A reason to celebrate…Spending our anniversary in a foreign land…Life is different for us now…

Yesterday, we dined at Le Jardin, a lovely restaurant which had good reviews.  The food and ambiance was excellent in this “riad,” a building with an open air, center courtyard, as is the design of our current home. Tonight, for our anniversary dinner, Madame Zahra will prepare and serve yet another fabulous meal which we’ll savor by candlelight in one of the most romantic settings in town, Dar Aicha, our home for the next 10 weeks.

Spending 24 hours a day with another human being could be challenging, whether a spouse, partner, child or family member, business associate, roommate or friend. 

Seated next to a bird cage with two parakeets, Tom got a kick out of their playful antics.

When there are no giraffes, kudus or warthogs to watch, birds can be fun!

Retirement often brings couples together around the clock, creating an environment for stress and disharmony. We’re not totally retired, spending half of each day researching, writing, taking and posting photos, in the ongoing documentation on our website keeping both of us busy half of each day.

No more than two minutes after we were seated, we noticed this turtle on the floor, on a mission. In search of crumbs, he moved rapidly.

Later, during our meal, these two turtles were hanging out together.

Later, they basked in the sun in close proximity to one another.

Although Tom doesn’t write here, he is actively involved in researching information about the city and country in which we’re currently living and the research as to where we’ll live in the future. 

Few Moroccan citizens own dogs, perceiving them as unclean.  But, a foreign customer allowed her Jack Russell Terrier to wander about while she dined.  Oddly, his name was Jack. 

Together, we research through 1000’s of future possible vacation homes in many countries, available transportation, cost of living, while continually checking on activities available in our current country. 

These common Tibbit birds frequent the riads in search of food, as they do in our home.

One huge benefit of our daily postings is the manner in which it inspires us to get out and about in order to explore the area in which we’re currently living, taking photos along the way, while soaking in the glory of the experiences. 

Fresh produce from the farm, used in the menu items, were freely on display in the restaurant.

It would be easy to fall back into the “staying in” mode we thoroughly enjoyed in our old lives.  But, we get out, as we doing here in Morocco with the colorful culture at our fingertips, a few steps from the door of Dar Aicha.  We’ve been out almost everyday.

This was Tom’s lunch, Moroccan seasoned penne and meat sauce.  Asking for half as much spices as usually prepared, he liked this dish. No comment from me on him eating pasta.

In Marloth Park, South Africa, most of the entertainment came to us.  Although, we regularly went out.  We took a separate three day trip to Blyde River Canyon, several outings in Kruger National Park, attended game drives/bush braais, dined out three times per week, spent a night in a tent on the Crocodile River and spent many days and evenings in the company of friends all while living in three different houses.

My dinner, was this mouth watering Moroccan seasoned chicken Caesar salad, minus the croutons. The black items are dried black olives which I can eat. The homemade salad dressing was on the side. 

Here in Morocco, we’re busy researching possible overnight trips in order to experience the desert and mountains, further away from the city.  Samir is organizing possibilities as we also research online what may appeal to us the most. 

After our meal, we explored new other areas of the Medina and the souks, discovering more interesting items along the way.  The huge maze-like Medina can present difficulty in
finding one’s way back. Tom’s good sense of direction once again served us well when it was time to return home.

Each time we go out, we find ourselves in situations that we find “photo worthy” inspiring our daily stories.  How amazing that years from now, that we, as well our grandchildren and great grandchildren, will be able to look back at our worldwide travels in stories and photos, let alone the joy we feel in sharing it with our worldwide readers as we post each and every day.   

The top of this mosque in the background serves as a landmark for finding one’s way to through the Medina.

Some have said that we should “get out more.”  But, this is not a “vacation” or “holiday.” This is our daily life.  Who amongst us, went sightseeing every day in the city, town or village in which we lived?  We shopped, we dined out, we saw a movie.  We attended a sporting event, a wedding, a birthday or a retirement party. 

Did you ever have a fantasy as a child of riding a magic carpet?

We spent time with our family and friends either in their homes or ours. We attended a grandchild’s soccer, football or softball game. We attended doctor and dentist appointments.  We had a medical test, anxiously awaiting the results.

