Arts

The Road to Morocco from Malden: A Pressing Event

This is the last part of the Road from Malden to Morocco series By Bonnie Blanchard Our whirlwind visit in Marrakesh left our imaginations, memories and cameras full of sensations, stories and pictures. With a visit to the city of Essaouira we were winding down for our journey back home. Like vagabonds we wound our way to a rambling little coastal town with a view of the ocean from our lovely little hotel. We unwound with a walk on the windy beach. Camels and horses were competing for ride business, but we were not too eager for repeat lumps, so we contented ourselves by walking along the village shoreline.   Essaouira is a laid-back old port town on the Atlantic Ocean. In the mid 1700s the then installed sultan liked the area and engaged the services of a French architect to create a city there. It is rather off the beaten path and windy, so there are not too many beach goers. Essaouira remains a fishing village where folks can buy their catch of the […]

Arts

The Road to Morocco from Malden: Marrakesh

By Bonnie Blanchard Fourth of five parts Take the train from Casablanca going south Blowing smoke rings from the corners of my my, my, my, my mouth Colored cottons hang in air Charming cobras in the square Striped Djellebas we can wear at home Would you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express Would you know we’re riding on the Marrakesh Express All aboard the train “Marrakesh Express,” by Graham Nash, 1969 Many of those from the 1960s “hippie” generation remember the lyrics to the Crosby, Stills and Nash song “Marrakesh Express.”  The Marrakesh Express ran from Casablanca to Marrakesh and was a widely sought ticket. This song sums up the cultural reflections of singer Graham Nash on a trip he took in 1966  through India and North Africa. Fast forward 50 years and I find myself in that same world, snake charmers and all. One of the most colorful open air markets in the world, Djemaa el-Fna is something not to miss in Marrakesh. It would be akin to going to church and not […]

Arts

The Road to Morocco from Malden: Into the Sahara

By Bonnie Blanchard Part Three of Five Parts Getting on a dromedary is like straddling a furry bathtub. It’s not the most graceful of feats. You begin the mount while the beast is lying down. You have to figure out how to get your feet across both sides; their bodies are wider than that of a horse. There are no stirrups to lock your feet into, only a steel bar in front of the hump to hang onto. A layered blanket pack is the saddle. When each member of my group was finally aboard their ship of the desert, we started our journey into the Sahara. As I bounced and hung on, I had visions of rolling off to the side and being deposited on the desert floor. It was a premonition of things to come. This camel-back journey had begun after an exhausting yet exhilarating day driving from Fez to Ouarzazate, the entrance to the Sahara Desert, in another leg of our Morocco trip. As our van crossed through rosemary-dotted hills and cedar groves, […]

Arts

The Road to Morocco from Malden: The Medieval City of Fez

  By Bonnie Blanchard Part Two of Five Parts   Our extensive tour of Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca was overwhelming. But the journey was just beginning. We headed to our van for a 5-hour ride into the hinterlands of Morocco towards the medieval city of Fez. (Which is sometimes spelled Fes.) Along the way we stopped for a traditional Moroccan tagine (a clay cooking utensil with a vented conical top that cooks in the  oven or stove-top) lunch and relaxed into our new home away from home – the van – for the next two weeks. Finally we arrived at our hotel, welcomed by most gracious hoteliers. After a refreshing buffet dinner in the hotel, and fresh from a good night’s sleep, our group was ready to explore the ancient city of Fez. Traveling out of the Ville Nouvelle (French for new city) section of Fez, we were dropped back in a time at the large gated entryway, Bab Boujeloud. Bustling cafes and markets quickly turn into narrow streets with children playing and donkeys […]

Arts

The Road to Morocco from Malden: The Journey Begins

  By Bonnie Blanchard Part 1 of 5 parts: Casablanca Riding a camel only looks romantic. Sore and tired, I ease myself next to a wood-burning fire; it had been a long and lumpy journey on the back of the camel into the Sahara Desert. I find myself staring up into a sky studded with stars big as dinner plates, thinking that despite my sore body, I had achieved a life-long dream. As a kid, I would pore over pages of the National Geographic, staring at the photos, and think that someday I would visit exotic, faraway places. Now, I wasn’t reading a magazine; I was actually here, in Morocco, the quiet of the desert enveloping my group like a velvet blanket. And to think I was only here in Merzouga, Morocco, because I noticed a sign in Somerville, Massachusetts, 12 years ago. It happened like this: As I drove through Union Square, Somerville one day, my eyes caught sight of a building sign that said Moroccan Caravan, Gallery and Showroom.” As a kid, I was […]