Postcards from Ken/05

postcards from Ken

pen friend ideas, collage postcards
It’s been a while since Ken sent Jon & I a postcard as he has been road tripping with his wife Joann around parts of California during the summer months and this postcard arrived this morning in my mail box. Now they are back home and settled, waiting for our Australian friend Caitlin (who is currently in Canada) to visit them for a short spell before she heads off to her next destination in America. I think it is lovely that almost everyone in our Moroccan tour group have managed to keep in touch & stay connected.

I love that both Ken and Caitlin send me postcards, I love that Peace has recently sent me a gift with a letter and I love that Jason & Caitlin came to stay in Plymouth with Jon & I in late Spring. I am almost ready to send my letters & postcards in the mail, I literally have 15 different parcels to send to others around the world including packages for Peace, Jason & Ken/Joann. Caitlin will receive her parcel when she is back home from her year of travel. One day I hope to visit Caitlin & Peace down under as well as Jason in New York and Ken & Joann in San Francisco. It will happen!

Morocco: Midelt

Intrepid Tours, the best of Morocco
Arriving in Midelt in early afternoon everyone was pretty tired yet happy. We were welcomed with some warm Moroccan mint tea by the family we were to stay with and slumped on their sofas in the living room of their Auberge.
Midelt is a town in central Morocco, in the high plains between the Middle Atlas and High Atlas mountain ranges. With an estimated population of 44,780, Midelt serves as the commercial centre of a large agricultural hinterland. It is also one of Morocco’s principal cities for the mining of several minerals.
The town within Midelt that we visited is called Berrem, this was quite a traditional village with many lovely, sand-coloured buildings. It was great to get a glimpse into the locals general lifestyle & actually spend quality time with real people of Berber ethnicity. It was the happiest & most emotional day on this adventure for me. I do remember this place being exceedingly cold at night though and with about 5 heavy blankets Jon & I still couldn’t get warm (I could see my breath!) so if you go here in early March pack thermals! Like most people who visit Morocco, it sounds warm and spicy and coming from a dreary, damp and cold country like the UK where we have little no summer months and lots of rain you forget other countries get cold & rainy too because you want so much to escape to somewhere with better climate and make friends with the sun again! However Morocco has seasons just like most countries in the world, their summers are ridiculously hot and they have some pretty chilly winters, especially in the mountains. You can see from pictures on this blog that the mountains in the background have snow on them.

Moroccan Auberge

snoozing in Morocco
After our mint tea we were told to freshen up before we were to go on a walk. The family dog joined us and the walk was relaxing with breath taking views of the mountains in the distance.

terrain of middle atlas

walking around Midelt

trekking to Berrem town in Midelt

midelt landscape

beautiful atlas mountains

Morocco travel and tourism

things to do in Morocco

beautiful Moroccan places

sand stone Moroccan houses

Midelt and Berrem

By this time of our tour I had stopped reading our trip notes and therefore was going with the flow and did not know what to expect from being in Midelt. I honestly thought our group was going to spend a lot of time walking around the beautiful rough landscape to get a feel for wild open spaces again after being crammed like sardines in Fes. I did not know we were on our way to a Berber town to actually interact with local families and their children. This was a very emotional experience for me as it is something I have always wanted to do (and continue doing for the rest of my life in other countries) and I did not want to leave. Caitlin, Jon, a few others and myself stayed outside to interact with the children and the rest of the group went to sit inside a home with a local for some mint tea and a chat. At some point soon I hope to send gifts to the children via their local school, mainly educational & art supplies and I would love to go back there someday, perhaps as a visitor again or maybe as a volunteer at their school in the summer months.

