Monthly Archives: April 2009

Travel Zagora: Morocco’s Tamagroute Pottery Cooperative

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Every day in Morocco potter’s hands mold the burnt orange clay, wheels turn and ceramic bowls bake in the heat. It’s a daily process.

In the villages, woman head down to the river bank to dig the moist clay from the earth. Retracing their steps back home with full woven baskets. A heavy load. The clay drips. Water stains the dry dirt.

Morocco is well known for its wide range of ceramic pottery. The pots are generally used for daily life, a large number are bought by tourists, while others are exported over seas. Pottery also lines the souks, hand painted with fine detail, deep colors and a variety of hand spun designs.

The city of Fes is known for producing high end pottery with an array of colors and sparkling glaze. Tamegroute produces pottery inspired by Fes designs. The kilns of Tamegroute are built into the steep slopes of the countryside. Tamegroute is known for its distinct green and brown glaze.

Tamegroute has been a religious center since the 11th century. The Nasiriyya brotherhood brought the native techniques and green enamel from Fes to Tamegroute, assembling merchants and craftsmen to raise the status of the city.

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The pottery cooperatives is a great attraction for tourists visiting the Zagora region. Pottery is made and bought on the spot at the cooperatives. Some of the village roofs of Tamegroute and other regions are also tiled with the green ceramic clay. When the sunlight streams down, the green roofs glisten against the stone city.

The green glaze is made from a combination of magnesium and copper. The ceramic pots and dishes with this glaze are waterproof. A trip to the pottery villages is a great way to get inside the local culture of Morocco, to experience some hands on work, and take home a sustainable and “green” souvenir.

Blogs Filed Under:
Travel Morocco’s Pottery Cooperative, Pottery Lessons in Morocco, Morocco, Celebrate Moroccan Pottery, Morocco Travel, Tours to Morocco, Morocco Tourism

 

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.
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Berber Carpet Weaving Traditions of Morocco

woman-weaving-berber-carpet

Moroccan carpets are famous around the world. In the West, the tightly woven beige Berber rugs are found in most modern homes, schools and offices. Although these rugs are stain resistant their dark flecks of brown and tan do not compare to the thousands of intricate designs and colors of the traditional Berber carpets of Morocco.

Styles

Traditional Berber carpets contain distinctive patterns and colors and are woven from sheep wool or camel hair (you can also find them made from nylon and olefin material). The materials are hand-washed and naturally dyed from saffron yellow, to wild mint green, and from pomegranate and henna. These carpets are known for their strong geometric designs, and have been dated them as far back as the Merinid era. Carpets in the Middle Atlas generally have a traditional diamond grid.

Climates

The Berber tribes developed a variety of weaves to be adaptable to different climates. The rugs in the mountains have larger loops, are more loosely knotted to provide protection against the cold. In warmer climates the rugs are made with a finer weave. The carpets in the Middle Atlas were used as sleeping mats, and in regions with mild climates knots tend to be 2cm high.

History

Berber weaving is highly dependent on the female culture, and is passed down traditionally within the home. The young apprentice is expected to learn the the different looping techniques, patterns, color ranges and motifs. Historically women wove carpets for their families, and men traditionally produced carpets that were more specialized as professional masterweavers. These inspiring designs have been motivation for more modern carpet fabrication.

Historically carpets where a preferred gift for people in elite social classes and where used to adorn palaces and other sacred places. The more urban carpets have also been used at prayer mats and rugs in the hammam. Travelers who are interested in Berber carpet weaving should check out the Weavers Cooperative, and the Berber Carpet Demonstration, a famous exhibition. Some ancient Haouz rugs are also preserved in museums such as the Dar Batha Museum. These intricate rugs can be purchased from the tribes themselves but also in the winding souks of Fes, Marrakech and Rabat.

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Haouz

Carpets originating in the hills and plains of the Haouz region do not tend to follow traditional designs or rules. In this region, the weavers stress the freedoms of the individual throughout the composition. The carpets have a distinctive style and are often captivating works of art.

