Morocco with Mighty and Pips.

Unfortunately this summer we didn’t have the chance to do a trip on the bikes so instead with winter coming we decided to dig out our backpacks and go on a mini adventure to Morocco.  We headed to Gibraltar and then on to Spain and Tarifa to catch the ferry to Tangier.

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Off we go! La Linea de la Concepcion. The first town across the border with Gibraltar.

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Holiday time! Waiting for the bus to Tarifa.

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Calm sea and rainbows as we crossed the Strait of Gibraltar. Luckily when we arrived in Tarifa there was a ferry waiting to leave so a quick sprint through the terminal and we were on our way to Africa!

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The ferry arrived in Tangier ville port and within a few minutes you find yourself walking up through the medina towards the Petit Socco.

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It took us a while to find a place to stay, but in the end we found a lovely little guest house just in time to enjoy the sunset from our roof top…

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and a walk through the medina to the Grand Socco.

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Up early and on the hunt for breakfast…

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And our favourite find, a pancake like flat bread covered in nutella, folded and cut in slices!

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Followed by mint tea at Cafe Tingis as the town wakes up.  As we would be coming back to Tangier at the end of the trip we decided to head to the bus station and catch a bus to Chefchaouen.

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A blue bus on the way to the blue city!

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Blue streets of Chefchaouen.

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We had come to Chefchaouen when Mia was much younger and had remembered it as peaceful little town, and we were looking forward to coming back. It is still lovely to wander around the old town but it is now very much on the tourist trail. A big difference from that town that had once banned entry to all Christians and before 1920 had only been visited by 3 westerners!

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Blue walls full of souvenirs! The girls were in shopping heaven!

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And cat heaven.

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more cats!

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Although it was busy here it was still a pleasure to wander amongst the traffic free streets.

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A walk up to the Spanish mosque is rewarded with an amazing view of the town.

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Chefchaueon.

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The Kasbah.

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Snack stop after a day exploring!

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In disguise!

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Where’s Mia?!

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Narrow streets of the old town.

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After a couple of lovely days here we had an early start to catch the bus to Fes.

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A quiet and misty morning…

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then the sun came out!

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Back on the bus, 4 1/2 hours but luckily drama free. Most of the time was spent counting points for donkey spotting and storks nests…

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extra points for storks!

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Fes, an overload on the senses! The oldest of Morrocco’s imperial capitals, in parts it feels as if it is suspended in time. Narrow lanes ( we were told there are over 900 streets) like a giant maze, full of  bustle, odours, sights and sounds..

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the only traffic you have to jump out of the way of!

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Covered markets full of all sorts of delights from olives to…

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slippers…

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and sweet treats..

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to herbal delights…

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and of course the odd camel head!

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The still working leather tanneries are incredible too, barely changed from medieval times.

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Amongst the madness is calm in the truly beautiful Medersa Bou Inania.

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This medersa was built between 1351 and 1357, the last and grandest built by a Merenid sultan. Sultan Adou Inan who was noted for having 325 sons in ten years, deposing his father and committing unusually atrocious murders!  He was advised by the religious leaders to build his medersa on the city’s rubbish dump for redemption of his sins.

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When looking up a place to stay in Fes I came across an organisation that arranged homestays with families in the city, I though this would be a perfect chance to get to show the girls what life was like in a moroccan household. However it was not quite as we imagined it was indeed an old family home but it felt like the family had long gone, the house was beautiful but crumbling, and the welcome was far less friendly then we received everyday on the streets. This bed was definitely the high light, unfortunately we were not sleeping in this one, the one we were given had dead cockroaches under the pillows! So after a not so restful night we bid our goodbyes and headed for Meknes!

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Where we had much better luck finding a beautiful very friendly guest house.

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We had a lovely couple of days here, it has a relaxed party like atmosphere. Every evening the square if filled with stalls, entertainers, medicine men and snake charmers….

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and for the girls a dream come true…..

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a ride around the town in a princess carriage!!

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The beautiful Bab Mansour with modern life flowing past it!

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Meknes comes alive at night.

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From Meknes we took a day trip out to the holy town of Moulay Idriss

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The girls managed to hitch a lift up the 150 steps to the top of town!

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Close to Moulay Idriss are the Roman ruins of Volubilis. It was the Roman Empire’s most remote and far flung base and represented the end of the imperial road. Roman rule here only lasted for two centuries, with the Berber tribes hard to conquer. The garrison withdrew in 285 AD. IN later years marble from here was then taken to bulid Moulay Ismail’s Meknes 25km south.

