Dar Aicha…A small palace…A big lifestyle…Photos of the “riad”…

Looking up at the sky, day and night, is a rare treat, from inside the riad, defined as traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard.

The water pressure and the consistency of the hot water makes taking a shower a pleasant experience.  The lack of insects, snakes and centipedes allows fearless roaming at night in the dark. It’s no longer necessary to lather from head to toe in insect repellent several times a day. 

Link to the listing on Homeaway.com

The sunlight in the courtyard provides a welcoming warmth as we acclimate to the cooler weather.
Morocco is known for its traditional design, architecture befitting the lifestyle of its people for many centuries. Our bedroom is through these white drapes.  On the interior, there are heavier drapes for added privacy. So far, we’ve been up and dressed before staff arrives between 8:30 and 9:00 am, staying until after dinner is served and dishes washed.

The cool temperatures from a low of 50F, 10C to a high of 75F, 24C prevents us from the necessity of wearing the least amount of clothing possible while maintaining a certain level of modesty as we did over the past many months. Sleeping is easier and more comfortable with a fluffy comforter we don’t need to kick off during the night. I wore socks to bed these past three nights. Nice.

The one end of the salon, comparable to a living room, is where we’ll spend most of our free time when not out.
The opposite end of the salon as shown above. We’re delighted to have discovered the BBC, an English speaking news channel, allowing us to stay current in world affairs.

After nine months of hot weather, beginning in Tuscany during Italy’s heat of summer, with no AC;  then on to Kenya’s humid heat with no AC; later on to South Africa’s heat of summer with AC in the bedroom, it’s taking time for us to acclimate to the cooler, albeit pleasant, weather of Marrakesh (may also be spelled, Marrakech, still pronounced with the “esh” sound).

The dining room where our meals are served each night we choose to dine in with Madame Zahra cooking. One of the conditions of staying in Dar Aicha is to have all of our dining-in meals, prepared, served, and cleared by Madame Zahra and other staff. Employed as a full-time chef, we stay out of the simple kitchen other than to get our beverages, which we prefer to do on our own. Soon, we’ll head to a grocery store for snacks and cheese, also which we will be able to serve ourselves. However, we may not cook at all during the two and a half month stay.

This morning I’m wearing a long dress, long socks, and a hot pink fluffy robe provided in our room and I’m also covered with a blanket. Gee, what will we do in Iceland in September?

This is the entrance to the artist’s studio.  The owner of the riad is a renowned artist currently living in England. On occasion, she spends time at Dar Aicha when it isn’t rented. The staff gave us a gracious card from the owner with a thoughtful handwritten note, welcoming and thanking us for visiting Dar Aicha, a touch we greatly appreciated.

Finally, we’ve adapted to the two hour time difference between South Africa and Morocco with both of us awakening this morning at our usual times. I’m more rested today than a few nights before we left South Africa when fitful sleep plagued me over several nights while anxious over the upcoming long travel period. 

This second-floor lounge area was where we initially anticipated, we’d spent most of our free time. But, once we tried the lower level salon, as shown above, we found it to be a more ideal location for us, although at times we will use this area.

(By the way, we both have combated any future anxiety over lengthy flights and travel time. Although we were tired, we did very well, comfortable that we’ll easily manage any long trips in the future. Traveling to Morocco was our longest travel time thus far).

Most of the rooms surrounding the courtyard are long and narrow but, by no means feel cramped or small. This is where we sleep in this comfortable bed and covers. The colorful glass in the windows blocks out enough light to provide privacy and block out the light when sleeping.

We chose the “blue” room for its calming atmosphere. 

The Moroccan furnishings are interesting and well made. This chest is where Tom stores his clothing while I keep mine in another bedroom preventing me from awakening him when I awake about a half-hour before him each morning. He stays up later than I.

The first night, we both kept walking into the protrusion on the right side or this ornate bathroom door that is at shoulder level. With our bad, right shoulders, we quickly learned to avoid walking into this. On the right, is the last of our now worn large orange suitcase, used for Tom’s clothing.

The interior of the master en suite bath, all blue to match the room. The darkened colors on the walls are not water stained. It’s simply a variation in the color. The bathrooms, as well as the bedrooms, are fully equipped for all of our needs, soaps, toilet paper, and tissues, and a hand mirror. The sinks are all hammered brass, which hasn’t rusted as typical for brass near water. 

The colorful daybed is reflected in this antique mirror in our bedroom

This is the doorway from our bedroom to the sunny courtyard.  We can easily drop these drapes for more privacy, if we choose, which hasn’t yet been necessary.

All in all, we’re very comfortable. The food is manageable for my way of eating and for Tom’s taste buds, the people are warm and friendly and we feel safe, although continuing to maintain our usual level of caution.

I chose the pink bedroom for my clothing and for showering and dressing in the mornings. At first glance, these en suite bathroom doors appear to be a mirror, giving one the sense of “Alice in Wonderland,” walking through a mirror.
 This is the interior of my pink bathroom.
 This bathroom is cluttered with my stuff, illustrating why it’s best that Tom and I don’t share. In my old life, I had an entire cupboard filled with stuff. Now, I only have what is shown here, a bit messy, but all that I use.
 The interior of my pink shower. Great water pressure and fast hot water. After using water, the pipes make the most unusual sound, a “whoosh,” we’ve never heard before.
The window near the bed in the pink room.  I use the bed to keep one of the smaller orange bags for easy access to our supplies.

The riad is ideal for us, although for the less sure-footed, the one or two steps off of each room into the courtyard could be a tripping hazard. The bedrooms are all up a flight of stone steps with another flight to the rooftop which may be difficult for some. 

The smallest of the three bedrooms is the yellow room which we don’t use at all, ideal for children.
This doorway has an “Alice in Wonderland” l than any of the others, especially when entering its charming yellow en suite bathroom.
No photo can do justice to this playful and colorful en suite bathroom.

With our diminished activity level with no housecleaning, laundry, cooking, or dishes, other than walking in the Medina, and up and down the steps, we will make a concerted effort to keep moving around as much as possible.

Today, we share our photos of Dar Aicha and a link to the website where we originally discovered this lovely property. Although not officially a “palace” its style is commensurate with the layout of an open-air center courtyard, as typical in many homes in Marrakesh. 

Another blue sky view of the sky above the center courtyard.  At night, the stars are breathtaking from inside the riad.

This morning, as I stepped from our bedroom to my own “dressing” bedroom, I noticed three of the “tibbits,” (birds) flying in the house. No, it’s not as exciting as a warthog family of four or five or, a kudu with his white “got milk” mustache or, a giraffe thudding through the yard munching on treetops.

Last night’s vegetable course of Madame Zahra’s fine dining. We were so busy chatting I forgot to take a photo of the main course, a flavorful and spicy meatball dish made with cooked eggs on the top. We enjoyed it all.

But, it was exciting to see the little birds freely flying in the courtyard, their chirping music to our ears, and the sounds of other familiar birds of Africa flying over the house, creating a shadow in the courtyard, in the morning sunlight.

For now, we couldn’t be happier. Dar Aicha is our home.

Note:  This afternoon, we’re heading out to the Souk and Medina to find a good spot for dinner. The options are many! Our outing provides Madame Zahra a night off which we’ll happily do a few times each week.  We’ll report back tomorrow with more photos, of where we dined, what we ate, and more new areas of the Medina and the Souk that we’ve yet to explore.

Settling into a new life in Morocco…Lots of photos…

As we made our way into the Souk.
The Souk is a wealth of colorful displays. We’d expected the sales people to be more aggressive than they were, especially when we’re not stopping to look at the merchandise.
The narrow streets were apparently more crowded than usual with a school holiday bringing more tourists to Marrakesh. Today, we should find it less crowded, again to pick up during Easter and spring break with many non-Muslim tourists from all over the world.

The open courtyard in our little palace, Dar Aicha, made us laugh today. Here we are once again, mostly outdoors all day. We whined about it Kenya, we adapted in South Africa and now in Marrakesh, we feel right at home. 

The fresh vegetables from the farm make for colorful displays in the Souk.
 Most of the merchandise appeared to be of good quality. Knockoffs are typical as in many parts of the world that we’ve visited.
Beautiful fruit carts are abundant with fruit, nuts, and dried fruit popular in this part of the world.

Of course, the cool weather requiring an afghan on my lap and the lack of insects is a contributing factor. No mosquitoes. No flies. No snakes and centipedes. As I mentioned many times in the past, it’s all about trade-offs. 

There are cats everywhere, most at ease around the crowds.Many are homeless living off the crumbs and scraps of humans.
Ice cream is popular in Marrakesh.
Huge loads are hauled by the hand carts.

