Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Tchaba Tea House in Marrakech, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Currant Dream Tea Served at Tchaba Tea House, in Marrakesh

An unusual tea house in Marrakech is nestled between the Hivernage cafés, across from the Palais de Congrés on Avenue Mohamed VI. They specialize in designer teas, which you can enjoy in designer surroundings in this Moroccan Imperial city.

The Tchaba Tea Company was founded in the United Arab Emirates to bring high-quality health teas to the tea-drinking population. First in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the company has now opened a tea salon in Marrakech.

Tchaba Marrakech - Set of Table and Chairs, Carved from Tree Roots

Teas are presented to customers using tiny hourglasses of colored sand, each color being used depending upon which type of tea is being served.

Over 50 different kinds of teas, manufactured in Morocco and shipped all over the world, are displayed and sold in the tea shop. Each tea bag is made from silk, and contains only the finest tea leaves, herbs, fruits, and spices.

Both of the teas we had (above and below) cost 35 Moroccan dirhams each (about $4 USD).

Chamomile Breeze Tea at Tchaba Tea House, in Marrakesh

Teas are served either at tables and chairs, or on lovely glass display tables as you sit on white sofas. Customers are served tea in glass teacups, from a glass teapot on a special warming stand, with accompanying sweet biscuits.

For more information about Marrakech

For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara DesertBerber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration

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! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or 1 (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Chefchaouen, Holidays in the Rif Mountains of Morocco, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Woman Walking in Chefchaouen

Woman Walking in Chefchaouen

Isolated in the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is one of Morocco’s hidden treasures. Chefchaouen is situated in the Rif Mountains, just inland from Tangier and Tetouan making it the perfect Rif Mountain holiday adventure. The city was founded in 1471, as a small fortress which still exists to this day, by Moorish exiles from Spain ed by Moulay Ali Ben Moussa Ben Radhed El Alami to fight the Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco. Chefchaouen was known as one of the main concentrations of Moriscos and Jews who sought refuge in this mountainous city after the Spanish Reconquista in medieval times.

Chefchaouen at Sunset

Chefchaouen at Sunset

This small mountain village sweeps you away into a state of calm with its color scheme that embraces every imaginable shade of blue and is the perfect place to spend a holiday in the Rif Mountains. Bold splashes of cobalt, turquoise, teal, white and starlit blue surround each corner and cobbled alley. Dreamlike and peaceful during the day this blue and white washed city has breathtaking sunsets and offers up a variety of charming Riads, outdoor restaurants with views of the Rif Mountains and is the perfect two or three day excursion from Tangier or Fes.

Chefchaouen Rif Mountain View

Chefchaouen Rif Mountain View

Chefchaouen offers plenty of time to explore its laid-back Medina (old city), drink mint tea or freshly squeezed orange juice, and watch the world go by from one of the cafes in the main square.  Chefchaouen is also a great place for long walks, treks and hikes. Trekking in the Rif Mountains is different then trekking in the High Atlas Mountains of Toukbal for example because the altitudes are lower in the Rif and the mountain ranges tend to be longer and wider with less steep, making it accessible for Moroccan travelers of all ages.

Kasbah in Chefchaouen

Kasbah in Chefchaouen

Must-see destinations include the Central Mosque and the wonderful Kasbah in Chefchaouen, built by the legendary ruler Moulay Ismail near Place Outa el Hammam in the early 18th century. The Kasbah encloses a quiet garden and houses a small museum of ancient pottery and photographs of the traditional dress of Berber tribes. 

Although this lovely haven of Chefchaouen is located just a couple hundred kilometers from the European border, until 1920 Chefchaouen received only three European guests. It was founded in the 15th century and populated by Jewish and Muslim refugees from the Inquisition in Spain and remained an isolated city until the early 20th century.

Chefchaouen Arched Doorway

Chefchaouen Arched Doorway

Chefchaouen has preserved a way of life that flourished in Moorish Spain more than 500 years ago. While the locals are far more reserved then those in larger cities, they are quite friendly and warm. Chefchaouen is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco, and the weed is sold all over town. It is essentially legal and smoked by many of the locals, which helps account for this village’s slow pace. It is an intrinsic part of the city life and sold together with herbs, spices and vegetables in the local markets.