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Volubilis

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The ruins with the Zerhoune mountains in the distance.

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The ruins are impressive but it was sad to find out that Volubilis along with wheat and olives grown in the fertile land here was a chief source of lions for the famous Roman games. Huge numbers of wild animals were taken to Rome and within just two hundred years along with Barbary bears and elephants the lions were pretty much wiped out!

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Picnic time!

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Sightseeing!

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Meknes medina hunting for souvenirs.

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Checking out the flower shops….

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And enjoying the lovely fresh fruit.

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All quiet in the morning when it’s time to leave.

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Aboard the train bound for Rabat.

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 Rabat is an easy place to spend a few days. Big wide streets….

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beautiful green parks…

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and the seaside!

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And of course the cakes….

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and ice creams!

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High ceilings!

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and spiral staircases.

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Alongside the wide streets and modern cafes Rabat’s old town is still full of surprises, busy markets and shops full of treasures.

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Pippi was desperate to take these home!!

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and the cats!

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Mint tea and cards in the Kasbah des Oudaias.

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The ruins of the Hassan mosque and tower. In 1195 this was designed to be the largest mosque and tallest minaret in the Islamic world. Commissioned by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al Mansur, but after his death in 1199 it was never completed.

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It was nearly time for us to head back up to Tangier but one more stop on the way. Waiting for a delayed train to Souk el Arba. Then onto the small costal town of Moulay Bousselham.

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Moulay Bousselham. A sleepy out of season holiday town.

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The most excitement was the taxi service!

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Evening entertainment.

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Sisters.

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Back in Tangier for a few last days of holiday. Making Pippi a new pair of “pointy elf shoes!”

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A much promised camel ride!

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A rare family photo, with all the perfect conditions, sunshine in the eyes, wind in your face and a camel stuck between you!

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Gazing across at Spain from the ledgendary Cafe Hafa which has been serving mint tea since 1921!

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Messing around in the medina!

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Hide and seek!

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These two really made the holiday…..

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although I have never known anyone knock over as many drinks as Pippi!!

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Mighty…

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and Pips

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Holidays…

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…and time to head home!

 

 

 

 

 

Markets, Mosques and Marrakech!

After a lovely break from big cities we caught the bus back to Meknes, which for a big city has a really relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Normally we find we walk miles to avoid the hassle of arguing with taxi drivers! Meknes, however instantly feels welcoming as the taxi drivers are lovely and really helpful!! The souks are busy but hassle free so once again we were wandering though mountains of spices and sweets and into the maze!

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The smell of all the spices is amazing and much more pleasant then the meat sections of the market!

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During our trip was the build up to Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice. Families go to the markets to choose and buy a sheep, this caused much entertainment for Mia seeing sheep in cars, on buses and in wheelbarrows!

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Meknes Medina.

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Enough sightseeing, time for some Peppa pig on daddy’s i-pod!!

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Our next stop, the capital Rabat. Showing ted the views from the train. An easy 3 1\2 hour journey right into the centre of town.

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The Kasbah des Qudaias, the site of the original ribat and citadel of the Almohad, Merenid and Andalucian towns, it has a strange feeling of being in a village inside a capital city.

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 Rabat. More blue walls…

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And cobbled streets!

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Nice and shady in the Kasbah des Qudaias.

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Morocco is all colour and patterns everywhere you look. On doors..

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…on drinking fountains….

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..on cloth covering bread…

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..and the beautiful patterns in Arabic script.

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Hassan Mosque, Rabat. The Mosque was started in 1195 but never completed, the huge minaret can been seen in nearly every view in the city. Had it been comlpeted it would have been the second largest mosque of its time.

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Hassan Mosque.

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The Mohammed V Mausoleum.

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On holiday!

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After the narrow streets and covered markets of the imperial cities, Rabat felt open and spacious with its big wide avenues. We had only planned to spend one night, just to break up the 8 hour train ride to Marrakech, but we really enjoyed the city with its fantastic cafes and hassle free streets, so we spent an extra day and night and could have easily stayed longer!

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Potions of all kinds in a health shop.

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The spice grinder!

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Mint and other wonderful herbs and flowers.

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 As vegetarians the food in Moroccan can be quite repetitive, lots of veg tagine or veg and cous cous. But with lovely fresh fruit and delicious almond biscuits we didn’t have to resort to snails!!