sand coloured buildings of Midelt

the children of Berrem

meeting the locals of Berrem

visiting local Berbers in Midelt

intrepid tours visiting Berber families in middle atlas

wonderful life changing experience meeting families in Midelt

local Berber children

Berber children of Berrem
After spending the afternoon with the children and their families we headed back to the Auberge for a hearty meal. We were supposed to have live music and entertainment as well but the traditional dancers didn’t turn up for whatever reason. We didn’t realise this until later but the staff decided to dress us up instead and we all danced the night away to amazing music played by Berber musicians. Everyone was blissfully happy and in a state of dancing euphoria and yet not one person drank any alcohol. To me, this is heaven as I don’t drink, I have never been drunk and dislike being around drunkards so you can imagine how happy I was to see everyone enjoying themselves without a drop of alcohol, this sort of happiness needs to encouraged in the UK as unfortunately the British tend to think you can’t be happy or have a good time or be yourself unless alcohol is involved. Moroccans are naturally very happy people and community based, some nights during this tour we were encouraged to dance, sing and play the drums around a warm fire to just celebrate life and this made my heart explode with so much love! One particular local at the Aurberge, a lovely older gentleman gently grabbed my hand to dance with me and with a cheerful smile said “You dance like Berber woman!” I was in shock and so happy, here is a local actually telling me I dance just like their women, I mean what a wonderful compliment for me as a Belly Dancer as I do try so hard to be authentic in my dance movements out of respect for traditional dances similar to Belly Dance and out of love for my own Romany ancestors, I do not want to be just another Western woman ‘trying’ to belly dance and not having a clue, I want to feel accepted by other cultures and integrate myself into their world through my dancing. It was a very special moment for me.

dancing at Auberge Morocco

Berber dancing and music

Berber costumes

Berber music

traditional Berber entertainment

dancing in Midelt

dance in Berrem

traditional Moroccan entertainment

Intrepid tours

traditional Berber clothing
Before the night ended some of the women in our group asked me to teach them some Belly Dance moves for a bit of fun. I was a little hesitant at first as I am actually quite shy when I am not dancing but I gave it a go and taught them hip drops and the shimmy. Soon after that Louise grabbed me and pulled me back into the middle of the floor and coaxed me into doing a solo performance with the musicians which was hard for me because although I love to dance and I do get hired to perform at venues in the UK, I did not want to be the person who takes up the entire floor during a holiday as I am not attention seeking but with a gentle nudge from Louise and encouragement from the rest of the group cheering me on that gave me confidence to dance my little heart out and I truly hope they enjoyed my little solo. I can not believe I did a solo performance in Morocco!

Teaching Belly Dance in Morocco

Belly Dancing in Midelt, Berrem, Morocco

Traditional Berber costumes
This entire day was magical to me, I spent time with local children in Berrem and enjoyed an evening of dancing in traditional Berber attire to traditional Berber music, life can not get much sweeter than this. I was very sad the morning after when I had to leave, there will always be a place in my heart for Midelt and the people I met and if an opportunity arose for me to go back, I’d be there in a heartbeat.

After our day & overnight stay in Midelt our group jumped back into the mini van in the early hours of the morning and headed to the Sahara Desert for Camel Trekking in the dunes and an overnight stay at a Bedouin camp under the stars! This was also an unforgettable experience for both Jon & I So stayed tuned for next weeks post!

Missed other Moroccan Blog Posts? visit them here:
Day one & two in Casablanca
Day three/Afternoon in Rabat
Day Four/Morning in Meknes
Day Four/Afternoon in Volubilis
Day Five: Fes

Hay Amores

Pisces and Libra, Angel with FishI made this illustration a few months back and have recently just finished it.
Hay Amores is an illustration based on the love between a Libra and a Pisces and of the elements air and water. Air & water come together to make rain that is both cleansing and nourishing. But Air and Water can also create waterspouts (Tornado made of water mixed with air) causing a rush of emotion spiralling passionately out of control. The illustration is so much more than that if you can understand the secret symbolism. I like to play with symbolic imagery & numerology so although a simple illustration it has deeper meaning than first perceived. What do you think of when you look at it?
This was initially inspired by a dream & dedicated to a friend.

The translation is:
“Oh! My God, like the river Magdalene,
That it flows in the sand of the sea,
I want to fuse myself in you.”

I have more illustrations to finish including some baby dragons with botanical illustrations and a children’s book for my Nephew is under-way.
I also have a short course I am currently completing, working on my costumes & routines for 2 performances that are coming up in October & November. Stay tuned!

