Thursday, 20 October 2016 la meme chose.

The picket line has gone from the Palais Salaam! 

 The staff have been paid and, three cheers, we can eat there again. 
The problem seems to have moved to the Gazelle D'Or. 

This fabulously luxurious hotel is reputed to be the most expensive in Africa. The cheapest room booked last minute in the off season was £500 room only when I looked a couple of years ago. It is the winter haunt of the elite such as Francois Mitterand, Brad Pitt and the late great John Mortimer.
The on-dit is as follows:-
The hotel was sold to a Saudi businessman. He never actually visited being one of those super-elite who live on a yacht the whole time ,presumably to avoid being resident in any country where they may have to pay tax. The running of the hotel was left to a manager. She inflated everybody's wages and all the maintenance costs ,pocketing the difference. When this was discovered she refused to leave until dragged out screaming by the police. 
Taroudant on-dits can tend to exaggeration.News reports suggest that the situation is more complicated, the original purchase being by the father of the current claimant and that the Manager, who had managed for many years, had been given a large interest by him which his estate refuses to acknowledge. The  matter has been been subject to lengthy and complex litigation in the Marrakesh, Agadir and Appeal Courts since 2014.
 Whatever, the upshot is that the staff have not been paid and and there is a union picket line.

 One of the striking  facets of the picket line from a British standpoint is the care to which the union goes to express its loyalty and patriotism with displays of the Moroccan flag and a photo of the King. Not quite UNITE.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

How does my garden grow?

The thing I always look forward to most on our return is to see how the plants are doing. Despite our friend's personal difficulties he had watered for us and kept the plants alive. Their progress was variable, the fanpalm is clearly not happy and probably needs replacing

but the Bird of Paradise plant relishes its new position in the shade although its new pot seems to be disintegrating.

The sad new succulent which was doing nothing is thriving and in flower

and the baby and grand -baby prickly pears are happy.

The weird star flower plant is coming into bloom

but the great joy is the two rescue cacti which were just sad tall spike with a slight bum at the top

have now branched out properly to almost tree shapes.

Perhaps the best grown but most frustrating however is my Hibiscus hedge. As with any hedge I have ever tried to grow we were not sufficiently harsh on it early on so that it had a bare base and then insufficiently dense branches with holes. We tried to renovate it by giving it a particularly hard prune to encourage denser foliage, thinking we could repeat this winter and end up with a nice dense, holeless 3ft hedge. Well the pruning certainly encouraged growth, it's up to the first floor level!  


Saturday, 15 October 2016

Very Bad News

We returned to the worst news possible. our friend's wife had died on Tuesday the day of our flight from Manchester. Mariam was German and had met and married our friend when he was an engineering student  there. She had lived here for 20 years or more and changed her name to Mariam to reflect her new religion. About 3 years ago she had cancer which was declared cured but she had increasing difficult with the use of her legs and had had to spend the last couple of years upstairs, barely leaving the house except for medical appointments. For the last 3 months she had been paralysed. She died on Tuesday morning  at home just before the flight her brother had arranged to take her back to Germany for treatment. Presumably her subconcious wanted to die in Morocco.
Mariam and I shared no language and she had long been housebound but I remeber her as a lovely bright kind person. Those of you who know our friend will know he is a lovely man and that she was lucky to have him but those of us who know Mariam also know that he was very lucky to have her.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Festival

The main part of the Festival was over by the Palais Salaam and the Provincial Headquarters where the new fountains are.

 It was half-term so there were treats for the kids and the fountains were in full flow and looking good.

 They were putting out the chairs for the evening concert 

and there was a large tent with some interesting displays, sadly in arabic only, and mostly of a religious nature. I hadn't taken my specs with me so did not get the best out of the philately and coin exhibition. There was a display of photographs from the time of Mohammed V, a display on rural religious schools and an astronomy display of rather better and certainly cleaner telescopes than Beloved's and  books showing planetary motion up to 2100BCE. That display seemed to be manned b timekeepers from the mosques and of course the Islamic world has a long history of great astronomers because of the importance of fixing the dates of Eid and Ramadan. 
Round the corner by the side of the Palais Salaam were  a range of stalls selling local traditional craft products. 

There were at least eight Argan co-ops represented so I bought some argan oil for the Quaker who despite having taken home loads wanted more for a friend. There were stalls selling furniture

 and metalwork

 and the knock-out stall sold embroidered tablecloths and napkins which sadly I could not think of a home for.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Fes; The Andalusian Quarter

Fes medina is divided into two by the River of Pearls, the Oued al Jawahir. The right bank is dominated by the Andalusian Mosque and is hence known as the Andalusian Quarter. It was quite a disappointment. The famous Bin Lamdoun Bridge was undergoing renovations and all that could be seen was a lot of steel sheeting and the sound of running water. The descent to the bridge had been quite steep but the ascent on the other side was very steep. Lots of places of interest were listed in the guidebook including some medersas, all of which turned out to be closed for restoration. The Andalusian mosque was impressive and is one of the few Almohad buildings in Fes but of course we couldn't go in.

 Coming from Taroudant which is a Barca town we found some of the wall art a bit unsettling.

Football supporters in Morocco are similar to or worse than Milwall supporters in the 80s. A recent game in Casablance resullted in 2 dead and 54 injured in clashes outside the ground.

We managed to come out near Bab Ftouh, the Gate of Victory. It was originally built in the 11C but was expanded in the 18C. It has a pleasant modern fountain just outside. The wall crenelations like all in Fes were of small square pillars with a pyramid on top unlike the crenelations in Marrakesh or Taroudant.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Festival or not?

We went for a drink with the Canadian on Thursday morning and noticed a big sound stage in the main square. Enquiry of the waiter indicated that there was a concert that night, the artist having previously performed in Fes and Meknes. We asked a friend about it. He had heard nothing but said it must be a religious group from one of the brotherhoods. As he has a shop 50m from the square it seemed the publicity was not very good. We decided to go that night. We were confused by the time change and went at ten past eight but last prayers is now ten past nine. They took a while coming on after prayers so did not start until ten. There was a barriered off area in front of the stage which was just for women and children. This appeared a big improvement on a mosh pit. 

 I enjoyed the music which was religous as the only word I could understand was "Allah". There were some arab lute-type instruments, violins played upright, a large percussion section and several of those shawm-type woodwind instruments.It was cold and we sat at a cafe and drank coffee to keep warm.

 By half ten the cafe was shutting up. so we left after the first act. We decided not to go to the Friday concert to stay warm.
On Saturday we had lunch with the Teacher. He knew nothing of the concerts in the Square. He was aware of a much bigger stage near the provincial headquarters by the Palais Salaam Hotel but did not know what it was for. 
The concert we went to was quite poorly attended which isn't surprising given the lack of publicity. All the concerts were free and had obviously been quite an investment by somebody, presumably the state. So, was Taroudant having a secret music festival or was it for very crowd-phobic musicians?

Fes; The Nejjarine Complex

This complex consists of a souk, a fountain

 and a foundouk, now converted to a wood-working museum.

 The 19C fountain is famous as an example of zellige work and appears on several guide-book covers.

The foundouk is a gem. It has been restored by a charitable foundation

 and entrance is 20Dh. There are views of the medina from the roof where you can get a drink for 10Dh but sadly no photography is allowed in the interior. 

The exhibition has lots of traditional woodworking tools and examples of traditional doors, furniture and marriage chests. Ali Baba would have loved it.