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Waiting for the train, Sunday was not the best day to travel with fewer trains they were really busy, but after half an hour we got a seat. A hot five hours to Marrakech but with the help of other passengers Mia was kept amused and entertained!

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Marrakech here we come!

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 Marrakech, is an overload of the senses, sights smells and sounds. We found a room and after a long day time for some food. Waiting for our supper at one of the many stalls that fill the Djemaa el Fna in the evening.

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Another maze of a Medina, Marrakech was much busier with tourists than the other cities and as a result there was a bit more hassle, but Mia was a good distraction.

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Unfortunately not many people took any notice of these signs and where we had become used to wandering in traffic free zones we were now having to jump out of the way of scooters. With Mia that made it not so enjoyable.

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Escaping the medina, the beautiful and peaceful Majorelle Garden, created in the 1920s and 1930s by the French painter Jacques Marjorelle and later owned by the designer Yves Saint Laurent.

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 Moroccan colours. Posing in the gardens!

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View of the city from  El Badi the ruined palace of Ahmed el Mansour.

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Dancing with her shadow!

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Stocks nesting on the roof of El Badi Palace.

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Riding into the square, a princess in her carriage!! Definitley a high light of the holiday for Mia.

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Sitting in precious shade in the heat of the day!

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The Djemaa el Fna. This square was made a Unesco site in order to protect the tradition of a need for a place for people to gather and socialise,  a cultural space, for storytellers, musicians, snake charmers  and performers to express themselves. It really is a great place to be as the sun sets, the whole square comes alive.

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People watching in the Square.

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 Listening to the call for prayer from the Koutoubia Minaret, the oldest of the three great Almohad towers, (the others The Hassan Tower in Rabat and the Giralda in Seville) completed around 1150AD.

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We have only explored a tiny bit of this great country, A really fun place to travel with a toddler, easy to get around and very friendly and welcoming people.

The labyrinth of Fez.

After a lovely breakfast of honey pancakes and mint tea, we wandered down to the bus station of Chefchaouen, knowing there was a CTM bus leaving at 1pm we got there early to buy a ticket, but as we arrived a rickety old bus was just leaving with the shouts of “Fez Fez Fez” so we hopped on and payed less than £2 for a four and a half hour journey. It turned out to be more like five and a half hours with the rickety old bus breaking down before we reached Fez but luckily with some space on a passing bus we reached Fez in daylight, which suddenly appeared after miles of dry sunburnt fields and tiny villages of mudbrick houses.

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Bab Boujeloud, Fez. The old Medina of Fes el Bali is walled by impressive ramparts and then these beautiful gated entrances, which lead to a town still lost in some distant time.

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The only traffic beyond the walls is horses, donkeys and pushcarts.

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The old town of Fes el Bali.

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We stayed in the heart of the Medina, so as soon as we walked out of the door we were straight into the market and into a barrage of sounds,  beautiful colours and not so wonderful smells!!!

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You can buy anything and everything in the market. Shops and stalls are full to the brim.

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mountains of olives….

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piles of dried fruit…..

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beads in every colour….

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and beautiful Fez pottery.

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In the heart of the medina you find the Tanneries, which you smell before you see, although vegetable dyes have largely been replaced by chemicals ,  pigeon dung is still used to treat the leather.

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Vats of dye and pigeon poo. Little has changed here since the sixteenth century, workers pass down their specific jobs from generation to generation, Hard work and with more chemicals being used high health risks.

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Fassi leather from these tanneries is some of the finest leather in the world and founded the city’s wealth from the tenth to nineteenth century.

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Racks of animal skins drying on the rooftops.

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Refreshment break!

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And maybe a donut or two!!

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The donut man! It was fascinating to see how fast he made them, and people would buy 5 or six and they would just be threaded onto a piece of twine and taken away.

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“Please can we take this donkey home?” Once again Mia was like a celebrity, showered in kisses, hugged by everyone from little old ladies to shopkeepers and children on their way home from school.

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Life in the Medina

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Still plenty of cats to chase!!

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 In the old town you find fancy shops of leather or carpets next to people selling a few bunches of mint, or cupfuls of grain.

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The real maze of the old town, the covered souk, once inside you lose all sense of direction!

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After a wrong turn, lost in the backstreets, a little disconcerting not having any idea where you are. But luckily there is always someone to point you in the right direction!

