Sunday, October 10, 2010

Oh what a week it's been....

Left Rabat on Sunday as soon as our COS conference ended-needed to get on the 6pm train to Fes to meet up with Rebecca. We stayed at a new riad in Ziat-well located and a nice place. Monday we prowled around the medina-down to the tanneries, Place Seffarine and Nejarrine, pottery and zelij works, all before meeting up with Samira after her train arrived from Tangier. We then headed over to Michele’s so she and Samira could discuss Michele’s Hammam business idea and Samira’s interest in setting up an import business. Future collaboration? Ymkn.

We headed off Tuesday morning to Ain Leuh for Samira to see the Coop’s weaving, for me to pick up the handira that Khadija wove for me and to see the Coop women one last time. Unfortunately Khadija was in Meknes, so while I didn’t see her, I got my handira and 11 year old Ahelan made us tea. Purchases and orders were made, tea drunk, Ain Leuh-check!

We managed to convince Randy to come with us and on Wednesday headed over to my site. This trip was made considerably easier by buying out the 5 taxis it took to get there. Even that relatively easy trip amazed Samira and Rebecca with how complicated is it to get around here. Samira was constantly comparing “your” Morocco (meaning Randy and mine in the countryside) to “her” Morocco. Shuf, you can get anywhere you want to go in Morocco-you just need time and patience.

We got to REK and made a bit of lunch before heading off to the Adwal Coop. I had told Zahra and Fatima that I wanted them to do the natural dye and weaving workshop for us. This would be their first trial run at this new day-trip tourist option. They came thru like stars. They had tea and milowi for us, the natural dye demo ready to go, showed how they card and spin the wool (same wool we washed in the river in August) and demo'd their weaving techniques. Overall a very good showing for their 1st workshop. A few bugs to work out, but they did a very nice job. Purchases made, orders taken and we set off on a walk.

During our walk I received a concerning call from a PCV about another PCV friend. This led to calls late into the night, Peace Corps staff involvement and her early departure back to the states on Friday. Trek slama JC. Love to you.

Thursday we headed over to the Tawmatine Assn for their hand-rolling couscous workshop. I’d run into a friend in the Fes medina with Rebecca on Monday and Vanessa wanted to come with some visitors to REK to do the couscous workshop. Great timing-they joined Samira, Rebecca, Randy and I. This was the 4th tourist workshop the Tawmatine women have done and it was good to see it run with a group of 7 of us. That’s more complicated and good to observe the logistics to make a few suggestions.

Keeping to our plan, it was back to Fes for all of us-Rebecca and I to continue on to Rabat, Randy to Ain Leuh and Samira to meet w/Gail and Michele again and then visit with family members in Fes.

By the time Rebecca and I arrived in Rabat, we went on to the French Institute for dinner before heading to our riad on the back side of the medina. And what a riad it was-a beautiful mix of contemporary and traditional Moroccan design, all beautifully finished. Lovely.

Friday morning I headed over to the office for a brief good bye to my friend before she headed to the airport and back to the states. Back to the riad in time for a leisurely breakfast with Rebecca. We then wandered thru the Oudayas kasbah and gardens. It was a short walk from our riad, right on the Atlantic and a very picturesque blue and white charming neighborhood I’d never seen before. By the time we walked back thru the medina to see some of the Ville area, the Friday call to prayer had sounded and most of the shops were closed. At least that made for an easy walk thru the medina.

As we headed up Mohamed V Blvd, we saw crowds in front of the Parliament building. Since protests are commonplace events in the capitol, I figured this was just another one. However, it was quite orderly and ½ the boulevard was blocked off. Ymkn not the usual protest crowd. Asked a policeman what was going on and discovered that it was the opening of Parliament and the king was coming in an hour or so. We found the best vantage point we could and parked ourselves on some steps for the wait. How many opportunities do you have to see a king? About 2 hours later, we know we saw him ascend the stairs across the street, but I honestly have no idea which of the cloaked men was him. Yes, I have photos-you tell me which one is the king.

Back to the riad, we had a couple hours to lounge/read on the zwin rooftop before heading out for dinner to a restaurant that Samira had recommended. We had a lovely meal, drank a very nice (and what felt like bottomless) bottle of wine and back for an early night to bed. I got Rebecca on the train to the airport yesterday morning and I headed back to Fes and onward to REK. I’m glad that timing worked out as I had to remind people of our meeting today.

Today’s meeting was a good one. I brought together all 5 Associations/Cooperatives who are involved in the REK Tourism options, the translator and Gail from Fes (one of the tourism booking agents). Thankfully everyone (except Michele-but Gail will relay the info to her) was there and we reviewed all the details-who will do what, how the trips will be booked and paid for, etc. We’ve already run 4 couscous workshops, 1 olive oil workshop and 1 natural dye and weaving workshop. Inshallah there will be plenty more to follow.

Now I’ve got some catching up to do. Been away from the computer and internet for over a week and a lot I need to follow up on. Fortunately I have only a day trip this week to Ifrane, so I’ll be able to get a lot of things checked off my ‘to do’ list.

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