topics: herira (food), Moroccan toilets, Chefchaouen, medina, daily life, architecture, Kasbah; jump to dispatch

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Rider Notes: October 1, 1997

Breakfast: Since we always lack sleep, there is rarely time for a grand breakfast. After yesterday's hills and with a looming meeting at 10 a.m. in town, there was just time for quick muffins (the store-bought, preservative-filled kind), bananas, and, of course, mint tea (although, today the leaves were not served in the glass, they stayed in the pot).

Lunch: During our walk through the medina, we had Mars bars, baguettes, and nut bread. andrEa desperately wanted to try one of the blackened, hand-roasted corn cobs that are sold on the street and smell so good. Her stomach, though, has seen better days . . .

Dinner: Sitting in one of the tiny restaurants in the medina that have room for just a single big table (10 people if squished), the chairs, one shelf, and candlelight, we again had our favorites on the Moroccan dinner-list: vegetable tagine, herira soup (see Food of the Day), salade marocaine (tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, with lots of delicious vinegar and olive oil), and the "Whisky of Morocco" — the well-known and always welcome mint tea.

Food of the Day: Herira

A main ingredient of this delicious meal starter is tomato, but it doesn't taste like tomato soup at all! This is because of the local spice called alkhrkom (which gives the soup a brownish color) and three different kinds of parsley that give it its special appeal. It's served cold or hot, and tastes gorgeous, especially after a humid sweaty bike day. It is what a vegetarian stomach calls "real food"!

Person of the Day: Achmed, a traveler click to view a photograph

We met Achmed on the road to Chefchaouen. He looked 40-odd years old and had a dark, expressive face. He wore Western clothes, including a winter jacket in the midday heat. He joined us for a bottle of water on the side of the road, and shared his philosophy in well-trained English. "We people are all the same, and Moroccan people know that," he said. "That's why we all are friendly people." It was good hearing such wise words from a wanderer not unlike us.

Place of the Day: Moroccan toilets click to view a photograph

In Morocco, "squat toilets" (also familiarly known as "Turkish toilets") are pieces of molded porcelain that have a hole in the floor with two raised foot platforms on either side. A bucket and waterspout are nearby for hand washing and "flushing" the waste down. There is no toilet paper handy, since most people use the water instead. This system is a very resourceful one, saving both water and paper. In Europe, flushing one toilet once uses 40 liters (about 42 quarts) of clean drinkable water! We still prefer to bring our own toilet paper.

Group Dispatch, October 1

picture of andrEa

This morning we woke up and coasted downward from our lofty lodging to the center of town. Anthony and Padraic hopped a bus back to Tangier for an Internet connection (and the weekly Wednesday live chat made possible by Computer Curriculum Corporation on the former Edscape Web site), while Ethan, andrEa, and Corinne stayed in town to make the rounds.

The hillsides leading into the back, upper reaches of the city were divided by a thick rampart that circles most of Chefchaouen. click to view a photograph It was nice to enter the city through the back door, rather than the front. For once we could see and smell the locals preparing for their day.

At the local Maison Jeune (Youth Center), we were introduced to a man named Sharif who led us on a relaxing tour through Chefchaouen's medina and Kasbah. The medina was not nearly as noisy or complicated as others we have seen, since Chefchaouen is a much smaller city than either Tetouan or Tangier. The familiar-feeling, winding streets of the medina were lined with buildings painted white, which was new, although there were also many walls colored in yellows and blues. This apparently follows the traditional (Spanish) Andalousian pattern, dating back to 1471 when the town was founbded. Sharif also took us into the museum at the Kasbah, in the very center of the city. This museum was the castle itself, and was interesting because the building is as much a relic as the items inside it. A special bonus was the view of the mountains and the town from a new perspective! The Kasbah's former dungeon is being converted into an art gallery, and we all laughed at a pile of easels being stored so close to neck and ankle cuffs. We also learned that the Kasbah had a secret tunnel that wound underground throughout the city, and exited outside the walls for escape during times of war.

In the evening Ethan gave another presentation in French and English at Chefchaouen's Maison Jeune. There was only one person there for it (the schools in Chefchaouen had only just started and it was too early to make a meeting), but he may well be the person who eventually helps bring the Internet into town! While the study of computers is common, the Internet is not yet considered necessary in many northern Moroccan towns. Most business is still conducted on a very local level and among families, so quick international communication is not a priority. However, there is still a great deal of interest, and once it catches on, we are confident that BikeAbout will be remembered.

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