With little wildlife for our viewing other than the “tibbits,” the little birds that fly into the house, and the many birds we hear flying above the house, familiar to us from Kenya and South Africa, we place our focus on the many treasures that Marrakesh has to offer.

As we neared the entrance to the walled city, the Medina, the crowds thinned out.
Colorful displays are a feast for the eyes. 
If our luggage zippers break, we know where to purchase new bags.

Embracing the culture is our first goal as we strive to blend in rather than to appear as tourists. This morning, I donned a long khaki dress topped with a long-sleeved shirt to be less conspicuous when we venture out, with all of my skin covered except for my face. 

A French bakery drew us inside. I can look, can’t I? Tom wasn’t interested in any of these items. Had there been a plain cake donut, he’d have had a hard time resisting.
We stopped many times during our two-hour walk, checking the menus as various restaurants to determine the suitability for my way of eating. Samir explained that I’d have a tough time dining out since sugar, starch, and flour is used in most foods. 

Tom giggled saying that my camera exposes me more than my skin! That, my dear readers, I will not forgo.  The photos will continue. Luckily, I kept four such cotton dresses which will be well worn by the time we leave Morocco. My sense of fashion and wardrobe diversity was forfeited long ago. 

Often we’ve noticed that restaurants are located on the top floors of various buildings as in this case. Salespeople are on the streets encourage passersby to partake in their dining.
One outdoor café after another line the streets. We’ve decided to dine out a few nights a week when we noticed fresh egg omelets on most of the menus, an item I’ll gladly order for dinner (sans “pork” bacon, not readily available in Muslim countries).
Dried fruit displays are colorful and inviting, although neither of us eats them.

Trying to recall the French I learned 50 years ago is challenging. Yesterday, I surprised both Tom and me when suddenly I burst out in perfect French when asking Oumaima a question. Stymied, I looked at Tom as we both laughed. What we learned as kids is stored in our brains and with a bit of effort can be recalled.

Morocco is known for its fine spices, all reasonably priced. The smells were intoxicating.
The variety of spices available was astounding.
Horse and donkey-drawn carts are common in the Medina.

Since Morocco was a French colony, both French and Arabic are spoken. The challenge is discovering who speaks which language and making a concerted effort to communicate. 

At times, the narrow roads were almost unpassable due to the crowds. Patiently, we wait to pass.
The names of local vegetables escape us. But, Oumaima explained in French that these are raw figs (figue). In time we’ll learn.
Colorful handmade pottery and dishes are a common offering.

Luckily, Samir speaks excellent English and with the ability to communicate in part with Oumaima in French when Samir is out, we’re fine. Madame Zahra only speaks Arabic which apparently is spoken differently in Marrakesh, not unlike comparing an American from Boston with another form New Orleans. Typing a question into Google Translate may not suffice.

For a frame of reference, 25 of the Moroccan Dirham, hereafter referred to as the MAD, is equal to US $3.01. It looks as if most restaurant prices are commensurate with South Africa, making dining out easily affordable.
A plant and flower shop in the Medina.
In the walled Medina, there isn’t space for gardens, but many locals shopping in the Medina live outside the walled city or have window boxes.

Over the next week, most assuredly, we’ll learn the basic courtesies in Arabic as Okee Dokee so well taught us in Afrikaans. Tom continues to say “Buyadonkey,” (incorrect spelling but literal phonetics) for “thank you” here in Marrakesh. 

The vast array of products for sale in the Souk makes it a huge attraction for tourists and locals.
Bags, bags, and more bags, in all shapes. sizes and styles, although a few standouts as preferred by locals.
Cookies and confections.

When we arrived in South Africa, he was still saying “asante” in Swahili (spoken in Kenya), and before that, he said”, “grazie” in Kenya from our time in Italy. When in Italy, he was saying “gracias” from our time Belize.

The narrow walkway to our home for the next two and a half months, Dar Aicha, where,  we expect to be very happy.

He’s always one country behind in his language skills and not at all embarrassed. We laugh every time he does it. Perhaps, the people of Marrakesh will assume I married a South African. 

After months of never watching the news, this morning we’re seated in the beautiful draped and pillow adorned main “salon” with the TV on with BBC news, to keep us informed as to what’s happening outside of our own small world. How easy it is to become out of touch in our own world, so rich in varied experiences. 


