The Old, the Classic, The Modern Moroccan Village

While doing research today I was looking through my Moroccan photos from last year’s trip and came across this one I call the Old, the Classic, and the Modern. Along a stream in the barren desert of Morocco, life comes from water. The lush green of an oasis stands out in this eroded valley.

Old, Classic, and Modern Morocco

Old, Classic, and Modern Morocco

On top of the cliff is a modern town built up along a relatively new road to the area. Those houses maintain the old look, but are now built of concrete block, making them both less cool and less warm depending on the season. The tradeoff is the lower need for maintenance. The photo below shows a cut out of the modern village in the photo above.

A modern village in Moroccan desert

A modern village in Moroccan desert

Across the stream and lower down is the classic ksar (fortified town). Protection was provided in the way the homes were built together within tall walls and around a central open area. The walls were built from clay and straw and had to be maintained (new mud added) about every four years. The photo below is an enlarged cut showing the ksar from the top photo.

Classic Ksar

Classic Ksar

The old village is much harder to discern. It is underneath the modern town and can be seen by carefully looking along the cliff. The homes there were built in exactly the same building material as the classic ksar. Time is taking its toll and eventually the walls will disappear back into the earth from which it was built.

Crumbling Old Village Walls

Now go back to the top photo and pick out the progression of all three states of this village. That’s a lot of history in a small space.


Sandy has a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. The one for February 2013 is on. It’s a short month. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. Your choice. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and  hope to hear from you.


Lights of Morocco

In a country with sunshine aplenty, I found the indoor lighting to be purposefully subdued. Intricate lanterns with detailed metal work hung from ceilings or were fastened to the walls. My first photograph is from the Riad Kalaa in Rabat. We had a two-story room and this lantern hung in the stairwell to the first floor. Note the beautiful wood beams on the ceiling.


The more rounded lanterns hung beneath the arches of the walkway along the courtyard. The arch is a bit unusual. The tooth-like design is made of local sandstone.

Hanging lanterns with stone arch

Hanging lanterns with stone arch

Also in the Riad Kalaa courtyard, long brass lanterns hung from curved arms attached to sandstone columns. The door in the picture is an excellent example of the two door system you find everywhere in Morocco. You can see the smaller door, that when open by itself has a keyhole shape, is now attached to the larger door.

Long brass lantern on arm

Long brass lantern on arm

The ultimate sky light was this open decorative metal arch constructed over the riad courtyard.

Riad Kalaa Courtyard

Riad Kalaa Courtyard

Across the roof terrace you can see my husband relaxing along a wall with two long, glass covered lanterns. I believe those are papyrus growing in the tall pot. I included two closer looks so can see how the lanterns are hung, note the opaque glass, and see the detailing in the brass.

Riad Kalaa

Riad Kalaa



The next lantern, in a night setting, hung in the courtyard at another beautiful riad we stayed at in Marrakesh.

Brass Sconce

Brass Sconce

The following photos are from mosques, schools, and famous riads in Morocco.




This intricate ceiling has beautiful skylights to let in natural sunlight.

Intricate Sky Light

Intricate Sky Light

Street lights from the medina in Fez (Americans spell Fez with a “z” while in Morocco we saw it spelled with an “s”) or the streets near the market in Marrakesh.

Street Light

Street Light

Lanterns in Fez

Lanterns in Fez


Street Light in Marrakesh

The last photo is a candle and rose on our dinner table as we ate in the courtyard of our quiet and beautiful riad. Photo taken with my cell phone. Stay tuned for future blogs on more aspects of Morocco and other countries.

Candle and Rose

Candle and Rose

I hope you enjoyed the pictures I put together. COMMENT on this blog (Comment tag is at start of the blog near title) and your name will go into the hat for a drawing (ending mid-night Dec 11) of an eBook by REPOSSESSED by Sandy Parks or NO ONE LIVES TWICE by Julie Moffett (both award-winning authors). I’ll post the winning name later this week, so you’ll have to check back. Thanks for dropping in.

Cats in Morocco

After my trip to Morocco when I sat down to go through photos, I realized the things I saw the most…I photographed the least. One of those things was sheep. The other cats. In Fez and Marrakesh in particular, felines huddled in the protection of doorways safe from the feet of tourists and locals, and the hooves of burdened mules. They skirted rooftops and lazily lounged on ledges, roofs, and in shady nooks and crannies. Honestly, cats were everywhere. My subconscious must have picked up that fact, which accounts for the few feline photos that did make it home. Quality photos they are not! Click to make them larger.

BlackCatIn the Atlas Mountains, the cats played at dusk in the shrubs and wild flowers at the kasbah. This black cat maneuvered from bush to bush, blending in well. Its gorgeous yellow eyes matched the yellow of leaves and flowers (right).

ClimbingCatIn a narrow residential lane in Rabat, we encountered a gray tabby moving from its over-the-door perch and down a steep wall (left). The landing turned out to be quite dramatic. Good thing cats have nine lives. It made us wonder why the cat chose to jump instead of use the oleander next to it, which is most likely the way it climbed up.


This doorway cat is a smaller version of mine. It even shares a similar perturbed expression(right).

While this fountain is no longer functioning in the medina, I can imagine that at one time the drizzle of water would have been the perfect Fez drinking and gathering place for felines (below).


LeatherShopKitAs we stood inside a leather shop in Fez that overlooked the leather vats, a tiny kitten played on a bench near us (left).

WellCatOn an old wooden wheel in Rabat, a cat nestled in the shade (right).

Picnic near Kasbah du Toubkal

The last post left hubby and me up on the mountainside at Kasbah du Toubkal a few hours from Marrakesh, Morocco. Because it is such a unique place, I included another photo of the Kasbah from a different angle.

