Saturday, 4 October 2014

SO WHAT'S NEW ........

It has to be just a short and rushed blog entry this month as having arrived back from a great Amazigh Tour just a few days ago and then off again for the Camping and Caravanning Club tour in a few days I find myself extremely pushed for time ...... Not for the first time! 

So a quick Desert Detours update and a few news/feature items and then I will have to leave it to Debbie to proof, set and post whenever!!!

I really like driving our Renault Traffic vans on tour so despite a scheduled full service, brake overhaul, new shocks, tidy-up of a minor scrape [bloody shopping trolley jumped out in front of me] and a real good clean this particular one will be on a rapid turn-around ready for me to get back in its nicely moulded seats for the forthcoming Camping and Caravanning tour.  I say seats as at [ever increasing] times I have relented to let Hammid drive ..... According to him he is quite good ..... Mmmmmmm



Your last chance for a 2014 tour is November Classic Tour.  With the December tour now fully booked November is the only date left that has a place available this year.  Actually the larger group November Classic tour is full so the one vehicle place available is on the smaller group [5 vehicles only] premium tour, led by myself and Hammed.  If you are quick it meets in Algeciras on 3rd November.

2015 FILLING UP .....

2015? .... Without my distraction and disruption the office buzzed during my recent absence taking bookings that have resulted in over half of our 2015 tour dates being FILLED.  I don't have the time just now to issue a current availability listing, so if you are interested in a 2015 Moroccan Tour just contact us in the usual way [phone or email] and the office will give you the very latest information and availability.

Despite its popularity we are under extreme scheduling pressure so there will be only ONE AMAZIGH tour in 2015.  This tour will again follow our small group format and depart during September .... Consider, perfectly time to combine both an Andalusia and Morocco tour, as a few clients have done before .... very cost effective!

Talking of costs ... I am told that exchange rates are very attractive at the moment and if you book any 2015 tour date before January you will get it at the 2014 costs .... Can't be bad!

Jimmy, my new companion passed his first tour with flying colours and clearly enjoyed himself immensely.  However [Hammed will be pleased!] I will be leaving him at home for the next tour .... Solo travellers with pets need to be very aware.  For the time tine, but who knows for how long, the new and stringent document checks for pets at both the Moroccan and Spanish border crossing points noted an omission in Jimmy's pet documentation.  As we are well known we were allowed to proceed after a phone call! 

Although minor and easily corrected I really do not have time to sort it out before the next tour and will not push my luck taking a known risk .... So, after his first tour Jimmy will have a break before re-joining the November tour.


No, not what you were thinking.  Eid al-kabir [also called Eid al-Adha] is one of the two important Islamic festivals, Eid al=kabir begins on the 10th day of Dhu'l-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar ..... that would be 5th October.  Lasting for three days, it occurs at the conclusion of the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.  Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid al-kabir, not simply those undertaking the hajj.

Eid in Fez is a festival that brings families together and is centred around the sacrifice of a sheep and the sharing of food.  It is a time of joy, celebration and sharing.  At its heart Eid is a reminder of Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to a command from God.  The occasion serves as a reminder to all Muslims that they should submit to God and be prepared to sacrifice anything that God wishes.

It has little to do with shopping and fireworks, but sadly there are some countries where the character of Eid is changing.  In some countries, commercial interests have taken Eid as a time to maximise profits and boost local businesses.  For years Christians around the world have lamented the commercialisation of festivals such as Christmas and Easter.  Now the signs are that Eid may be heading down that path.

For example .... In Dubai, the DFRE [Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment], an agency of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, have announced the dates for what they are calling "The Eid in Dubai Festival".  The festival will run for seventeen days and appears to have little to do with the traditional religious festival as we know it.  The Eid in Dubai Festival makes no mention of sheep.  It does however promise Eid fireworks!

In Fez and other parts of Morocco the first indications that Eid is coming are the appearance of street sellers offering sheep food and hay and the opening of the large souks selling sheep and goats.  Going to the souk and haggling over a sheep is an important moment followed by the struggle to get your sheep home, up the stairs and into your house.

