Chilled to the bone...49F (9C this morning)... What do we wear? Only women will get this! New photos!

This cat found comfort sitting atop the seat of a parked motorbike.
One of the aspects of traveling the routes we've chosen has been to avoid cold weather.  When we researched temperatures this time of year in Morocco, we'd never expected it to be as cold as it's been.
Luckily, the sun was out again as it filtered through the slats in the ceiling of the souk.
Keeping in mind that we're almost living outdoors with the open courtyard, the largest room in the riad around which all other rooms are situated, its not unlike living in Kenya in the outdoor living room instead with the unbearable heat, humidity and mosquitoes.
This shop's specialty was hand carved wood chess boards and pieces.
Definitely, I'd rather be chilled than in scorching heat and humidity.  Its a lot easier to bundle up than take off clothing to cool down which hardly seems to help at all.
Clothing shops are popular in the souks as tourists strive to bring Moroccan styles back home. From what we've seen, the locals buy their garments from shops in the side streets away from the tourist areas at more affordable prices.
The trouble is, we have few warm items with us having not planned for such chilly weather.  Tom has one lightweight zippered sweatshirt and I have two long sleeve warm BugsAway shirts, one white, one pale green, which I seem to switch off every other day.  The 70 washings guaranteed to maintain the bug deterrent features of these two shirts will be washed away before I ever get to go on another safari. 
Bangles and the little pots are commonly sold items.
The only other long sleeve items we have are our two long sleeve BugsAway cotton safari shirts which we each often wear when we go out under our jackets of which we each have two, one parka and one slightly heavier weight.
One could get confused trying to decide on pairs of sandals with endless affordable offerings from souk to souk. 
In Kenya, after donating more of our clothing I left myself with only a few pairs of jeans shorts to wear during the three months in South Africa.  After wearing them everyday they began to wear out and I noticed the fabric thinning, wearing through at certain points.  One was awfully low slung and the other not as much.

Colorful small tables used in home d├ęcor.
As a typical woman in my old life, I'd have gone shopping, trying on 15 pairs of shorts, to end up purchases a few for the new season.  Since we've been gone 17 months without shopping, I currently have a dilemma.  Styles have changed, sizing may have changed and its no longer as simple as going online and purchasing a few pairs of shorts to be sent when they may not fit. 
Pillows in Morocco are filled with a very heavy durable material making them rather heavy.  With the numerous pillows where we sit in the salon, we've found them difficult to move around, they are so heavy.
You may think...go shopping!  Ha!  I dare anyone to find a pair of jeans shorts in Morocco, respectably long enough to go out in public at age 66, that fit properly when most women's pants are typically low slung anomalies.  Now, I can live with a bit of a low slung pair of pants but not those with a zipper only as long as my thumb!
Leather handbags, carryon bags and other travel bags are popular in the souks.
Knowing we'll be receiving a box of supplies while we're in Madeira for which we'll be adding the new camera when it comes out on April 20th, now is the time for me to figure out a solution to include in the box.
Several shops comparable to a boutique type store are found in the various courtyards between the souks, as in the case of this store where we spotted this bronze horse.
Why only jeans shorts?  They are durable, can be worn several times without looking ratty, don't wrinkle and above all, are comfortable.  I donated all the khaki shorts I'd originally included in our luggage after wearing them only a few times.  For me, jeans are my first choice for long pants, capris and shorts.  Style was long ago sacrificed for practicality and comfort.

Bead and jewelry making supplies.
Looking online for a few hours, I became frustrated feeling that I'd never get a pair of shorts that would be guaranteed to fit.  Of course, I put my little brain to work on a solution.  Boom!  As often happens during the night, I had an idea.

Almost everyday, except for washing day, I've been wearing a pair of Old Navy jeans that I love.  I'm not an easy fit; tall, relatively lean and with overly long legs, a 35", .89m inseam. Try to find that in a country where the average woman's height is 5'2", 1.57 m!  Old Navy has always had jeans that work for both my size and height. 

Cute puzzle made n the shape of camels.
Yesterday, after unzipping my pants, Tom read off the labels on the inside of my jeans including the style name, style number and the size.  Immediately going online to Old Navy, I was excited to find they still carry the exact same style and size.  On sale for US $49, MAD 399, each they were down to US $34.50, MAD 281 each.  I ordered two pairs in varying shades.

When they arrive in a few months, I'll cut one pair off for shorts and the other pair for capris, rolling up the ends into narrow cuffs.  Having done this on many occasions with old jeans, I have no qualms that I can easily do this again using one of the few pairs of sharp scissors we have on hand. 

The dark busy souks are a challenge to navigate when crowded with locals, tourists, bicycles, donkeys with carts, hand pulled carts and motorbikes.

Problem solved.  I placed the order for the two pairs of jeans and a few more dressy looking tee shirts suitable for dining out.  My total order was US $101, MAD 823, with free shipping to our mailing service in Nevada, USA.  Of all things, an hour later I received a coupon for US $40, MAD 326, as a reward for my purchase if I was willing to spend another US $100, MAD 815, between now and May 5th.  Hopefully, I can convince Tom to use this credit for himself. 

Of course, anything new we receive requires disposing of an equal weight of things we already have to keep the weight of our luggage acceptable to airline standards.  Fortunately, I have already planned what I'll toss before we're ready to leave Madeira on July 31st.

This is what I should be admiring as opposed to cookies I can't eat.
In the interim, I will continue to wear the heck out of the clothing of which I plan to dispose.  Tom also wears the same tee shirts and button up shirts over and over, as you've seen in our photos with a plan to wear them out as well.  Yes, I get sick of looking at his same tee shirts, although clean, day after day, as he most certainly does mine.

Who'd ever thought we'd be planning and contemplating the long term wear-ability of a pair of shorts or a tee shirt?  In our old lives, if a tee shirt looked worn, it became a rag or was plopped into the trash with nary a thought.  Now, I can spend 10 minutes looking at a tee shirt with the intent of determining it's fate...keep or save...keep or save.  Ha!

We giggled when we saw this traditional phone booth.
In a funny way, I enjoy this triviality of our lives.  Fashion forward in my old life. Fashion free in my new life.  I think I like it better this way.

Today, we'll be going outside the Medina with more photos to share tomorrow.  I'd hoped to take a video of the birds flying inside the house early in this morning.  Alas, hardly any birds flew inside this morning although I was waiting with camera in hand.  Perhaps, another day.

Photo from one year ago today, March 31, 2013:
A year ago today, we were living in Belize and it was Easter day.  Having few photos from our old lives when neither of us enjoyed taking photos, I'd posted a few older dessert photos on that date, including this butterscotch pie I'd made for Tom using 12 egg whites for the meringue and a homemade rolled crust.  I have posted this photo in the past and apologize for the repeat if you've seen this before.  This link will take you to that date and other desserts from our old lives, including Tom's custom made retirement party cake.  Please click here for the link.

A day in the life...Not as laid back as it may seem....

Yesterday, as it rained inside the house, Madame Zahra handed us an umbrella so we could go out to dinner. With the crowds in the souks, its not easy to walk around with an open umbrella fearful of poking a passerby in the eye.  It was a trying 45 minute walk to the restaurant as we maneuvered the many puddles, all the while getting soaked from the spray from motorbikes whizzing past. It was cold, 13C, 55F.  By the time we reached the restaurant, my shoes were wet and my toes were numb. 
This morning, awakening at 6:00 to the loud sounds of birds flapping their wings and squawking to the heavens in the center courtyard, I was ready to jump up and look out the bedroom door, knowing they'd fly away the second I peeked out
As soon as we entered the restaurant we cozied up to this flaming heater seeking a little warmth after the long walk through the rain soaked souks.
Reminding myself to bring my camera upstairs tonight, I'm determined to get a photo of their rambunctious mating rituals with spring in the air.  The loud squawking can't possibly be pigeons which we often hear at a lower tone.  If nothing else, I'll video the sounds to share here tomorrow.  It's absolutely unreal!