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Relaxing after a busy morning shopping! In the lovely Riad Hala. Where we spent two very peaceful nights, as soon as you enter into the courtyard the noise of the streets is gone and it’s like an oasis of calm!

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Playing Hide and Seek in the the Cafe Clock. Another good place when you need a break from the busy streets. With really delicious food on the menu!

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On the rooftop of the guest house, with five mosques a stones throw away, the call to prayer was incredible. In Mia’s words “that man up tower singing”!

We really enjoyed Fes, it is busy but without any cars it is easy to walk around, and you really do feel like you are lost in another world.

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The next stage of travel was by rail we were not sure what to expect but the train was great, it was simple to buy tickets for the next train and it was just a short ride, 40mins to Meknes. We were there by 10.30am so decided to head to a small town called Moulay Idriss. An important town for pilgrims, as the tomb of Morocco’s most revere saint lies here. A trip to Moulay Idriss is worth a fifth of the hajj to Mecca.

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Much to Mia’s delight donkeys are the main transporter of everything from building materials to livestock, she was picked up for a free ride!

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Moulay Idriss. Although the shrines here are restricted to Muslims only, and there is little for a tourist to visit, it was a really relaxing place to be and sit and people watch!

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This gentleman was so lovely he wanted Mia to ride on his donkey so it would be a lifelong memory of Morocco for her.

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From our rooftop. Until recently is was forbidden for non-Muslims to stay overnight in the town but as this ban has now been lifted we stayed in the very welcoming guest house La Colombe Blanche.

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Relaxing on the roof after a hard day of donkey rides!

Making our way to Marrakech with Mighty.

 Time for our first adventure on the road with the  Mighty Mia. Two and a half years has flown by and we have very itchy feet! We were undecided weather to take the bikes, and in the end we chose a taster of backpacking with a toddler!! With short and cheap easy jet  flights we decided on flying into Gibratar and out of Marrakech.  We have often met people travelling with young children on our travels, but when it came to our own trip we were surprised how nervous we felt about a simple two week break, but flights booked and bags packed we were on our way to Morocco.

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An easy flight and we arrived in Gibraltar, we were not sure how quick it would be to cross the border into spain, but a short walk and we were over the border and at the bus station, waiting for a bus to Algeciras.

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 Ted safe in the backpack, we were on the Ferry to Tangier, It was easy to buy a ticket when we got to the port in Algeciras and luckily a delayed ferry was leaving at a good time for us.

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 Africa.

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 Tangier, beyond the Green tiles of the  Grand Mosque, the view from our room, so an early wake up call from the Muezzin.

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 First things first, mint tea in the Cafe de Paris, once a favourite spot for secret agents and more recently as a setting in The Bourne Ultimatum.

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  Just around the corner, so a happy Mia.

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The tiled floors of the kasbah.

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Patterns in the kasbah museum. From floors to walls and doors.

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 We really enjoyed Tangier, it was easy wandering in the medina and with plenty of cafes and places to escape the heat. We could see why people have so often been drawn here, and you can still feel how it may have been in the days of the Beats.

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Tangier.

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 After a couple of days in Tangier we took the bus to Chefchaouen.

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A couple of hours on the bus and although a bit hot a good time for a nap!!

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We had read that Chefchaouen was a blue town and it really was!

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Blue blue doors of Chefchaouen!

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With no traffic at all in the medina this was a perfect place for exploring, and we had a really friendly welcome, while playing on these steps the doors opened with very friendly faces, although Mia was a little nervous of the beckoning hennaed hands she was very happy with the cake she was given!!

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Opening her cake, the first of many presents, including lots of sweets, a rose, a postcard and rather randomly a sweaty wrist band!

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other medina residents!

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Some colour amongst the blue.

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not so sure about the animal print ones!

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more colours below the blue walls.

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trying to get a “good price”!

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Chefchaouen, trapped in a fold in the mountains, once very anti-european and autonomous, now a welcoming and laid back town.

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At the top! Just in time to hear the Call of Prayer echoing off the mountains.

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Back down in the blue alleys.

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Quiet streets. Morocco is slow to wake up in the morning, but with Mia as an early riser it was a good time to be out exploring.

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too much exploring!

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Holidays!

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Much to Mia’s delight cats rule the streets.

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Waiting for food scraps!

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flower power!

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It was really easy going here and a great place to waste days wandering, drinking tea and getting the feel for Morocco. But we had to make our way to Marrakech, so onwards to Fez………