Rugs and carpets of Morocco

Moroccan carpet

Moroccan carpet

One of the features of Morocco we enjoyed was seeing the many buildings featuring mosaics. They are wonderfully beautiful and alluring to eyes not used to such artistry. Another feature of this magical country were the numerous carpet and rug outlets everywhere we travelled. Today I feature one of the Berber carpet shops in the town of Tinghir. This interesting town has a population of just over 40,000 and is near the Todra Gorge which I featured in my last post.

The shop was in the local medina and was a fascinating experience. On entering, we were asked to remove our shoes – a common practice in many parts of Morocco – and we were then seated on voluminous cushions on the floor. My old bones and muscles objected to this, but I managed both getting down – and getting up again.

Mint tea

As the owner regaled us with the significance of the symbols on the carpets he had for sale, we were served delicious mint tea. Eventually, four of our touring group purchased small rugs or runners to take back home. I would love to have done the same, but common sense prevailed. They would have made our luggage far too bulky and we were on the upper limit with its weight. Besides, my wife and I decided that there was nowhere in our home where they could be put to good use. The owner actually did a strong sales pitch on my daughter who nearly weakened; she was very tempted, but she resisted. I hope that she doesn’t regret this.

Carding wool

While we were in the shop enjoying our mint tea, my wife accepted the challenge to card some wool by hand (see the next photo below). This didn’t surprise me at all. She has had plenty of practice at home over the years. At one stage we had a small flock of sheep, with at least one of them with coloured wool. She enjoyed carding the wool before spinning it. Later she used the wool to knit garments.

In an earlier post, I featured my wife attempting to spin wool in the traditional manner in Morocco. You can read that post here.

My wife attempts to card some wool in the carpet shop.

My wife attempts to card some wool in the carpet shop.

A rug hanging over the edge of a building in Tinghir

A rug hanging over the edge of a building in Tinghir

Rugs hanging over the edge of a building in Tinghir

Rugs hanging over the edge of a building in Tinghir

Yasmina Hotel and the Todra Gorge in Morocco

Yasmina Hotel, Todra Gorge, Morocco

Yasmina Hotel, Todra Gorge, Morocco

On the next stage of our tour of Morocco, we visited the Todra Gorge. As we moved through this spectacular gorge I took the photo above of the Yasmina Hotel. I was initially amused by the access planks over the water. Not the usual grand entrance one might expect.

Poor reviews

We didn’t stay in this hotel, nor did we stop for a meal. Just before writing this post I read some very disparaging reviews of this hotel. It seems that the electricity supply is somewhat lacking, or even non-existent. The showers were cold, as were the rooms. The food was also average in quality.

Our experiences

On our visit, however, we experienced none of these inconveniences. We enjoyed top quality hotels wherever we went with our tour group. The food was amazing and the people most accommodating and friendly.

Spectacular Todra Gorge

The main reason for our tour to take in this part of Morocco was to experience the spectacular Todra Gorge. The gorge is shown in the photos below. Although we didn’t walk far into the gorge itself, the views were amazing. I was also intrigued by several rock climbers in the gorge, so it seems that this is another attraction of this area. I also took notice of the variety of traders in the gorge. They had set up their tables at various parts of the gorge. Their wares ranged from carpets to rugs, utensils to kitchen wares, food and drinks, as well as the usual tourist knick-knacks.

Further reading:

Todra Gorge, Morocco

Todra Gorge, Morocco

Todra Gorge, Morocco

Todra Gorge, Morocco

Todra Gorge, Morocco

Todra Gorge, Morocco

Todra Gorge, Morocco

Todra Gorge, Morocco

Morocco is a land of contrasts

Gorge in eastern Morocco

Gorge in eastern Morocco

It was fascinating visiting Morocco. I really had little idea of what the countryside would look like. Every day seemed different, every turn of the road we took opened up new vistas and interesting glimpses of life in this magical country.

After visiting the deep colours of the Sahara – see my previous posts – we travelled in a south-easterly direction. I am not entirely certain as to where today’s photos were taken, but our tour pamphlet indicates this was in the Todra Gorge and the Dandes Valley. If any of my readers can enlighten me further, please leave a comment or two, thanks.

