Category Archives: Trips

Rock Climbing in Ourika Valley

We split up again, some of us stayed in the city, the rest went on a hiking excursion to the Ourika Valley in the Atlas mountains. Crossing the river over a rickety bridge was easy, and the first part of the trail was actually a passage between hundreds(!) of shops and restaurants.

Rickety bridge over Ourika river  At least the "fridges" were ecological (water cooled)

Personally, I didn’t like that much, the sense of being in the nature got lost completely. Luckily it changed when the trail became steeper. Used to mountain trails, the lack of good shoes, the slippery rocks and the amount of people coming down made the experience… more intense.

Ourika WaterfallThe nice waterfall (well, one out of seven we learned later on) was the reward for our efforts. Said was a very good guide for the group and brought us back to Marrakesh safely. Thank you!

We were not alone!

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Belly Dancing in Marrakesh

For the evening we made a reservation at restaurant “Le Tanjia” which advertized Happy Hour and belly dancing. But first we went to the main square (Jemaa el-Fnaa) again and, even though we split in several groups, none of us could resist to taste the food from the stalls… I had a wonderful Moroccan soup, other were braver and had soup with… snails!

Sunset at Jemaa el-Fnaa

Belly DancingThe restaurant thing started quite well and we got our belly dancing sessions soon. We were actively involved, too… I fear that several compromising videos exist on colleagues’ smartphones. ;-)

Also some of the long awaited beers were served, but then the situation became strange. Only warm beer for happy hour, and the fact that we did not intend to eat made the situation worse. We have to admit however that normally one reserves a table for eating, not just for drinking. Let’s blame the delicious food we had at Jemaa el-Fnaa! Anyway, we felt uncomfortable and thought it was time to get the bill, to leave and to find another good place to spend the evening / night.

With the “Kechmara” bar we indeed found a good pace to sit, unfortunately they would close at midnight. Dany resp his TripAdvisor app pointed us to a Karaoke bar, but on the way we encountered the “Level Five“, a disco / bar on top of a high building. Again, the IBM CSC troop opened the party on the dance floor. Party time till late!

Party at Level 5

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Exploring Hot Marrakesh

Marrakesh - It's Summertime!The breakfast was served on the terrace, which means that the staff had to transport the food across three floors / staircases. For us it was soooo relaxing! :-) Afterwards, Said helped us to mark the famous spots on our maps and we were ready to explore the city on our own, enjoying the summer-like weather.

Internet café in MarrakeshUnfortunately the Royal Palace was closed, we did the “Saadian Tombs” and the “Bahia Palace” instead. After another meal on a nice terrace at the spice market we split; I was in the shopping- resp. bargaining group and visited the souks. We were more or less successful… well, I lost some good arguments for a made-in-morocco T-shirt when I showed my “Tangier”-shirt for 50 DH (US-$ 6) to the seller – unfortunately with the “made in”-label cut off. ;-)

Mosque in Marrakesh Bahia Palace Entrance Bahia Palace Inside Spice Market

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Marrakesh’s Medina Labyrinth

We reached Marrakesh late in the evening. So far, so good. But we only had a rough idea where our hotel, the Riad Africa, would be. With Dany’s GPS we came close, but entering this part of the medina by car was not possible. Also, Google Maps sometimes only showed the Arabic street names, and some of them existed twice. In our naivety we assumed the hotel would be well known. We would discover soon why not. At the end, Said from the hotel came to pick us up and routed us through the medina’s alleys. Hmm… everything looked the same, every turn made us to feel lost more. There was no pointer or signs to our destination – only just before the unimpressive entrance gate. Anyway, Said and the British hotel manager Tim were very helpful, and before going out to the center they shared a simple technique to find the way back to the hotel: Exchange sign, then first turn, first turn, first turn, done! It works!

Not helpful orientation point  Helpful orientation point!

We had a good dinner and a first spot on the main square, the Jemaa el-Fnaa. Many stalls were just about to close however, but we still have another evening and two days to spend in Marrakesh, fortunately.

Jemaa el-Fnaa by night

Moroccan sweets

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Tangier – Europe ahoy!

Imane and her brother met us IBMers in the hotel lobby and guided us through the city of Tangier (“Tanjah” in Arabic) to the coast, the Caves of Hercules (which were closed unfortunately) and to the Cafe Hafa (opened in 1921) where we got sweeeeet coffee and mint tea and could take a look at the close Spanish coast.

Europe is just a jump away

Europe is just a jump away (background)

A Cinema in Tangier

An old cinema in Tangier

Later we entered the medina of Tangier via the Kasbah, where a street dealer offered t-shirts for 100 DH (US-$ 12.-) – not that I really wanted one, but I was already bargaining. I made him down to 60 DH (US-$ 7.-) finally. That’s the nice part about bargaining – both parties have the feeling of a good deal. It doesn’t matter to me that it was for sure the seller’s better business (Seven Dollars for a t-shirt with cut-off “Made in”-label??? From the street??? … I’m really an amateur currently… ).

