Sunday, January 27, 2013

Adventure to the rock paradise of Morocco: Gorges of Tohra

After leaving the village life of Sidi-Fah, we aimed to the famous Tohra gorges for some hiking. When we had lunch in the town of Tinerhir, we met a guy who claimed to be a musician and invited us to his village. He said there was cheap camping, there was also a production house making fig spirit, there is also a wedding tonight that we can join. We were attracted by his suggestion. Although Douar Ait Boujane is on the opposite side of the valley from the side entering the Tohra gorge, he said his village is more or less the same as the village in Tohra gorge. It is said to be  less touristy. Attracted by less touristic but local experience we followed the musician.

Instead of waiting for two hours for the minibus going to the musician village, we took a collective taxi for the first part of the journey. Then we had to cross the valley to the village. For the first time to see the oasis-like green valley between both sides of deserts, it is a new experience to see how fields are explored in the dry land. However the walk across was long and tough, especially with full packs like ours. It turned out that there was no camping at all and the so-called "musician" took us to homestay of which the price was out of our budget. The production house fig spirit was closed for another two hours. It seems that we fell on the zeal of the incompetent local who knew not much about his village. So we decided to leave and went back to our original plan.
from one side of the valley seeing another, the entrance of Tohra Gorges

After all these hurdles, we finally found a place to stay in a hostel before it got dark in the Todra Gorges. It was low season and could negotiate a discount to stay for two nights in a room with shared toilet. We cooked with our own stove to save some cost.

Well, we were introduced to this place by the guidebook, no wonder it got touristic with luxurious hotels. However, the beauty of the rock was not masked by such superficial. We went out immediately after check-in to walk along the comfortable road into the gorge under moonlight. No car, quiet, though a little unnatural to walk on a flat concrete road between two sides of straight cliffs, we enjoyed the serenity. At the same time we looked forward to stepping on the uneven land surface. It is the more natural walking back to nature, as inspired by Hundertwasser, by stepping on uneven ground instead of the concrete road.

The day trip was marvelous. We realized that the rock surface in front of the hostel was for climbing and there were people doing that. Without gear and not wanna take cost for climbing tour, we just looked and hoped that one day we could bring our own gear for the climbs. 


Then we walked along the road to the end and there opened huge rock areas and hiking routes. From there we saw some people climbing on higher routes on the tooth-like ridges. We envied them for such a nice climbing trip.

it is all for climbing !!!
Hiking on the dry land was not easy and we got thirst easily. We used up all the water we brought with no refill and had to go back to the hostel with dry throats. Under the blue sky the rock shined with yellow and red. It is a climber paradise.

Do you find the climbers ?

We left the next day with the hope that one day we shall come back and climb.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Finally our first couchsurfing experience in a village in middle Morocco

After being given an ad-hoc host in an unfinished concrete block in outskirt Marrakech and bombarded with trip itinerary, we were hesitant about enthusiastic hosts who accepted our request too quickly and expected us coming sooner than we planned. It may mean another chance of a host using couchsurfing for tourist business. We were glad to meet a real couchsurfer hosting us in a village for two nights.

It is called Sidi-Flah, ten kilometres from Skoura.When we asked for host in Ouarzazate, Lachine invited us to Skoura. Thinking that it was just 30km from Ouarzazate, along the direction to the east and Tineghir, we went. He was very enthusiastic about our coming and texting us about the time for bus. It is hard to reject the enthusiasm. When the bus was full, we paid triple the fare to take shared taxi to Skoura. Then we met him and were told that his village is another 10km further from Skoura. His cousin and him took us in their motorcycle to there. It was an adventure to carry the heavy backpack and the back of the motorcycle and ride along rough terrain. It was mostly rocky dessert; the early evening sky was purple and the rocks were red and purple.

