What to do with pigeon poo

We’ve explored the souks, fondouqs, medinas and kasbahs and have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Morocco. The whole place is a riot of colour and provides quite an assault on the senses. We visited the Chaouwara tannery, located within the Fez medina. It looks a bit like a scene from Medieval times. Lime is used to separate the hair from the animal’s skin. Then apparently pigeon poo and cow urine are used to process the skins before indigo, saffron and poppy are added for colour. Needless to say the olfactory senses get a good workout.

There are many grand buildings in Morocco that hark back to a bygone era and rich heritage, but life in today’s medinas lacks many of the modern-day trappings that we take for granted. The communal fountains are a feature in all the medinas where the local greengrocer washes his produce and kids fill up containers of water to cart home. They are usually located near the neighbourhood mosque and feature zellij (tilework), some have ornately carved wooden canopies. Non-Muslims have access to many of the restored medersa (theological colleges), some of which date back to the 14th century and are well worth a look. They also provide a tranquil, if temporary, respite from the medina madness just outside the door.

The main traffic in the medina is either pedestrian or donkey. At times some of the alleyways are so congested you think it’s impossible for it to get any busier. Next thing you know there are a couple of pointy ears bobbing towards you above the thronging crowd. You learn to get out of the way fairly quickly when you hear “balak!” (look out!) from the donkey driver as another heavily laden beast meanders through. Hand carts and motorised wagons also prevail. Unfortunately motorbikes have started to take over the medina in Marrakesh, which makes things even more noisy, smelly and hectic.

And every now and then you see a car where there really shouldn’t be one. When we arrived in Marrakesh we used “Martha”, our GPS, to track down our riad. Martha doesn’t understand the concept of one-way streets which makes Morrocan driving even more exciting at times.  Perhaps she doesn’t speak Arabic either. So I’m sitting there thinking “don’t hit the donkey, don’t hit the donkey!”, as Fitzy deftly swerves to avoid yet another haphazard motorcyclist blindly placing his faith in Allah. As the streets are getting narrower and narrower I say to Fitz, “I’m really not sure this is such a good idea”. He replies: “Well, we’re committed now!” Luckily we didn’t end up in a dead end lane or with a donkey stand-off. Martha has however redeemed herself on a number of occasions, with Fitzy now referring to his iphone as “the life device”.

Snake charmers, street performers and craftsmen of many kinds are all part of the street theatre here. Whether it’s combs from bones, dates and sweets, brass pots, or ras el hanout you’re after, you’ll find it. Just off the Djemma el-Fna in Marrakesh you come across the camel butchers whilst on the other side of the medina a random guy sells camel feet at the side of the road. It’s a good thing we like couscous and tagines as we’ve had a fair few of them over the last few days.

We’re now back in Gibraltar to get a few ticks on the page of the never-ending jobs list.  I’ve had time to add a few comments to the images I’ve posted, so just click on the “i” on the left-hand corner of the image for more info. Enjoy!

Es salaam alaykum (G’day)

We’re loving exploring the labyrinthine medinas, or old Moroccan town centres, with their winding alleys, hidden squares, dead ends, and endless traders. The smell of mint, orange blossom and cinamon wafts around every second corner. We found a very comfortable guesthouse in Tangier located within the kasbah (the once fortified quarters of the ruling Sultan’s family, located inside the medina and now a residential only area). After a day of getting lost in the medina the kasbah offered a welcome break from the daily hubbub.

Tangier is a city of contradictions with beautifully restored homes alongside decaying French colonial buildings. Many families living within the kasbah today don’t have running water to their homes, so either do their washing at the local community fountain, or cart water to their home. Just down the road is the Ville Nouvelle, a new modern city, much like many Western cities. We’ve hired a car to get around, which isn’t too difficult when you’ve got an ipad and map app, although many of the road signs are in French, which is helpful.

We are now in Fez and once again are drawn to the medina. The streets are lined with shops and craftworkers, many of whom still produce their wares in the traditional manner. Drums made from fish skins, intricate brass filigree lamps, Fez ceramics and hand crafted leather. The Moroccans are very friendly and helpful, but everyone has a ‘brother’ who has a carpet shop, restaurant, spice store, etc that they feel compelled to take you to. Thus far we’ve resisted the temptation to buy a Berber carpet for the boat.   Hope all is good back home.

Back on the water

 Having enjoyed the generous hospitality of family in London we’re now in Gibraltar. Yesterday we spent most of the day aboard ship waiting to unload “Loki”. They had eleven yachts onboard surrounded by containers, stacked in like sardines. They started unloading a soon as they reached port on Monday afternoon, exactly eight weeks since leaving Brisbane. We went down for a quick look after she arrived, happy to see Loki in one piece.

There’s a small army of people involved in the unloading.  It was interesting watching them at work. We were the last boat off yesterday. There were a few nervous moments as they were lifting her off her cradle. The loadmaster said: “When we lift don’t be concerned if she lurches forward. That’s deliberate to keep her clear of the container behind”. Except she went back!!! We watched slightly open-mouthed as 15 tonne of yacht nudged into the container at her stern a couple of times. Luckily some well-placed fenders prevented any damage to the transom.

We’re now at Queensway Quay Marina, where we’ll spend a few days doing maintenance and odd-jobs. As I write this Fitzy is on deck madly hosing. “Salt is the enemy!” The weather’s starting to warm up, but we’d like to spend some time in Morocco before we venture north from here. The plan is to leave the boat here whilst we go south. We’ll probably then sail from here early May.

Hope all is good back home. Please don’t forget to comment or email us with any news.