Before we left back to Casablanca the team was invited at Imane’s (from DOT) place for Moroccan snacks, sweets and tea. Thank you Imane for the hospitality!

Medina of Tangier Moroccan sweets at Imane's place

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Chefchaouen – The Blue City

ChefchaouenFortunately we were not in a big hurry after last night’s adventurous ride. Chefchaouen, also called the Blue City, is relatively small and easy to explore on one’s own. So we wandered between the beautifully blue painted houses, found our way to the mosque within the Talassemtane national park, captured the WiFi code in a panoramic restaurant (with the most narrow staircase I’ve ever encountered) for another social media lesson and worked on our bargaining skills. Many of us were also asked if we’re interested in marijuana (plantations are close to the city) – but as far as I know, our group stayed drug-free. ;)

Chefchaouen Chefchaouen - Patrick the multiphotographer Chefchaouen Chefchaouen - Duki, Cathy, Michael, Lauren, Sayoko; Gerry + Ana Paula in front

Chefchaouen - Colors!!! Successful WiFi code obtained A very narrow staircase... or pole dancing? Kasbah of Chefchaouen

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A looong Journey with some Obstacles

We were aware that the way to Chefchaouen would be long, accordingly we planned to leave quite early and to pick up the “SMIT” team in Rabat. The aimed departure time of 4:30 P.M. was missed by one hour (that was expected somehow and nobody is to blame). So, we met our colleagues at the same shopping mall as Wednesday and filled our stomachs at the food court. When we wanted go continue our ride we realized that the hotel staff had not put the bags of the SMIT team into the bus as planned.

Long journey, long faces...

But it was too late for going back, we already made almost 2 hours drive. We decided to ask a hotel taxi to bring the bags to where we stayed at the moment – a transport up to Chefchaouen was no option. So we waited… and waited… and waited. At 10:30 P.M. the driver finally arrived with the missing items.

It was late and our poor bus driver still had a long distance yet to overcome. It seemed that to prevent falling asleep he cruised much aggressively on the curvy roads up to the hilly region of Chefchaouen. Even though some of us almost got motion sick we were grateful for the fastest possible way to our destination, which we reached at around 2:30 A.M. in the night.

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One Thousand and One Nights in Fès

“Smile – you’re in Fès!” – That should be the motto for the day. The hotel recommended a guide for exploring Fès. We started with the outer parts of the city – the king’s palace (Dar El Makhzen), then a viewpoint which offered a great view over Fès and finally a guided tour in a pottery in which we witnessed all phases of pottery creation.

Dar El Makhzen

Dar El Makhzen

Sue, Patrick and Apple...

Sue, Patrick and Apple…

Medina of Fès

Medina of Fès

Pottery maker

Pottery maker

Then we entered the Medina of Fès – I really felt like being in a One Thousand and One Nights story… or in Disney’s “Aladdin” movie. Donkeys instead of cars, labyrinths of narrow alleys, diverse “souks” (markets), oriental smells and thousands of locals and visitors. One of Fès’ main attraction inside the Medina – the tanneries – are best viewed from above. A foreigner could hardly find a way up, a hint how helpful a local guide can be (forget Google Maps here!).

Entrance to the Medina  Beware of the donkeys

Bou Inania madersa - an Islamic school  Leather tanneries
Speaking about Arabic stories, Lauren and me had to act as models for a demonstration on how “Keffiyehs” (scarfs) are tied to classic Arabic headdresses. It suited us well… at least that’s what they said.

"Lauren of Arabia" and me wearing a Keffiyeh

(Click to enlarge)

After a quick visit of the Blue Gate (Bab Bou Jeloud), it was already time to leave Fès – but not without a stop at the Roman ruins of Volubilis.

Blue Gate  Volubilis - and a stork

Volubilis  "To infinity... and beyond!"
We arrived quite late in our hotel back in Casa and had dinner just there. Ana paula provided a KT (knowledge transfer) session to Grant, who successfully posted locations and pictures on Facebook thereupon – and collected many likes within seconds!

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On the Way to Fès

Newest 55' OLED Ultra-HD TVMay 1 (Labor Day) is a public holiday in Morocco – another chance to see and learn more about our host country. To make the most out of it we already left Casa on Wednesday evening with a minibus – in which we already had a small party on our way to Fès via Rabat (Morocco’s capital). We arrived at 11.30 P.M. at the nice Hotel Batha. It’s rooms were a bit old-fashioned (equipped with probably one of the first color TV… but who needs TV in a hotel anyway?) but with a beautiful dining area. WiFi was only working outside of our rooms, with the positive effect to bring smart people (?) with smart phones (??) together and make them to do a bit of the first word in “Social Media”.


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