Tom, unlocking our door for the first time after returning from our outing.

After another fabulous Moroccan dinner last night, we hunkered down and watched another episode of The Bachelor, Juan Pablo, on my laptop, thoroughly enjoying the mindless enjoyment of a familiar TV show. We munched on the remaining nuts we’d brought with us finding comfort in old routines.

This is the pleasing view of the fountain, as we look out the open doorway of the salon, where we sit now as we write. Soon, we begin sharing more photos of Dar Aicha.

In the past, we’ve watched downloaded movies or TV shows when dining in, chatting all the while. Now, out of respect for the efforts of Madame Zahra’s fine cooking, we’ve let that habit waft away, savoring the food and each other’s company, chatting all the while.

Ah, once again, we freely say, “Life is good.” 

Good morning, Marrakesh! With open arms, you welcome us into your enchanting world…

Here’s the guy with the wheeling cart hauling our luggage through the Medina with Adile at his right. When checking our bags in Johannesburg, it was required to have all of our luggage was wrapped in plastic for security reasons.

Entering the Medina with our luggage, where motorized vehicles are not allowed.

Where do we begin?  We won’t bore you with too many details of the misinformation we were given by the gate agent in Johannesburg that we’d have to collect our luggage in Casablanca, take it through customs, and recheck it for the final flight to Marrakesh. 
 The views from the plane became more and more interesting the closer we flew to the city of Marrakesh, Morocco.

The city of Marrakesh presented an awesome sight as we approached the airport.

When the four bags didn’t appear in Casablanca, we imagined they were lost. Trying to stay as calm as possible, which we did rather well during the entire 29 hours of travel time, we tried to get answers. We couldn’t find anyone who spoke English well enough to explain our dilemma. 
 Most of the eight ascents and descents in the 29 hours, required Tom breaking down six pieces of hand luggage including the cart when we had to use to steep outdoor steps when the planes are parked on the tarmac. Rarely, are the tubes used in many countries. On two occasions we had to board a bus in order to get to the tarmac to access the steep steps. Cumbersome.
Honesty, with our worldly possessions well insured, we were more worried about the time and inconvenience it would cost us than the loss of our stuff. We had all the important electronics, documents, and prescriptions in our carry on. Finally, we found am English-speaking agent at the counter for our final flight to Marrakesh that said, “No worry. Your bags have gone on to Marrakesh.”

The man with the car and Adile (pronounced “Agile”) as they began to enter the Medina.

After an hour of worry, we were able to make it to the final gate and breathe a sigh of relief. Oh well, if that was the only thing that happened in 29 hours, we were happy. Yes, there were other incidents of misinformation but, we’ve learned that it goes with the territory.

 As Samir explained when we asked about the customs of Morocco, we are not to take photos of the faces of locals without their permission.  his is a custom we’ve experienced in other Muslim countries which we will honor and respect. Going forward, we’ll make a point of capturing the many sites, with more time to stage the photos.
Tom, a former hothead, amazes me in his commitment to avoid ever being viewed as the “ugly American.” In doing so, he stays calm and unruffled in the worst of situations. I’m the eternal optimist avoiding ruffled feathers at all costs.  Practicing calmness actually has made us calm. It’s funny how that works.
 Adile, as he opened the front door of our new home.
Upon picking up our luggage at the Marrakesh airport using the “free” luggage trolley (we have yet to pay for a cart at any airport outside the US), we made our way to the entrance of the airport to look for Samir, our houseman for our new home, Dar Aicha. (Residences have names in Africa as you may have noticed from our past posts). 
 Upon entering the door to Dar Aicha, our private home for the next two and a half months, we were taken aback by its majestic charm. This center courtyard is surrounding by the many rooms of the house and is open to the sky. 
In no less than 30 seconds, there stood a tall, handsome young man with our names on a white sign. Samir immediately took charge, loading a new SUV with all of our belongings. The driver, Hamouda (spelling?), will be at our service as needed, having worked for Dar Aicha for many years. 