Kasbah du Toubkal

Our last day there we extended a little longer to take a hike and enjoy a picnic in the High Atlas Mountains. Rough basalt  boulders and other volcanics surrounded us and made for a challenging but fun short trek. A few clouds streaked over the mountains and in the far distance (behind the hills) a snow-topped peak was barely visible.

High Atlas Mountains

Behind the dusty hiker in this photo (me) you can see some Berber villages in the valley and hills. Many of the traditional houses built of thick clay walls were abandoned and next to them newer ones were built or being built in a similar style of concrete block. Maintenance (reworking/recoating the outer walls every 4 years) of the old style appears to be the main reason for the modernization. Many Berber are unhappy with the loss of the traditional homes, and we discovered, once left unattended the mud slowly is worn away and the walls collapse. Also the cooling quality of the old style walls and their ability to hold in heat are lost with the cement construction.

Sandy with Berber village in valley

After a few hours (I did say this was a short hike), we stopped for a picnic provided by Berbers from a nearby village. While we imagined something simple prepared for us, eaten while perched on a boulder, a surprise lay ahead. In the middle of a boulder field, we saw a few men setting up for us (and another couple coming in with a different guide). Young men put out carpets, padded mats, and pillows.

Preparations for a mountain picnic

Off to the side, foraged one of the donkeys, which had carried up supplies.

One tough “Beast of Burden”

We checked out the “kitchen” stove consisting of propane canisters.

Outdoor Mountain Kitchen

The cooks were hard at work dicing vegetables, making tea, and preparing both hot and cold lunch selections.

Mountain Cooks

The kitchen and serving area were separated by a boulder and a stone wall.

The “Atlas” Cafe

We found a comfy place on a padded mat and mint tea was served. Notice the glass cups and tea service. Okay…I can read the word “spoiled” in your mind. That’s exactly how we felt. Honestly, we had expected a sack lunch and soda. But one thing I can assure you of, is hospitality is quite important to the Berbers.

Hot Mint Tea

We rated the lunch as one of great meals on our trip (the view and fresh air surely had a lot to do with that rating). They served a salad of diced purple onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumber with canned salmon (well, we are in the mountains) on top and then followed it with a hot portion of rice and a spiced meat mixture of lamb. Boy, did we need the second half of the hike to burn off all the calories.

Lunch Berber Atlas Mountain Style

Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco

Imagine a hotel so remote a mule carries your luggage up a mountainside from the nearby “big” town. Welcome to the Kasbah du Toubkal.

Kasbah du Toubkal

Our driver dropped us off at the hotel “office” in a town at the bottom of steep hills in the High Atlas Mountains. The door was carved from local wood and the stones fronting the building are from the mountains that surrounded us. You can’t see my hiking boots, but I’m about to need them.

Checking into the Kasbah in the High Atlas Mountains

The tiny main street has vendors that collect supplies from vans, cars, or mules. One vendor stands outside his shop, wearing a djelaba (pronounced without the “d” sound at start of word) over his clothes.

Town near Kasbah du Toubkal

Once we “checked in,” they flagged down a passing donkey (or mule) and loaded up our suitcases (we traveled with bigger bags for the extended vacation and varied climates- no more backpacking as in younger days). A note here about mules and donkeys. In Morocco, they were about the same size, whereas my husband remembers from his grandfather’s farm in Georgia, that the mules there were substantially larger than donkeys.

Loading luggage for the trek up to the kasbah.

We followed the backside. . .ahem. . .we followed our luggage up a winding street and continued as it turned into a rocky trail up a hillside.

Bell Boy (?)

Eventually we reached the Kasbah du Toubkal clinging to the mountainside. A wide wooden gate was opened and our luggage offloaded. Berber kasbah staff carried it into a courtyard of stones steps amid a tiny oasis of wildflowers and lawn.

Kasbah du Toubkal Courtyard

The evening we arrived, a cool fog hung over the mountains and draped into the valley.

Evening view from rooftop terrace of kasbah

Our small but comfortable room is beneath the large pot you see on the roof. The very thick mud walls would keep anyone warm or cool no matter the weather.

Our room off the rooftop deck of kasbah.

The kasbah was rebuilt on a caid’s old home site in a joint venture between Europeans and the local Berber village. From the kasbah terrace outside our room, you can see the Berber village over my husband’s shoulder. Note the satellite dishes on the village dwellings. Electricity reaches almost everywhere in Morocco now. I can tell you the most watched programs are the “football” games. Before we arrived in Morocco the state soccer team had been playing poorly. Our driver claimed they were “cats” not the “lions” as they were known. Before we left, they had a big victory and were once again worthy of being called lions.

Berber village next to kasbah.

Stay tuned for the next blog on how to do a picnic “Berber style” in the mountains.

How to Bake Bread in Fez, Morocco

After winding on foot through the medina in Fez, where streets were so narrow a laden mule hardly had clearance, we stopped in at a bread bakery. Different areas of the medina each have a shop with a large oven for locals to bring in their raw dough.

Baker standing in front of his oven.

The baker then filled his oven, lining up each customer’s dough in long rows. Even if the finished loaves became scrambled, he claimed to know which loaf belonged to which customer by its finished appearance. Bread Baking in open oven
When done, the baker takes it out with a very long paddle capable of reaching to the back of the deep oven.

Pulling out the bread with a long flat paddle

He proudly displays the rounded loaves on the floor (don’t think the bakery would pass US food inspection considering we stood on the floor and had just stepped inside from the narrow mule trodden passages through the medina).
The finished bread is then stacked on shelves waiting for the customer to collect.

Bread on the Shelves awaiting the owners