Once inside the restaurant, closing off this door to their courtyard, we were able to warm up enough to remove our jackets while we had dinner.
Instead of getting up I grabbed the novel on my phone's Kindle app and lost myself in reading for the next two hours, finally bolting out of bed, almost feeling guilty for lounging so long.

Do us retired (or in my case, semi-retired) folks ever get over the feeling that there's something that "must be done now" in order to stop feeling a sense of obligation or responsibility?  Isn't retirement about "retiring" from those dreadful feelings of self imposed pressure to constantly be productive?
Excuse the blur as I took this photo of a ceiling in the souk while on the move through the dense  tourist crowds who were shopping in a frenzy on a Saturday. This type of roof is typical in the souks resulting in rain dripping on us as we walked with little space to open the umbrella. Many of the vendors dragged their merchandise inside their tiny shops or covered it with plastic.
In deep thought as I overlooked the drying out courtyard after days of rain, I reminded myself of a few things, applicable at this time:  I don't have to clean, do laundry, take out the trash, cook or do dishes. stress free can it get? 

All of us, deep within our core are shaken from time to time with the reminder from the habits of many years of getting up and going to work, only to come home to added responsibilities.  That's over now.

The colorful entrance to a mosque inside the souk.
The only responsibility I have at this moment in life is to make myself presentable for the day (now down to 20 minutes flat), keep track of our finances, and blissfully write here each and every day. 

Don't get me wrong. Writing here each day is not as simple as sitting down and banging out our recent activities and thoughts.  It requires careful planning, researching and constantly searching for photo ops, not always an easy task. 
This is the ornate architecture above the colorful door of the mosque as shown in the previous photo.
Overall, it's no less than a six hour a day "job" that we both take seriously.
Tom, as my editor and sharing equal time in research, joins me in the incessant scanning of our environment searching for stories and photos.  However, we love every moment, even when on an occasional morning, for a moment, I may think I'll skip a day...and don't...I can't...I want to do it.

Without this, we'd travel the world taking an occasional photo, writing repetitive email to family and friends, leaving memory after memory stuck only in our heads and on "camera uploads" in Dropbox
Often when passing these bakeries with amazing looking desserts and cookies, I encourage Tom to try something so I can live vicariously through him.  Alas, his picky taste buds prevent him from trying a single cookie.  Good thing I have no alternative but to maintain my restrictive way of eating, sans sugar, starch and flour or I'd have gained a substantial sum of weight while here.  Then, my limited clothing supply would no longer fit.  I suppose for Tom, in this case his picky eating habits serve him well.
With this, we need only click back to a year ago or two to be reminded of the glorious, or otherwise, experiences we had along the way, with stories and photos, reliving it over and over again.  Add the joy of knowing that thousands of readers all over the world are sharing this adventure with us, catapults us to another level of pleasure we can hardly describe.

Even the prospect of generating enough revenue from the links on our site that hopefully more and more readers will use, at the same pricing offered on the original websites, to defray it's maintenance costs and perhaps a few other related expenses, adds a level of enthusiasm that only my long ingrained entrepreneurial spirit can hardly dispel as we travel the world.
Tom refused to stop to let me ogle another sweet morsel as I shot another bakery display in passing.
Oh, would that our grandparents had left us a legacy such as this that we could wrap our brains around, knowing from whence we came, even if only to a small degree, that for us may explain the wanderlust in our hearts and the willingness to share it with others.

No, it's not always exciting and thought provoking.  At times, it may even be dull and repetitive.  But, for us, the joy continues as we share the mundane, the tender, the exciting and the quiet contemplative times of our lives as we move from one country to another filling our hearts and minds with the knowledge, the wonder and the constant longing, for more.

Photo from one year ago today, March 30, 2013:

On this date last year while preparing to leave Belize, we illustrated how we scan our tax deductible receipts and safely dispose of the paper with no shredder on hand.  Please click here for the link to the rest of the story.

Facts about Morocco....