We were greeted by many curious look from the villagers when we arrived, guessed we were the first Asian they saw in the village. It was already dinner time when we arrived. Lachine’s mother made a good targine and we were well-fed. Although we had told him that we would prepare dinner that night as we had some rice, onion and carrot, with eggs we can make a good fried rice, with her good heart and targine we left our cooking for the next night. While eating, he was checking the TV signal for the African cup match in which Moroccan team were playing, but in the village there was no signal, so did our mobile phone, we missed the game. We still had conversations to share. We talked and did not realize that the living room we had dinner and watched TV was also the sleeping space for the mother, who has been waiting if we felt tired and ready to go to bed. She was careful not to tell us that she wanted the room and to sleep early. Lacchine’s father also appeared but by practice the father does not enter at the middle of a dinner in family and he had dinner by himself after praying in mosque. Lacchine told us there would be some work to do and we were eager to help out. We had an early night of sleep and expected a village life the next day.

On the next day we woke up at 7:30am and found that the mother had prepared breakfast for us. There were bread, jam, honey and olive oil. We were so enjoying the natural products, especially the olive oil and the honey, and ignored the French-branded cheese. Expecting some work to do, we went with Lachine to the nearby hillside to see the shepard with the sheep and goats. It was not easy to let the adult sheep off, leave the lamb behind for better feeding, because the latter always wanted to go out with the adults. I had some hard time chasing after the lambs around the hillside and catching them back. We saw how the shepard, who escorted sheep of several families for grass, did his good job: keeping different groups of sheep apart, throwing a stone at the right position to scare a sheep out of boundary back to the group, going gently near a lamb and pick it up without effort (remember I was chasing one around the hill), and feeding the two well-grown sheep for the coming selling while scaring other hungry sheep away. I think of Jesus my Shepard doing similar.

Finally Lachine took us to work, we walked around the fields and saw how different areas take turn in different seasons on growing lawn, maze, vegetable etc. Then we also went to the river with non-biodegradable rubbish on both banks : baby diapers and plastic bags. Latter we realized that he meant to take us for a walk (not work). It is a good experience to see local life and the effect of modernization to this part of the world. For the rest of the day we just lazed around at home, because it was a festival on the birth of Mohammad and there was not much transport going out and most shops in the town should be closed. It was a good chance for us to rest. Maria tried a very local hammen. I finished some blogs. At that night we made some fried rice and it was this family’s first time to try some chinese food. We are glad that they enjoy that, especially the mother. Later the family brought us to a pre-wedding party of a neighbour where Maria finally had her first henna and I enjoyed the local music and percussion.

The last day the mother seemed to miss us and gave mother a stone as gift (we cannot take that because of heavy luggage) and a headcloth (which she used for wedding, it was so precious that we should not take it either). Therefore we took pictures. We left the village with a local collective van and Lachine accompanied us to take the bus to Tineghir. We missed the simple quiet life in the village and only because of couchsurfing we can enjoy that. We thank Lachine's family so much for their generosity and hospitality, we really hoped that Lachine could visit us one day.

Monday, January 21, 2013




我們想去本地人浴場,感受真正的平民價本地風。源著穆斯林廟旁必有浴場的線索,找到了Marrakech中心市集Jaam el Fna橫街的一家土炮浴場。享用其沐浴、磨沙、按摩套餐,總值70dh。男女浴場分開,各有入口,入場付費。布幕內是更衣室,四周有櫃,但接待處的女人硬要我付10dh服務費替我看管物件,還不斷指手畫脚,用法語解釋按摩後要付10dh貼士。早有聽說浴場要另收貼士,也無可另奈何,再說總數也不過100dh。



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ten things that I love about Morocco

1) Food! Food! Food!
Tajine, couscous, tanjia, kafta, baklava and pastries - food are irresistible in Morocco, cost of living is low compared to most countries.  Despite getting bored with the similar list of menu after a while, they are finger-licking good!

2) Beauty Secret
Most Morocco women have beautiful soft skin. I asked a few of them and they said they don't use any skin care product! The only connection I can make is Hammam - the public bath and furious scrub that helps deep exfoliating and made their skin soft like baby. I can't resist going to hammam whenever possible.  Furthermore, I think, by covering their faces, with the hijab, iit helped to avoid UV, dust and oxidation. 

3) The unique beauty product
Although there are many places that produce acorn nuts and black olives, Morocco is the only producer of Acorn oil and black olive scrub in the world! Local women think acorn oil are too expensive for them, but they do use black olive scrub during Hammam.  If you are buying them from repackaged department stores or US online shop, they are much much much more expensive. American beauty websites say acorn oil works better than Botox, only more natural, while the black olive smooth your skin when you scrub. 

