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Story of Ozymandias (Rabat, Morocco)

Rabat is the capital of Morocco and home to Morocco’s Royal Palace. The large estate can be described as a walled city that not only houses one of the King’s Palace’s but also the minions who work there. Though we were excited to visit the grounds, we were more than disappointed with the reception we received. Neither buses nor taxis were allowed within a reasonable distance of the Palace; and thus, everyone had to walk approximately three to four blocks to photograph the palace. Actually we didn’t mind the walk; however, when we arrived, we didn’t appreciate the attitude of the many armed guards that kept us more than several hundred feet from the entry archway by blowing their whistles and using hostile gestures indicating we must not go further.

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 OK so let’s photograph another building. How about the King’s personal royal mosque. However, the moment we stepped on a grass like carpet that covered the cement outside of this building, the whistles began blowing again. Our advice is to forget visiting the King’s Palace if you go to Rabat. (We later learned that people are treated this way at all seven of the King’s Palaces in Morocco!) Better to spend your time at the ruins of Sala.

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In contrast, the Roman ruins of the town of Sala were delightful! The mosque, cemetery, and walls are largely ruins (some merely large square stone blocks stacked on top of each other).   Some of the towers are, however, in relatively good shape and are well used by the storks as building blocks for their large nests. We were not the only ones enjoying Sala that day. Students have a half-day of school on Fridays, and several teachers brought their primary school students to visit the area. They ran about having a great time, getting lots of exercise, but learning little history. The children and their teachers were all anxious to have their pictures taken; so much of our time was spent photographing them rather than the ruins. But it certainly was an experience we will remember! 

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 Another interesting site was the Hassan Tower, a reminder of a great mosque that was never completed. Begun in 1195, both the mosque and the tower were intended to be the largest minaret (tower from which people would be called to prayer) and mosque in the world. Instead of stairs, the tower was intended to be ascended by ramps that would have allowed the muezzin (a man who calls Muslims to prayer) to ride a horse to the top of the tower to issue the call to prayer. The tower reached 140 feet (about ½ of its intended 260 feet), however, neither it nor the mosque were ever completed because after four years of construction, the sultan died and construction was halted. What is left are the tower plus the beginnings of several walls and 200 columns. Leaders in olden times certainly had grandiose ideas!!! . . . but at what cost were they to the people? 

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Barbara Wood Cook at Hassan Tower

 So many times during this trip we have seen monument after monument, ruin after ruin . . . On so many levels I have been reminded of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, “Ozymandias.” A traveler describes what he saw upon his visit to a spot where ancient civilizations once existed: a broken statue with the face of a stern and powerful man. On the pedestal, near the statue’s face, the traveler reads an inscription:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Taroudant Morocco Souks and Medina

Capturing the essence of life centuries ago in Taroudant requires no imagination as not much has changed there in a very long time under many dynasties. Taroudant developed as an agricultural center far from the crowded cities. In this area they grow cotton, rice fruit, vegetables and sugar cane. The distinctive essence of this quiet town is found in its souks (markets) located in the Old Town medina area – among the most colorful in Morocco 

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 The first place we stopped was a shop where they showed us how they made Argon oil by getting the seeds out of a fruit and hand grinding them to make oil. The oil was then flavored with herbs and scents and sold as cosmetics for the hair and skin, as well as to use in place of olive oil in salads and cooking, or to consume as an elixir that could cure or help you with just about every medical challenge you might have.

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 There is a quirky side to the Argon oil story. The Argania tree itself has rough, thorny bark and crooked branches. According to the articles from the Internet, “the tree produces an annual fruit crop and it is this delicious morsel that attracts legions of local goats that hop up into the branches to pick the fruit and nuts. The animals stand on the impossibly precarious branches and get down to their seasonal feast. Far from just a single ambitious goat climbing a single tree, the animals tend to swarm into the branches in number.”

 Our bus did not go to see this phenomenon, but other buses did, so we wanted you to see what it looks like to have goats in a tree, so here is a glimpse of life that you will see only in this area of Morocco.

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PIX Copyright Viralnova.com

 

Back to our visit in Taroudant . . .

 The streets in the medina were narrow and shared by pedestrians, horses, donkeys, bicycles, pushcarts, and motorcycles.

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On the way to the souks we were fascinated by the pushcart hardware store. Seems he had everything there, but you just have to dig to uncover it.

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 Also many blankets laid on the side of the streets with very odd assortments of “treasures” that were hawked to the passersby. 

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 We reached the village square to find the snake charmer was there, drumming up business for his snake-handling act. His unwilling participants were three or four cobras and a couple of rattlesnakes, none of which were friendly. We “stole” a couple of snapshots and went into the nearby souk.

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The souks are not laid out on a grid pattern and you wander from one building to another and turn down aisles that are not straight at all. The sales people aggressively promote their goods and promise each and every one of us that “he” would give you the best deal if you just bought from him.

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 We left the souks with a few purchases, and worked our way back to the buses, encountering a number of interesting faces along the way.

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 We next stopped at one of the city’s ancient palaces, now transformed into a luxury hotel, where we relaxed for a few minutes and enjoyed a cup of delicious mint tea with honey before our drive back to the port city of Agadir.

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Before reaching the port we made a quick detour up to the Kasbah high above the city that also overlooked our ship in the harbor.

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