Photo Of The Day: Moroccan Leather Tannery

You can smell the tanneries in Fez, Morocco, long before you can see them. The stench comes from the diluted bird excrement used to soften animal hides as they’re turned into leather. The soft leather is then dyed in these large vats by men working hours at a time on each hide in harsh summer heat. Then the hides are hung to dry on the roofs around the old quarter.

Flickr user Mark Fischer captured this image of a tannery worker in the dyeing vats from the balconies surrounding the tannery. It’s basically an assembly line at ground level, so tourists aren’t allowed in, but the smell is often enough to keep most people at bay.

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Photo of the day – Fez cafe

This black and white image of breakfast at a cafe in Fez was snapped by Flickr user clee130. For anyone who has spent time in Morocco, this is a familiar scene: an outdoor cafe full of men conversing together over slowly savored drinks or nibbles. Ourika, the cafe’s name, refers to both a valley and river in Morocco. The Ourika River flows from a source in Toubkal National Park into the Tensift River just east of Marrakech.

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Ryanair passengers stage sit-down strike

What would travel bloggers do without Ryanair? From trying to get rid of co-pilots to arresting passengers for complaining about the sandwiches, the budget airline provides endless grist for our mill.

Yesterday more than a hundred passengers refused to leave their plane after their Ryanair flight from Fez, Morocco, to Beauvais, France, was diverted to Belgium. It was one of four Ryanair flights diverted to Liege due to foggy conditions in France. Passengers were offered a bus to their final destination, a journey of 225 miles. While passengers in three of the planes agreed to go, those in the fourth flight refused, insisting to be flown there instead. The flight had departed Fez three hours late and landed in Liege at 11:30 PM. The passengers didn’t leave the plane until 3:30 in the morning to catch a 4:30 AM bus home.

That’s the story both sides agree on. Beyond this, there are two stories. Passengers say they were then abandoned by the crew, who even left the cockpit open, and were not given any water for several hours. The toilets were also locked.

Ryanair said the crew stayed for an hour and only left when some passengers got disruptive. They also say that they would have gotten an earlier bus if they had agreed to leave.

[Photo courtesy user Yap S S via Gadling’s flickr pool]

Morocco by motorcycle

The guys over at Urban Daddy have been on a roll lately, unearthing some pretty cool packaged tours. First there was Urbane Nomads’ dive trip to the Great Wall of China. Now they’ve found an organized luxury tour of Morocco, by motorcycle.

Hispania Tours offers a 15-day tour through Morocco that features 13 days of riding on BMW motorcycles. The route starts and ends in Malaga, Spain, and includes stops in Marrakech, High Atlas, Fez, Erg Chebbi, and Merzouga in Morocco. At close to €4000, it’s not cheap. But for the price, you’ll get a guide who’ll lead your group of up to 8 riders along the route, a chase van that will take care of any breakdowns and transport your luggage from place to place, accommodations in 3- and 4-star hotels, breakfasts and dinners, all ferry tolls, insurance, and a camel ride at Merzouga.

The company also runs tours through Spain and Portugal, which range from €2000 to €3000 per person. Self-guided tours that include just hotel and motorcycle start at €1300 and motorcycle rentals only start at €75 per day. Pillions (riders who sit behind the motorcycle driver on the same bike) pay about 1/4 of the full rate and according to the website, routes can be tailored according to experience level.

Photo of the Day (5.24.09)

I can remember the first day I arrived in Morocco. The vibrant colors of painted doors, barrels of spices and textiles for sale. The smells of motor scooter fumes, freshly-cut wood, charcoal flames and sewage. The frantic energy of human beings headed in every direction. Flickr user Marni Rachel’s photo from Fes, Morocco brought all of this sensory information flooding back into my head today. Butcher shops like this one line the streets of many Moroccan cities, filled with hooks of hanging flesh ready for sale.

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