Photos shown here today were not taken by us.
Before we began planning to travel the world, I had a vague recollection of where many countries were located.  Tom, on the other hand, a history and geography buff, was much more knowledgeable.  As we've continued on, we've greatly enhanced our geographical knowledge of the world, still with more to learn.  Many of our readers commented that they were surprised that we were still in Africa, while living in Morocco.  How often does one take the time to look at a world map to be reminded of that which we learned in grade school? Not often.
Although not all of our readers will find these facts about Morocco peaking their interest, we've found that many do enjoy a list of facts to jog their memory or update their knowledge as we constantly research, study and explore. 
"They" say that new information is an excellent form of "exercise for the brain" of which both Tom and I can attest, after these past 17 months since we left Minnesota.
If today's information bores you, we apologize, hoping you'll return tomorrow for more photos of our time in Morocco.  In a selfish manner, we post this today, hoping to learn more from our research about Morocco instead of being limited to our smaller sphere while living in the Medina with an occasional outing outside the wall.
If you've been to Morocco and have facts you'd like to share, please comment at the end of this post.  We'd love to hear from you

What is the full name of Morocco?
Kingdom of Morocco (Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah)

Where is Morocco?
Northern Africa, across the Gibraltar Strait from Spain

What countries border Morocco?
Algeria, Mauritania, Spain (across the Gibraltar Strait), and Western Sahara (which Morocco claims as a territory). The border between Algeria and Morocco is currently closed.

How big is Morocco?
446,550 square kilometers

What is the population of Morocco?
Around 30 million

What language is spoken in Morocco?
Arabic is the official language (the Darija, Moroccan dialect). French is used for business and is considered the unofficial second language of Morocco, Berber dialects, Spanish and English are becoming increasingly more common.
What type of government does Morocco have?
Constitutional monarchy
Who is the King of Morocco?
King Mohammed VI
King Mohammed VI, current King of Morocco.

Who is the Prime Minister of Morocco?
Abdelilah Benkirane
Current Prime Minister of Morocco, Abdelilah Benkirane.
What is the capital of Morocco?
Rabat, the capital of Morocco.
What are the regions of Morocco?
There are 15 regions of Morocco, and claimed territory in Western Sahara:

  • Grand Casablanca
  • Chaouia-Ouardigha
  • Doukkala-Abda
  • Fes-Boulemane
  • Gharb-Chrarda-Beni Hssen
  • Guelmim-Es Smara
  • Laayoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra
  • Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz
  • Meknes-Tafilalet
  • Oriental
  • Rabat-Sale-Zemmour-Zaer
  • Souss-Massa-Draa
  • Tadla-Azilal
  • Tanger-Tetouan
  • Taza-Al Hoceima-Taounate

What are the largest cities in Morocco?

Map of Marrakech, Morocco, where we're living now
until May 15, 2014.
When did Morocco declare independence?
March 2, 1956 – Morocco declared independence from France
When is Morocco’s national holiday?
Morocco celebrates Throne Day on July 30, which celebrates the accession of King Mohammed VI to the throne in 1999.
What currency is used in Morocco?Moroccan dirham (MAD)
This is MAD 100, Moroccan Dirham,  US $12.23, Euro $8.89 (based on today's exchange rate).
What are the physical features of Morocco?
Although Morocco is often thought of as desert, much of the country is covered by the      Atlas Mountains and the Rif Mountains, though the Sahara desert does make up a
portion of the country.
What is the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU)?
Established in 1989, the Maghreb Union was meant to unify Morocco (with Western Sahara) Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania and help with trade and political unity between the countries. The Maghreb Union is currently frozen because of disagreements between Morocco and Algeria.
Who are the Berbers?
The Berbers are the indigenous peoples of the northern Africa. Most Moroccans are of Arab-Berber descent.
What is the major religion in Morocco?
Islam is the majority religion, particularly Sunni Islam. Judaism was historically a major religion in Morocco, but most Jews emigrated elsewhere in the 1950s.

Of course, there are volumes of information one could share about Morocco but with our limited space and time, we offer these morsel today.

Although it raining hard today we'll plan to go out for awhile looking forward to making new discoveries within the Medina, sharing them all with you tomorrow.