Colored Pigment for Sale In Winding Streets of Chaouen

Colored Pigment for Sale In Winding Streets of Chaouen

During a four-day trip from Fes Moroccan travelers explore the Medina in great detail. The entire Medina comes alive in the evening when everybody is shopping or selling goods in the narrow winding streets. On a leisurely stroll throughout the Medina the first thing that can catch anyone’s eyes are the man selling pigment in shades of blue, yellow, pink and orange. The pigment is the same that is used on the walls of the city.

There are shoe cobblers hand making the white and yellow fine leather pointed slippers  (baboosh) worn by the locals along with many beautiful jalabbas sewn with finely embroidered seams and carpenters carving tables and chairs made of fragrant cedar wood. Also available are beautifully hand painted crafts in Chefchaouen such as mirrors with inlaid flowers and a wide variety of furniture displaying delicate Islamic designs. 

One of the most intimate things to do in Chefchaouen is to drop in on a local Berber weaver at his loom and watch while he produces a local style of red and white blankets.

Chefchaouen Wash Basin For Women, Reminiscent Japanese Rock Garden

Chefchaouen Wash Basin For Women, Reminiscent Japanese Rock Garden

If Moroccan travelers continue their exploration to the bottom of the hill in Chefchaouen, they will find women washing laundry in an area that resembles a Japanese garden filled with a variety of stones as well as miniature white open structures surrounded by a number of wide stairs that leads to a dam. 

For a panoramic view, you can hike to the top of Chefchaouen and, as you glide along the small streets, peer downward in search of the stone-carved Hand of Fatima that seems to reappear again and again throughout this blue city.

For more information about traveling to Chefchaouen

For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara DesertBerber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration

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! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or 1 (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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How Does the Ramadan Fast Affect Tourists in Morocco? Your Morocco Travel Guide

Men At Prayer During Ramadan

How does the Ramadan fast affect tourists traveling to the Imperial Cities, the Sahara Desert and other regions of Morocco during this high holy holiday? Can tourists eat or drink in public during Ramadan?  This article should clear up the confusion on this issue for tourists, to explain the most polite solutions for tourist behavior at this time, and to assure tourists that there is no problem with them visiting Morocco during Ramadan.

Because the Islamic calendar is lunar, holidays such as Ramadan advance by approximately ten days with each subsequent year.  This means that Ramadan makes a cycle through the entire calendar of twelve months each twenty-some years.  This year, Ramadan started on August 12th, 2010 in Morocco.  The fast presently starts in Morocco at approximately 4:30 AM, and ends in the evening at approximately 7:30 PM.

Islamic Lunar Calendar

Tourists in Morocco during Ramadan often hear that some people are not required to fast because of sickness, or health conditions such as diabetes, as well as women having their menstration.  But non-Muslim tourists are often confused about the polite way to behave with Muslims during Ramadan; what tourists are permitted to do, or not do; and tourists wonder which stories they hear are true, or not true.

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca Morocco

Morocco’s Ramadan Law:

It IS actually true that Morocco’s laws prohibit “a person commonly known to be Muslim” from “violating the fast in a public place during Ramadan.”  It is called the Ramadan Law, and is under Article 222 of the Moroccan Penal Code.  (This law also applies to Muslim tourists coming from known Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, if they were to flaunt the fast in public.)   The penalties are from one to six months in prison and a fine of up to approximately 100 Euros.  The law states that the only Muslims who are exempt from this requirement are children, the elderly, the sick;  and pregnant, lactating or menstruating women.

Sometimes one can read about small protests that take place in Morocco against this law.  The truth is, while this law is on the books, people are rarely prosecuted.  Usually, if there is a token protest, the police do their best to try to prevent the protesters from arriving at the protest location, instead of arresting them.

