakech & Fes

A walk through the souks is an amazing journey. You will see anything and everything for sale.
Here our guide Idriss was showing us what made the best quality of rosebuds, which are used to make rosewater. Rosewater is often used in Moroccan and North African cuisine.
Dried rosebuds are sold by the kilo.
Here is a shop selling fancy caftans. Moroccan women wear caftans at home and when they leave the house, they put on a djellaba, or long robe, to cover their caftans. These caftans must be for parties or festivals, as they are very special.
This is a shop that rents out fancy lanterns, and other decorations used for parties and weddings. Just like in the States, you can go to the "party rental" shop and pick out what you might need to host a large gathering and then rent it instead of having to purchase it.
These very large cooking and/or serving vessels would also be rented for your function.
Because the streets are so very narrow in the souks, donkeys and sometimes mules, are used to transport goods and construction materials. In some places you might come across six or eight donkeys and their owners all congregated in one spot. This is the place you would go to hire them for transporting whatever you needed brought into the Medina or taken out.
This shop sold many kinds of olives. Some were simply brined but others were spiced or mixed with vegetables and made into delicious salads.
Here we have snails for sale. I was told that the Moroccans make a delicious soup from snails. I'm sorry I didn't get to try it for myself. (I love escargot!)
A tray of sheep heads for sale.... Don't ask. I don't know.
Here we have more items you might rent for a large function. There are incense burners, and I believe, rosewater dispensers shown here. There are some very fancy things for rent in the souks!
Traditional clay tajines are in the foreground and a silver something in the back. It might be one of the transport devices for brides, who are carried into the wedding in very fancy palanquins such as these.
A very impressive door. The leaf shaped hinge is actually a free-form interpretation of the Hand of Fatima (a good luck symbol seen all over the Maghreb).
Look closely and you'll see a silver bathtub. Man, would I love to have that in my house! It would have been tricky to pack, though, so I had to leave it there.
Kitty napping on the seat of a motor bike in one of the alleys in the souk.
The lantern and light shop. Nonie and I used this shop as a sort of marker on our walks through the Marrakech souk. When we got to this shop we knew exactly where we were and which way we had to go to get back to Dar Seven. And, finally, the Tassel Shop. You can buy tassels in all colors and all sizes, in silk and less luxe materials. There are fat tassels and skinny tassels, tassels for the hood of your djellaba, tassels for the handles of your cabinets, tassels for menus in restaurants, tassels for decoration and tassels for a hundred other uses. I have never seen so many tassels in my life. I only wish I had been able to think of a good use for a tassel so I could have bought one!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Old Tannery/Fes

Fes is one of Morocco's Four Imperial Cities (Rabat, Meknes and Marrakech are the others). In the medina of Fes you will come across the Leather Souq, easily found by the stench, that has been in operations for something like nine centuries. The tannery in the Souq is reported to be the oldest in the world.

The process of curing and dying the sheep and goat skins has not changed in all that time. The hides are first soaked in a solution of pigeon excrement, which is slightly acid. This solution softens the hides and causes the hair of the animal to be more easily removed from the hide. Once the hide has been prepared this way it is then put into a stone vessel with the dye. From a vantage point of a balcony in the showroom of the tannery, the lucky tourist is able to look down on the honeycomb appearing tannery. The time we were there red dye was the prominent color being used, but this changes on about a three week schedule.

The men working in the tannery are dyed too---their arms and legs bearing witness to the colors being used during a particular dye cycle.

Once the hides are dyed the appropriate color, they are left to dry in the sun on the rooftops in the Souq.

The tannery has a lovely shop, with poufs, leather jackets, handbags, cases, bags, traditional Moroccan slippers (babouche) and the like for sale. I bought my beautiful red, upturned-toe babouches at the tannery shop, along with a lovely, red (!!! do you sense a theme???) shoulder bag. I won't say they were dirt cheap, but they were a very good value. The leather is soft and beautiful and the workmanship is very good.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oooops! I forgot, again!

