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 .
Founded in the 3rd century BCE by the Carthaginians and later controlled by the Berbers (Amazigh), the fortified city of Volubilis became an important Roman outpost in the 1st century CE. Located near Meknes, between Fes and Rabat, it was the most distant North African outpost in the empire. The city remained a Roman stronghold until 285, when it was defeated by local tribes. It was inhabited through the 11th century. City structures remained substantially intact until 1755, when the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon, Portugal caused the collapse of Volubilis and other sites in North Africa. The city has been partially excavated and some reconstruction has been undertaken.
The Tingis Gate, northern-eastern entrance to Volubilis,168/169 AD. Volubilis had eight monumental gates. Notice the stork’s nest on the column. They are everywhere in Morocco.
Map of the Roman Empire. Volubilis is on the left side in Mauretania Tingitana. It is the largest and best-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco. It became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1997.
Volubilis is known for its well preserved, though in some cases heavily restored, mosaic floors found in the houses of the wealthy classes and in public and private baths. The subjects are generally mythological characters and stories, fantastic beasts or nature. I enhanced the colors in a couple of the photos below to really capture the image. In situ, the mosaics appear duller due to bright sun and deterioration due to the elements. The originals would have appeared brighter, like this first image.
One of my goals on this trip was to see if I could be happy using a cell phone camera when I traveled rather than hauling around my DSLR and a lens or two. I purchased a Samsung S22 Ultra and for the most part shot all my photos with it. Overall, I am pleased with the results though, even with four optical lenses on the phone, I miss the optical zoom on my main DSLR lens. The phone camera was especially handy when taking photos from a moving bus.
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.
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.
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 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 https://simply-morocco.com/moroccan-music/)
“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 https://www.morocco.com/culture/music/)
Morning brought clouds and then rain as we left the dunes behind.
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
From my terrace
A communal bakery. The women bring their loaves in the morning for baking.