cerebral museum

Meknés and tree-climbing goat shit seed oil, Morocco

Posted in Uncategorized by Cassandra on March 31, 2010

Meknés, Morocco

Meknés came after Rabat. Only a few hours on a train, and I was there. Took a petit taxi into the city center and found a hostel rather easily for only 6 euros/night. It’s the old imperial city of Morocco. Pretty small, beautiful light. Lots of hills and a really incredible old gate that was hosting an art exhibit. Stayed here only two days. Ate some really good carrot soup, passed up the avocado shakes (?) and bought a ton of Argan oil.

The small glass bottle above holds Argan oil, which all of the women in Morocco use like lotion. It can be really expensive in boutiques, but also found in the stalls hidden in the souks. I looked for the latter, and bought this bottle for 11dH (about $1). It’s made from argan seeds, which grow on a short and sturdy tree native to the southern climate. The seeds have a rock hard exterior casing, and can’t be processed in their natural state. The fruit is eaten by insane tree climbing goats (which I saw but didn’t get a photo of).  The local women then collect the seeds from the goats’ shit, wash them, and extract the oil from the now breakable seeds. It’s a chemical in the goat’s stomach that breaks down the shell. The oil smells like heady hazelnuts.


Above, the main plaza in the medina. In the background you can see the huge gate. Below, food porn.


Pretty light here. Also ballsy taxi drivers, and a lot of snake charmers and story tellers in the plaza. Sat here and people watched contentedly for hours. Second morning in the city I left on a day trip to see the roman ruins at Volubilis, then caught a late train for Fez.


Tagged with: ,

Rabat, the capital city of Morocco

Posted in Uncategorized by Cassandra on March 31, 2010

Left Marrakech on a train up the West coast to Rabat to meet up with Lisa and Drew for a couple of days.

Rabat, Morocco

All I saw of Casablanca was the view that flew by the window in a blur of dirty high rises, shantytowns, and a smoggy sunset.

Made it into Rabat without incident, had some tea and macaroons, walked around for a bit and found a super cheap hostel for the night. Lis and Drew came in super late the same night.

check out the supports in the building under construction

Next day we walked around for a while. Went to the coast to find an old graveyard and the Kasbah. The weather was perfect, the ocean bright blue.

for grandma pat.

these people are rad and I love them.

kasbah tea stand

Photo above is remnants of the old census system.. certain symbols in different boxes represent how many people/animals/businesses reside in the old city walls. They were all over Morocco and it looked like some were still in use.

Moroccan flag-- red background with central green star.

in her element

Walked around the covered marketplace for a while, clucked at some chickens, eventually found a hotel (that was entirely painted the color of pepto bismol) and a really shady bar where a jovial old guy spoke italian to me and tried to force feed Lis and I hard boiled eggs, foil wrapped cheese, and mystery powder.

Almost got us kicked out for taking the above photo. We were the only women in the windowless bar, and definitely got the idea we weren’t really welcome (especially not welcome to take photos). The italian speaking dude shrugged it off and called me Scarlett Johannson and we had another round and all was well.

It was so, so good to see friendly faces and spend some time with those two cats. Next day, they headed South for Agaidir and I hopped on another train for Meknés.

Tagged with: , ,

Dunes of Merzouga and Erg Chebbi via Camel, Morocco

Posted in Uncategorized by Cassandra on March 31, 2010

Merzouga, Morocco

3 days after leaving Marrakech, finally made it to the desert. The transitioning geography was fascinating and beautiful. Parts of it were incredibly similar to the high desert where I’m from. I called my father to tell him this on New Year’s day.

wind whipped

my ride for the next 2 days.

Carried out all of our own water. Berber guys watching the camp cooked hot tagine for dinner.

Stayed in a Berber rug tent. Woke up with a quarter inch of sand on the side of my head and in all of my stuff. The wind tore through the night before and unfortunately it was cloudy dusk till dawn.

I hiked barefoot up to the top of one of the dunes to lay down for a bit. My eyes adjusted and the moonscape was more visible,barely lit by the light filtering through the clouds. No sound carried, just the wind tearing through and reshaping the smaller dunes.

Woke before dawn to the grunts and growls of the camels. Left camp around 6am to make it around the huge dunes before sunrise. Was definitely worth it.

22 year old Berber guy wearing my jacket. He spoke fluent spanish with me, which he learned solely via tourists at his camp.

Too many words.

Made it out of the dunes after about 4 more hours on the beasts. Apparently it’s only 40 days on camel to Timbuktu from here. Maybe next time… at this point I was ready for some hard ground. A 12 hour drive straight back to Marrakech followed, which left my stomach emptied of its contents various times, me severely dehydrated, and gave me a raging hate for a particular Arabic rap cd, which the driver played the  e n t i r e  way back.

Was very happy to make it back to Marrakech and into a bed. Left for Rabat (the capital) a few days later to meet up with Lis & Drew. Photos to follow.