Tag Archives: Morocco

Too many photos

With this period of non-travel and lock down I thought it would be a great idea to organise my photos and maybe scan them and keep digital copies. Well talk about how to lose hours of your day into a black hole. If you are going to scan photos you should put a caption on them or at least put them in a group or a folder, right? Well what if you can’t remember where they were taken?

Yes I must say that I am spoilt enough to have travelled to so many places that sometimes they become a blur and then I find myself saying to my husband “Where was this?” He usually has the answer. In fact I am doubly spoilt by the fact that my husband does all the crappy stuff when we are travelling – like handling the currency and doing the tipping. I am usually too busy staring at the people around me and eaves dropping on conversations. We will sit down at a pavement cafe in, I dunno, Split Croatia and the first thing I do is check out the people around me. I am always interested in the locals but very often you won’t find that many of them in a touristy spot. Then I turn my attention to my fellow tourists and if they happen to speak English, well I just can’t help follow their conversation. I will then turn to my husband and say to him in Afrikaans (our secret language) “Oh my god, you can’t believe what this woman is ordering.” or “This guy has just crapped on the waiter for not having any grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu.”

My husband is always bewildered by this. He just cannot understand how I can pick up on a conversation going on behind my back. It’s not noseyness, I promise, it is just curiosity.

So you can see why I get distracted by people and therefore often remember a place not from its castles, churches or boulevards – but by the people I met there.

I have no idea which temple this was in, or even which city but I do know it was India (that’s something at least). But I sure remember this guy. What a hoot. He was smoking something here which was making him very mellow. I am not sure if he could speak English because he just kept smiling and laughing every time I spoke to him. He probably went home at the end of the day and said to his wife “OMG what a day at the temple today. Had this crazy English lady who kept talking to me and you know how I hate talking to strangers so I just kept puffing on my shisha and pretended I was stoned out of my brain.”

Now I do remember exactly where this was – the Sahara Desert in Morocco! This cute camel guide took us for a walk in the desert. He could speak very little English and was better in French. Of course my French is terrible but it didn’t matter. He was so cute with big dimples and I could imagine that as soon as he got home he got rid of the keffiyeh (head scarf) and djellaba (long loose kaftan) and donned his Drake t-shirt before heading out on the town. I bet his mom was shouting after him not to spend all the money he got in a tip from us!

Oh yes I remember these. Istanbul! The lovely lady on the left had gone to one of the food trucks and had purchased this HUGE baked potato with all the trimmings. I wonder how she could stay so slim and gorgeous looking. Then the next day we came across a whole crowd of kids dressed up like they were going for their first communion. The parents were happy for me to have a picture with him but this kid did not look happy at all – even though he was all dressed up. It was only afterwards I found out that this gathering was a circumcision ceremony – no wonder the poor lad looked upset.

The market in Malta. You know – I just can’t pass a good market by and I needed a new shirt. So I hid behind the hanging clothes while I tried on this top. The old lady running the place was getting impatient. She kept saying “Gud, very gud. You buy. Very gud”. I wasn’t sure – as you can see by my face. As you can see by her face she had had enough. The way she is looking at me tells me that she didn’t think the shirt was very good either. Look at the direction of her eyes. Was she looking at my stomach? Maybe, but I was too far gone by then. Had to buy it. I don’t think I would have escaped alive. Maybe you have seen this shirt in Value Village in Calgary ‘cos that’s where it ended up.

So you see – these pictures of people who I have met along the way bring me right back to the moment and I know exactly where I am – even if I don’t know the currency in use and I have no idea how much that cost in Euros or Dollars. That’s my husband’s part of the ship – thanks Honey!

Do you remember….?

I wonder if you remember your first vacation? Or perhaps you were one of those poor kids dragged around Disney in a stroller not really understanding what the heck was going on. It always makes me chuckle how Disney is supposed to be the happiest place on earth – so why are all the kids crying?

I’m kidding. I have had some fun times at Disney and I do feel for little ones who have been out all day and desperately need a nap – but the rest of the family has to get the most value out of their day pass. They are not cheap!

So when you think back about your vacations (the good, the bad and the ugly) what memories stand out for you?

In Swaziland our vacations would often be a sailing vacation at a local lake. We would take the trailer and our sailing boat and go and have a weekend there – sometimes more. It seemed like no big deal to us then that we were sailing on a lake filled with crocodiles. It did help a lot when we capsized – we got that boat up damn quickly I can tell you!

So vacations can be good and they can be bad …. and then they can be just downright horrible. Like that little girl in the poem ….

There was a little girl
And she had a little curl
Right on the top of her head
And when she was good, she was very very good
and when she was bad, she was horrid

Now I have to really think – what was my worst vacation …. ever? Hmmm. Let’s just say I have had bad moments on vacation. On one of our trailer trips in South Africa we camped out at Cape Vidal.

Cape Vidal lies within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site about 30 km north of the town of St Lucia. It is a three-hour drive from Durban. It is a real nature paradise with rich marine life and populations of elephant, rhino, buffalo, cocodile and hippo. The beach there is incredible. We used to take the 4 wheel drive and load up the picnic basket and drive along the beach to a remote spot where our small group would have lunch and swim. Completely deserted – absolute paradise.

So where’s the bad moment? Well the guys in our group decided that they were going to go crayfishing at night. Now the waves in this area wash up onto the rocks with tremendous force and these three guys, including my husband, headed out in the pitch black with baskets and long sticks. I could hear the waves crashing from our small caravan and I worried for hours before he returned home triumphant with tales of nearly being washed off the rocks – what the heck? There I was 6 months pregnant with two kids. Mind you – the crayfish were AMAZING. We had them cooked the next day over the fire. Yep…. I guess that holiday was pretty good.

I am lucky – I have visited so many amazing places around the world – each one becomes my favourite – Argentina, Japan, India, Egypt, Ireland, Morocco….

I can’t really find a holiday that I have hated. I just love to travel which is why at the moment I feel bad that I have had to cancel my travel arrangements along with everyone else. So my travel dreams are keeping me going. I can’t wait to get out there again and see new places and revisit some old favourites.

I have lots of memories to share and I am sure you do too. Take a look at my recent segment on Global TV with Jordan Witzel – we are sharing travel memories.

https://www.facebook.com/GlobalCalgary/videos/590179921706877/

If you have a travel memory you would like to share on Global News send it to me at info@southtravel.ca. I would love to hear your best (or funniest) travel memories and see your photos.

In the meantime – stay safe!

A bazaar type argument

Shopping in Morocco …. how can I describe it properly.  It’s like a dance.  It’s not an argument although voices are often raised and even tears can come into play.  It’s like a duel and when both players are experienced at their craft it can be a delight to observe.

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However, when you are one of the players (and especially not a very experienced one) it can be intimidating.  But I had done the research and realised that it was a must.  Not only to get a reasonable deal (because really people, the shopkeeper will always win in this haggling process when dealing with me) – but also to preserve the proper decorum and relationship between the seller and the buyer.

So here’s the thing.  You find the shop and you know what you want.  There are very seldom any prices on the products.  You are encouraged to pick up and try and feel the product.  Sniff it.  Try it on.  Whatever.  But don’t ask the price.  No, no, no.  That is not part of this stage of the dance.

shoes in souk

First you have to see the quality of the workmanship.  You have to admire the fabric, the leather, the stitching.  You have to agree with the seller that this is of the highest quality.  In fact so good you have never seen anything like it before.  Don’t worry.  This process will not necessarily mean that you will be paying more than anyone else.  It is a compliment paid to the shopkeeper to show him – before you haggle – that you truly appreciate the fine goods in his shop.

Finally, after having tried it on, exclaimed with joy, taken it off, tried it on again – you ask the question.  How much?

Stage 2 – this is when the price becomes the total focus of your discussion.  We have now left behind the quality of the product.  He tells you how he is making nothing on this.  He is just selling this as a favour to help out the dressmaker/shoemaker/potterymaker.  You say that is too much.  You don’t have that much money on you.  Well then how much do you have?  Then you take 50% off what he asked and say that you will pay him that much.  He looks at you in shock.  His eyes are round and staring.  “Look, look at this beautiful shoe/dress/plate.  I cannot sell it to you for this.  I am giving this away.  No I cannot do that”.

We then start the back and forth – he asks for this – you offer that – he lowers what he is asking – you lower your offering.  Oh my goodness.  I hate this part.  But I have to respect the rules.

rug seller

Eventually you make an offer – he holds out his hand to shake on it.  You take it and you know that you have paid too much.  You just KNOW it.  By the delight in his eyes, by the hand clasped to his heart.  BUT … what the hell.  It is beautiful, it is from Morocco.  It is exotic and it is yours.  Pack it up – take it home – never think again about how much you paid for it.

JUST ENJOY IT.

Deserts and camels

An overnight stop in the Sahara Desert in an exclusive tented camp has been on my bucket list for a long time.  I have sent others to do this trip and they all loved it.  Now it was my time.  Getting there is not that easy – a long drive and then into a four wheel drive and into the desert.  Although it was hot the ever-present desert wind kept things cool and while our guide and cook had a snooze we were too excited to sleep and decided to go exploring.

”Don’t get lost” our guide told us “Algeria is just over the mountains”.

Now walking on sand dunes is not easy – the sand is deceptive and seems to be as hard as concrete and then suddenly gives in when you are least expecting it and you find yourself disappearing ankle deep in sand as soft and fine as talcum powder.  We got the hang of it eventually and went for a long walk on top of the dunes – just miles of nothingness – very peaceful.

As we got back to our tent we noticed the camels.  Oh my goodness.  Here we go.  I was a bit nervous I must admit.  But really – what could go wrong?  They are such patient creatures and we got to know a little more about them from our guide.  They all have names and they travel in “families” not really related but sort of a group.  They don’t like to travel without each other so this was the reason we had 3 camels although just 2 of us were riding.  Our trusty Berber guide was going to lead the camels on foot.  I felt better about that.  I didn’t feel like I wanted to try any trotting or whatever camels might do.

Mmmm I was a bit wrong there – my feisty little camel just wanted to be number 1 and not number 2.  She kept pushing ahead of Peter’s camel in front and every so often did a little trot which freaked me out no end.  Deep into the dunes our guide stopped and got the camels to kneel so we could get off.  He then unpacked a thick woven blanket and we all climbed up to the top of the sand dune so we could watch the sun go down.

This is where we learnt about the camels and their behaviour with a strange conversation with our guide.  He spoke no English, a little Spanish (the Berbers still have strong links in their history to the Spanish) and a little French.  Well – seems like a million years ago since I did French at school in England and my Spanish consisted of Dos cervezos por favor.  Not exactly the best thing to ask over Ramadan.  But he laughed anyway.

We used sign language and the desert sand as a way of communicating.  The Sahara sand is really strange.  It is so fine that you can draw in the sand and the lines remain sharp and easy to read.  He seemed quite young and really liked having his photo taken.  I think he was maybe part of that strange in between land that you often see when you travel to exotic places …. part anchored in ages old tradition and part anchored onto a cell phone.

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Eventually we remounted our camels and rode back to our camp where a dinner had been prepared for us.  Early night because we needed to be up at 5 am to see the sun come up over the sand dunes.

Let me say that I am not a morning person… however …. after being nagged a few times I was out of bed by 5.10 am and out to explore the dunes and see the sun come up.  I was not disappointed.  It was amazing.  The sand dunes took on all different hues and shadows and even though it was a bit cloudy it was delightful.  But wait …. what is that?   A couple of girls in local gear just sitting on top of the adjoining dune.  How strange.

As we finished our viewing they made their way towards us and while we were taking photos they patiently sat down on the top of the dune and emptied out their bags to display their wares making, in effect, a temporary shop.  Scarves, miniature leather camels, carved stones…. all manner of Knick knacks none of which I really needed.  But you know…. you do the touristy thing and support the local industry. Why not?  So while Peter went back to the tent to get money we chatted.  Again we had limited language skills but again the Sahara sands served as our chalk board.  I asked them how old they were and found out one was 14 and the other was 21.  The 14 year old was still at school. Wow she must have got up at 3 am to make this trip to sell a few goods.  So then I told them that I was a grandmother (that involved a complicated family tree in the sand) and said that I knew all about teenagers and we had a good laugh about that.

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By the time Peter came back with some cash we had had a good chat in the sand dunes and I happily bought a lopsided hand made leather camel and an embroidered scarf.  The interaction with these two was worth way more than the trophies I carried away.