 With three floors of living space at our disposal, we have to choose where to lounge as we write here today. 
Once we arrived at the Medina, another 20 something male house employee, Adile, guarded the cart as it was traversed by the man in the above photo, for the 15 minutes it took to work our way through the crowded Medina, through the souk, to the house situated amid the awe-inspiring activity of the old city. 
 This morning I caught Tom off guard as he exited the bedroom to join me to begin our day. Many more house photos will be posted in the near future as we settle in.
As we made this walk, the exhaustion flew away while the adrenalin was pumping with our excitement. We couldn’t get enough as our eyes were flying from left to right, our nostrils flaring with the mouth-watering aromas, and my fingers itching to touch the gorgeous silks and fabrics.
 In Dar Aicha, birds are free to come and go into the house at their leisure.
Unfortunately, we were on a mission to keep up with the guy with the cart and didn’t want to detain the three of them with our tourist-like gawking. We’ll soon go out on our own, anytime we want. The photos shown here today, taken of the Medina and the souk were done in haste while moving quickly through the crowded narrow vehicle-free streets. I promise many more will follow.
 Last evening, candles were lit to add to the already inviting ambiance.
Once we entered Dar Aicha, considered a small palace on three levels with a staff of four overseeing to all of our needs, we were in awe. Oh, good grief! Our needs are few: meals, bottled water, clean towels and bedding, clean house, and clean laundry. 
 This sideboard displayed a series of lit candles in the dining room, specifically for our enjoyment.
There are multiple buzzers for us to ring, on each level if we want something. We can’t imagine ever pressing it. But, one must consider the customs and the fact that service help is standard in much of Africa providing jobs for many of its citizens, from what we’ve experienced in the three countries in which we’ve lived thus far; Kenya, South Africa, and now Morocco. 
With the original intent of dining out frequently now down to perhaps once a week, we’ll be more than happy to dine in, content that Madame Zahra knows how to cook for me. Tom, bless his heart, is totally on board with dining in, after last night’s fabulous dinner. Tonight, fish is on the menu which Tom rarely eats but after last night’s dinner he’s prepared to try anything.
We’ve decided we’d like dinner at 6:30 pm as opposed to 7:00 pm for a few reasons; one, we don’t eat much during the day and two, Madame Zahra will be able to leave earlier.
The vegetable first course, served to us by Madame Zahra last night. More food than we could eat, we stuffed ourselves, delighted when everything presented except the bread in the upper left corner, was befitting my restrictive diet.  
With the language barrier and the crowds, it will be difficult to inquire about my way of eating from food vendors on the streets. I’m here in yet another country having the time of my life rather than living in a wheelchair constantly in excruciating pain. Do I complain or even think about what I’m missing in foods? Never! I’m grateful for every moment of my life. 
Madame Zahra, Dar Aicha’s resident cook for many years, arrives before 9:00 am each morning and stays until after she serves dinner and cleans up. This morning only minutes after arriving, she delivered a tray with fresh grounds-free French pressed hot coffee to the salon (the living room) where most likely we’ll spend most of our time when not out and about or sleeping.
Last night, with a little trepidation, we were seated at the table in the dining room at precisely 7:00 pm, Madame Zahra’s usual serving time. Worried that Tom wouldn’t like the spicy foods and that food befitting my way of eating would be difficult to prepare, within minutes our worries wafted away when plate after plate of delicious foods was presented at our table; the varied vegetable dishes first and later, the grilled seasoned chicken which she cooked over an open fire on the rooftop.
Last night’s dinner clearly illustrated that living in Dar Aicha with Madame Zahra in the kitchen will only add to the joy of our experiences in Marrakesh. When we read the many five star reviews on Dar Aicha, we observed how other guests also preferred to dine in, after trying her delicious meals.
This grilled chicken was perfectly cooked and seasoned to perfection.
After a great night’s sleep in the 50F, 10C, cool to us weather, bundled under a fluffy down comforter and blankets, it was hard to stay in bed long.  With a two hour time difference from South Africa, I was up and about at 5:00 am and Tom shortly after, both of us anxious to begin the day.  

By 6:00 am this morning, I finished unpacking and Tom, a borderline procrastinator, will be done by the end of the day.  Now, at 10:30 am, our laundry is being washed, our bathrooms are cleaned with the smell of pine, and our bed is neatly remade. (I always keep my clothing and toiletries in another bedroom to avoid waking Tom when invariably I arise earlier). 

