Posting is light again

May 1, 2022 • 10:00 am

Our schedule on and off the ship is packed, which leaves me little time to post either prose or photos. I am, however, saving stuff up for when I return. But I realize it’s not the same as coming along on a real-time trip.

We get up early, rush to breakfast, and usually leaving the ship between 7:45 and 8:15. a.m. Most days we are gone all day up to “cocktail hour”: 7:15. Dinner is at eight and lasts about two hours.

This leaves only time to get ready for bed and sleep, and I feel the want of free time to relax and write.

Yesterday we were in Marrakech, a city that has changed tremendously since I first hitchhiked down here as a hippie in 1972. Now the city is surrounded by newly-build suburbs, and the famous medina, or old town, is a shadow of its old self.  It’s crowded with tourists and the grungy but fascinating old shops have largely become small boutiques. I realized just now that this is the 50th anniversary since I came.

Yesterday we rushed through three museums and a botanical garden (15 minutes each!) and had a guided walk through the souk.That’s because it was 2.5 hours by bus each way from the ship to the city, leaving little time for sightseeing and none for wandering. Here are a few photos:

Below: Yves St. Laurent’s home, set in a huge garden, now in the center of the new city. There is also a YSL Museum. Everybody noticed that the visitors were largely beautiful young women (someone speculated that they hoped to be “discovered” as models there, which seems unlikely).

Some of YSL’s sketches, showing the influence of Moroccan dress on his own couture:

Man and woman on motorcycle (taken from bus):

Tiles in a cultural center Note that there is no grout: the white bits are themselves hand-cut tiles:

Page from an 11th century Qur’an:


Minaret of local mosque south of the main square:

More later. Today we visit Casablanca and Rabat.

12 thoughts on “Posting is light again

  1. Aw, wow – fascinating, beautiful, adventurous… looking forward to the updates!

    Am I the only one who thinks about The Clash’s Rock the Casbah when I hear “minarets”? Not sure why… [looks up “casbah”] … a citadel of a North African city… OK….

  2. As someone who is not able to travel at the moment, I am thrilled to see your photos and I’m so very pleased that you have an opportunity to return to scenes of your youthful adventures. 1972 was a very good year!

  3. I arrived in Tangier at the beginning of February this year on the day the borders were reopened after a COVID hiatus that had lasted since November. By the time I arrived in Marrakesh 10 days later there were already plenty of tourists although obviously not as many as there are now.

    After passing through the Medinas of Tangier, Chefchouen, Fez and Casablanca, Marrakesh instantly stood out as being the worst of the lot. All the same copy/paste items on sale and impossible to take 3 steps without being yelled at by yet another vendor.

    To top it all off, it was the only medina that had moped traffic (although it’s officially prohibited) and in the confined an covered alleyways the air was unbreathable and my mouth was instantly layered by that intolerable mix of petrol and two-stoke oil. It was the only place in Morocco that I cut my trip short and I was gone within 36 hours. It’s the only place in Morocco I won’t return on my three week trip that’s booked for September.

    I couldn’t find a single spice master in the centre of the medina (this was, after all, why I came) and when I found a spice vendor (no grinder, so not a spice master) he was both disinterested and unknowledgeable. His prices were 3x what I was willing to pay.

    The Carrefour Gourmet on the outskirts of Rabat finally had what I came for. Dozens of cones of spices – pure and blends and all between €7 and €12 per kilo and more or less what I expected to see scattered all over every medina. How wrong. How naive.

    The absolute (and unexpected!) highlight of Morocco was to discover how calm and caring and kind Moroccans are. And Volubilis. The lowlight was seeing a country and a people suffering and suffocated from iron-age myths. Modernity having passed them by.

  4. My parents visited Marrakech in the 1980s on a bus tour, and my father complained that the souk wasn’t anything like the souks he’d seen in Palestine when he was stationed there in the 1940s. Too cleaned up and sanitized, he said. My mother thought that it was a hygienic disaster area.

  5. Very exciting to see these photos. I love the page from the Quran. That is a gorgeous page.

  6. Everybody noticed that the visitors were largely beautiful young women (someone speculated that they hoped to be “discovered” as models there …).

    Reckon the days of getting discovered by wearing a snug sweater while sitting on a stool at the soda counter in the Schwab’s drugstore on Sunset Boulevard are long gone now, huh?

  7. Today we visit Casablanca …

    You happen by Rick’s Café Américain, see if you can score letters of transit for the last flight to Lisbon.

  8. This brings back a few memories of the trip to Morocco that the missus and I took in 1977. The Djmaa el Fna was, even then, pretty touristy, but the souks were well worth the visit; no motorbikes in those days, thankfully.

    But Fez was miles better.

  9. Much as I despise all religion – since for so long it was the only game in town (throughout history) a lot of artistic and architectural talent was devoted to it. (Not b/c of the use or truth of religion per se, just because it had the gelt).

    I really like the geometric artwork you see throughout the Middle East/Islamosphere. I’ve visited over a dozen Arab/Islamic countries and geometrics are everywhere there, some are absolutely amazing. Often in mosques actually. The calligraphy also can be top notch, sometimes geometric calligraphy.

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