John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Wednesday 19 March 2014

[Tuesday 18 March 2014]

Barceló Fès Medina

Day 78 Numbers 27; John 9
After breakfast we will take the short drive through this busy city to the Hassan II Mosque, where we will have a guided tour. Please make sure your arms and legs are covered for this visit. You will be asked to remove your shoes inside the Mosque and will be offered a plastic bag to carry them in during the tour. We then drive further north along the coast to Rabat, the Moroccan capital. Here we will visit the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. After time for lunch we will head to Fez, where we will stay for three nights, on a half-board basis. Our hotel is the Barcelo Fès Medina, 53 Ave Hassan II, Tel: 00 212 5 35 94 88 00.

The alarm clock sounded at 6.15am, and with a struggle Janet got up at 6.30am. I got up when she’d vacated the bathroom. There was a walk-in shower, and I managed to use it without putting a towel down to cushion the hard surface. Having some repacking to do, Janet had decided not to use up time going for breakfast; and, not wishing to be stuck with strangers, neither did I. It was her turn to wish she hadn’t come!

07:30:28 View from the hotel bedroom window: port of Casablanca and Atlantic Ocean

07:30:58 View from the hotel bedroom window: The Hassan II Mosque

07:31:14 View from the hotel bedroom window: The Hassan II Mosque

Notwithstanding there being some 40 people in our party, we were able to summon the lift and get downstairs without delays with suitcases and hand-luggage. Abdul stowed the luggage and we boarded the coach. Christine had written our names on cards, and placed these on the seats she had allocated. We were to leave these on the seats at the end of the day, and she would reallocate the seating for the next day. We were quite far back, on the left, so each day, our allocated seat would be farther forward, on the opposite side, from the previous day’s. En route we passed “Rick’s Café” (as authentic as Juliet’s balcony in Verona, I deemed!).[i] First stop was the huge Hassan II Mosque. When we’d each been given a numbered sticker-badge to wear and plastic bags in which to put our shoes we were admitted. We removed shoes just within the door before stepping onto the carpeted area. Although my feet were a bit tender, the carpet in most places provided sufficient cushioning.

[i] According to Wikipedia: “Opened March 1, 2004, the place was designed to recreate the bar made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the movie classic Casablanca.”

08:39:10 Hassan II Mosque: 690ft minaret

08:42:24 Hassan II Mosque: 690ft minaret

08:43:52 Hassan II Mosque

08:43:52 — detail

08:46:18 Hassan II Mosque

08:46:18 — detail

08:49:28 Hassan II Mosque

08:50:34 Hassan II Mosque

09:05:36 Hassan II Mosque: retractable roof (above) and glass covering of the ablution rooms (below)

09:05:58 Hassan II Mosque

09:07:34 Hassan II Mosque

09:07:48 Hassan II Mosque

09:09:00 Hassan II Mosque

09:09:58 Hassan II Mosque

09:15:28 Hassan II Mosque: mihrab

09:17:58 Hassan II Mosque

09:20:26 Hassan II Mosque

09:22:02 Hassan II Mosque

09:28:40 Hassan II Mosque: entrance to the ablution rooms

09:28:54 Hassan II Mosque: entrance to the ablution rooms

09:32:58 Hassan II Mosque: ablution room

09:33:44 Hassan II Mosque: ablution room

09:35:20 Hassan II Mosque: view from the ablution room up to the main hall

09:47:08 Hassan II Mosque: public bath

The guide showed us to lavatories, with a double row of wash basins in the middle, and many individual compartments along the far side. Janet had gone into one of the compartments before the guide thought to mention that there were other toilets elsewhere. I didn’t use this one, and when we got to the other one it appeared to be just a ladies’. So evidently the first had been a gents’. I wasn’t desperate to pee anyway. The guided tour ended ca.10am, and I nipped across the road to the sea-wall before re-boarding the coach.

