Today we are en route to Casablanca, where we will spend our last night in Africa in the Mogador Marina Hotel, before departing on Thursday. Our route to Casablanca takes us through Volubilis, the site of a Roman Ruins, Meknes, one of the four imperial cities, and Rabat, the capitol of Morocco. Volubilis is a city that once held 20,000 people but is now the ruins of one of the Roman Empire’s most remote outposts. It was chosen for the richness of the region and the ability to grow olives and wheat. Established in 40 AD, Berber tribes took over in 280. When the palace in Meknes was built in the 18th century, the marble was taken from the buildings of Volubilis and in 1755 the Lisbon earthquake destroyed most of what was left of the buildings.
After Volubilis, we headed to Meknes, one of the four imperial cities of Morocco. Meknes is known for its wine, made out of local grapes, as well as its olives. We ate lunch in Meknes.
Our last stop before heading to Casablanca was in Rabat, the capital of Morocco since its independence in 1956.
We started our tour of Fez with a visit to the Palace. It is located very close to the Jewish quadrant. The architecture is a mixture of Berber and Arabic with very ornate bronze doors. Below is a photo with the four people from Japan who were on the trip. We also traveled with people from Pakistan, Israel, Brazil, and Argentina as well as the United States - all of them wonderful people!
We stopped high above the city where we had a beautiful view of the medina. A river separates the east side (which was settled by the Spanish) from the west side (settled by Tunisians). Looking down, we could see the houses which were basic, but we were told by our guide about a proverb “The outside doesn’t reflect the inside.” There are sixty springs underground in the medina which provide fountains and pools inside the homes.
The medina is HUGE with approximately 9,500 streets (although some are so narrow (the width of a single person) it’s hard to consider them streets. It contains the oldest University in the World, which was founded by two women. There are churches, synagogues and mosques in Fez, resulting in a dialogue among the Abrahamic religions.
We visited a carpet store, had lunch and looked at textiles.
After winding through the streets looking at the numerous shops, we went upstairs (about five flights!) to the oldest and biggest tannery in Morocco. At the bottom of the stairs, we were each handed a sprig of mint, which was definitely needed when we reached the top and were assaulted by the smells of the tannery. The tannery makes leather products out of sheep, cow, camel and goat skin, and uses all natural pigments for the dyes. The products in the store were beautiful but expensive (I did ask for a piece of sheep leather to show my students). (one week in white tubs with cow urine and other ingredients, 5 hours in pigeon poop (it contains ammonium which softens the leather) changing the water every hour) and 25 days in the dye tubs.
We also visited a textile shop and a shop that sold beautiful gifts.
After walking miles throughout the medina, we headed by bus to the pottery factory.
After a full day, we headed back to the hotel for dinner. Adam and I decided to venture out on our own to the mall for pizza and Italian ice, and took these photos of McDonalds for Ms. Rose.
Please see my Facebook Post for pictures!
The internet at the hotel is very slow - please see my Facebook Post for photos!
Dealing with very slow internet - please see my Facebook post for photos!
Thursday and Friday were a combination of conference workshops, a tour of shops with a Moroccan native, swims in the pool, another culture night featuring a student reenaction of a traditional Moroccan wedding, and a gala banquet by the poo,l with Moroccan music and dancing to end the evening. On Saturday morning twenty-nine people who attended the conference will depart by bus for the post-conference tour of Morocco.
Rielly, one of my third grade students, made a bracelet and asked me to find a student to give it to; I decided to send it to a student in Senegal, and gave it to my new friend Cheikh, who is a teacher there.
Our conference organizers gave us a day off from workshops and speakers today. We had the option of participating in a guided tour of Marrakesh and seeing the waterfalls of the Atlas Mountains, or going to the Port City of Essaouira. I chose the trip to Essaouira, primarily because of the fact I had already explored Marrakesh (and Essaouira is about twenty degrees cooler than Marrakesh.) It was a good choice! It's a three hour ride from Marrakesh, and about half way there, we pulled over to the site below and saw.... goats in trees! The trees are argan trees, that produce nuts similar to acorns. The seeds are pressed to produce the famous argan oil which is used on skin, hair and in cooking. The goats climb the trees and eat the leaves and nuts. The nut shell dissolves in their body and they expel the nut itself when they poop. The nuts are gathered, (cleaned!) and pressed into the oil and made into soaps and creams. As you can see in the photos below, another way to shelled the nut is by cracking it on a stone.
For lunch we ate on a restaurant overlooking the ocean. Mrs. DelloStritto asked what foods I've had that I've liked, and so far our lunch today was the best! The seafood platter included an angry looking fish (that was really delicious), calimari, shrimp, and several other kinds of fish. And for dessert, a caramel custard. I also love the tagine and the variety of olives. Thomas asked if I am having fun and the answer is --YES! Having fun, making new friends and learning a lot!
After lunch we went to the port and walked around the medina. I haven't done much shopping yet, but did purchase some argan oil and silver, which Essaouira is known for. We were home by 8:00 pm and in bed early to catch up on some sleep!
Another wonderful day in Marrakesh! Spent the morning in workshops, followed by lunch, where I learned seven Arabic words from my Moroccan friend Khalid, which I will share with you:
1. Shoukran (Thank you)
2. Afwan (You're welcome)
3. Min Fadlik (please)
4. Salam (hello)
5. Maa Salama (good bye)
6. Lla (no)
7. Ajib (thumbs up)
I'll also answer another question Aiden asked: "Why did I have breakfast and dinner, and no lunch on the plane?" I boarded the plane at 7:00 a.m., and we were served breakfast shortly after we took off. The plane ride to Morocco is about severn hours and there is a five hour difference in time zones between Auburn, NY and Morocco, so when it was 12:00 noon in Auburn, it around 5:00 p.m. where we were (dinner time!)
After our conference sessions and workshops, four of us ventured by taxi to the Medina (old city) where we browsed the many shops, seeing food, tile, clothes, leather, rugs, and woodworking. We toured the photograph museum and had an iced tea on the rooftop, where we could hear the Muslim Call to Prayer from several places throughout the city.
Back to the hotel for a fifteen minute swim, then off to "Chez Ali" spectacular dinner and horse show! A full day and one I'll always remember!
The conference I am attending is called the iEARN International Conference and Youth Summit. iEARN is a non-profit organization whose mission is to connect schools around the world in meaningful projects tied to the United Nations Sustainability Goals (Global Goals) with the ultimate result of making the world a better place. These goals are a call to action to "end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity." Who wouldn't want to strive for this?? To have 220 educators, 100 youth, together representing 43 countries, talking, sharing and connecting is so powerful. iEARN sponsors approximately 150 projects; one of them is "A Day in the Life" that my 6th graders participated in last year with students in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Yemen. At the conference we are learning about all the other projects we have access to - I am so excited to bring these back to our students and teachers at Genesee!
Peace Flag Project
After a swim in the pool to cool off, followed by dinner, we decided to take a taxi to Jemaa el -Fnaa, a section of Marrakesh known as "The Times Square of Morocco." It was a feast for the senses, with performers, food vendors, hundreds of souks (markets) with clothes, spices, purses, and much more. We found a restaurant overlooking the square and enjoyed delicious virgin Mojitos.