The original inspiration for this trip was to explore the architecture of the once-great Moorish civilization of Al-Andalus. At its height in Spain around the 10th century Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together peaceably, eating the same food, speaking common languages, and dressing in the same fashion even though they worshipped differently. Some of their craftsmanship is beautifully preserved in the Andalusia region of Spain.
However, the zeal of the Spanish Reconquista definitely moved in and made the conquered territories their own. With so many centuries and so many incarnations of western architecture (from renaissance to baroque to neoclassical) in between its hard to transport oneself back a thousand years.
Morocco and the rest of North Africa is where the remnants of Al-Andalus sought refuge after the Reconquista, and its architectural influence is still palpable here. Culture and language have evolved and mixed with local Berber tribes but the craftsmen are still here and the work goes on. Tile mosaics, inlayed woodwork with intricatly painted designs, and even the very ornate plaster moldings, are all still used here.
Tangier was neat, steeped in Moroccan-American history, with its famous expats and popularity with the Beat Generation writers and poets. Our hotel looked like nothing had changed since wealthy young American and European travelers visited on their "Grand Tours".
And now we are in a smaller Rif-mountain town called Chefchaouen (about the same population as Bozeman) famous for its picturesque blue walls and doors. It's surrounded by Berber villages and the woolen handicrafts are prized for their high quality. Hmmm... Some serious shopping may be in order!
Andy is off to bag the local peak, Jebel El-Kelaâ, and I'm headed out with sketchbook in hand to explore the winding streets of Chefchaouen. It's back to Spain tomorrow so I've gotta soak it up while I can. Morocco will definitely be a destination for a future trip all its own. We've only scratched the tip of the iceberg this time!