Art Form

The bold colors, in depth patterns and weaving techniques of  different regions have their own distinct style. Each tribe has a signature pattern and commonly unfold a story, revealing acts of ceremony, or designs that often relate to fertility and protection. Like any other type of abstract art, interpretations can be better guided with additional knowledge of the culture, songs and legends.

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Moulay Idriss – Travel to Morocco’s Holiest City

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Moulay Idriss is a Moroccan town and important religious site and place of pilgrimage for Muslims located just an hour away from Fes. The city is named after the Moroccan saint Moulay Idriss, a descendant of Muhammad, who died and was buried in 792 AD in the city that was eventually named after him. During his life in Morocco Idriss founded Morocco’s first Arab dynasty as well as the city of Fes and is accredited with converting the majority of Morocco’s population to Islam.

The Moulay Idriss itself is situated in a valley with lush green hillsides enclosing the white-washed houses of the city on three sides, making for a very beautiful sight.

The Shrine – Moulay Idriss

Today, Moulay Idriss’ tomb is a revered site and the city is considered to be the holiest city in Morocco. The tomb is considered to be a shrine and is accepted as a substitute pilgrimage for Muslims who cannot afford to travel to Mecca which, according to the five pillars of Islam, is one of the obligations of a Muslim man. Every August an important Moussem, or Muslim festival, is held in Moulay Idriss and Muslims from around the world come together to sing and dance in celebration of their faith. Although the tomb itself is not open to non-Muslims the sight can be enjoyed from the surrounding hillside or from one of the many taller buildings surrounding it.

Sacred mouslim city Moulay Idriss, Morocco, Africa

Idriss Medersa

Located in Moulay Idriss is the Idriss Medersa, an ancient Koran school, which was built using materials from taken from Volubilis, an important outpost of the Roman Empire, located nearby. The Idriss Medersa is famous for its unusual Minaret, added to the building by a wealthy pilgrim in 1939. The Minaret is circular, an unusual design throughout the Muslim world, and is decorated with white and green geometric shapes that spell out a passage from the Koran in Arabic.

The City

Despite non-Muslims being barred from entering the shrine, Moulay Idriss offers many other sites and experiences for visitors. Its winding streets, whitewashed houses, and magnificent hillsides make the city a beautiful sight and well-worth the trip. A weekly vegetable market, or souk, occurs every Saturday and is a great way for visitors to get a true Moroccan experience. As for food, The Restaurant Trois Boules d’Or offers great food and spectacular views and don’t forget to try the nougat of Moulay Idriss which is famous and can be bought almost anywhere in the city.

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Harira – The Traditional Moroccan Soup

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As both a starting point and a destination for merchants along ancient trade routes Morocco developed a cuisine that has Arabic, African, French, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern influences. This blending of cultures and ideas makes Moroccan cuisine unique and often quite surprising. Extensive use of dried fruits such as dates and figs, preserved lemons, nuts, and the blending of fresh herbs and spices gives Moroccan cuisine its distinctive, and delicious, taste.

Harira is the famous soup of Morocco that is traditionally served during Ramadan at sunset to break the daylight fast. While every family has its own recipe with slight variations the traditional Harira is a tomato based soup with lamb, chickpeas, lentils, and pasta, infused with the flavors of lemon, cinnamon, cilantro, parsley, saffron, and ginger, and thickened with flour and egg. The soup is traditionally served with a lemon slice and crusty bread, a small bowl of lemon juice for those who prefer their soup with a little extra, and a plate of figs which are also traditionally served to break fast during Ramadan.

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While traditionally only served during Ramadan or at weddings Harira is a Moroccan favorite that is hearty enough to be served as a meal on a cold winter’s night, find the recipe below and don’t forget the crusty bread!