10:07:00 The Atlantic from near the Hassan II Mosque

Think it was on the outskirts of Casablanca where we saw the first, quite extensive, shanty town, owing to migration from the countryside because of years of drought. There were ramshackle houses and some tents. Some of the inhabitants had small flocks of sheep. From Casablanca we went to Rabat, through mainly green countryside either flat or of gently rolling hills. From time to time, we’d pass a farmer ploughing with a plough drawn by a donkey, sometimes a yoke of donkeys. On (or off) the road from time to time, we’d see a donkey or mule pulling a cart, and occasionally a donkey being ridden, or a donkey laden with crops or produce (sometimes also being ridden). The fields were mainly unfenced. So when we passed flocks of sheep, they were always accompanied by a shepherd. And cattle, by a herder. And sometimes there were flocks and herds combined. There were many olive groves. Mostly, en route, the one who did the talking was the very pleasant but ever so loquacious El Hassani. He’d start speaking about some topic, but then go off at tangents till one had no idea where we were supposed to be in the discourse. First stop in Rabat was the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.

12:33:52 Mounted guards at the eastern entrance to the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Rabat

12:36:14 Ruins of an incomplete late 12th century mosque and its minaret (the Hassan Tower)

12:36:30 Columns of the incomplete mosque

12:38:00 Mausoleum of Mohammed V

12:40:54 Mausoleum of Mohammed V

12:55:00 Hassan Tower, seen from the coach

12:55:18 Mounted guards at the western entrance, seen from the coach

12:55:42 Mausoleum and Mosque of Mohammed V, seen from the coach

We’d been given lunch-menu choices for the restaurant we were going to — “Raise your hand if you want this, raise your hand if you want that” — but I didn’t fancy any of the items and wasn’t all that hungry anyway, so when we got there we were shown to an area where we could just have a drink, adjacent to the restaurant proper. Having said that, there were half a dozen from our party seated at a nearby table in the same area who did have something to eat.

12:58:34 Rabat tram, seen from the coach

13:10:54 Our lunch-time venue

13:12:38 Our lunch-time venue

By now we’d both recovered our cheerfulness. As we walked the short distance to the coach, I found that walking no longer hurt — perhaps helped by the imbibition of alcohol. From there the coach proceeded to the Kasbah, which we entered on foot, and walked through. The alleys and stuccoed buildings reminded us of Mykonos, except that the latter was neater and cleaner. At a small courtyard I had a couple of sweet pastries (I didn’t find them excessively sweet as Janet warned me to expect) and a glass of mint tea (sweetened green tea with whole sprigs of mint stuffed in the glass). We ended in a garden with orange trees and palms and perhaps the odd cypress.

14:14:42 Medina rampart, Rabat, seen from the coach

14:14:54 Medina rampart, Rabat, seen from the coach

14:21:16 Approaching the Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat

14:21:48 Approaching the main gate of the Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat

14:25:26 Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat

14:25:38 Entering the Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat

14:30:20 Inside the Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat

14:32:18 Inside the Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat

14:35:32 Street vendor and musicians in the Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat

14:36:22 Decorated door in the Kasbah of the Udayas, Rabat

14:55:28 Andalusian Gardens

14:56:26 Andalusian Gardens

14:56:26 — detail

14:57:40 Kittens in the Andalusian Gardens

14:59:40 Back out through the main gate

Then we went back to the coach, and proceeded to Fez. We had a refreshment stop at roadside services. Christine warned us not to confuse the entrance to the toilets with that to the prayer-room. Actually, they were clearly enough signed. We passed through an oak forest, where the lower part of the trees was brown, which was the colour it turned after the cork was removed. Mostly the soil of the countryside we passed through was sandy and quite a striking red, though there were hilly areas where the soil looked chalky. As well as groves of olives, there were pointed out to us plantations of low bushes with pink/purple blossoms: almonds.

15:06:54 Two jolly policemen, seen from the coach

15:21:42 Passing through an evergreen oak forest, with evidence of cork harvesting

15:22:30 Passing through an evergreen oak forest, with evidence of cork harvesting

We arrived at the hotel in Fez, ca.6.30pm, and there were the registration forms to be completed in duplicate. Janet was able to unpack essential things, though quite a lot of stuff stayed in the cases. My only task was to set up the “big feller”. We went down for the buffet dinner ca.7.20pm. Copied the photos from the camera to the WD Elements HDD (20:33–20:34) and edited them with Photoshop (20:37–23:04). Janet went to bed a little after 10pm. Started pasting them into this document, but didn’t get very far before I went to bed.

[Thursday 20 March 2014]

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