Friday, 10 February 2017

The Argan Forest



When I think of a forest I think of 3 vertical layers, the canopy overhead, ground cover, and an intermediate layer of shrubs and climbers. The canopy blends together to make a dappled roof with occasional clearings and shade loving plants, usually spring flowering, thrive in the shelter beneath. Argan forests are not like that. 
They consist of widely spaced trees dotted about. A better collective noun may be "orchard"  although that suggests deliberate planting. Some of the forest may have been deliberately planted many years ago but mostly it is wild. Some areas have been actively managed with trees showing signs of old coppicing, having many trunks.



 In many places and for most of the year everywhere there is no ground cover although in some irrigated areas there is a winter ground cover which is harvested; I used to think it was winter whet but it may just be hay.
Since argan oil became successfully marketed to the Western "beauty" business  the forests are more actively preserved.



 It is forbidden to burn argan wood which is a nuisance as it's all that grows round here except for where is has been cleared and orange plantations set. Some of these forests offer public access and near to Agadir on a sunny Sunday in school holidays they are taken up by families out for a picnic. There are two access roads for parking parallel to the dual carriageway and signs as to what is prohibited.


 Almost every tree has its family. When moroccans picnic they do it kitchen sink style (sometimes literally) taking blankets,wind breaks, cushions and low midan tables as well as the food and equipment to make mint tea. All this and 3 or 4 generations need to be fitted back in the car at the end of the day.


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Success-ish




We bought ready made pizzas at Marjane and Beloved tried the oven again. We decided the temperature gauge was measuring the air temperature behind the oven rather than that at the stone ans so baked at 250C It looked lovely and ate well, but, truth to tell was definately burnt slightly on the base.


Monday, 6 February 2017

Agadir Marina



We have friends coming to visit on St Davids Day. They are taking a cruise round the canaries and calling at Agadir, so yesterday we went to scope out the cruise port so we would know where to meet them. We were given the runaround, caused I think by our lack of french for "cruise ship" and "un grand bateau avec beaucoup des touristes" had us sent to the marina. This is only for small yachts. It has been open some years but was under construction the first few years we came and we had never visited it before.
Agadir was totally destroyed in an earthquake in 1960. The town was rebuilt to the south of the old town. The remnants of the medina on the headland  are marked by the "God, King and Country"  boulder relief on the site of what is partly a mass grave. 



The fishing port remains in its original site at the base of the old medina and the commercial port was developed to the north. The southern end of the fishing port is developed into the marina running into the northern end of the promenade of the new town.It is a very smart development with lots of apartments over shops and restaurants. Very much a southern european  feel to it. 



Views of both the marina and over to the main beach. Parking at 5Dh (40p) per hour is a deterrent in Moroccans terms which are usually 2DH a visit, 5Dh overnight so it was not too congested despite being a sunny Sunday in school holidays.



Thursday, 2 February 2017

No Pizza Again


Well last time the oven didn't heat. Undeterred Beloved got new wood, off-cuts for kindling, and some artificial logs from Bricoma seemingly made from sawdust and glue. Success! the oven reaches a temperature of 320 C. I have learnt from last time and do not want to invest in making the base so I have a cook from frozen bought pizza to try it. The instructions say at 250C cook for 8-10 minutes. We put it in for 4 minutes. It comes out burnt, particularly the base and the top is smoke covered. Strangely the topping is still frozen.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Houara


Oulad Teima is the second city of Taroudant Province. It is 35km west of Taroudant town on the N10. Taroudant avoided the French building a new town during the protectorate but this late 20C town with its broad avenues, in sharp contrast to Taroudant medina, fulfils many functions which a new town does. It has taken over some of the administrative functions of the province and most notably hosts the prison and main criminal court.



We were somewhat confused when our friend told us we needed to go to Houara for a handball match. We could find no such town on our map. A search of google maps for homophones turned up only Hawara at the Fayoum Oasis in Egypt's western desert, famous for its pyramid and underground labyrinth. It was only in the car when he saw the sign for Ouled Teima the he said "Oh yes, it has another name".
Apparently the new town of Ouled Teima is built over the site of a longstanding small village of Houara. The connection with Hawara is this. Houara is a village of people of the Berber Houara tribe. They are noticeably different in their speech from the surrounding Berbers in the province. In Egypt members of the same tribe live in Hawara, hence the link. They too speak a language distinct from standard egyptian arabic but similar to the moroccan Houarans. The tribe is highly dispersed with settlements across the whole of the Mahgreb and sites named after them such as Bou Houara in Algeria. They are now fragmented by 20C borders. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Dh1te4JcJg




Tuesday, 24 January 2017

No Pizza Tonight



Well the wood arrived for the oven yesterday and a friend got someone to make us a bespoke pizza spade - rough and ready but it will do, so it has to be pizza tonight.



 I've never made a pizza base before and my only attempts to make flatbread with Malika's recipe have made really tasty bread but with holes in, which won't do with pizza as the topping would fall through. I decide to cheat and use Asda pizza mix. I'm not sure whether that's a good idea as it is designed to cook at 250C for 20 minutes and the point of a pizza oven is to cook at 350C for 8. The instructions say roll out to a cake tin and then leave to prove for 10 minutes. I ignore them and leave my dough to prove before firming out. It does not rise. Mmfph.
Beloved has been burning the wood in the pizza oven.  He uses firelighters to get it going. The temperature rises to 100C. He adds more wood. It starts to burn. The temperature drops to 50C.
No pizza tonight then.


Friday, 13 January 2017

A Good Journey




We were not looking forward to the journey. Beloved had given me his cold and with my chest I just wanted to do an Elizabeth II and stay holed up under the duvet. Also we were taking out a pizza oven, which was heavy, unwieldy and which we thought moroccan customs may be interested in. We had bought it last May when Aldi had an offer and had not been able to bring it in the autumn because we already had 3 large and 2 carry-on suitcases and the small cars we hire would not fit any more in. We were worried about import duty which we had been told could be 100%. 
In the event it turned out well. The plane was 3 hours earlier than usual for some reason. I did have  hypo going through security but the staff were lovely about getting my chocolate out of my handbag and they now have chairs so I could sit until it worked. We had a following jetstream so the journey was an hour less than usual, and Easyjet had no immigration cards to give out, so, as we had ours with us, we went straight to the front of the queue while everybody else filled them in. In the event customs had no interest in the pizza oven although they were a bit concerned about a whole carry-on of medication. There was a slight delay whilst Thrifty had to phone up to get the hire car brought to the airport. "Thrifty" apparently means skimping on parking charges and with flight being early.....Their operatives were intrigued by the pizza oven. We left Marrakesh just about in daylight and were home by 10.30 pm which was unbelievably civilised.
I've been hunkered under the duvet recovering but Beloved has been doing. He tells me the marguarite we transplanted just before we left is doing well


 and that the geraniums are thriving and flowering.




 Even the morning glory had some flowers.



 I'd had a quick look at the hedge when we got here and it does seem as though the regular pruning regime is making the holes fill up. 



Beloved spent the afternoon assembling the pizza oven and installing it on the patio.



 We had originally bought it with the terrace in mind but then realised that that would mean taking all the wood up 3 flights of stairs and bringing the ash down so we are trying it downstairs. Beloved says if it starts smoking his patio walls he will banish it upstairs and live with the hassle.