And yes, once again we had to decide as to which room we’d sleep in and which one I’d use for my things. Once again, it took us a half-hour to make a decision, especially considering yesterday’s tired state of being when our brains weren’t fully operational in our tired state.
This morning, on the rooftop, our first glimpse daybreak.
What’s my excuse for asking Tom where certain rooms are in this spacious home, invariably starting out in the wrong directions? I never had a sense of direction anyway. Why would that change now?
Soon, we’ll get out to explore this culture-rich diverse city, much of which begins at our doorstep. Also, we need to locate an ATM and a pharmacy since all of the shampoo and conditioner were squeezed out of the bottles in my suitcase when it was tightly plastic-wrapped at the Johannesburg airport.
There is no way that living in Marrakesh will ever result in a boring day, unsure of what to do with ourselves. Then again, we’ve haven’t had a dull day in the 16 months since leaving Minnesota on Halloween, 2012. Actually, to be more specific, we haven’t had a dull day in almost 23 years.

Note: The WiFi in Marrakesh is inconsistent and slow at times. On occasion, as shown today, we’ll have formatting issues over which we have no control. We apologize for the inconvenience and kindly ask you bear with us. Thank you!

We made it to Morocco!…Can’t wait to share photos…

This diverse ancient city and country will surely provide us with much fodder for our upcoming two and a half months while living in Morocco.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll start posting photos of our first foray into the Medina and the souk, a dizzying experience that made my head swim with visual overload. Add the intoxicating smells and sounds to the mix and it leaves us begging for more.

Please stop back tomorrow. We need to get to bed to catch some much-needed sleep after 29 hours of travel.  See you soon!

Made it to Cairo after a red eye…We’re more than halfway….

Being able to sleep on a plane is a fruitless expectation. Realizing we had an almost four-hour layover in Cairo and then another nine hours of travel time, we decided to request an upgrade to business class. (Many international flights don’t have a first-class, only business class which was the case on Egyptair).

When we booked the flight, selecting the business-class almost tripled the fare. Last night, we were able to upgrade for both of us for a total of US $894.27, ZAR $10000. Need I say it was worth it, except we weren’t able to sit together which we’d agreed in advance would be acceptable. In this case, it was sleep we needed more than each other’s companionship.

On a waitlist, we were called a half hour before takeoff that two separate seats were available in business class and we jumped all over it, paying the additional fees at the gate. By 9:30 pm we were both seated in the same row of six across, in an aisle seat, two center seats between us.

Having had omelets for dinner less than an hour earlier I refused the offered meal. I wasn’t about to pick over a meal that wouldn’t be acceptable to my way of eating, nor was I hungry. I never eat when I’m not hungry. 

The offered meal was laden with bread and rolls so I was fine that I’d refused. The flight attendant seemed worried that I didn’t eat, showing me several options. Graciously, I declined.

When booking the flights there were no options available befitting my way of eating. Thus, I made no meal selection, comfortable that we could eat in a restaurant during one of the multiple layovers. Usually, there is a grilled chicken salad or an omelet that works.

Sleeping? Ah, not so much. With two stiff paper wrapped pillows and a fly-off-the-bed synthetic blanket, even reclining as far back as the seat would go, I couldn’t find a comfortable spot. 

Instead, I dozed off and on often, interrupted by the bright lights in the crew galley area when they moved the curtain aside to attend to the other passengers as they swished down the narrow aisles.

After dozing for a half-hour I awoke to the sound of voices. A large man in the seat behind me was standing directly next to me as the crew worked on his broken seat that wouldn’t recline. He stood within inches of me for over an hour. 

Annoyed, I decided to read a book on my phone as a distraction. At one point, I dozed off, the phone still in my hand which often occurs when I read in bed. Suddenly, the crew working on his chair accidentally hit the back of my chair startling me awake. My hand flew and along with it, my phone went flying through the air, landing somewhere near the feet of the woman sitting next to me who spoke no English and was sound asleep.

There was nothing that could be done at that time to retrieve the phone. Later, after 4:00 am breakfast was served (again, I didn’t eat, never thinking of food at 4:00 am), the kind flight attendant helped me look for the phone which she found under the woman’s seat. Relief! 

I stayed awake reading for the remainder of the flight, unable to fall back to sleep. Overall, I believe I slept three hours, which although not enough, would help me manage through the rest of the trip. Tom slept about the same amount of time, often awakening and looking over at me to see if I was OK. I was. 

We wore our compression socks during the long flight and will do so again when we board in a few hours for the upcoming six-hour flight. With free WiFi throughout the Cairo airport, I am able to write this now.

