So began our visit to Fes

Upon arriving at the train station in Fes, we followed our host’s instructions and sought out a cab. Our host had told us how much the cab ride would cost so when the first cab driver quoted a price that was five times more, we told him no and moved on. He relented, agreed to our price, and drove us.

This should have been our first sign.

Once we arrived at the entrance to the medina, we waited for our guide to the Riad. To this day, we’re not exactly sure what happened. My husband handed over the fare but the driver was preoccupied having a heated conversation with a man who was standing on the street. As we’re making our way out of the cab, the man reaches through the window and punches our cab driver. Just then, our escort arrives and we hastily get our bags and follow him through the maze of the medina.

A few minutes later, a man runs up behind us yelling in Arabic. Our escort tells us that he is saying that we did not pay the cab fare. We assure him we did and the man – who was not even our cab driver – finally walks away hands in the air, muttering. So began our visit to Fes.

The Streets of Fes

One of 9,000 streets in the 1200 year old city.

Dar Attajali

Dar Attajali was beautifully renovated but unbearably hot. So hot, my husband could not get any sleep. We were in a large suite of rooms which had several sitting areas, a small kitchenette and a large bathroom. Unfortunately, the room had low ceilings with large wooden beams that dropped even lower. Every now and then as he was pacing at night from the heat, I would hear a bump followed by a slew of words muttered in Spanish. We left Fes ahead of schedule.

View from the Terrace

Madrasa Bou Inania

The Madrasa Bou Inania was founded in 1350 to serve as both a mosque and Islamic college. The plaque marking its location reads, “The mosque is marked by its fine mihrab, its onyx marble columns, and its elegant minaret overlooking Talaa Kbira Street. Its facades are entirely decorated with mosaics, carved cedar wood and plasterwork.”

Tilework Detail

Dar al-Magana

Across Talaa Kbira is Dar al-Magana, which is Arabic for “clockhouse.” The structure is what remains of a hydraulic clock which was completed sometime in the mid-1300s.

Bab Boujloud

Bab Boujloud is the main entrance to the medina. The gate is decorated with green zellij on the inside, the color of Islam, and blue zellij on the outside, the color of Fes. According to Wikipedia, zellij is “terra-cotta tile work covered with enamel in the form of chips set into plaster.” Note the view of the minarets as you look into the medina.

Memories of Marrakech

Narrow streets. Almost being run over by motorbikes. The calls to prayer.

Beautiful kaftans. Wearing a hijab. The night food market on the main square. Snake charmers.

Throngs of people. Hot mint tea. The mosaics and tile work.

The smell of the tanneries. Our rooms in the Riad. Couscous served in tajines.

Traffic jams consisting of yelling locals, confused tourists, speeding bicycles and donkey-pulled carts.

Freshly squeezed orange juice. The smells of cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Being bathed in a Hammam.

Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech, was completed in the 12th century.
Djemaa el-Fna, the main square in the medina (old city).
One of many streets and alleyways inside the old fortified city.
Spice jars from a vendor in the souk, a traditional North African market.
Nut and spice vendor on the main square.
At sunset, the Djemaa el-Fna is transformed into a giant open-air restaurant.
Lantern vendor.
Courtyard of Riad Catalina.
Breakfast at the riad.
Fighting turtles. The first turtle sees the second one and starts walking toward it. The second one gets close enough to start snapping at the first. Must have been a domestic quarrel. After a while, both walk off together in the same direction.
The Saadian Tombs date back to the mid 1500s. Members of the Saadi Dynasty are buried inside the mausoleum.
Intricate carvings adorn the columns and ceiling of the tombs.
Outside in the garden are the graves of soldiers and servants.
Inside the Museum of Marrakech housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace built at the end of the 19th century.
A fountain inside the palace.
Doorway in the main courtyard.
Workers restoring the tile work on the courtyard floor.
This door eventually leads to the Hammam inside the palace.
The Ben Youssef Madrasa was an Islamic college founded in the 14th century.
Intricate detail inside the Ben Youssef Madrasa.
Near the Museum of Marrakech is La Koubba Almoravide which dates back to the 11th century and is an example of Almoravid architecture.
Under the dome of La Koubba Almoravide.

More on Marrakech and Fes coming soon.

More Reasons Why I ❤ NY

Here are more pictures from our trip to New York City. Besides the huge skyscrapers and art deco buildings, sculptures and other architectural details caught my eye. Here is a random sampling of some of them.

Who can resist Times Square? With its energy and buzz, it's quintessential New York and a people-watching paradise.
On the 50th Street side of Radio City Music Hall, there are three large plaques that represent the main activities inside - "Dance, Drama and Song." This one is "Drama."
At 30 Rockefeller Plaza, directly in front of the famous ice-skating rink, is "Wisdom" (1933).
Flanking "Wisdom" are "Sound and Light" (1933). These stylized panels represent new technologies of the times - radio (sound) and television (light). This one is "Light."
"Saint Francis of Assisi with Birds" (1937) sits above a building entrance on 50th Street.
At the viewing area at the "top of the rock" you can see these large metal panels up close. I halfway expected to see the bat signal floating up in the sky over "Gotham City."
This tiled panel was appropriately located at the 50th Street subway stop near the Theater District. It is part of the "Alice: The Way Out" tile work by Liliana Porter (1994).
Subway stops are labeled by colorful tile mosaics, like this one at the 116th Street-Columbia University stop.
A stone rosette adorns either side of the entrance to Low Memorial Library, a National Historic Landmark, on the Columbia University campus.

To learn more about some of the artwork, try these links: Rockefeller Center, NYC Subway Art Guide.


I ❤ NY

I bravely spent 5 days of Spring Break in New York City with two teenagers. We saw the typical touristy sights, but oh, what sights to see! These are some of the images I was able to capture.

Manhattan skyline from the top of the Rockefeller Center. I touched up the photograph a bit to better see the outlines of the buildings in the Financial District (in the background).
The top of the Empire State Building looks mysterious. Of course, it's just hidden behind the smog.
View of the Manhattan Bridge from the Brooklyn Bridge.
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan.
Spire of the Manhattan Municipal Building as seen from the Brooklyn Bridge.
One of the reflecting pools at the 9/11 Memorial.
Construction in progress at 1 World Trade Center.
One of the spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral.
The iconic bronze statue of Atlas in front of the Rockefeller Center.
View of the city lights at night. Taken from the top of the Empire State Building.