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb. uncooked meat (lamb, beef or chicken), chopped into 1/2” pieces
  • several soup bones (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 bunch cilantro (coriander), finely chopped to yield about 1/4 cup
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped to yield about 1/4 cup
  • 1 or 2 celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 1 can of chick peas
  • 1 tablespoon smen (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric or ¼ teaspoon yellow colorant
  • 6 large tomatoes (about 2 lb. or 1 kg), peeled, seeded and pureed
  • 2 to 3 tbsp lentils
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed evenly into 1 or 2 cups of water
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons uncooked broken vermicelli
  • 1 cup flour

Preparation:

Step 1 – Ahead of Time

  1. Peel, seed and puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Or, stew the tomatoes and pass them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin.
  2. Pick the parsley and cilantro leaves from their stems. Small pieces of stem are OK, but discard long, thick pieces with no leaves. Wash the herbs, drain well, and finely chop them by hand or with a food processor.

Assemble the remaining ingredients and follow the steps below.

Step 2 – Brown the Meat

Put the meat, soup bones and oil into a 6-qt. or larger pressure cooker. Over medium heat, cook the meat for a few minutes, stirring to brown all sides.

Step 3 – Make the Stock

Add the cilantro, parsley, celery, onion, chick peas, tomatoes, smen and spices. Stir in 3 cups of water.

Cover tightly, and heat over high heat until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and release the pressure.

Step 4 – Make the Soup

Add the lentils, tomato paste mixture, and 2 quarts (or about 2 liters) of water to the stock.

Set aside (but don’t add yet), the vermicelli.

Cover the pot and heat the soup over high heat until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking.

Adding vermicelli: Cook the soup on pressure for 45 minutes. Release the pressure, and add the vermicelli. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for five to ten minutes or until the vermicelli is plump and cooked.

Step 5 – Thicken the Soup

While the soup is cooking, mix together the 1 cup of flour with 2 cups of water. Set the mixture aside.

Stir or whisk the mixture occasionally. The flour will eventually blend with the water. If the mixture is not smooth when you’re ready to use it, pass it through a sieve to remove balls.

Once the vermicelli has cooked, taste the soup for seasoning. Add salt or pepper if desired.

Bring the soup to a full simmer. Slowly — and in a thin stream — pour in the flour mixture. Stir constantly and keep the soup simmering so the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom.

You will notice the soup beginning to thicken when you’ve used approximately half the flour mixture. How thick to make harira is your own preference. I like to thicken the broth so that it achieves a cream-like consistency.

Simmer the thickened soup, stirring occasionally, for five to ten minutes to cook off the taste of the flour. Remove the soup from the heat.

Serves 6 to 8.

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Backpacking in Morocco: The Best Way to Travel Local Culture

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After crashing her car in Italy, Lizzi Thomson of Bristol, grabbed a pack and some friends and continued traveling. Determined to feel the rhythm of a different world she headed to Morocco. After backpacking around Europe and one sleepless night in the Czech Republic, kept up by a man with night terrors and endless snoring she found her self settled under the stars in Marrakech.

“Morocco was a different story. Everyone stayed in Hostels. We slept on the rooftop terraces, under the stars. My favorite thing about sleeping outside was the call to prayer during the night, it was eerily peaceful,” said Lizzi.

“We spent every night on the roof, luckily it never rained but there was a tent that you could go under if it did. It was so warm, and the hostels were really nice. We only stayed in a hotel one night, after a midnight train ride,” said Albert Testani of Connecticut.

Albert, while studying at University of York, also took advantage of the opportunity to travel. Albert backpacked around Spain, France, India and Morocco. Spending time diving into each culture. While hitch-hiking in France was the most adventurous, hopping trains through Morocco was a guaranteed way to make friends.

The trains were great once you figured out how to read the signs in Arabic. According to Albert, getting around in Morocco was fairly easy and inexpensive. “With a bargaining culture there is no such thing as a fixed price,” he continued. As an insider to the bartering system he often got away with a cheap ride, thanks to the Lonely Plane Guide.

man-with-backpack1“In Marrakech there is so much to do, going to the Medina was a massive party every night,” said Albert.” We experienced (a more intimate) Moroccan culture in smaller cities like Fes, and Chefchaouen and Tangier. In the smaller cities you could blend with life more.”

The only trouble was getting lost in the maze-like cities. “It’s quite tricky to get around, the streets are rather winding. Anyone you ask for directions will know your a tourist by your Caucasian skin… we often would end up on a long elaborate tour, waving to all their friends houses,” said Lizzi.