Happy Day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 29, 2013:
An early morning photo of the Caribbean Sea from our veranda as we began to wind down
our time in Belize, at that point a mere 11 days away.  Although we were excited to be cruising off and on for the upcoming two months, it wasn't easy to leave.  For the post for that day, please click here.

Living in a riad, an unusal experience for us....Artifacts and decor at Dar Aicha...

Today, we're posting the 17 mirrors in Dar Aicha which we believe may be used to enhance the appearance of the narrow sizes of some of the rooms surrounding the center courtyard.
Living in a riad, such as Dar Aicha, a house with a open-to-the-sky center courtyard surrounded by all of the rooms of the house, is unusual for many from other parts of the world. 
This and the above photo may look identical but they aren't.  There is a mirror at each end of the salon one, rectangular as this one and the other arched as in the above photo. These two mirrors are showing reflections of each other.  There's a working TV in front of this mirror in the salon which we use on occasion to watch world news.
Here's why we consider a riad to be different from traditional homes in many other countries:
1. When it rains, it rains into the courtyard leaving puddles at times.  It's necessary to walk through the courtyard when going from room to room.  To avoid getting wet we can walk under the second floor balcony around the edges of the courtyard.
2. During high winds, one feels the wind swirling around the courtyard which at night may be a little intimidating.
3.  Although a riad is constructed to stay cool in hot weather, during cold weather, the interior temperature matches the outdoor temperature.
4. There are literally no exterior windows. Most of the rooms surrounding the courtyard have colored glass windows facing the courtyard.
5.  As is Moroccan tradition, the doorways to the living areas all have drapes for privacy as opposed to doors that close.  As a result privacy is reduced.
6.  Based on the design of a riad and to prevent water from entering the living areas in heavy rains, there are short steps of varying heights and depths, sometimes one, sometimes two, to navigate when entering and exiting the rooms surrounding the courtyard and all the other areas including the bathrooms.  This could be a tripping hazard.  We've had to remind ourselves to carefully navigate those steps to avoid tripping and flying over the second story railing to the stone courtyard below. Scary.
7.  A riad is not suitable for disabled individuals for navigating these shorter steps or the steep stone steps to the second level or the third floor rooftop.
8.  Birds are always flying into the courtyard.  This morning there were two pigeons in my dressing room (I wasn't in the room) which Tom saw fly out.  With spring here now, the birds are in abundance, many walking on the courtyard floor during the day.  Yesterday, two birds walked into the salon while we were there.
9.  The walls are one meter thick, (approximately 3 feet) impeding the WiFi signal. We've found it necessary to position ourselves close to an opening in order to get a decent connection.
The aged mirror in the center courtyard.
 Aged mirror on the second floor balcony.
 One of the mirrors in our master bedroom.
Another ornate mirror in the master bedroom.
One of two mirrors in the master bathroom.
The mirror over the brass sink in the master bathroom.
Other than reminding ourselves not to trip on the steps between rooms, none of these differences bother us at all.  Actually, we find the design of the riad charming and at times entertaining, especially when we can look up from inside the house and see the blue sky during the day and the stars and moon at night. 
Mirror in the second bedroom that I use for showering and dressing in the mornings to avoid awakening Tom.

Mirror over the bathroom sink in the bathroom I use in the mornings. The water bottle in the lower left if used for brushing our teeth.
And, of course, we love the birds.  I remember how we'd all freak out when a bird flew into our house in our old lives. Now, we simply smile occasionally taking a photo as shown here today.
Taking photos of these fast moving little birds makes me crazy when don't sit still long enough for me to get a good shot.  This bird was standing on the second floor railing overlooking the center courtyard.
It is these types of experiences, living as the locals do, that shape our world travels.  At times, we experience challenges and frustrations that somehow we manage to work through to our satisfaction. At other times, we pinch ourselves, asking, "How in the world did we end up here?" 
As for Morocco, we have a partial roof over our heads, we're comfortable, we're feeling well, we're well fed, we love our riad and it's wonderful staff and for the next 48 days, at Dar Aicha, we're "home."
Photo from one year ago today, March, 2013: 
With no photos posted on this exact date, one year ago, we selected this photo from earlier in March, 2013.  Please click here for the link.