Vendors sit on the ground as they await their next customer.

Had we been cooking our food while here, it would have been fun to shop from these vendors.

All of this is different for us now.  Neither of us has seen a doctor or dentist since December 2012.  Fortunately we feel well, energized, rested and healthy.  If we felt otherwise, we’d see a doctor. In seven months, we’ll be in the US, in Hawaii, where we’ll see a dentist, a doctor if need be, or have a test if warranted.

Finally, we found our way back to familiar territory to begin the trek through the busy souks to return to our home. We were never concerned about being lost.  Its best not to ask passersby for directions to avoid paying for an answer.

In nine months, we’ll be together with our family during the holiday season.  Of course, we can hardly wait to see each and every one of them. But, life is different for us now.

When my eye caught this Chameleon , the friendly shop owner noticed my camera, offering a “free” photo.  Some shop owners won’t allow photos without paying a fee which we discovered when we tried to take a photo of a meat market.

 Samir suggested one only buy spices at “certified” shops to ensure quality and freshness.

 These similar items are offered in one spice after another, all with prices subject to negotiation.

The shop owner gave me this palm sized clay holder.  The color in it is actually a Moroccan lipstick made from poppy seed flour, activated when water is added.  We offered a tip but he refused, hoping we’d return another day.
 

After they fly away, we’ll continue on our worldwide travels, living our lives to the fullest, exploring that which we find most interesting, trying that which we may never have imagined, in places we’d never expected to see.

Pashmina scarfs, popular in the US years ago.

 Sandals in many styles and sizes, tempting to me in my old life, not at all now.
 
Lighting fixtures galore.

Bean pods, herbs and carrots for sale in the souk.

As we celebrate this 19th wedding anniversary (23 years together), we celebrate with love, with gratitude and with passion for our lives, for each other and for living life to the fullest.

Happy anniversary to my husband, lover and friend for sharing this outrageous adventure with me; for your continued optimism, your cheerfulness, your humor and for most of all your love.

Jemaa el Fna, the vibrant square of Marrakesh draws us in..Dining out…A trip to a spice shop…



Tom and Hamoudi, the owner of the spice shop.

Me and Hamoudi, the friendly owner of the spice shop in the Medina.  I was all bunched up with so many layers of clothing on to keep me warm.

The Medina or square, the Jemaa el Fna, contains historic buildings, restaurants, residences and the world famous souk, the marketplace for both locals and tourists.

These bars are actually scented with perfumes from around the world to be scraped onto the skin for a lasting scent.  Unable to decide which we liked better we purchased two.  I can’t recall the last time I purchased anything that wasn’t functional or absolutely necessary. 
 
For a moment, I recalled my former days of cooking using a wide array of fresh spices.  The
feeling quickly passed when the fact that I won’t cook a single item over the next two and a half months. 

Cinnamon is a popular spice used in Moroccan cooking and medicinally worldwide.

 The bottles of the vast array of spices in Hamoudi’s store was appealing.

 Hamoudi has me guess the names spices and from my past passion for cooking, I was able to recall most of them.

When exiting our home, Dar Aicha, we are in the souk in less than 30 seconds.  In other words, it’s almost outside our door.  If we could shop, this would be a veritable paradise with colorful shops and stands all begging for negotiation for the vast array of merchandise.
The smells of these scented rocks mixed with the spices was intoxicating.

Local handcrafted items, clothing, shoes, handbags, leather goods, fresh produce, baked goods, pottery, silver goods and costume jewelry seem to predominate the offerings in both the souk and the Medina.

 

One must have a thick skin to walk through the souk with tourists pushing their way through the crowds, locals carrying or wheeling over-sized bundles and motorized bikes suddenly appearing out of nowhere zooming through the narrow streets where no cars are allowed.

Spice balls to be tossed into an open fire.


Yesterday, we decided to make our first foray into the Medina to find a restaurant for an early dinner.  After traversing through the souk, we made our way into the Medina, a 10 minute walk through the crowds, where restaurants were lined up, one after another. 

Turmeric, a commonly used spice in Moroccan cooking.  For many centuries turmeric has been extolled for its many medicinal uses.