Morocco: Fes

Moroccan exterior architecture
After our day in Meknes & Volubilis we travelled in the evening to our next destination, Fes. Arriving at around 7pm, it was dark and we were all hungry! Our guide took us through some windy back streets of narrow walls with an array of tangled electrical wires poking through the surface like over grown ivy and cobbled footpaths of leaky drain pipes and many stray cats. Where were we being taken? If we didn’t know we were in the safe hands of our guide, this would have been a reasonably unnerving walk akin to being lost in precarious alley ways of London.
Finally we arrived at a door with other ‘tourists’ merrily stepping out into the street, I was intrigued. One by one we ventured inside and it felt like we had been transported to a magical world, I really did feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole and waking up in Wonderland. We were surrounded from ceiling to floor of hand made and hand carved mosaic walls and furnishings as well as lovely locals. This magnificent place hidden away like a secret box belonged to a family who open it up to travellers to experience authentic Moroccan hospitality, cuisine and décor. They were so gracious and welcoming and We dined and lounged like Royalty on their delicious food before saying our goodbyes and driven to our hotel for a good nights sleep in preparation for the wild unknown maze of Fes.

a feast in Fez

Moroccan hand carved ceiling

Moroccan family home interiors
This walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will transport you back to mediaeval times. Fes, in my opinion is quite a bohemian city as it is populated by an assortment of artisans and craftsman and a University entitled al-Karaouine or al-Qarawiyyin (Arabic: جامعة القرويين) It is the oldest continually operating university in the world. The al-Karaouine was founded by a woman (Yes, a Woman!) Fatima al-Fihri, making Fes rather progressive, individual and eccentric in comparison to other places in Morocco and in fact most parts of the world. If this place existed in the UK I would liken it to the cultural hubs of Liverpool or Bristol. Fez is the medieval capital of Morocco founded by Idris I in 789, and a great city of high Islamic civilization. Fez has the best-preserved old city in the Arab world, the sprawling, labyrinthine medina of Fes el-Bali, which is incidentally also the world’s largest car-free urban zone. Within the medina transports of goods is provided by donkeys, mules and handcarts. Understand that the city infrastructure is not necessarily prepared for tourism, especially English speakers. Try to use Google translate to get across, but learning basic words won’t hurt, and you will see people appreciating your efforts.

Fez crafts women, pottery

Moroccan women painting

clay work in Fez

looking down on Fes

Intrepid tour group

At the main gates of Fes old medina
Some consider Fez to be the handicraft capital of Morocco so if there is something you want made, there is bound to be someone here that can have it crafted for you. The moment you walk into this colourful maze you are surrounded by jewellers, carpenters, silver smiths, potters, weavers, painters and you must stop over at the tanneries where you can witness locals hand dyeing & tanning large leather hides in huge stone containers before allowing the hide to dry in the sun and being crafted into purses, bags and shoes. Leathergoods, copper and brassware are the bargains to be had, although you may also find good prices on drums and other musical instruments.

walking through Fes medina

Olive oil soap in fes

Moroccan dried henna leaves

the streets of Fes

carpets and tapestries in Fes

shopping in Fes Morocco

local butcher in Fez medina

camel head in Fez
Fez is safe, but crowded. Take standard precautions regarding wallet, purse & bags, basically be responsible as you would in any other city. Appear to know where you are going, even if you don’t, or you will get offers from false guides or individuals trying to sell you something. False guides are not dangerous but they can be exasperatingly tenacious. Best technique is to ignore their presence; seems rude but it works and do not be afraid to say “La shukran” in a direct & firm tone, this means “No thank you” and saying that in a less polite way is really hard for me as a British citizen (Us Brits always have to appear polite at all times, even to people we find despicable) but that also really works if ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, they will appreciate you are learning some Moroccan Arabic and a bit more respectful, eventually leaving you alone.

