Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lunch at Maison Berber - Telouet, High Atlas, Morocco

Fruits and Chicken Couscous for lunch
I love Moroccan food especially their unique technique of slow cooking in the tagine - conical shaped pot. After the visit to Pasha El Galoui in Telouet, we were very hungry. Our guide had arranged for lunch at Maison Beber - a village restaurant in the High Atlas region. Maison Berber is actually the home of a Berber family who is the friend of Ahmed and Mustafa, our guide. The restaurants is in the middle of remote land with few houses around it and a small village which was visible from a distance. I think it caters only for tourists who happened to pass this area and they are usually taken here by their guides. The great relief was that we were also given the space for prayers before we continued our journey further.

We were seated comfortably in the living hall of the house and there were a few other tourist having lunch. The restaurant is on the upper level of a house and the ground floor is a carpet shop. The food was delicious and the ambiance of the restaurant was very cozy. It really felt like we were having lunch in the comfort of a home. After the delicious lunch, we were ushered to the carpet shop on the ground floor but there was no pressure that we had to buy anything there. In fact we did not buy anything from the store.

The lunch was much more fun than the carpets. Morocco is famous for its couscous and the fruits and chicken couscous served was full of flavor. After almost a week in Morocco, that was our first Cous-Cous meal...simple but yet delicious!
Delicious fresh salad - sprinkled with a dash of cumin powder

We were hungry!
The hand written bill for 4 people was 280 Dirham (25 Euro)
Mud houses near Maison Berber
A village near the restaurant

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A journey to the heart - Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Performing the Tawaf after Terawih

Clock Tower in Mecca

Performing umrah (small pilgrimage) in the month of Ramdhan is a real test of endurance and perseverance. The intensity of the ritual is compounded by fasting in this month of Summer. The temperature on some days can be as high as 50 degrees Celsius or more and the glaring sunlight can be challenging for many. In the sea of people, every movement becomes difficult and at times one can become breathless during tawaf

But again, every soul's journey and experience is unique and indescribable. With lots of d'ua and patience, even the most difficult moment will gradually become easy by the mercy of Al Mighty. Regardless of all the challenges, this journey remains to be an overwhelming experience, closest to my heart. It was rumored that about 5 millions Muslims performed their umrah this Ramadhan. And approaching the last ten nights of the holy month, every space in Mecca is filled with people mostly clad in white ihram and woman in black. 

 I once heard of this nasihah (advice), “Pack a bag of clothes and nine bags of sabr (patience, endurance and perseverance). There is so much truth in the advice! But I have to admit, it is not easy, especially when some forceful characters appear out of nowhere and start telling you, this is haram and that is haram. It really feels like you are just embracing Islam a few minutes ago! The word haram (impermissible) resonates almost everywhere and everyday.

As I observed, the whole ritual of Umrah and Hajj in Mecca is not about spiritual in isolation. But the beauty is about connecting to other Muslims from various part of the world; to know them, to understand the divergence, to tolerate and to compromise the differences. And, along the way I met several Muslims from other countries who gave me several advices and lessons to be learnt. And that’s the beauty of being Muslim.

The interior of Masjidil Haram
Zam-Zam Tower opposite Masjidil Haram
Taking a rest...while waiting for Tahajud prayers
The jenazah prayer outside Masjidil Haram
After Terawih everybody is moving out of the mosque
Everybody is taking a break after Terawih
Masjidil Haram with its modern backdrop in the early morning after fajar
After Ramadhan, the carpets are rolled for cleaning
Masjidil Haram is currently under massive construction work
Hilton Mecca
The girls are posing on the night of Eid
Decorating the girls' hair on Eid
Kausar from Algeria
Traditional cookies from Malaysia on Eid
Chocolate Chips from Malaysia
The body of deceased carried for burial after the prayers
Najla from Algeria has always been cooperative while her mother prays
The shopping complex and restaurants right in front of the Haram
Minarets of Masjidil Haram
Clock Tower at night
The night of Eid
Burger King...KFC

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Walking through the streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Pretty little shops lined the streets of the old town
Lubljana is a pleasant city to wander around. Because it is not very big, you can take your own sweet time to explore the place just on foot. The old town is full of pretty small shops, cute cafe and restaurants. When you're tired of walking, just sit by one of the many cafes to have a cup of coffee. There is nothing really so grand about Ljubljana but it is relaxing to hang around. It will never stress you. The cleanliness of the old town makes quite an impression.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Shimmering Murano - Murano Island, Venice, Italy

This huge glass sculpture - a centrepiece on the island

Murano is famous for its lovely shimmering glasses. In 1291, all the Venetian glassmakers in Venice were ordered to move their foundries to Murano because the industry posed a fire threat to Venice. There are many glass workshops, galleries and showrooms all over the island. The artisans produce beautiful and stunning contemporary art work from glass. 

Shimmering Murano glass beads

In those days the glassmakers were not allowed to leave the island or he risked being assassinated or his hands cut off!  As a matter of fact, the Murano's glassmakers were special because they were the only people in Europe who knew how to make glass mirrors. They also developed or refined technologies such as crystalline glass, enameled glass, glass with threads of gold, multicolored glass, milk glass, and imitation gemstones made of glass. 

Today, Murano is one of the attraction that should not be missed when you visit Venice. The easiest and cheapest way to get to this island of glass is to take the Vaporetta (water bus) number; 12, 13, 41, 42, 71 or 72. Taking the private water taxi would be much more expensive.

Glass factory in Murano
Colorful glass bracelets
The canals in Murano

Drying clothes on a sunny day
Necklaces are among items of glass jewelry. 


Beautiful Murano glass lamp shade