Remember, it is NOT forbidden by law  to EAT during Ramadan (even though it IS socially unacceptable for Muslims who should be fasting), which means that Muslims who decide not to fast in their own homes will incur no penalties (other than sin against God).  The law is very specific saying that Muslims “shall not violate the fast in a PUBLIC place.”  Keeping the fast is difficult, and becomes much more difficult if people actively break it in front of others who are fasting.  Therefore, the reason for this law is two-fold:  to make it easier for those who are fasting, as well as to both teach the young, and communicate the idea to all Muslims that breaking the fast is most definitely not socially acceptable.  This goes right along with several other laws in Morocco which prohibit certain behavior IN PUBLIC PLACES by Muslims (discussed below).

The whole key here is PUBLIC PLACE.  Let’s explore what this means.

Women Shopping During Ramadan

Those Excused from Fasting:

Children are not required to fast at all, although older children (8-12) might be encouraged to try it on a couple of special days during the month.  But no child is FORCED to fast those days.  Those who do usually try hard to get through the day because it gives them the feeling of being “grown up.”  They see the adults doing it, and they want to be part of that adult world, to feel respected and admired for doing so.

Younger children would never be encouraged to fast, even on those one or two special days.  They are still growing and Islam clearly recognizes that fasting is not good for their growing bodies.  If you go to a semi-private location, such as a swimming pool at a private club, you will find all the Muslim mothers feeding their children during the day, and no one objects to this.  But they are not eating out on the public street.  Muslim mothers certainly feed their children at home during the day, as well.

The elderly DO fast.  Elderly people fast unless they are in extremely poor health.  In many cases, doctors even advise them not to fast, but many of them do it anyway.  They do it because they feel there is moral value in fasting, and in many cases, it is a case of self-respect.  Some very elderly or infirm people give up fasting, but very rarely.

Sick (or injured) people are not to fast.  The question becomes how sick or injured one must be.  If blood comes out of one’sbody, such as if someone cuts themself in the kitchen with a knife accidentally, that would invalidate their fast for that day.  But the question is how much.  Suppose a man gets a tiny knick from his razor, is that enough to invalidate the fast?  Supposedly not.  But since that becomes questionable depending upon the size of the knick, many Muslim men shave in the evening during Ramadan, just in case.

People with serious health conditions such as diabetes can fast and are encouraged to do so if their illness is not severe and they have it properly under control.  Those with more advanced or severe diabetes are often told by doctors that they should not fast, yet some of them do anyway.  It seems to be a question of pride (or even showing off to others that they “can” do it) and maintaining respect both in their own eyes and from others, particularly if they are not old.  Some diabetics insist on fasting and even fall into comas because of it, yet continue to fast anyway.  Most Muslims, if questioned about these people insist that they most definitely should not be fasting.

People who are just a little bit sick (a light cold, headache, even sore throat, or ear infection) still have to fast.  If someone had a fever, they would be excused from fasting.  Malingering, when someone is just very slightly ill or not feeling their best is definitely not an acceptable excuse.

Pregnant women are not supposed to fast, but in fact, many do.  This is because pregnant women are supposed to make up the fasting days later in the year on their own.  The explanation given by some Moroccan women for fasting while pregnant is that, “I would not be able to make up all those days on my own.”  However, this behavior is most definitley not condoned by Islam.

Lactating women are not supposed to fast either, and are also required to make up the days on their own.

Menstruating women are not required to fast.  Most women find these days a welcome break during the middle of fasting.  However, if they are working in a company with mixed Moroccan and foreign workers, they will not join others in the lunchroom who are not fasting, even if they themselves are eating during those days; instead they wait, and eat at home.  The reason is interesting.  They say that if a man at their workplace sees them eating, he will know it is their time of the month.  They say they don’t like their male co-workers knowing this personal information!  Therefore, they don’t eat at work.  They must also make up those fasting days later in the year.

There is one guide book about Morocco which says something which is completely wrong. It says that in the days before Ramadan, you start to see some of the women and older people fasting a few days before Ramadan, in order to “practice” and be habituated  when Ramadan starts.  This reasoning is wrong.  What IS correct is that they are making up missed days from the year before, as those days need to be completely made up before the new Ramadan fast begins (or they are answerable to God for each day not made up).  Some elderly people could be making up days they missed.  A few, extremely devout people do fast a few extra days, as they feel they will earn “extra points” with God for doing a few extra days of fasting.

Ladies in Djemaa El Fna Square, Ramadan

About Public Spaces in Morocco:

The Ramadan Law is not the only law relating to public space in Morocco.

