Thursday, 28 April 2011

Morocco Bombings

Couldnt have come at a worse time.

Earlier on today I saw ( via the miracles of social networking) that there had been an explosion in the aptly named D'Jmma El Fna (square of the dead) in Marrakesh.

Cafe Argana, where I, amongst many other visitors have once sat and enjoyed the views of the city has been blown apart, the instant reports were that gas cannisters had exploded in the unfortunate accident and there were no fatalities.

As the hours passed the death toll slowly climbed, I think now settling at at least 14 deaths and around 20 serious injuries. The Moroccan authorities have officially declared that it was indeed the job of a bomber.

After the recent unrest in North Africa, I assume that Morocco's tourist industry has already suffered, or at least put under enormous pressure. Now the country going into terrorist threat mode is going to far worsen things.
Certain newspapers aren't helping, exaggerating the facts saying the country has been going through violent crazy protests for the last few months (totally untrue) and claiming the many deaths the protests have caused ( I think there was one day on which certain towns broke out into trouble)

I can't speculate about who is to blame for the bombing, but perhaps as in the past, is an anti Western-andsomehowthatmeans-Zionist protest.

If you have booked a trip to Morocco or were thinking of doing so, please don't let the media hype and fear put you off, it's a beautiful country with so much to offer. I hope this was not done by an Islamist group.....

Lets just pray for the survivors and everyones families

Images taken from: dailymail , homepuzz , the star, 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Ouarzazi Spiritual Advisor

Ok ok so it took me a LONG while, I've now compiled a short video of clips from the trip to Ouarzazate. That's right I didn't include any jewellery. Well I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise, items can only be shown when the online shop is re opened :) 

Anyway, Ouarzazate (Warzazat) is a Southern town in Morocco, it's name translates to "noiselessly" and it is referred to as The door of the desert, to get to Ouarzazate from Agadir we passed the high Atlas region 

Yeah, I might bother editing some pictures to make them look nice soon, hey I tried anyway, I was hanging out of the car window being beaten up by wind. 

To the south of the main town is the desert, the area is mainly populated by Berbers who constructed many of the prominent kasbahs and building for which the area is known for. . The fortified village (ksar) of Ait Benhaddou has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The biggest film studios, probably in North Africa are also here, Wikipedia says in the world, but I dunno,  basically any film which looks like it is meant to be in Egypt or the Middle East, is filmed here, examples include:most Bible type films, Gladiator, The Mummy, Hills have eyes, Babel etc etc

To be honest I don't care much for stuff like this so I didn't go inside, however the studios are Ouarzazate's biggest attraction and sees many a tourist throughout the year, for a small fee you can go inside and see all you "favourite" film sets. Movies are the towns biggest income source as many locals work on the sets, this clip from the BBC News shows how locals struggled during the recession which affected the movie industry. 

Anyway, here is the video I put together


And here are some other random photos from Ouarzazate

Friday, 22 April 2011

Trip to Magrib

*please ask for permission before using photos

Day 1

So I've already explained where Morocco is and that I am travelling to Agadir, Southern Morocco.

I've explained that I am here to bring back some jewellery and also give you guys some info and tips on Moroccan travel.

Airport etiquette 
So I booked my flight via Ryanair because they were the cheapest, believe it or not I once flew to Marrakesh for £50! Slightly worrying that passengers disembark and we embark 5 minutes later without the plane being cleaned or checked, but hey ho, you get what you pay for.
This was my first ever flight alone and boy was it BORING. How I am NOT looking forward to a lonely overnight stay in Ethiopia when I fly to Uganda.

I arrived at Agadir Al Massira airport at about 7.30 where my friend Cam was patiently waiting to pick me up as I spent about 500 hours waiting at passport control. Stupid me. I chose to stand in the line with Asian males.
By the way I should say here, should you be Moroccan, or in any way brown, or possibly just male, it may do some good to stick a £5 or £10 note in your passport, or Moroccan money if you happen to have any, in order to speed up the process a little. Women however, especially ones in hijabs can pass through passport control in seconds.
The same applies to baggage inspectors, if not more so , because if you deprive them of a well earned tip they will empty your bags and go through your items one by one just for fun..... (possibly also seizing some items in retaliation to your stingeyness) This mostly happens to Moroccans though, but I'm telling you just in case.

