Friday, April 29, 2011

Bomb wrecks Argana Café in Marrakech

I wrote a review of Argana Café in Marrakech the other day. Sadly this tourist restaurant was destroyed in bomb attack April 28th killing 15 people.

We decided to get a view to the giant food fair from its terraces one of the first nights of our stay. My fellow travelers were skeptic to enjoy the food served here, and we decided to have a meal in a tourist restaurant.

Café Argana was located on the Djemaa el Fna square, the very heart of Marrakech a busy market place during day, turning into a giant food market at dawn.

The nationalities of those killed is unclear but French news agency AFP said six were French and three Moroccan. The last major attack in Morocco was in Casablanca in 2003, when 45 people, including suicide bombers, were killed

Read full story on BBC News

A Christmas meal remembered

Winter view from Langøya island towards Hinnøya, Norway's largest island
Here is a daytime view during Northern Norway's eternal night. This is the period of year when the sun does not rise over the horizon, leaving a pale yellow light on the horizon to remember it by for up to three months. I am staying with my brother for Christmas every fourth year, latest in 2010. Then we enjoyed, or ate rather,  a meal of lutefisk, a weird Norwegian specialty.

Lutefisk is one of these dish you either hate or love passionately. I am trying to change my feelings towards passionately love, as many of those people I love have a great time during the festive season.
Lutefisk with mustard sauce, mushy peas and bacon
Lutefisk is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish) or dried/salted whitefish (klippfisk) and lye, and it is gelatinous in texture, and has an extremely strong, pungent odor. Its name literally means "lye fish."

The consistency may be one of those factors that put me off lutefisk. It may shiver as jelly, but may also be firm and flaky as fresh fish.

My brothers lutefisk was firm. He served it with every ingredient you could think of. Mustard sauce, bacon, mushy peas, potatoes, goat's cheese and good cold beer with as many shots of aquavit you needed in order to digest the stuff.

It was the second time I had lutefisk, and I have to admit that I liked the side dishes better than the fish. This and the revered Smalahoved are among the very few specialties I have tasted once or twice and decided that I do not like. They are however interesting culinary innovations from a time you needed to preserve food much longer and used every little part of the animal.    

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ben Youssef Madrasa

An exquisitely carved archway in the Ben Youssef Madrasa
This is a gathering of Lovers.
In this gathering
there is no high, no low,
no smart, no ignorant,
no special assembly,
no grand discourse,
no proper schooling required.
There is no master,
no disciple.

The Ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakech is one of the most beautiful places in this vibrant North African city. Within its walls you find tranquility and beauty unsurpassed by any other monuments here. 

The central courtyard of the Madrasa
The Ben Youssef Madrasa is named after the amoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106–1142), who expanded the city and its influence considerably, but was founded much later during, in the 14th century by the Marinid sultan Abu al-Hassan.
View from one of the dormitories

The building was re-constructed in the 16th century by the Saadian Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib (1557–1574).

Closed down in 1960, the The Ben Youssef Madrasa building complex was refurbished and reopened to the public as an historical site in 1982.
The beautiful court seen from the main entrance
The Ben Youssef Madrasa was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and may have housed as many as 900 students.

One of its best known teachers was Mohammed al-Ifrani (1670-1745).

The beautiful main courtyard is partly built in cedar mable and stucco and it is extremely ornate.

The carvings  covering the walls have no representation of humans or animals as required by Islam, and consist entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns. In the middle you have a beautiful pool in cool blue and green mosaic tiles.

The 130 student dormitory cells at the Ben Youssef Madrasa face this court. It feels so strange being inside these tiny rooms where generations of pious young men have studied their holy book.

It is a surprise really to find a space like Ben Youssef Madrasa in a city as Marrakech. The refined beauty of its interior is a contrast to the rough and charming exterior of the streets outside. The space here is actually like many others found in Marrakech. You are suddenly removed to a beautiful quiet room far away from the commotion of the streets outside.  

You are suddenly back to its grand era, when, as you are wander in the courtyard hear the call of the muezzin at the nearby Ben Youssef Mosque. I caught this on this short film clip taken during my visit. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

CONTINUALLY UPDATED: Norwegian charter destinations 2011 - Apollo

View APOLLO: Charter destinations from Oslo 2011 season in a larger map

Norwegians are traveling further and further away from home in order to find sun, culture or sporting experiences. Many rely on charter company's to organize their trips. In this way they may just relax without having to book their air travel or hotel.

Above you find a map showing what destinations Norwegian charter tourists may travel to. On publishing day it includes destinations from Oslo offered by Apollo. Symbols marking destinations are either City (=theater faces), swimming (=swimmer), golf (=golf player) or football tours (= football player) 

May 2011: Few new direct flights from Norwegian airports

Photo: View on the Anaga mountains, Tenerife Canary Islands, Spain by Jens Steckert

It is quiet in the Norwegian flight market, before summer, that is.

Only one new direct flight will open in May 2011 as City Airline will launch its direct flight between the airports at Moss-Rygge and Stavanger.

Norwegian Air Shuttle will stop its direct service from Oslo Airport to Tenerife Sur Airport.

There good news ahead, however. The number of new summer destinations will pick up in June, when a large number of seasonal flights will be launched to attract Norwegian travelers abroad.

More information on flights: