Sequenced and Arranged

For Lost In Translations Thursday’s Special Pick A Word November 2022: Sequential. The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. Opened in 1993, it is the largest functioning mosque in Africa and the 7th largest in the world. It was paid for with mandatory donations by all citizens of Morocco. It is the only mosque in Morocco open to non Muslims. Interestingly, this is not a religious proscription as many assume. When the French established a “protectorate” over Morocco (1912–1956), they passed a law forbidding Muslims from entering Christian churches and forbidding Christians from entering Muslim religious buildings. The French felt this would prevent religious disputes and attempts at conversion. The law is still on the books .

Ouarzazet: Making Movies in Morocco

Did you know one of the largest film studios in the world is in rural Morocco. Atlas Studios is in Ouarzazet. Scenes from Babel, Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, Game of Thrones and many other films have been shot in the area.

Atlas Studio

CLA Studio nearby

Set used as Jerusalem. Atlas saves many sets and has tours.

Parts of Gladiator were filmed at Ait Ben Haddou, a historic village along old caravan route. It is a Unesco site.

Camels and Dunes in the Erg Chebbi

No trip to Morocco is complete without a night at a tented camp in the red sand dunes. We were in the Erg Chebbi near Merzouga. Our trek included a 30-minute camel ride over a flat surface into the dunes, but the rest of the trip was by 4X4.

Me and my camel. Most of the pictures of the dunes were taken from the 4X4 because I was afraid to let go of the camel’s swaying saddle. The wrapped cloth turbans are a type of traditional headdress for the Berbers tribes, now called the Amazigh, any of the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa.

The tented camp. At home in the desert with all the amenities, except wi-fi. Luckily, I could still get a signal.

We had a Moroccan musical performance of Gnawa, a mystical music originating from West Africa.

Gnawa Music

“Gnawa is one of the most popular types of music in Northern Africa. The Gnawa are slave descendants who were brought to Morocco by the Arabs and claim to be descendants of Sidi Bilal. Their sub-Saharan music has a lead, long-necked lute player who sings and is accompanied by metal castanets. . . .This style has been blended with hip-hop, jazz, rock, and funk but still preserves the traditional sound of their ancestors.” (from

“For Gnawa music is a fusion of Arab, Berber and African rhythms. It is powerful trance music that goes back to the 16th century and has gained international popularity over the last few years. If you are in Morocco during the month of June, don’t miss the three-day Gnawa festival in the city of Essaouira in the south of Morocco. The main instruments of Gnawa music is the double-headed drum – or tbal – and metal castanets or qerqbat. Gnawa has also gone through changes and can be heard mixed with different musical styles such as Jazz.”  (from

Morning brought clouds and then rain as we left the dunes behind.


Fes is Morocco. It has it all. It is vibrant and rushed and bursting with color and sound. It is more old than new, unlike Casablanca which feels much like many other modern cities. Fes is one of the four royal cities of Morocco and is its spiritual and cultural capital. Fes is famous for its medina, or historic city. The medina has two quarters, Fes el-Bali and Fes Jdid.

The Mellah, the Jewish Quarter, is located in Fes Jdid. Fes had one of the largest and oldest Jewish populations in Morocco. The history of the Jewish community in Fes is long and complex. Today few Jews remain in the city.
The Aben Danan Synagogue has been restored and is now a small museum. It was built in the 17th century and restored in 1998. There are no functioning synagogues in Fes.
Gates of the Alaouite Royal Palace (Dar al-Makhzen). The palace is located in the Fes Jdid, which was established in1276 as an administrative center and royal citadel. The gate is traditional in design but was built in the 1960s when King Hassan II moved the main entrance of the palace. The gates are a popular stop on the tourist circuit.
Gates of the Alaouite Royal Palace (Dar al-Makhzen), built in the 1960s.

Fes it know for its arts and crafts including pottery, metal working, leather goods, and carpets. We visited a pottery. The artisans and craftsmen are paid by the piece and times were hard for many of them during the pandemic when tourism was slow.

Forming clay tiles
The potter will make about 10 small items from this piece of clay
Paint pigments are natural
Women can now be painters
Hand crafted tiles for table tops and other items
Making the tiles

Fes el-Bali, the original historic city of Fes and generally called the medina, is a maze of streets and passageways, some barely wide enough to walk down. The medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is said to be the world’s oldest urban pedestrian zone, though donkeys are allowed. And a motorcycle or two.

About to enter the medina.
Many of the narrow alleys and streets are dead ends.
The narrowest passageway we encountered.
The dyers market, one of many specialized markets.
The fish market
This owner was dying yarn. This shop is the official dyer for the royal family when it has a special order for blue.
A coppersmith in the metal market
One of the master copper artisans.
The medina is home to many theological schools or madrassa, most of which are not open to non Muslims. The Al-Attarine Madrasa was built from 1323/1325. It is now open to the public.
It is known for its tile work, carved stucco, calligraphic inscriptions, carved cedar wood and its use of columns.
Looking down on the medina from the hotel.

Assilah, An Arty City by The Sea

Assilah is on Morocco’s Atlantic coast north of Rabat. It has an arty vibe and holds an important annual arts and cultural festival in its medina. Originally settled by the Phoenicians, Assilah was an important Arabic city that was later conquered by Portugal. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was a pirate stronghold. From 1912-1956, it was part of Spanish Morocco.

15th century walls built by the Portuguese surround the 12th century medina.

Looking out from the promenade along the ocean with Portuguese battlements along the beach

Sculpture from the cultural festival

White-washed buildings with touches of green or blue, typical Andalusian style in Morocco

Privacy windows in t b e narrow streets of the medina so woman could chat

Mural from festival

The coast line of the now trendy location.

Section of a mural

An all seafood lunch. I really don’t like my food to stare at me.

In the market

School sign in Arabic, French, and Berber (Amazigh).

Chefchaouen The Blue City

Chefchaouen is a lovely hillside City in Morroco. It is known for its blue painted buildings. I was surprised to learn that the extensive use of blue is only about 20 years old. Something most travel writers either ignore or don’t know. The city is whitewashed or painted three times a year for religious reasons. If the paint is only one storey high, it was done by a women.

Many shades of blue

Night blues

From my terrace

A communal bakery. The women bring their loaves in the morning for baking.

Fort built in 1471 by Portuguese prisoners

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