Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Ramadan in Morocco

I've decided to write some stuff about Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, for all those interested in learning about it, as there's more to Islam than we hear in the media. The post below this one is about my actual travels. Anyway, Mylene and I arrived in Morocco during Ramadan, which we didn't know was occurring until we arrived. It goes for 30 days and Muslims aren't allowed to eat, drink, smoke or have sex until after sunset, in order to teach them about patience and humility. The crazy thing is is that it's in the middle of summer, and sometimes it was between 40 and 50 degrees during the day, and they aren't allowed to even drink water. 

So, a typical day during Ramadan. Well, the sun rises at around 5am, and some will say a prayer and go to mosque, yet most people I was hanging around with said they prefer to wake up as late as possible, because they can't eat/drink water until 7:20pm. There are five prayer times throughout the day.
If you're not a student, and you have to work during the day, you'll have to wake early, and work all day without food/water. I attempted to last the whole day without eating food, yet I could only do it until about 4 in the afternoon. At 7:20pm, 'breakfast' is served (as it's the first meal they eat) and it was generally vegetable soup with bread and certain other snacks and fruit. Prayer comes after this. Lunch is eaten at around 10 or 11pm, which is usually tajine or something else with meat in it, and then some will sleep and wake up before sunrise to eat again. This is followed for the whole month. If you're not Muslim, it's considered a bit rude if you eat/drink during the day time in front of Muslims.

This guy was bathing in some type of water flowing thing on the side of the road, as they're not allowed to drink water. I even saw some Muslims pouring some freezing cold water in to their mouths, yet spitting it out after. This was in the desert, and it was about 45 degrees.
During Ramadan, Muslims are required to pray more often than usual. This photo was taken just on the side of the road, where 20 or so cars had pulled over so they could pray.

Monday, 15 August 2011

the balkans, france, spain & morocco

well.. this is the first time in like six weeks, since Albania, that I've had the chance to write anything. When I left Albania I rushed through Montenegro, Bosnia and Serbia like two or so weeks, and then spent three weeks in France, a week and a half in Morocco and I've been in Spain for a few days, and have another two weeks here before I go to the Caucasus, Middle East and East Africa. I'll start writing more frequently when I begin going to more interesting places.

Anyway, I feel as though this should just be a photo-journal from now on instead of publishing all my deepest thoughts to you all. So...

Yep, another cliff jump in Budva, Montenegro. The first place after Albania I went. I wouldn't recommend going there though, super tacky and too many russians in speedos

The bridge where Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand was shot in 1914 to trigger world war one- Sarajevo, Bosnia

There was also a war in Bosnia in the early 1990s, which I'm sure you're all aware of. Over 100 000 people were killed, and saw the biggest genocide in Europe since WW2. It was crazy to see a lot of the gravestones were people who were about 18 or so years old. There are also bullet holes everywhere in most of the major buildings in Sarajevo, and there were even bullet holes in the hostel I stayed at.

After I spent a few days in Bosnia I got a bus up to Belgrade in Serbia, where I couchsurfed with a dude who was hosting like 7 other couchsurfers, which was really awesome. I don't know how he ever got anything done. the day I arrived in Belgrade, Novac Djokovic was returning home to Serbia (he's Serbian) after winning wimbledon. The government estimated that there were over one million people in the streets that night, it was truly crazy. People were climbing everything to get a better view, and countless flares were lit. If you can't see properly, there are two people on that sign.
After Belgrade I went to Novi Sad (also in Serbia) for Exit festival. I didn't take many photos. But we had 21 people crammed into one room, in 40 degree heat with no air conditioning, and a landlady who was truly the worst person I've ever encountered in my life. It was a really fun few days to catch up with everyone, but never again.
Budapest is definitely one of the most beautiful cities I've ever been to, more so than Paris.
After all of Eastern Europe I flew to France with my girlfriend, Mylene to spend time with her family (she is French). All the stereotypes I'd heard about French people, such as being arrogant and only concerned about France, are completely untrue. I've never felt more welcomed anywhere, and all the people I  met seemed genuinely interested in Australian culture and were not at all arrogant. I also had Bastille Day with her whole extended family, none of whom spoke English and unfortunately my French hadn't evolved into conversational standard at that point. Thankfully Mylene told her family I spoke great Spanish (which may have been half true two years ago), which made for interesting conversation.

One of the highlights of spending three weeks in France was cycling with Mylene around the countryside for a few days, through heaps of medieval villages including Buxy, Cluny and Cormatin.
After Paris, Bourgogne and Tours, we went down to Nice where we went couchsurfing with a 60 year old gay dude (pictured left). A lot of people have been asking me how it was, and I wouldn't say it was a complete nightmare as he was a great tour guide, but he was the epitome of annoying. He wouldn't leave us alone the whole time, and breathed down our neck while we cooked him dinner. He claimed he "didn't host zee vegetarians", but we showed him good. He had that smell that some people have, you know that smell of poo? Luckily he didn't speak a word of English, so Mylene had to deal with his breath the whole time while I kept my distance.

After we left this dude we spent a few days in Marseilles with Thomas Busson, a guy I worked with in Cargo from Marseilles, after which we flew to the south of Spain. We were originally to spend a whole month doing an internship with the World Fair Trade Organisation headquarters in Cordoba, yet we quit after a day. Basically they had us doing work which they didn't want to pay someone to do, for example Mylene was to spend the month translating some book from English to French. Isn't the whole point of an internship to learn about the company? Obviously not. So we got on the next bus to Algeciras, and got the ferry across to Morocco to spend 10 days, which turned out to be an awesome decision.

One of the highlights was definitely spending a night camping in the Sahara desert, which was 50 degrees during the day time. We got to ride camels too. 

I think the whole time we spent in Morocco we may have paid for dinner 3 of those nights; Moroccans invited us in to their house for dinner all the other nights. This picture to the left was in a small town in the north, whereby a man named Abdul invited us in for dinner. He then guilted us to buy his hashish from him (hashish is tolerated in Morocco), which we had no use for; luckily we offloaded it onto a girl at the hostel. Anyway,
I must say that I have mixed feelings about Moroccans, they are either super friendly and hospitable or really shit, and rip you off constantly; Mylene and I fell for a few of their traps, but whatever.  After we left Morocco and spendt some time with Nick Simpson and his family back in Spain again, Mylene and I got a job on a farm picking almonds and learning about all sorts of other interesting things, which we are currently still doing. I will post photos later. I will be leaving Spain in a week to go to Turkey, Georgia and Iran for around 6 or so weeks.