I’d like to include photos but, out of respect for the crowd looming around the airport, I chose not to. When we arrive in Marrakesh, we’ll be taking plenty of photos of a man with a wooden cart who’ll be waiting for us, hauling our luggage through the narrow streets where motorized vehicles aren’t allowed, as we all make the hike to our new home.

If we have a signal in Casablanca we’ll stop back with an update. 

Stay tuned…

We’re in Johannesburg at the airport…So far so good…Three more flights to go…

Our last sunset in South Africa taken through the scratched glass on the window of the plane

Much to our surprise, it’s been seamless so far; the trip from Marloth to Mpumalanga; flight to Johannesburg; immigration; two security checks so far. Palming a tip into a handshake enabled us to avoid excess baggage fees. Apparently, we were over more than we’d expected. 

In an hour, at 9:00 pm, we’ll board the red-eye to Cairo, then another flight to Casablanca, then on to the final flight to Marrakesh, Morocco. Then a drive from the airport to our new home, Riad Dar Aicha.

And then, the sun peeked out a little more a few seconds later. There’s something special about sunsets in Africa.

No doubt, we’ll be exhausted but a safe arrival is foremost in our minds. Cairo is not the safest. place in the world at this time and we’ll be there for almost four hours.

At the moment we’re in a pleasant restaurant at the airport not too far from our gate. Omelets were the most sensible meal considering we’ll be sitting on the plane for eight hours.

It’s almost time to board our flight. We requested an upgrade to business class but it was full. We’re on a waitlist with two ahead of us. Unlikely will be upgraded, but it was worth a try.

We’ll be back when we arrive in Cairo as soon as we find an Internet café. (Our remaining South Africa data will be useless once we leave the country).

Stay tuned, folks!

Barcelona, we’re on our way!…

Last night’s “towel pet,” an adorable bunny.  WiFi too slow to add more photos today.
Staying awake until 3:30 am another night, partly from the excitement of sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar and the remainder of our seven hour time difference. We can’t seem to shake this time difference, no matter how hard we try.

Continuing to go further and further east on our trip to Dubai, the difference will only become more pronounced. Prior to this cruise, we’d assumed that adding time slowly, as we crossed the ocean would make the time changes less obvious. How wrong we were!

We now realize that a fast time changes one experiences when flying makes adjustment easier when one is in control of their waking, eating and sleeping. 

On a ship, time is scheduled, leaving us feeling as if we must try to stay in sync with the ship’s time in order to get into the restaurants and events on time. There are a few dining spots open 24 hours, but they serve fried foods, burgers and pizza, none of which meets my dietary criteria.

Last night, left us in awe in a similar manner as when we traveled through the Panama Canal.  When we entered the area, Tom commented that it would have been especially enjoyable to see the Strait (I’ve since learned it’s “strait” not “straits”, my error) during the day.

Much to our surprise, the nighttime crossing was breathtaking with a twinkling light show, varying in size and color as we passed by Morocco and then finally to the Strait of Gibraltar.

At the moment, as we sit in our favorite booth in the Garden Cafe, we can see the shores of Cartagena, Spain.  Tomorrow, morning we’ll arrive in Barcelona where we’ll spend the day exploring and taking photos.  Later in the day we’ll return to this ship, the Norwegian Epic, for the four remaining days of our back-to-back cruise.

With five and a half hours sleep, I’m feeling a little more rested today. Missing five days without working out after the three days of rough seas plus sheer exhaustion, today I’ll force myself to get to the health club. We’re losing our tans, but hopefully I can maintain my level of fitness, vital to our continuing travels.

By the way, I’ve yet to take the time to open the box with the new camera, charge it and learn to use it. Over the next few days, while out to sea, I plan to get it taken care of.  There will be some serious shooting as we begin the 15 day journey to the Middle East.  Perhaps, committing this to writing, will force me to follow through.

Look for us late afternoon tomorrow, with photos of Barcelona when we return to the ship for the remaining four days of this cruise.

Photos of our new adventure!…Unbelievable location!…

The open courtyard of our small palace (good grief!) in Marrakesh, Morocco.
View from upper level overlooking courtyard.

It’s a “done deal,” our new vacation home named, Dar Aicha, the former residence and art studio owned by a renowned artist in the Medina district, walking distance to sites, smells, markets, and local entertainment. 

One of the dining areas.