A similar law (and similarly confusing to many tourists) is about alcohol.   In places like Agadir on the boardwalk next to the beach, or in bars located in other cities, there is sometimes an outdoor section where clients can sit and order drinks.  In some locations, tourists can order a beer or glass of wine and drink it while seated in the outdoor section.  While Muslims can also order a beer or glass of wine (except during Ramadan or other Muslim holdiays when it is strictly prohibited), they must sit inside to drink it.  Those Muslims who are sitting outside are only drinking coffee or other non-alcoholic drinks.

Is this hypocrisy?  Most tourists think so.  However, Moroccans feel it is proper because being a Muslim country it is more offensive to Muslims in the street to see other Muslims consuming alcohol than it is for them to see non-Muslims consuming it.  It is a bit like vulgar words being bleeped out on broadcast American TV.  Everyone knows they are saying vulgar words, but at least Americans don’t have to hear those words.  It’s a similar situation.  Muslims in the street know that others are inside consuming alcohol, but at least they don’t have to see other Muslims doing it.

The Ramadan Law has a similar reasoning.  People can eat if they want to, but if you’re Muslim, you are just forbidden from doing so in PUBLIC.

Chebekia Moroccan Pastry Eaten At Ramadan

A Guide for Tourist Behavior During Ramadan:

Understanding these factors, what should non-Muslim tourists do?  Out of respect, they should follow similar behavior as Muslims who would be diabetic, or ill, or pregnant.

These Muslims would eat at home.  If they were sick while out somewhere, yet needed to eat or drink, they would go in a private place where no one would see them (a few people might go into a restroom if there were no other place, but only as a last resort).  Very few restaurants would be open during the day, but tourists would find a few, primarily in hotels.  Both Muslims and tourists could buy water at a shop, but should not just open it and drink it in front of everyone.  Instead, they should find a place to drink privately, not in public.  (One Moroccan Muslim man was attacked in Fes two years ago by civilian vigilantes for drinking water in the medina street, arrested, and subsequently released when his family proved he was diabetic.  But it’s clear he was pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and would have known it.  He could easily have explained in advance he was diabetic, and asked anyone if there was a private place where he could sip his water.)  So this is no reason for tourists to be alarmed.

If a tourist and were openly eating and drinking during Ramadan, people would most likely just give him dirty looks, understanding that he was a tourist.  But the polite and respectful thing to do would be for him to eat and drink well before going out.  It is advisable for tourists to take water in their bag, by all means, but just find a private place to drink it.  If a tourist needs to eat, he / she shouldn’t do it in public.  It’s perfectly acceptable for tourists to eat in any restaurant you find that is open, and these are most likely to be found in hotels or known tourist locations.

Harira & Dates, Breafkast (L'Ftour) Ramadan

Ramadan can actually be a very interesting time to visit a Muslim country.  After dark, families go out late, and plenty of interesting things go on until quite late in the evening.  Just be considerate of people during this month.  The Ramadan Law is actually just asking (and ensuring) that Muslims also continue to treat each other respectfully.

For more information about traveling to Morocco’s Imperial Cities or Sahara Desert During Ramadan

For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara DesertBerber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration

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! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or 1 (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Exploring Moroccan Kasbahs In Ouarzazate, Kasbah Taourirt & Ait Benhaddou, Former Residences of Pasha Glaoui, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Kasbah Taourirt, Ouarzazate City Center

For anyone interested in touring Morocco’s kasbahs or ksars, I highly recommend starting with Kasbah Taourirt, the Pasha Glaoui’s former palace in Ouarzazate. Its location was strategic for trading routes and in the 1930’s when the Glaoui ruled the South was then considered one of Morocco’s largest Kasbahs. As a Moroccan traveler you can explore its nooks and crannies to discover its history and often local female painters who sell their art inside as well as the many quality silver shops just steps outside the Kasbah.

