Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recent uprisings in Morocco

A police officer kicks a protester in Rabat 
Well, I can't end my May-roccan exploration without mentioning their recent unrest and protests related to the revolutionary fervor which has spread throughout much of the Middle East and Northern Africa.  Over the weekend, bloody street battles took place between protesters and police forces in Casablanca and Tangier, as well as numerous additional demonstrations in Rabat, Fez and other cities throughout the country.

In Casablanca, where an estimated 15,000 people joined in protest, police forces blocked off the streets and sent in truncheon-wielding squads in to subdue the crowds.

The government maintains that the demonstrations have been banned and that the police force's actions are sanctioned due to the protester's "provocative" actions.  Morocco has a history of allowing protests when they make formal applications to demonstrate, which the youth movement has not done.

European Union spokesperson Natasha Butler said "We are concerned about the violence used....We call for restraint in the use of force and respect of fundamental freedoms....We call on Morocco to maintain its track record in allowing citizens to demonstrate peacefully. We are following these demonstrations very closely, and encourage all parties to engage in a peaceful dialogue with a view to finding solutions to the issues raised by the demonstrators."  Protesters have been calling for more democratic freedoms and job opportunities, as well as improved social conditions.

In the midst of my celebration of Morocco this month, it is sobering to consider the violence and tension that exists throughout the region and the many Moroccans who have been injured and lost loved ones in the midst of their fight for the freedoms I so blissfully take for granted. I'm glad this blog has given me the opportunity to not only explore the cushy topics related to cultural understanding, but to also recognize the reality that many Moroccans face.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Moroccan dinner night! Best yet!!

One of my favorite parts of writing this blog has been researching recipes, discovering new markets, and creating cultural meals:) I checked a new grocery store out this month - North Park Produce - where I found tons of Middle Eastern products ( I almost bought sooooo much Indian food, but I kept myself in check and tried to focus on Moroccan items...but, mmmmm, I think an Indian month must happen soon!!!). I ended up picking up some orange blossom water for a dessert recipe, and some harissa, which is a hot chili sauce that is popular in Northern Africa. 

Moroccan dinner night was sooooooooooo yummy! This was the most delicious yet! Here's some pix and recipes:

First off we started with some flatbread, olives, hummus, and a Moroccan roasted pepper, cucumber and tomato salad that was super fresh and flavorful. yummmmmmmmmmm

The cousins and Kevin joined me for the feast:)

Dinner was delicious and consisted of a Moroccan-style veggie stew, spiced couscous with golden raisins and almonds, harissa yogurt sauce,  more of the veggie salad,  and some absolutely delicious Harissa and sesame potatoes.  Oh man, it was all delicious! The stew had a lot of herbs and butter and almost ended with a curry type flavor, and the couscous was a nice complement. I was blown away by the potatoes - my favorite part of the meal!

Dessert was M'hanncha, or "snake cake," a dessert made from a citrusy nut paste wrapped in filo dough. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Moroccan proverbs

"Love truth even if it harms you, and hate lies even if they serve you"

"Every beetle is a gazelle in the eyes of its mother"

"Instruction in youth is like engraving in stone"

"An old cat will not learn how to dance" - I like this...a feline version of "you can't teach an old dog new tricks":)

"Even the loftiest of mountains begins on the ground"

"He who eats when he is full digs a grave with his teeth".....ohhhh this one hits home!!!

"A known mistake is better than an unknown truth"

"Nothing dries sooner than a tear"

"Work and you will be strong; sit and you will stink"

"A teacher will appear when the student is ready"

"Better the gurgling of a camel than the prayers of a fish"...ok, I don't quite get this one, but I still like it:)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Tangier: rich history & modern intrigue

To be honest, before this month, I don't know what I would have said if you had asked me what country Tangier was in, but now as I learn more about Moroccan history, Tangier has proven to be a fascinating and cosmopolitan city for centuries.

Located at the Western entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar, which accounts for it's rich history which spawned from its Berber and Phoenician origins in the early 5th century. Tangier was part of the Carthaginian Republic (remember my blog post last month about the famous Carthaginian leader, Hannibal, and his trek across the Alps?).  Tangier's ancient history references numerous rulers throughout time, including the Roman Empire, various North African dynasties and Arab Caliphates.  The Portuguese occupied Tangiers for about 200 years (with a brief interlude of Spanish rule), before it was given to the English as part of a dowry in 1661.  Less than 25 years later, and after the unsuccessful attempt of Sultan Moulay Ismail to seize power in the area, the English destroyed the town and its port before returning home. Moulay Ismail attempted to reconstruct the town, but the population declined as many left for nearby cities.