4) Welcome greetings all over us
We always receive all kinds of greetings, while we were walking down the street, especially in Fes and Merrakech, that make us feel special.  We got all kinds of Asian greetings, like 'ohaiyo' in the evening, singing gannam style, 'xie-xie' in saying hi, and sometimes more creative guess of 'Thai'? 'Vietnam'? Well, it's funny sometimes as I guess they don't really know where these places are! And I'm amazed that they have such talent in language, as some can really speak a few words in Mandarin, Korean and Japanese. (But we are from Hong Kong and they always got it wrong!)

5) Beautiful nature
Sunset at the Sahara is never to be missed and we hope to rock climb in Torda Gorges next time.

6) Morocco do have wine
Morocco wine brings us big surprise. They are actually not bad - though you could find better ones with the same price in any supermarket in Bordeaux. But we are surprised to try a few good ones.

8) Wonderful oranges and tomato of Morocco
Morocco oranges are in fact much sweeter and cheaper than Sunkise.  We always get a glass or more of the orange juice everyday to quiche our thirst in the medina of Merrakech. On the other hand, Morocco got really good tomatoes, juicy and cheap.  It also has increasing export of tomato to EU. For instance, in the period between the 1st and the 14th of April 2013, Morocco had exported a total of 20.05 million kilos, 6 percent more than in the same period last year to the EU.

9) Fun to get lost in the medina
The medina of Merrekesh, Fes, Tétouan and Essaouira are all in the UNESCO Heritage list, representing the unique historical art and architecture.  They are also the unique example of a living historic town with its tangle of lanes, its houses, souks, fondouks, artisanal activities and traditional trades.  Apart from local eateries, souvenirs, farmers products, there are old trades like tannery, wool weaving, blacksmith, carpentry, old bakery that people still go with their dough and pay some small money for baking their own bread. Its almost like time travel, experiencing life hundreds years ago. 

10) Amazing Islamic architecture
The white wooden carving in the mosque and palace in Merrakech is a wonder. The stunning architecture and carpentry is one of its kind. 

Monday, January 7, 2013






沿着峽窄的旋轉樓梯落到地面,我們繼續參觀教堂的內部。我們從”熱情”面入口重新參觀,經過鐯有經文的大門看到耶穌騎驢入耶路撒冷的地面畫。再看門中有一金色的十六宮格,怎樣加也是三十三,代表耶穌被釘十字格的年齡,而且當中的10和14是重複的,總數是48,是INRI拉丁字母順序數的總和。INRI即是 Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews)


看得眼花撩亂,我們走出對面大門到室外。原想舒氣,但又給另一壯觀面所吸引。這”出生”面是被聯國教科文組列為重要文化遺產,其實就是這一面,而非之前已令我們費心的”熱情”,可見這”出生”的更驚世之處。上面有耶穌出生及其童年事蹟的雕塑。左邊代表約瑟和右邊代表瑪利亞的巨柱把代表耶穌的巨形石面夾在中間,表現教會重視這一家三口的關係。從歷史看這教堂的建成,這計劃的開始原於一個重視耶穌父親約瑟的宗派,眼見工業革命時期物慾橫流的巴塞羅那,銳意重建基督家庭觀而籌錢興建教堂。誰知計劃到了膠地手上,雖然他是 誠的教徒,但也是前衞的藝術家。和很多藝術家一樣:在集資時計劃井條中庸,之後才天馬行空。這永未完成的設計建至他過身(去教堂途中被電車撞死)後,被升上神臺由他的繼承者以追隨他宏願為由繼續天馬行空,更加肆無忌憚,資金滾滾而來,包括來自世界各地的遊客。其實我們的入場費還不知作建築或修葺,未建好的還有”光榮”面、更高的聖母之塔和中央最高的耶穌之塔,一日未建好,我們的錢就落在這大怪物上。起了百幾年只起60%,當局還上在2016前趁膠地百年生晨紀念前完成,看來不完易。