Friday, November 16, 2007


Trip planning can be fun! I love reading up on the places to visit and things to do while there. When I go away with my sister and her family, she does the hotel research, and when Martha and Susan came they did the hotel research (though I did help narrow it down for them), but for the next guests I have been doing the hotel research. There are some beautiful dars and riads in this country – with beautiful web sites! I may or may not be writing from the road, so it may be a while before I write again, but pull out your Morocco map and live vicariously as first Helen and I (and Youssef), and then Steve and Elisa and I (and Youssef), go to:
17-18 Marrakesh – Jemaa el Fna, souks, maybe museums or Jardin Majorelle, and I thought biking in the palmerie might be fun, or maybe a day trip *
19 – Ait Benhaddou, Ouarzazate, Agdz and if we can make it, all the way to Zagora along the picturesque Draa Valley *
20 – Zagora, Tamegroute and M’Hmid, where we will do an sunset camel or 4x4 trek and overnight in the desert *
21 – Maybe Kelaa MGouna, hopefully Dades Gorge, maybe Tinghir or Todra Gorge… *
22 – Back to Azrou! Helen is bringing pumpkin, pie crust, stuffing and other trimmings! Happy Thanksgiving to all!
23 – Day in Azrou!
24 – Day in Fes – farewell to Helen
25 – Day in Fes – first day with Elisa and Steve
26 – Day in Azrou!
27 – Hiking in the environs of Azrou!
28 – Erfoud, Merzouga sunset camel trek (maybe 4x4 too) and overnight in the desert *
29 – To Marrakesh – maybe stopping at something we missed on the 21st or 19th *
30 – Marrakesh *
1 – El Jadida, maybe with other coastal towns along the way
2 – Maybe Casablanca – ending up in Rabat – and farewell Steve and Elisa
3-5 – The travel fun continues with mid-service medicals in Rabat *
* = possibilities and/or plans to see other volunteers in the area
Of course, details to come after the trips (if not during). I haven’t overnighted in the desert yet, I haven’t been west of the Todra Gorge or east of Marrakesh along that southern main drag, I haven’t seen most of the volunteers in that region in a while, and I am of course very excited about seeing my friends from home!

While researching the riads I noticed that almost all of them name their rooms. Common names are places in Morocco, colors, flowers, or women’s names. I decided that since I have so many guests I might name my rooms too. How does this sound:

Dar Shereen
A cozy apartment in Azrou – great location, great value – established 2007
Welcome to Dar Shereen. Upon arrival in the Fes Room (formerly known as the Room with Six Doors), you will be offered slippers and a welcome glass of water or cup or tea or coffee (or the Manager’s special Iced Mocha Java). The Fes Room has tiled floors and tiled walls, recalling the tradition of ceramics and tile-making of the artisans of that imperial city. Sit on a traditional pouf and take your shoes off; put your things on the table carved by one of the local artisans.
There are three sleeping rooms in Dar Shereen:
The Marrakesh Room: Furnished in bold colors of purple and gold, the Marrakesh room features three custom-made ponges, each against its own wall. A corner room with peaked windows on two sides, the Marrakesh room also has a terrace that features a view of the mountains. Additional sleeping space is available using the rug on the floor. The Marrakesh room, formerly known as the Living Room or the Salon, also houses the Dar Shereen library, containing magazines, books, CDs and DVDs. Games and decks of cards can be found here as well, and the hostess is almost always up for a game.
The Rabat Room: Also known as the Zen Room, the Rabat room is painted in a relaxing shade of blue, recalling the Casbah des Oudayas. Visitors can sleep on comfortable foam pads or on the multi-colored hand-woven rug. Candles and incense are available, and frequent yoga sessions are held here.
The Middle Atlas Room: Formerly known as the Bedroom, this room is decorated with traditional tapestries of the Berbers of the Middle Atlas. It is usually occupied by the resident proprietress, but she has been known to share. Deluxe accommodations include a featherbed and duvet; the natural darkness and white noise machine provide further relaxation.
Other features of Dar Shereen include an eat-in kitchen where the guests can help with meal preparation and cleanup if they desire, private patio/laundry area complete with outdoor cold-water faucet and clotheslines, and bathroom with genuine Turkish toilet and hot shower on demand. Separate sink area is romantically lit. The roof, known for its views of the mountain sunsets, is also open to guests. Throughout the Dar you will find examples of artisanal crafts from all over Morocco. The proprietress can conduct tours of Azrou including the Ensemble Artisanal, the medina, carpet shops, cafes and patisseries, and other highlights such as the post office!
We speak English – swiya darija – un peu du français – un poco deespañol – and a few words of Tamazight. Enjoy your stay!
For reservations contact:

I started with the Chefchouaen room for the Zen room, but decided on an Imperial Cities theme. Could have used all four cities and made the bedroom the Meknes room - but for now I’ll l eave it Middle Atlas.

I wish I slept as well as the copy above seems to imply – I just have not been sleeping well lately. Actually, I haven’t slept well pretty much since I arrived here! But I still feel energized during the day, so maybe it’s okay.

This was a busy week. The hike on Sunday was a walk west of town – a highlight was rustling leaves. As with last fall, there’s very little color, but it’s nice to see the leaves turn. To get ready for my visitors, I did the floors and laundry, which now takes two days to dry in the late autumn sun. Still have to pack though. Did a lot of reading up on the places we’re going so I could write a prioritized list of things to see. Spent a lot of time searching for the places to stay. And wrote a comprehensive to-do list so when I get back I won’t have to wonder where I left off. I also wrote a report for the program staff – there’s a new minister at the Ministry and they requested a progress report on everyone’s projects. This was a new format for us and therefore a new way to frame what we are doing here – maybe with a little more accountability than we’re used to. I had been thinking about things anyway, approaching the year-after-swearing-in mark, and I had a talk with my counterpart over what else I can do here. He told me that TimHdit was getting money from Eaux et Forets and I asked about the weaving cooperative in Azrou. He said they don’t really need help; they’re successful enough. I asked about the sewing cooperative and he said they might not even be a cooperative. With that on the table, it was time to ask again about the rural communities. No answer, but maybe something to think about.

I visited my host family one evening – it had been way too long! I had to see them before being unavailable for two and a half weeks. Turns out they had been away for much of the time since the last time I saw them, so it was (almost) okay that I hadn’t seen them in so long. When I get back, we’re going to start the cooking lessons. I also have to resume tutoring – I took Ramadan off, and then was away, and then sick, and then getting ready, and now I’ll be away – I’ve missed tutoring. I’ve done a lot of practicing in the meantime, and want to keep it up. Our tutoring money is soon to expire, and I have to decide whether or not to continue to pay out of my mandat (would probably require bank trips, i.e. my own money) and also whether/when to add or switch to French.

Yesterday, some PCVs were in town for their flu shots. I went down to the Auberge to give the PCMO some books to return to the library, and showed people to the artisana and some of the artisans. When other volunteers come for the first time, they are always struck by how beautiful Azrou is and how nice the people are – I never take it for granted, but hearing their reactions helps to reinforce how happy I am that this is my site!

This morning I had coffee with Bouchra, the SBD Program Manager – she was coming through on her way to Rabat from the south. Much as I thought about asking her more questions about herself, I also prepared some things to show her – the web site, the brochure, the report to the ministry – and some questions about other projects – GAD, rural sites, the Middle Atlas trainings. She was very nice and supportive! A good way to wrap things up before vacation.

The picture is of electric fish from a restaurant in Sidi Ifni. My electric fish is smaller, in a baroque frame, but you can see how zwin it is and how mesmerizing it might be to gaze upon! And just in case I don't get another chance to write until after mid-service medicals (early December), know that I am in good hands - and have fun out there!


You are remaining busy! your itinerary sounds great and I am looking forward to hearing about your travel.. I have not been much south of Marrikech but heading south has been a trip I have wanted to take!
Thanks, and looking forward to the details!
One of the highlights was stopping in Kelaa M'Gouna for a few hands of cards!
Note - I am not sure whether that post was from a friend of mine or not but decided to keep the link up (as opposed to the comments for Tangier property or Tetouan property or Levitz furniture) because it's a nice web site with Moroccan decor (and it helps to reinforce the fact that the prices are great here compared to what I would be paying for something in the US - so much so that when I figure out where I am going to live and what I might still need for decor, maybe I should come back as a tourist!).
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