The airport is nice and clean and modern, you can change your money when you get there. At the moment the exchange rate is about 12 DH (Dirhams) to £1.

A grand taxi (the white ones) can be taken to wherever you are staying and to get into central Agadir the fee is usually 150 DH in the daytime and 200DH at night. 

You can also rent a car from the airport, at your hotel (most likely) and from many places in town. 

Agadir is basically a tourist town and is full of restaurants, quite a few bars/clubs LOTS of hotels, excursions companies, souvenir shops and all that other stuff tourists like. 

The old Agadir was destroyed in an earthquake in 1960 and the only part of it that remains is the kasbah on the top of the mountain. However Agadir, like any tourist town in the world, has its suburbs where all the locals will live and if you want to venture out and see how and where locals live you can do so. 
Personally I would recommend that if you come to Agadir (for a great beach holiday) you should take a trip to another town to see the real Morocco. Places such as Fez, Marrakesh  & Taroudant are easily accessible  via CTM bus, or you can go with an excursion group who will provide you with an itinery. 
With excursions, actually with EVERYTHING in Morocco, barter to get a good price, the "fixed" price is never really fixed...

As I said before, you take a grand taxi from the airport, they will also do inter-town trips
Petit taxis will only serve their local area and are colour coded depending on area, Agadir has orange taxi's, some are more modern than in the photo...


Back to the story, Cam drove us to his apartment in town and his friend Lahcane was there and had cooked us an AMAZING tagine. I was too hungry to bother digging around for my camera to take a photo of it, so instead I will take one from google.   A tagine is like a stew and is usually made from vegetables and potatoes  with lamb,fish, chicken etc. Beef with an egg on top is also popular. Your cutlery is bread, and I thought since I've been so slack this year and REALLY need to lose weight for my Summer trips, that I could avoid the bread. What an amateur thought. 

Day 2

We were originally going to visit Tiznit which is the jewellery captial of Morocco, but the guy who was out "link" there wasn't around. So we went to visit one of Cam's friends who is an English lady who lives in Agadir. I spent the day with her and a couple of Moroccan girls chilling out at the beach. One of them was a henna lady. 

Henna is a dye that is used to create patterns on the skin, traditionally in Morocco the henna is used for special occasions such as weddings and has different meanings, certain patterns will represent luck, wealth or fertility.  Real henna comes out a reddy browny colour but most of the henna used in Morocco by these ladies is black, some even use glitter and different colour in theirs, there have been some recent horror stories about skin reactions to these kinds of henna, if in doubt ask for a tiny skin test. 

Some girls on the beach were shouting out something about not paying the asking price for the henna design, although they obviously didn't realise that we were just talking. Yes the women will start with a high price but you can bargain with them, don't forget, this is their living and what they do takes a lot of skill. 

Later that evening we headed down to a nearby town called Tagazout  (which some pronounce Tarazoot and and Tagazoot) where one of the ladies has an apartment on the beach.
Tagazout is a famous world hotspot for surfing  Check out the Surf camp's website if you're interested in an amazing surf trip at a very cost effective price. direct your message or ask for Yusuf who will hook you up with an unbeatable deal. 
Tagazout is also a fishing spot and you can buy/eat fresh fish. 


Tagazout is not far from Agadir but as it is technically a different town you cannot take a petit taxi so you will need to take a grand taxi, you may find one driving around, if not walk straight up Boulevard Hassan II (where the main shops are, past uniprix etc) until you come to the taxi rank. Agadir beach can get crowded so it's worth a trip to Tagazout where the beach is quieter. It's not all stones and fishing boats that's just the section I happened to be at. 

Bijoux du Maroc

Berber woman in traditional jewellery, image taken from google. 
Ok, so I should start with WHY I'm in Morocco.