It was a sea of clay and terracotta buildings. “We would wonder around, one day we found a woman sitting cooking, there were a lot of locals eating there… We got a massive meal for 2 dirhams. The Medina was filled with kabob stands, and fresh orange juice, which according to Albert “was amazing!”

For readers interested in backpacking in Morocco, make sure to check out some of Morocco’s adventure sports.

 

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Moroccan Sweets and Pastries

moroccan-sweeets2Stuffed with almond paste, dusted with confectionery sugar and flaking with each bite, Moroccan pastries are reserved for special occasions. Cooking is regarded as an extravagant art. Large meals are prepared for births, circumcisions, weddings and many holidays. Just after the main dish, pastries take their course to add a sweet touch before the seasonal fruit is served.

As a Guest

Travelers that have the opportunity to stay with a Moroccan family will experience a breakfast for kings. The host family traditionally will serve a variety of pastries for breakfast: Rghaif (flat buttery Moroccan pastries), Stenj (Moroccan doughnuts), French pastries (croissants), along with Bayd (eggs, cooked with cumin and sesame seeds), orange juice or coffee.

Pancakes

Pancakes are a traditional breakfast food as well as a sweet treat in Morocco. On holidays they are adorned with honey, icing, sugar, butter or a rich almond paste. Baghrir pancakes are fried in hot oil, with dot-like air craters on on side.

History

These succulent Moroccan sweets were once only served to the sultans, Islamic leaders, and the elite. When spices were as prized as gold, lower classes were rarely able to partake in such indulgences. Now, when neighbors and friends come together during their afternoon break they enjoy the company with a pot of mint tea and pastries.

Souks

The smell of fresh pastries linger through the city streets. All throughout the maze-like souks vendors sell a wide range of Moroccan sweets. A savory dish, native to Morocco, is bastila, a multi-layered pastry filled with shredded chicken or pigeon meat gently and brushed with a lemon-onion sauce and covered in almonds, cinnamon and sugar. Other flaky croissants are served with warm honey, apricot or other jams.moroccan-sweeets3

All Shapes and Sizes

Moroccan sweets come in all shapes and sizes, generally pastries are light and healthy often made with nuts. Some are long and thin, others round- filled or hallow. Gazelle horns, a crescent shaped treat is of the most famous Moroccan sweets. Check out the recipe below!

Recipe: Kaab el-ghzal (gazelle horns)

serving size: 16 pastries

bake until lightly golden at 350 degrees F

1 3/4 cups of flour

2 tbsp. melted butter

2 tbsp. orange flower water

2 large egg yolks, beaten

A pinch of salt

Icing sugar

Almond Paste:

2 cups of finely ground Almonds

1 cup icing sugar

2 tbsp. orange flower water

2 tbsp. melted butter

2 egg yolks beaten

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions: Combine all the ingredients for the almond paste in a bowl, stir until smooth- divide paste into 16 pieces.

Take each piece and roll it into small cylinders (7cm long)

In another bowl, combine flour and salt, melted butter, orange flower and one egg yolk, add cold water to form a soft dough. Kneed for ten minutes, roll out into a thing rectangle- then cut into strips.

Place the almond paste on each pastry, spacing them 3 cm apart. Fold in half to seal the paste. Moisten both sides of the pastry with the remaining egg yolk and a small amount of water. Cut each pasty into a crescent shape, place on a buttered and floured baking sheet.

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Travel Fes: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Donkeys hooves knock against the stone, while people scurry through the Medina, getting lost in the maze like streets. Something is different about Fes. Listen closely, there are no honking horns, putting motors or screeching brakes. That’s right, inside the fortified walls and labyrinth allies there are no cars.

The best way to explore the city is by foot. Tourists should make sure to swing by the Dar Batha Museum, the home to Moroccan Arts. The display of handwoven Berber carpets, cobalt blue and ceramic pottery, embroideries, ancient astrolabes, and zelliges, elaborate mosaic and ceramic tiles, is a transport back in time.

Make sure to check out the video above from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for World Heritage.

 

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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