In an effort to experience many of the local restaurants, we’ve decided to work our way around the Medina, trying one after another.  I’m certain, that at one point, we’ll find favorites that we may visit more frequently.  The excitement of the Jemaa el Fna changes by the minute, illustrating a unique and interesting perspective of life in Marrakesh.

By the way, the spelling of many of the words and names of people, places and things varies.  Arabic is written in characters rather than letters resulting in a variety of translations, all of which are acceptable. For example, as mentioned in another post Marrakesh is also spelled Marrakech, always pronouncing the “esh” in the same manner. I will make every effort to be consistent in words used here to avoid appearing to be errors in my spelling.

Shoppers are attracted to the colorful displays.
Also, the likelihood of us learning any words in Arabic with the unique dialect of Marrakesh, is remote in our short time here.  Even the basic words are difficult to master.  Luckily, I know enough French to be able to read signs, menus and ask general question.  The predominant languages of Marrakesh,, in addition to Arabic, is French.  Waiters and shop owners may speak some English as we’ve experienced thus far.
Colorfulness overload!

Late yesterday afternoon, we headed out in search of a restaurant.  Tom was inclined toward a hamburger and fries which we’d seen on a menu a few days earlier. 

Once we made our way through the souk to the open air Medina (pronounced “me deen a”), it didn’t take long to locate a casual outdoor dining spot set among many other restaurants with burger and fries on the menu plus a few good options for me.

Some of our photos, such as this, were taking while walking to avoid possible pressure from the hard working sales people.

Tom’s hamburger and fries and my delicious Moroccan spiced seafood salad were especially enjoyed while chatting and viewing the varied activities in the square. The food was great along with the service.  Many have told us not to purchase food from the carts in the square. 

Unfortunately, I am unable to take a risk in eating street vendor foods and, in any case, neither of us likes to be eating while standing or walking.  For us, dining is an experience to be savored while relaxing at a comfortable table and chairs with plenty of napkins on hand.

Exiting the souk, we entered the square looking for a restaurant.

Plus, the cost was rather reasonable at US $13.27, MAD (Moroccan dirham, different than the dirham in other African countries) $110 including tax and tip.   (Although foreign currencies may not use the $ sign, I use it here to illustrate a monetary amount).

Not all the prices on items in souk were bargains.  One must negotiate which is expected.

After lunch, we wandered into a spice shop, after the smells drew us inside.  The friendly owner spoke English and we explained that we are unable to cook while here making spice purchases unlikely.  Instead, he brought out what looked like a little bars of soap scraping a gentle swipe across our hands for us to smell.  They were infused with designer fragrances in such a subtle manner that it was intoxicating.  One was a musk, the other a flower scent. 


Often, the shop vendors are keeping them busy using their smart phones and tablets while waiting for customers.  Perhaps, this is why there isn’t as much in-your-face solicitation as one might expect.

Having not worn any fragrances since leaving the US, I was hooked, unable to resist buying the two little bars at a fair price after a lively negotiation with the animated shop owner, Hamoudi. His shop is located at 144, Bab Ftouh Place Jamaa el Fna, Marrakesh.  He insisted we take photos with him which are shown here today.  After our visit, I was giddy from the pleasant experience and we were on our way. 

We’ve seen several peanuts-in-the-shell vendors wheeling these large carts in the Medina.

Returning to Dar Aicha, after spending the better part of the afternoon in the Medina, we were stuffed and content to spend the remainder of the evening reading, writing and of course, reviewing our photos from the day.


Huge slabs of a variety of meats are hanging outside the butcher shops. We were uncertain if this was lamb or goat or otherwise.  I asked but no one spoke English. Comments?

Tonight, Madame Zahra will prepare our dinner for yet another fine evening in Dar Aicha, our home for this leg of our many year’s long journey to see the world.

Thanks to all of our worldwide readers for sharing in our ongoing travels which means the world to us.

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 faces of locals without their permission.  This 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.  Its 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 side board displayed a series of lit candles in the dining room, specifically for our enjoyment.

There’s 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 spent 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 were 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 was 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!