(This song is an “earworm” I can’t get out of my head. To listen, click here).

The documents are signed and returned to the owner using our portable Prinstix printer and Doxie scanner.  Our deposit is paid via PayPal from which we’ve received a confirmation along with an email receipt from the manager of the property.

The traditional meal prepared by Madame Zahra.  An adjustment will be made to accommodate our diet, although, several items here will work for us.

The dates booked: March 1, 2014, to May 15, 2014, a total of 2 1/2 months, a little over 11 months from now.  We found the property at HomeAway, a vacation home rental site we’ve used for most of our bookings. 

Dining on the veranda.

For the full listing on Homeaway, click here. Please note, pricing is “per person” on the website, not per couple.  Although this pricing was higher than our vacation home rental average, we made adjustments in our budget. By flying as opposed to funds for cruising that we had already included in the budget, we were able to compensate for the difference, which ironically proved to be only an additional $150 total. 

The reading area overlooking the courtyard.

Yesterday, we made a few adjustments, a day here and there, with property owners on either side, leaving us with flying time, but no lags in the schedule that subsequently could have required us to stay overnight in a hotel, an unnecessary added expense. 

This meal would work for us, minus the bread.

We read all the reviews.  They were some of the best we’ve seen so far.  We checked the web for negative comments.  There were none.  Our minds are at ease.

The TV lounge. We’re not anticipating many familiar TV shows, but on quiet nights we’ll use our movies we downloaded.

The salon/living room.  We can each lounge on our own sofa.

We want to enmesh ourselves in new cultures.  Well, we’re getting a full-blown dose of cultural differences which we’ll embrace, which we’ll welcome with open arms, willing to adapt, willing to accept and to try to blend in as much as possible respecting and observing their clothing morays and customs.

The pink bedroom.

No tank tops, no low cut bosom revealing tops, no legs showing above the knee.  Thank goodness the weather will be in the ’60s during our visit.  I’m your basis “cold a_ _ and won’t mind wearing skin covering clothing at that temperature.

Off we go to Marrakesh, Morocco, a city, a country rich in culture, history, winding streets with an endless array of colorful outdoor markets, shops, and vendors. Tripadvisor listed it as Travelers’ Choice®, 2012 Winner.

 The pink bedroom’s en-suite bath.

Why did we choose Morocco?  Note the proximity to Madeira, Portugal, our location after leaving Morocco. There are direct flights from Morocco to Madeira, making this an easy transition.  The airport is a mere 2 miles from the property, with a staff member driving us each way.

Beginning on September 1, 2013, we’ll spend 3 months in Kenya on the east coast of Africa until December 1, 2013, when we’ll fly to South Africa, staying until March 1, 2014, at which time we fly to Morocco. From there, we’re off to Madeira, Portugal, approximately 1200 miles west of Lisbon.  This new location was a logical “on the way” next stop.  See map here.

The property which will be ours exclusively includes a full staff, house manager, and full-time cook, Madame Zahra.  Speaking no English, the house manager, Samir, will translate our dietary needs to Madame Zahra.  On average for the two meals we eat each day (breakfast and dinners) it will be roughly $38 per day. 

The turquoise bedroom.

The many reviews indicated that MadameZahra’s cooking excelled as well as the local gourmet restaurants leaving many to prefer dining in rather than go out. This cost fits within our combined budget for dining in and dining out, still leaving us ample funds to dine out a few times per week to further add to our enjoyment.

Our laundry will be done for us, the property cleaned daily, towels and soaps provided and the utmost service at our disposal at any time. This will be interesting for us since neither Tom nor I are used to being waited upon, other than by one another. We will adapt.

The turquoise bedroom’s en-suite bath.

Due to Dar Aicha’s insurance regulations, we won’t be allowed to do our own cooking.  Most likely, we’ll dine out a few times per week.  We will be able to serve ourselves snacks, beverages, and prepared foods in the refrigerator as desired.

The third bedroom with an en suite bathroom.

As much as we enjoy our own home-cooked meals, this will be an enormous learning experience for us. Of course, we’ll share details and photos of the meals prepared for us.

The third bedroom’s en-suite bath.

The practicality of this location is only superseded by our excitement and enthusiasm for the opportunity to experience yet another culture so far removed from our way of life. Through this, we’ll learn and grow, sharing the stories along the way, enriching our travels, enriching our lives.