And yet, again, I forgot to post my self-portrait on Friday! WHY can't I remember to do that on Friday? Why does it always occur to me at 12:02 AM that I haven't posted the self-portrait that I got all ready to go? I know I don't like doing self-portraits but I didn't realize just how much I obviously don't like doing self-portraits!

Here are my feet, encased in my lovely new RED Moroccan slippers (babouche). I love red slippers, especially when the toes turn up! I got these in Fes. More on Fez and the leather works coming soon.


Friday, May 21, 2010


My eldest daughter, darling Type A attorney daughter, is getting married to the nicest man in late September. Since it is her second marriage, it will be a small affair, well under 50 guests, and will be in Napa. J has it all planned---flowers, food, attendants, flower girls (two of my granddaughters, of course) and now, mother. I will be wearing a dress that she (very gently) led me to, in the color of her choice (and my favorite). I got the blouse/skirt combo ordered today and expect delivery by mid August. (I'd forgotten how long it takes to order wedding attire!)

J even had her co-worker, the fashion guru, tell me what sort of shoes I should wear. I need to find them, but I have time and now I know what I should choose for my ensemble.

I did, however, get to pick out my own jewelry. And did I get lucky! I have a friend who is a very talented jewelry designer. Her name is Audrey Daniels and she is amazing and talented---and a lot of fun, I might add. I told Audrey that I wanted something special to wear to daughter's wedding and she created the most amazing necklace and complimentary earrings for me. I love them and am so excited to wear them on J's special day. The design is so me and it makes me feel so pretty.

The best part? Audrey calls the piece "Basket of Joyful Memories." Now, isn't that just perfect?

I will be returning to posting about my recent trip soon. The photo editing is going slowly, but it is happening. I promise.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bahia Palace, Marrakech

The Bahia Palace was built at the end of the 19th century for the son of the grand vizier of Moulay el Hassan I. It is said that the palace was named for his favorite wife (and means "glorious" or "beautiful"---which it certainly is!) and it housed his harem, and the man had many, many wives and concubines, judging by the number of private rooms. There are beautiful gardens, tiled courtyards, tadlak (shiny marble) finishes, glazed ceramic tile work (zellij), cedar ceilings, and amazing painted woodwork. The rooms are sized and decorated according to importance of the user. The first wife's room is very large and very impressive and the rooms diminish in size as does the standing of the user. The public reception rooms are very grand!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dar Seven in Marrakech

I am, Dear Reader, giving you the last stop of our trip first. Why, you ask? Because that's the way the photos are getting edited! And, besides, Dar Seven was the most amazing place to end a spectacular trip. We had three nights here, in royal luxury, pampered and fluffed by the most attentive staff (led by Ahmed). It was truly heaven.

Above is the last little bit of lane leading to the door of the Dar. (Dar means large house) It was in the Sidi Ben Slimane area of the medina (old walled town) and we felt rather clever that we could go out and come back again---without help!

This is the view looking down from our bedroom, The White Room, into the interior courtyard. You never know what sort of lovely, amazing spaces lurk behind the anonymous, blank doors in the lanes and alleys of the medina.

A seating area off the main courtyard.

The White Room

Inlaid chest in our room

The amazing should have seen the tub all decked out in candles in the evening....unfortunately all my photos of that decadent scene were fuzzy and out-of-focus.

The neighbor's cat, lounging in the sun, taken from our rooftop terrace.

Ahmed serves Nonie a fabulous dinner on our second night at the dar.

All the food we enjoyed in North Africa was delicious. I became very enamoured with Moroccan salads. You would be offered six or seven different salads to start each meal. We often had carrot, beet, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, olive and lettuce salads, and each and every one was delicious. And, OMG, the BREAD. How I miss the bread....

And here is a sampling of our breakfast at Dar Seven.
should you ever find yourself in Marrakech, I can't recommend Dar Seven highly enough---the beauty of the building and all the rooms, the quiet calm retreat n the midst of the medina and the birdsong! Dar Seven was everything it was billed to be---and much more!