Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The holy cow* riad

When Khalid from Ryad Alya took us on our tour of Fes riads, we lucked out because he got us in to see a private riad that's still under construction (and has been for two years). It was, well, stunning. Unbelievably so. It's a huge riad...and going to be gorgeous when all is said and done. You can judge for yourselves :-)

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This area is going to be a pool.

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Idriss and Khalid, our host.

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A craftsman at work.

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Looking down towards the pool.

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The ceiling, which is retractible! Perfect, isn't it? There are a few other riads I'd like to show you, but my internet connection is awful. I'll try later this week or weekend.

*My husband thought the previous title wasn't "professional" enough so apologies for the dorky new name!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I dreamed and went to a ryad...

Don't pinch me because I don't want to wake up. I simply love Ryad Alya in Fes. This is the second time we've stayed and it's even lovelier than I remembered. The wonderful owner took us on a tour of ryads in the medina today, which was incredible. While I sort through those photos, I wanted to show you some of the beautiful Alya.

You should have high expectations for any ryad in Fes, because this is the artisanal capital of Morocco. Where men in courtyards carve ornate wood trim, and women tailor custom caftans. Craftsmen chip delicately away at zelige (handmade Moroccan tiles, pictured below) to create the beautiful mosaics found in Morocco, especially Fes.

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The courtyard. (and my cute husband!)

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Great heights...and beautiful plasterwork.

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Some of my favorite zelige (tiles) in the Ryad.

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Our yummy breakfast, with three different kinds of homemade jams!

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The view of Fes from the roof terrace. See you in a day or two with pictures from the ryad tour!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Decorative Moldings

In Morocco, practically everything for the home is made to order. Furniture, divan cushions, bedding, curtains, carpets, etc. Today Idriss and I wandered by a plaster shop which specializes in decorative moldings, which are popular and prolific here. They can be used on doorways, ceilings, windows and so on. Anywhere you can think of, really.

I really love how Moroccans still work with traditional craftsmen, often carrying on the family business, to create these elements for their homes. It's so special compared to the experience of shopping at a megastore. And it's the norm here - it's not the expensive way of doing things, it's the only way.

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Views of the exterior and interior of the shop, which has a fancy ceiling, too.

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The man who works there shows us how the plasters are made using a silicone mold - very high tech!

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This material goes into the plastic to make it sturdy. I think it's from the same plant used to weave farmer's market baskets.

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I think this middle molding is my favorite...wouldn't it be fabulous to decorate a house using these?

Arabic signage

In all the big cites in Morocco, signage is dual language - French and Arabic. But in smaller, more rural areas like Beni Mellal, many stores and businesses post only Arabic signage. A bonus for us! Because it's fun to see a the beautiful script done up in lots of different typefaces and such. Some are elegant and some look a little clunky to me, but you can decide for yourself what you like vs. what you don't.

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This sign is advertising land for sale, which people would buy as a group and then the property would be sub-divided for houses.
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Hair salon.

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A calendar for the last local election.

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Teleboutique (I think you can guess what that is).

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Again, I think you can make an educated guess here!

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Street sign.

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So what's your favorite sign? I love the teleboutique and the yellow street sign.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rainbows and waterfalls

Sounds kind of too good to be true? Well, that's because you're not in Morocco. On our drive into the haut (high) Atlas yesterday, we went to Ouzoud, a beautiful waterfall in a lush valley in a red clay town that's picture perfect. To be honest, I didn't think it would be worthy the two hour drive. After all, I've seen plenty of stunning waterfalls before, and looking at pictures, I wasn't too excited about this one.

The drive alone was worth it. Screen Shot 2012-02-24 at 5.04.11 AM
Look at those beautiful snow-capped mountains! And the falls! Boy, was I wrong. Pictures just don't capture the true majesty and grace of this spectacular spot. It's overwhelmingly stunning - and due to the lack of guard rails, you can really get up close. The cascade (waterfall) is so, so tall. Vibrant green moss the color of Ireland covers the clay behind the water.
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And yes, that is a rainbow. It's not photoshopped, it was out when we arrived at the falls. Screen Shot 2012-02-24 at 5.02.50 AM
You can hike down one side of the waterfall and up the other, and I heartily recommend it. We had lunch at this spot halfway down, where tagines are being cooked and you look at each and select the one you want. Fast food, Moroccan style. Screen Shot 2012-02-24 at 5.03.42 AM Screen Shot 2012-02-24 at 5.03.53 AM
At the bottom, the view was even better. Then we crossed a rickety old bridge so that we could ascend the other side of the falls. Reader, I'm not going to lie to you. I was petrified in crossing. I did not want to trip and be washed away into the lower falls...but it all worked out OK. I thought, if Idriss's mom is game, I have got to get on with it. At the top on the other side, you reach peaceful olive groves and have a stupendous view of the canyon. Screen Shot 2012-02-24 at 5.04.03 AM
All in all, a wonderful trip. Ouzoud has many villas for rent as well as a riad, so maybe next time we'll stay a few days. The only downside is that I didn't get to see the monkeys that hang out there (apparently they move around a lot). Next time, I will be sure to hang out until I get a picture!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More mountains & a lake

Today Idriss's parents took us on an incredible drive through the mid and high Atlas mountains.  Screen Shot 2012-02-23 at 12.53.00 PM

We stopped by a lake - Bin al Ouidane - and it was stunning. Screen Shot 2012-02-23 at 12.53.38 PM Screen Shot 2012-02-23 at 12.54.03 PM

My pictures just don't seem to get the grandeur of the mountains...or the right scale. The water in the lake was turquoise, and we took a short walk by it as we were heading on to Ouzoud (next post!) which was another hour in the car. As far as the eye could see, there were only mountains. Red clay, almond trees blooming and more olive trees. And mountains. Screen Shot 2012-02-23 at 12.53.17 PM

We stopped to buy almonds and "organic" wild honey from this man. We also stopped to give water and oranges to a little Berber girl selling thyme by the side of the road.

At the end of our day, we stopped in a small village called Ouaouizaght (wah-we-zatt) next to the lake.  Screen Shot 2012-02-23 at 12.54.54 PM

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We had homemade raib (yogurt) from a cremerie. It was delicious and only about a quarter. We also had these mini napoleons - which were light and fresh, not heavy and buttery like so many pastries. Perfect treat for a perfect day.   Screen Shot 2012-02-23 at 12.54.20 PM