Tag Archives: medina

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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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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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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Tourists today, Consultants tomorrow

Another city exploration tour for today. It was a bit surprising to us that the guide – Ahmed – was a rather old man and that he (and we) would not be able to walk the streets from 9 to 5, as we initially somehow have planned. Never mind, just go with the flow… we slightly reduced the program and were ready to go.

Ahmed, our city guide

Ahmed explained us the cathedral nearby, the “Place des Nations Unies”, “Place Mohammed V” the Art Déco district and leaded us to a nearby market. We were bewildered to see swordfish heads, whale ribs and alive(!) turtles for sale.

Casablanca Cathedral - now used as a museum  Art Deco district

"Free" flowers for the ladies!  Food at a market in CasablancaLater we visited the Hassan II Mosque for a longer visit and more pictures. We were just leaving when an escort of black limousines entered the place and cleared the way for the visit of a VIP – whoever it was… maybe the king?

Hassan II Mosque - talles minarett of the world (210 m)

Next highlight was the walk through the narrow ways of the Medina, the old town of Casablanca. It was actually market stalls after market stalls, but in a rather original way – not the touristy thing with Henna tattoos, pottery and postcards, but with people selling fruits, vegetable, fish, electronics and other goods for daily usage. And like at the previous market, many unexpected items: alive little yellow chicks, alive snails… and alive chicken – which a shop owner proudly beheaded for us. But you see, it’s a place where locals do their shopping, not tourists or CSCers. Not sure if we had found the way out without Ahmed’s guidance.

Medina market... rather for locals, not tourists

We spent the afternoon with a quick lunch, siesta and some of us with Moroccan Hamam. I spent the evening with a small group in a fish restaurant with football in TV, Indie music by a DJ, tapped beer, fish Tajine and white whine.

So far, the time in Morocco was rather “touristy” than business like. But are we on vacation? Is there a reason that the CSC participants don’t have client facing meetings the first day on arrival? I think there are very good reasons for it: we will work with team members which we never collaborated with before. Being on long walks through a foreign city, encountering unexpected things, discuss about where to have dinner, have some drinks together… is there a better team building exercise than this? Great guys with great experience are close to worthless if they are not able to collaborate, just my 50 cents… . So yes, there is a reason to have some leisure activities before our client meetings – for their benefit! But tomorrow the real things start.

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Gifts, Friends, and a long Walk

Today was a very intensive day. During the French breakfast in the hotel some new faces appeared; it doesn’t matter how well the profile pages have been created and how up-to-date the Sametime picture is – meeting from face to face is different… and nice!

Gifts from all over the worldImane from DOT and Nabil from IBM set up an informal meeting where they provided as new information and time to introduce us in personal. Amazing and funny stories we’ve heard! And it was a very profitable session, too: at the end we got gifts from all over the world (obviously I brought Swiss chocolate!). :-)

Afterwards we got ready for a first city walk in Casablanca. For now, we skipped the Medina (old town) as it would be pretty crowded at Saturday and headed towards the port and caught a glimpse at Hassan II Mosque with it’s world’s tallest minaret (210 m) – we’ll come again tomorrow.

Kemia - similar to Tapas in SpainWe fought the hunger in a nice garden restaurant where some of us tried “Kemia”, an array of small dishes (similar to “Tapas” in Spain). Very tasty lunch – we shared many bits among us, everybody is eager to enhance his own Morocco experiences.

We returned quite late and pretty tired – she called many of us “slow walkers”, whereas others had the impression she was running. :-D Anyway, after a short refreshing in the hotel room (and changing sneakers to elegant / black shoes) Imane organized her brother and two taxies for a ride to the SKY28 at the “Twin Towers” of Casa. Big windows allowed a great view over the city, mirrors on the roof funny selfies.

Thanks Imane for this amazing Casablanca experience!

Markets at the wall of the medina  Outside of the Medina
(Click to enlarge)

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