The photo above shows a beautiful stream flowing through a deep gorge. The surrounding country is harsh and dry, stony and wind-swept. This little oasis was a pleasant change from the stark surrounding countryside. The photo below shows the entrance to the place where we had lunch, another quiet, serene escape from the bustle of city life in the medinas further west.

A serene retreat for lunch

A serene retreat for lunch

As we travelled along we saw sudden drops over a steep escarpment into the valleys below. The people living in this valley were in verdant farming country, in many places only a short walk to the surrounding desert-like country all around. What a difference reliable water makes to an environment. We actually saw much evidence in many parts of the country of the efficient use of water. Perhaps many farmers here in Australia could learn from the Moroccans in the best use of a scarce resource like water. Just a thought.

Morocco - Dandes Valley?

Morocco – Dandes Valley?

Morocco - Dandes Valley?

Morocco – Dandes Valley?

Morocco - Dandes Valley?

Morocco – Dandes Valley?

Now that’s a different way to travel

An interesting way to travel

An interesting way to travel

Over the years, I have seen some unusual sights while travelling.

For example, only earlier this week here in South Australia we were driving from Peterborough in the mid-north back home in Murray Bridge, near Adelaide. We passed two people travelling north on in-line skates (roller blades) using two skiing poles to propel them and their small trailers.

Bizarre.

And very hard work on a hot, humid day.

On our tour of Morocco, I took the photo above. We were stopped at a roadside restaurant for morning tea. Other vehicles had also stopped there. A single sheep was having a grand tour with an excellent view of the countryside. I love the trouble that the owner of the van had gone to in order to keep the animals he needed to transport in safety. It was possible a quite normal thing to do in Morocco, though I didn’t see any more examples of this method. In Australia, we are more used to seeing animals transported in large trucks, trailers of many sizes, or  on the backs of utes (utility vehicles).

Less common would be transporting animals inside a vehicle (with the exception of pet dogs, cats and the like), though I have heard of people carrying animals inside the boot (trunk) of a car and even inside a van. I have even seen sheep being transported on a quad bike (4 wheel motorbike) or over the lap of a person riding a two-wheel motorbike which is relatively common on farms here in Australia. But I have never heard of or seen animals carried on TOP of the cabin of a car or van, as in this photo.

I actually think that it is quite innovative.

Some birds of the Sahara in Morocco

Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove at Merzouga in Morocco

Over recent weeks, I have been writing about our experiences while on a tour of Morocco. A few days ago I wrote about our camel ride into the Sahara and our overnight stay in a tent in the desert. On our return to a hotel on the edge of the desert, we had a late breakfast overlooking the desert. After the meal, we boarded our tour bus and moved on to the next destination.

While having breakfast I was able to get some good photos of some of the local birds, as shown in today’s post. The first one above is of the Eurasian Collared Dove, a relatively common bird in this part of the world. It is found throughout much of Europe, Asia and northern Africa, including Morocco. It has been introduced into North America. I actually photographed one in our garden in South Australia a few years ago – click here to see the photos of a sub-species, the Barbary Dove.

The next photo shows a lovely portrait of a Southern Grey Shrike. This species is found in many parts of northern Africa, the Pakistan-Indian region and in Spain. This was the first time I had seen this species so it is a “lifer” for my list.

The third species, as shown below, was a White-crowned Black Wheatear, another “lifer” bird species for me. It was a lovely way to end our visit to the Sahara, and one of the highlights of a wonderful tour of Morocco.

While on the camel ride into the desert I did see several other bird species but I was unable to identify them. It was very difficult to take photos of them from the constantly moving back of the camel I was riding. Near out camp in the desert, I also saw a small flock of House Sparrows.

Southern Grey Shrike at Merzouga in Morocco

Southern Grey Shrike at Merzouga in Morocco

White-crowned Black Wheatear, Merzouga, Morocco

White-crowned Black Wheatear, Merzouga, Morocco