Sunday, 31 May 2009

Life in Fez : What we miss

Just a few photos of our Moroccan countryside, to show you what I missed this year, with the flood and all - watching the wheat grow, the people harvest their fields, seeing the countryside change.
I remember last year, each time we would come home from Fez, we would watch with amazement every little change in the landscape, every detail, every shade of green.

This is what our house looks like in April :

photo Nathalie Cardoso

Here's our land, with Bachir's wheat on it, in May :

And then, the harvest. In that field, the little stacks of wheat were hand-harvested - one of the hardest and most painful types of work people have to do here. Usually though, if they have the money, they use machines. They can't use them in that field.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

U2 in Fez : Magnificient

U2 loves arabic music and Fez...
Here is the beautiful video of their song Magnificient, shot in the medina :


Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Hotel Lincoln in Casablanca : A Tragic Story

That hotel’s story is beautiful, sad, and tragic. That’s the story of a gorgeous hotel, a pioneer, who slowly changed into a murderer. That’s the story of a long decay, and of an uncertain future.

The Hotel Lincoln was the first building to be build on the Boulevard de la Gare in Casablanca, which now the Boulevard Mohammed V. It was built in 1916 by Hubert Bride, at a time when Casablanca was a playground for European architects, who experimented and mixed occidental and Arabic patterns. The Hotel Lincoln is a big, majestic Art Deco building. After Morocco was decolonized, it wasn’t destroyed, like many other constructions dating from the protectorate, in an attempt of the authorities to erase the traces of the French occupation.

With the years, the Casablanca hotel decayed. Its facade was blackened by traffic, and the whole building became uninhabitable. And that’s how, in 1989, the hotel began its career as a murderer. Two people were killed when one of the floors collapsed. A few years later, a homeless man would be killed in another collapsing.

And despite all of this, because of this, people began to rally around the hotel. In 2000, it was listed as a historical monument. Renovation projects were suggested. An American wants to make of the hotel a cultural center for the people of Casablanca. Architects want to restore it. But the owner of the building envisions an altogether different future for the hotel. He would like to destroy it, keeping only the facade, and build a five-story office building instead. The authorities decide to expropriate him, but nothing happens.

On Febrary 1st, the heavy rains provoked the collapsing of a part of the walls of the hotel - without injuring anyone this time.

Look at the beauty, and at the distress, of the Hotel Lincoln.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Breakfast in Casablanca

When we go to Casablanca, there are some things we always do. We take a hotel by the Marché Central, we go to Zara, we eat ice-cream, and we go buy DVDs in the medina.

And we always have breakfast in one of the laiteries (dairies) of the Marché Central - and it’s by far the most affordable of our Casablanca habits.

In Morocco, a laiterie is a place that sells all kinds of pastries, yoghurts, and sandwiches, as well as fruit juices (most of them mixed with milk, hence the name of those stores) and hot beverages.

The laiteries of the Marché Central are particularly nice. They’re in the center of Casablanca, and the colonial architecture is wonderful. You have breakfast among high school students and employees, watching the bustling street. It’s a nice change when you live in Fez, that seems so small and provincial by contrast.

The laiteries are very cheap, probably one of the cheapest places where to get breakfast in Casablanca. A glass of orange juice will cost you 5 dirhams (50 euro cents), and a glass of luisa (verbena) only 2 dirhams (20 euro cents). Food is extremely cheap too. The other day it was petits pains (chocolate rolls) and a Vache qui rit sandwich.

The last thing I love about those laiteries is that they’re open very late, and you can have a glass of tea or of luisa at 2pm, which is perfect when you’ve spent the night in a bar. Plus, you really need some luisa to help you to get asleep in your noisy hotel room in central Casablanca.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Life in a Mudbrick House : a World Tour

Sometimes I wonder why we build a mudbrick house in Morocco.

During the rains of this winter, I was dreaming of a big appartement, in Fez, white and clean, far from the mud.

It seemed so much more reasonnable than a mudbrick house in the middle of the Moroccan countryside.

When you think about it, it’s just a pile of earth. We’ve learned that we have to be careful with that. That it could be complicated.

But when I’m having doubts, I think about the people all over the world who live in mudbrick houses.


In Mali.


Photo : blaseur 

In Lybia.

 Photo : h Savill

In Iran.



In the US - ok, nobody's been living in that house for a while.


 Photo : im pastor rick

In Turkey.


Photo : Hakatani Tenfu

In India.


Photo a n j a

And in Morocco, of course.

And I’m not afraid any more.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A Mudbrick House in Morocco, and the little treasures of its garden

Our mudbrick house still bears the scars of the flood. All that rain, though, was a good thing for the garden. Spring and the Moroccan sun have brought us little treasures,

fragile little surprises,

colors that heal us of the grayness of Fez.

Of course the boys, who are better gardeners than us, took care of this little piece of land which will soon be the vegetable garden, and planted the fruit trees that had been waiting for months.

And where there’s a treasure, there must be a keeper - the dog Lisa. As always, very faithful, and very hungry.

- If you like our Moroccan countryside, go see the trip Sandy from The View From Fez took in the Rif mountains. Very nice, and amazingly similar to Ouled Mgatel. It's here and here, in the The View From Fez PhotoJournal.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

The American Fondouk in Fez : An Animal Hospital

In Fez, there is an amazing, almost magical, place. This is the American Fondouk, an animal hospital founded in the 1920s by Sidney Haines Coleman, who cared about the health of the working animals of Morocco. Almost a century later, the Fondouk - which means hotel in Arabic - still treats for free thousands of animals every year. Lots of working animals - mares and donkeys -, but also cats and dogs (though I guess they didn’t treat many of those in the 1920s).

Of course, I don’t have to tell you that the existence of such a place is both fantastic and weird, in a country where the public hospitals are awful, and where most of the people don’t have health insurance.

When our cats needed to be vaccinated, that’s where I wanted to go. Because it’s free, obviously, and also because it sounded like a strange place. Also because Paul Bowles, an American writer that I love, worked there in the 1930s.

And once there, I wasn’t disappointed - we even saw a mare having her teeth cleaned. 


Of course, we left a little something in that box. Because most clients of the hospital are very poor.

Read the history of the American Fondouk here.

And they have a blog too.