Ait Benhaddou Kasbah, Ouarzazate, A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The word kasbah has two meanings. The first meaning of a kasbah is a fortified village, such as the mountain village of Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In some cases, the word is used to describe the old medina quarter of ancient cities throughout the Middle East and North Africa, such as in Algiers.  Kasbahs are essentially attached earthen houses that were built and coexist in a sprawling pattern, which also contain structures for other uses such as bath houses or granaries.  Built out of adobe (mud and straw), they were usually situated on a mountain hillside to make defense easier.

A Kasbah Taourirt window, as viewed from the inside: wide inside, and very narrow to the outside, to keep arrows out.

The second meaning of a kasbah, which refers to that  of Kasbah Taourirt in Ouarzazate, was a place for the local caid (leader) to live which demonstrated a sign of wealth, and also as a place for defense when the city was under attack.  In this case,Kasbah Taourirt once served the dual purpose of being both an administrative center, as well as a fort.

For this reason, kasbahs were generally built with high walls and either no windows, or very narrow windows to keep out arrow attacks.

Kasbahs in southern Morocco are generally built on a rock base.  Rammed earth is used for the load-bearing walls, which are usually about two feet (60 cm) thick.

Construction of rammed earth walls by traditional methods

Lighter-weight adobe is used on the top story for ornamental work.

Kasbashs are generally started on a rectangular pattern, three stories high, with a tower rising from each corner.  Off of that, with time, the kasbah expands with additional rooms and passageways being built in a twisting, turning pattern, without any organized plan.  This is the beauty of exploring a kasbah, that one never knows whether around the next corner it will turn, or twist, or go up or down.

Kasbah Taourirt at Night

Kasbah Taourirt, located in the center of Ouarzazate, a Southern Sahara city and often referred to as “the door to the desrt” is one of the first kasbahs worth visiting on a Sahara Tour.  Kasbah Taouirt’s impeccable exterior architechture offers a good understanding of how kasbahs were constructed centuries ago and will enable you to have a better appreciation when you visit other kasbahs in Morocco such as Ait Benhaddou Kasbah and Kasbah Telout.

A passageway in Kasbah Taourirt

When visiting Kasbah Taourirt, make sure to have your Morocco Travel Agency provide a historical guide so that you are able to ask questions about the history of the era, construction and be guided throughout it’s maze like interior walls.

Pasha Glaoui–was once known as one of the richest men in the world.  Today some of his former residences are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Much of the Kasbahs in the Southern region of Morocco have been restored and while not to their original grandor can lay claim to being simply magnificent.  Most of the rooms Kasbah Taourirt are very plain however its interior architecture and exterior are majestic.  The fun in exploring any ancient Kasbah comes from wandering through the maze of passageways.  Kasbah Taourirt, like Glaoui’s other kasbahs, consists of approximately 300 rooms, and was built to house up to 1,000 slave sand family members.  According to a historical guide who mans the front entrance, Glaoui had four official wives and 20 legitimate children.  He also had 14 concubines and a total of 60 children all together.  Included in the kasbah rooms were  stables and garrisons, public reception and ceremonial rooms, domestic living quarters, as well as school rooms for the children.

Kasbah Taourirt Ceiling in an Official Reception Room

Many interesting architectural features can be found inside the Kasbah Taourirt.  Traditional dyes were used to color in the ceilings tiles that include saffron for the yellow, henna for the red, mint for the green, indigo for the blue, and kohl made from crushed galena (lead ore) for the black.  Other ceilings are made out of decorative thatched palm fronds and bamboo, which in some cases are painted, in others, plastered over.

Candle ledges, each about one meter high, in Kasbah Taourirt

In the photo above, it appears that windows might have been closed up, but this is not the case.  Found throughout the kasbah, these were ledges made for candles.

Kasbah Taourirt - one of the few decorated rooms

Many famous films include scenes that were filmed in Kasbah Taourirt.  Some are: Lawrence of Arabia; The Harem; Diamond of the Nile with Michael Douglas; Rules of Engagement; Prince of Persia; Terres du Lumieres; The Mummy; Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité; and Tés au Sahara (Italian).

When visiting the Ouarzazate, region, make sure to begin your tour at Kasbah Taourirt before exploring Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO world heritage site as this will give you a head start and background of appreciation that you can bring along during your Kasbah tour.

For more information about a Kasbahs, Waterfalls & Ruins in Morocco

For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara DesertBerber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

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