By the late 19th century, Tangier increasingly became an important as a commercial and diplomatic center.  European intellectuals and artists began spending time in Morocco, including the notable French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix.

Delacroix. Sultan of Morocco. 1845
Eugene Delacroix, the beloved French Romantic painter, visited Spain and North Africa in for six months in 1832, shortly after the French conquered Algeria.   Delacroix was fascinated by the character and attire of the Moroccans, which inspired him as found them visually reminiscent of classical Greek and Roman civilizations.   In the painting above, check out the wrapped garments of the Moroccans - very similar to the draping mantles and togas we are used to from Neoclassical paintings, huh? Even the recognizable Fezzes worn by many of the men in the crowd at a quick glance can remind us of Roman helmets, which we often see with plumage of a similar reddish color. The city's protective walls also harken back to the fortifications of antiquity. Delacroix found scenes of daily life in Tangier particularly inspirational, especially as he was unable to find many Moroccan women willing to be models due to the pervasive moral code rooted in Islamic belief.   Morocco's wildlife also inspired Delacroix, as he found animals a fitting Romantic symbol of passion.

Delacroix. Arab Horses Fighting in a Stable.   1860

Spain and France vied for control of Morocco, and in 1923 Tangier was made an international zone under the joint control of both countries as well and Great Britain.  A few years later,  several other countries also adhered to the international convention: Italy, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands.  Upon restoration of Moroccan sovereignty in 1956,  Tangier came under national rule.

During the last two decades of the international zone, Tangier became a notable meeting point for secret agents,  an exotic playground for millionaires, and was known for its international community of writers, including Tennessee Williams, Alan Ginsburg, and Jack Kerouac.

Tangier became a frequent setting for spy novels and movies of the 1950s and 60s.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What you might see when walking around Marrakech

I've been reading some guidebooks and travel websites that feature Morocco, as well as checking out some blogs about living in Morocco, and I am just stunned by how beautiful everything seems to be in Morocco! Rather than delving into a lot of background into anything in particular, let's take a little journey together and focus on what we might see walking the streets in Fez, Essouaria, Marrakesh, and Casablanca.

One blogger living in Morocco commented in a recent post that while walking around it seems she is always chasing after someone wearing a red Djellaba - typical Islamic modest attire.

In the travel books I keep reading about souks, the traditional commercial centers in the medinas of Arab and Berber communities. Haggling has been the tradition for centuries, and many beautiful handmade and well-crafted items are up for purchase.

Moroccan cities used to have thriving entertainment centers in their cities, where snakecharmers, acrobats, storytellers and other entertainers would enchant locals and tourists alike. These centers are disappearing as we enter the modern age, but in Marrakech's Djema'a al Fna these traditions are still alive.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moroccan Architecture and Style

When I hear "Morocco," my thoughts generally drift to elegant tile work and ornamental arches, stately minarets and serene courtyards, all executed with infinite attention to detail.  With exotic charm, Moroccan architecture is cultural fusion with traditional Berber roots that have blended over time with African and Islamic traditions and style.

Building ornamentation and decorative gardens frequently feature vivid and contrasting colors.

Sometimes very plain houses feature ornately carved wooden doors that are inviting works of art.

Fortified palaces and desert strongholds are evidence of Morocco's turbulent history.

Kasbahs are fortresses where leaders lived and where people would take refuge in times of war.  They feature high walls, and are often located at the top of hills for added defense or at harbors.  They are made of sun dried bricks, known for their rich red color. Despite how thick the walls are, they still seem to naturally fit the landscape.

Koutoubia Mosque

Update - I just came across a Lonely Planet article about Moroccan architecture that is phenomenal..check it out! http://www.lonelyplanet.com/morocco/travel-tips-and-articles/66657

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Well, Alpine April was simply splendid....I definitely want to go to the Alps sometime - I think it would be a perfect vacation to go on with my parents...biking for Dad, nature walks with Mom....delicious food and beverages for me:)

I mentioned that Dad inspired me to check out the Alpine region, and for May, I'm taking up Frank's suggestion of Morrocco....MAYrocco!!!!!

I looked through a travel book on Marrakesh and I really really really REALLY want to go there! The architecture looks amazing, the food sounds delicious (I'll be trying out some recipes this month, FOR SURE), and it seems so exotic! I will be going there sometime! Plus, there's a "Nikki Beach" - it's a sign!!!!

I will be going here.

I promise my upcoming posts with have more substance....I'm excited to research more about Morocco!!!