I was going to explain it in a video but it's actually easier to write it.

So I started Amaziah Jewellery - which sells fair wage jewellery from over Africa, and with some of the most beautiful and traditional jewellery around, where better to go?

Morocco is in the north of Africa, and although it has a high Arab (well, now mixed) population, the original inhabitants of the north are Berbers. There are many different tribes of Berbers, Tuaregs and nomads that all originated from the same clans.
In Agadir, where I am at the moment, it is the southern part of Morocco and called the Souss region, the people here are called Soussi.

Jewellery in Morocco 

Jewellery has always been very important to Berber and Tuaregs, and for more than simple cosmetic reasons.

First of all, a man or woman is identified by the jewellery they wear, both representing the tribe or clan they come from, and signifying the wealth they possess. 

A woman will receive jewellery from her mother until she marries. For her marriage, her future husband will commission his mother or sister to provide jewellery for her and these will be kept  by her as dowry and added to throughout her life.

These big brooches, called fibulas, are worn by women to signify their status. For a single woman one brooch is worn to show she is unmarried, whilst a married woman will wear a brooch on either side of her chest. 
The size of the fibula will represent her wealth, and also serves a functional purpose of keeping clothing in place.

Berber jewellery, as well as being made from beautiful stones and beads, will always be silver, as gold is considered evil. Necklaces are important, the traditional assemblage in the southern oasis valleys features talismans of silver, pink coral, amazonite, amber, Czech glass and West African ebony beads.
 A woman will also wear bracelets, fibulas anklets, earrings and headdresses. Some pieces will be worn every day, others – the finest – will be saved for occasions such as festivals, pilgrimages and funerals

Necklaces contain charms bought from magicians or holy men. They provide protection from the evil eye, will ward of disease and accidents and help to ease childbirth. Silver is believed to cure rheumatism; amber (a) is worn as a symbol of wealth and to protect against sorcery; amazonite (b) and carnelian (c) stones are used for divining fortunes and shells(d) , traded from East Africa, symbolise fertility, coral also symbolises fertility and is thought to have curative powers (e)
   B   D



  Talismans feature stylized motifs of animals, sun, moon and stars, all of which are believed to have supernatural powers. 
The most common protective jewellery worn in Morocco today is the Khamsa (Arabic) or Hamsa (Hebrew)

The meaning of the name is five or five fingers, it is used by Berber, Jewish and Muslim communities in Morocco and some other parts of the world.

The Jews refer to Hamsa as "The hand of Miriam" who was Moses' sister whilst Muslims refer to it as "The hand of Fatima", daughter of the prophet Muhammed. In Islamic tradition, the hand of Fatima "represents the hand of God, divine power, providence and generosity

Some Khamsa's can be seen with the evil eye in the centre in order to ward off bad/evil eyes.

Going to Morocco and seeing the jealousy & sometimes witchcraft that goes along with it, it is easy to see why people adorn themselves with protective jewellery to ward off evil eyes.

Tuareg Jewellery

Tuareg jewellery is practically the same as Berber jewellery, as they all originated from the same nomad people. Tuareg means "those with turbans", and are now often mostly found in the most southern parts of Morocco, Sahara, Mali, Niger & Mauritania.

Whereas traditionally Berber woman wear jewellery, it is the Tuareg men who traditionally wear symbolic jewellery. The most well known Tuareg cross represents the different clans/tribes that its members come from. The Southern Cross from Agades or Iferwan was originally worn only by men who transferred it from father to son at puberty. It hints to the virility and strength of the young men in relation to their traditional nomad lifestyle. The cross represents saddle pommel of their camels or in a wider view, the four cardinal directions.

Traditionally a father would transmit the cross to his son saying "Son, I give you the four directions, as no one knows where your path will end."

Tuaregs also use compasses to find their way in the desert which are hung on pendants and aligned with the stars.  

Stay tuned for the opening of AMAZIAH JEWELLERY ONLINE where I have traditional and vintage Berber & Tuareg jewellery for sale!