The Road to Morocco (Part 6)

Oh give me a home where the Jews used to roam…….

The brochure said we would be traveling by jeep ‘to the Ourika Valley, set in the beautiful Atlas Mountains.’ Whoa, boy; get a grip! We’re going to the valley in the mountains? And we’re going by jeep? Looks to me more like a caravan of SUV’s waiting in front of our hotel. I appreciate the fact that we’re going to places that would be difficult for a tour bus to navigate, but we’re not exactly going off-road.

We were in fact going to the tomb of the famous Rabbi Salomon Bel Hench. Or was it the famous tomb of Rabbi Salomon Bel Hench? Either way, who was this guy who’s so famous? Continue reading

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The Road to Morocco (Part 5)

A small shul, a grand hotel, and lots to eat.

Our driver, Said, had gotten his bus to a spot across the street from the Radisson Blu Hotel, which is on Mohammed V Avenue in the fancy-shmancy, well-to-do part of Marrakech. (A location in the newly built Carré Eden complex gives easy access to the complex’s internationally recognized stores and restaurants as well as to trendy nightlife nearby…) All he had to do now was somehow go around the block, finding a way to get us in front of the hotel, so we wouldn’t have to cross this busy thoroughfare lugging our suitcases. Easier said than done. He tried several different ways, but each time he wound up back in the same spot, opposite the hotel. There was only one thing to do: make a U-turn in the middle of the block, a highly dubious maneuver that would run one afoul of the law in other circumstances.

If our previous hotel had been kind of iffy, The Radisson Blue was more than spiffy (I just thought of that!) Our room was about a ten minute walk from the elevator, but once we opened the door and looked in… Oh my! I could get used to staying in a place like that, in the lap of luxury, with not a care in the world. Good thing too, because we would be there for three nights, and who wants to spend three nights in a dump? It was also within reasonable walking distance of the synagogue we would be praying over Shabbat and the hotel where we would be eating. Whoever planned this gets two thumbs up from yours truly. Continue reading

The Road to Morocco (Part 4)

The long and winding road

If you have access to Google maps, or if you’re Luddites like us and have an actual World Atlas, you can trace our route through Morocco. Remember, we started at Rabat, then headed northeast to Meknès and Fez. Now we were going southwest, taking the long and winding road through the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech. That would be a tedious journey if we were to do it all in one shot, but our tour was better planned than that. We left Fez Thurs. morning and arrived at Marakech in time to get ready for Shabbat. What took us so long? Lots of stops along the way, including a moonlit night on the shores of a lake perched on top of a mountain. Continue reading

The Road to Morocco (Part 3)

Wait ‘til you get there

During the first two days of our trip, we were told over and over again: Don’t buy any jewelry, or pottery, or anything like that here (wherever ‘here’ was). Wait until we get to Fez. That’s where you do your shopping. Which is what we were about to do (go shopping, that is), having arrived in that city the previous afternoon, after escaping the attention of the only Jew in Meknès and re-boarding our bus. Of course, we needed a local guide, and the fellow Cindy selected had grown up in the shuk and could probably find his way around the 5000+ streets and alleyways blindfolded. Continue reading

The Road to Morocco (Part 2)

Come wiz me….

Quick; what’s the capital of Morocco? Answer: a number of different cities at different times, but these days it’s Rabat. That’s why the place is crawling with police, military types of all descriptions, palace guards, you name it, not just around the royal palaces and the mausoleum (see photograph in earlier post), but everywhere in the city. Talk about feeling well-protected.

Our bus was wandering through the streets of the city when I did a double-take. I was somewhat worn out from our trip, but was I seeing things? Was it a mirage; had our driver made a wrong turn and we were back in Jerusalem on Rehov Yaffa? There, coming around the bend, was the Light Rail. The cars look the same, the stations look the same. Maybe there’s some rational explanation for this apparent optical illusion; maybe it’s just the same company at work? (Thanks to Dr. Google, I have been able to confirm that the cars were indeed all made by the same company, Alstom, a French multi-national concern. There are lots of these cars in lots of cities around the world.) It seems that the Moroccan government has plans to expand the light rail in Rabat. Our government has plans to expand the light rail in Jerusalem. We’ll see who gets done first, and I know who it won’t be. Continue reading

The Road to Morocco (Part 1)

Like Webster’s dictionary, we’re Morocco bound….. I’ve always loved that line and sing it with some frequency. It never occurred to me that it would apply to me: that Barbara, who loves to travel, and I, who could just as easily stay put, would join an A.A.C.I. excursion to that selfsame country. But that’s what happened. It was either a trip to Lapland or Morocco. (If you put it to me that way….)

There were definitely some positives to our choice – not just that it was better than going to Lapland or some such place. Sooner or later, I would need to visit some part of the real Arab world that isn’t Ramallah, and Morocco is definitely the friendliest and the safest such place to visit, besides being in its own right a beautiful country with a lush landscape, high mountains, and the edges of the Sahara Desert (that we didn’t get to see). There has also been a Jewish presence there from way back, even if it’s merely a a tiny fraction of what it once was. And a lot of the Jews (or their descendants) who used to live in Marrakesh or Casablanca now live in our neck of the wood. If I said it once on the trip, I said it fifty times, there are more Moroccans in Ma’ale Adumim than there are back in their own back yard.  Maybe I might learn something about their heritage, about which I knew nothing. So we went and have returned, happy on both accounts. What follows are some of my thoughts and some of the photographs I made on the way – in no particular order, just the way my mind works. Continue reading

The Little Engine That Couldn’t

Some people have this knack of finding ways to profit from other people’s woes and sorrows. Here’s a case in point (taken from an article in The New York Times). There were two consortiums eagerly bidding to acquire the 5,500 artifacts that have been recovered from the wreckage of the Titanic. One of the consortiums included a number of British museums, the National Geographic Society, and the film-maker James Cameron. You might have thought that with that fire-power they would be sure to win, but no, they were only able to come up with $19.2 million. The other consortium, three hedge funds that none of us have ever heard of, was able to raise $19.5 million. So they will be the proud owners of, among other trophies, “a bowler hat, the crusty leather folds of a once-sumptuous Gladstone bag and the dark, sleek curves of a bronze angel that graced the post of a staircase.” Plus a collection of marbles, the playthings of children who didn’t quite make it out alive.  Continue reading