Intrepid tours, the best of Morocco

olives in Fez

foods in Fez medina

interesting electrical wiring in Morocco

very narrow pathway in Fes medina

Locals of Morocco

the famous tanneries of Fes, Fez
The leather Tanneries here are the oldest in the world, dating back at least nine centuries. When getting close to the tannery the smell is the first to appear. The smell drifts around the balcony or the roof from where all the activity can be viewed and is enough to put off the most excited of tourists. The stench is worth braving as the view over the balcony or the roof allows those watching to see a site that has never been changed since the 11th century.

The lifestyle of a tanner is so difficult. it is considered to be one of the hardest and dirtiest careers in Fez.
The art of tanning is run and done by men. Most of the families and workers live around the tanneries and their skills are inherited from generation to generation via the male family tree though a tradition less and less evident as education becomes obligatory and horizons expand.
Intrepid tour guide taking us round Morocco

leather hand made shoes in Fez

Head scarves

Hand made Hijab in Fes Medina

Beautiful blue Hijab in Morocco
Fes is not for the faint hearted, specifically for those who like their comforts. Fes is like a whirlwind and in constant motion, you will be in sensory overload with so much movement, colour, texture, smells and sounds, your mind will be filled with a variety of experiences just from one day visit here. Understanding the words “Belek! Belek” which basically means “Get out of the way!” may save you from being pushed over by traders with mules or huge carts of produce attempting to squeeze past you as you cling to the wall like a star fish. If you enjoy a real good culture shock and are not afraid to step out of your snug hotel room then Fes is for you. If you do visit this vast city, make sure you go with a guide otherwise you will get lost and if you are prone to claustrophobia, the narrow, busy and noisy pathways may be a little overwhelming for you although not impossible to visit if you are prepared and remember to look up at the sky to calm you down. There are wide open spaces once you get to the end of a pathway so you can take a breather and savour your surroundings before you venture down another winding path to your next destination. There are also beautiful museums and some Mosques that visitors are welcome in also.

intrepid group buying Morocccan carpets

hand crafted Moroccan Carpets

Carpets from Fes

Mosque in Fes

beautiful Mosque in Fez medina

Katie Ness sunflowerteeth lifestyle blog
Fes is probably one of Jon’s favourite destinations from this entire Moroccan tour, and why wouldn’t it be? This place is a dream for Photographers! I did really enjoy visiting this city, It is truly magical with it’s unruly medina maze, it’s crumbling & dishevelled exterior walls and cascading mosaic interiors that leave you speechless. This place sits between two worlds, the world of humbling ruin and the world of ravishing craftsmanship & Interior design. After a full day of exploring Fes we stayed over night in our hotel before awaken at first light to travel to our next destination: Midelt, which was probably my favourite experience out of the entire trip.

Apologies for taking a while to continue writing about our adventure around Morocco, It’s been a busy few months! If you missed my previous write-ups about other places in Morocco we stopped at here are all the links:
Day one & two in Casablanca
Day three/Afternoon in Rabat
Day Four/Morning in Meknes
Day Four/Afternoon in Volubilis

To view Jon’s awesome commerical & travel photography click here:
Jon Roberts Photography Blog

11 things that make me happy

Practising Yoga Asanas:

Leg Warmers:
leg wamers

Watching Ballet Dancers/Contemporary Dance:

travel quote

Yogi Tea:

Garlic Bread:
garlic bread

Wearing Chunky Rings:
chunky rings

Letters from friends around the world:

The Sea:
the sea

Squirty Cream:
squirty cream

Cadbury’s flake because it reminds me of my Grandmother:

I have not done one of these for a while and recently have been thinking a great deal about what I am thankful for and this includes all the simple pleasures daily life brings.
Sometimes we forget to celebrate & appreciate life. My Auntie Teresa recently passed away, she had learning difficulties and lead a very humble existence of going to church every Sunday, playing Bingo, walking her dog and doing charitable things for others, she had a big personality with a warm heart and she had a wicked sense of humour, she always had people roaring with laughter at her witty one liners and even though she was stunted mentally & physically, she lead life to the fullest just doing simple every day things. Lets take a moment to think about that and can you think of 11 things that make you happy and make you smile, think of things you usually take for granted, use your imagination and see what happens.

All images are here: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11