Meanwhile, the sheep are getting nervous.


Moroccan Cuisine from Mother to Daughter by Touria Agourram is expected in book stores on October 2nd.  The book is published by Albin Michel.  I am not sure if it is yet available via Amazon or on Kindle.  Indeed, I think it will only be available in French to start with, but it is basically a recipe book so self translation should not be too difficult.

Anyway, I have seen a review copy and can confirm that it is an excellent endeavour in which Touria Agourram sets out 210 recipes and variations that have been transmitted from generation to generation of Moroccan daughters and mothers.  In the book, prefaced by Fatima Mernissi, the author pays tribute to her mother and grandmother and points our that Moroccan women are custodians of creative genius of this artistic and culinary skill.

Expressive, friendly and generous, the cook book reveals the profusion of flavours and colours in Moroccan cuisine.  Each region has its own character and its specialties, the Southern and Berber recipes feature mashed dried beans, semolina soup with caraway, the bittersweet nuances of the medinas of Marrakech include green salad with pears and walnuts, Harira, and pigeon, Fez highlights grated carrot salad with orange, Lamb Tagine with quince while the freshness of the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts is brought to life via fish stuffed with dates and almonds and of course pastille ..... not to mention the figs with honey, the horns of a gazelle, the Café Spice, Baklaoua ........ AND MORE ....

Throughout Morocco's regions and in the home cooking is an art form, long in oral tradition passed down from generation to generation.  This book revives this culinary heritage and reminds us that the kitchen is also about love.


A couple of stunning photographs taken in the area of Azrou and Ifrane by Jake Warga, a location we feature on our "Classic" Tours!


A town we visit, and my favourite in Morocco, is in heated dispute with an airline .....

Essaouira is at the centre of a dispute between Royal Air Maroc [RAM] and the Moroccan Office of Tourism.  The decision by RAM to end the three flights a week between Paris and Essaouira has caused up roar and the city is not taking it lightly.  The Paris - Essaouira link has been running for 10 years. 

Ironically, it comes at a time when tourism is booming in Essaouira, not that it was ever short of a visitor or two.  The city has long been one of Morocco's iconic cities and a destination popular with fans of Gnawa music who gather in their thousands for the annual Gnawa Festival.

An official of RAM is quoted ..... 'We kept this route until now so as not to cause disruption.  In addition, for tourism considerations, we did not want to reduce arrivals'. 

Frankly, as sad as it may be to see the airline withdraw I think it will in fact have minimal impact.  There are alternative airlines serving Essaouira and the road link between Marrakech and the city is excellent ..... Toll free but motorway standard all the way!


Between the 23rd and 31st of August some 187,500 passengers and 47,200 vehicles embarked at Tangier-Med heading to Algeciras.

According to figures released by the Tangier-Med Port Authority the peak was recorded on August 20 with the arrival of 32,000 passengers and 153 coaches in a single day.

As we reported, waiting times were up to 12 hours. However, the Authority did act to alleviate the situation and managed to achieve 38 sailings thanks to the arrival of two ships as reinforcements. The fleet plan had not initially included the extra ships which allowed for four additional rotations on the day of the peak.

Total traffic recorded from 05 June to 31 August saw an increase of 17% for passengers and 11% for vehicles as compared to the same period of 2013. Bus traffic has shown a marked increase, growing by 66% over the same period in 2013.

I have to be honest and say that when crossing via this route early September, for our Amazigh Tour, we were the ONLY motorhomes on a nearly empty ferry….that’s very unusual as September has traditionally been a busy month for Mototorhome/Campingcar traffic. In fact we saw only TWO other [French] motorhomes during our time in Eastern Morocco…….but that's another story!


Following from last month’s blog piece……. It seemed that everywhere we went we bumped into film crews, actors or even the man himself.
Not a great fan of the Mission Impossible films I will nevertheless watch the forthcoming production as I will be interested in how the well-known locations show on screen and did I manage to get in shot! 

And where is this couple spending their honeymoon? Marrakech of course.

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