The first place we went is Bhalil, a small town where the people live in caves…yes a cave. We were welcomed into an old woman's cave where we sat down, had tea and talked for a while
. She was 79 and her husband (now dead) lived to be 107 years old! Obviously, the caves are incapable of having plumbing or running water so they have to carry their water from a well down the street. This 79-year-old woman put on her scarf and a huge bucket full of water on her head and walked around her cave like she was on a runway. They typically have on bucket on their head and carry two in their hands but I was amazed at how well that full bucket of water stayed on her head. There is no way I could have even walked a step without it falling. The cave had an upstairs and a downstairs. Right when you walked in was a small kitchen, no sink required, they even have to carry their dishes and laundry to the well to clean. The downstairs was the family room, lined with a seating area and tables in the center and the upstairs was where they slept. She even had pictures hanging from the cave wall!
Next we went to Lake Afourgagh. As soon as we got there about ten kids came riding up on donkeys and horses showing them to us and trying to get us to take their pictures. These were the first horses we have seen since we got here! The donkeys were so cute. You can rent a paddleboat and go on the river but it was a little too cold in the water to do that.
We got back in the car and headed to Ifrane, a more modern Moroccan town
. Ifrane is home to Al Akhawayn University, founded by King Hassan II. Interesting fact: the money used to establish the University was mostly from the King of Saudi Arabia, intended to cleanup an oil spill off the coast of Morocco. The oil spill was never recognized and the money went to establishing the school. It costs 875,000 dollars to go to a year!!!!!!!!!
Finally we got to the Macaque monkeys! They live in trees and run around looking for food. There was another group giving them all oranges so they were going crazy. There were a few little shops around so we went back to the car to get our wallets. I was going to open the door and noticed a monkey on top of the car! This was the perfect time to take a picture so I smiled standing next to the little monkey on the car waiting for Heather to take the picture. As I was standing there, he tried to steal my sunglasses!! I was too quick for him though.
We stopped in another small Berber town for lunch and to visit a carpet maker. For lunch we had a Moroccan salad, red onions and tomatoes, and tagine with what I think was beef or lamb. It was delicious and looked so pretty. Once we finished lunch, we went to visit the carpet maker's house. The Berber women weave the carpets at home by hand. The owner explained what all of the different designs mean in the Berber language and that when the women weave, they make up the designs in their heads, they don’t use a pattern, so no two designs are the same. These rugs were more in our price range, not nearly as expensive as the others from the day before, so we were actually able to buy a few.
We made our way back to Fes to visit the Royal Palace and see the famous bronze doors
. We were able to visit the metal store where the doors were made. All of the metal is hand molded and designed. All of the pieces were so beautiful I wanted to buy everything! I fell in love with a camel bone jewelry box, and after haggling with the man for a while; I got the price down from $750 to $250. After buying the carpets, I didn’t want to buy anything else that day, so I told them no thank you. Somehow they took that as a yes and started wrapping it up, telling me congratulations! Thankfully, Abdul had met us here and got us out of there without buying anything.
The last place we visited were the famous blue gates of Fes. It was a great way to end our tour and the day.
We had another breakfast of yummy corn crepes and yogurt and met our driver, Abraham, to go to the Middle Atlas of Morocco. The Middle Atlas is in the mountainous area of Morocco, where a lot of Berber people live in small villages. The Berbers speak their own language, not Arabic or French like the majority of people in Morocco and the language is only spoken, not written. They speak through their crafts, for example the carpets and rugs they make. They use different symbols to represent what they are trying to say. When a couple is to get married, there is a dowry and the girl must weave the man a wedding rug as a gift and use the style and detail of the weave to represent her love because they cannot write words.