Diane Sawyer Newsletter/Blog #9 July 2013

Diane Sawyer Portrait

Hello everyone. I hope you enjoy this newsletter, which is arriving late because I was vacationing with family and friends in the mountains of North Carolina beyond the reach of the Internet.

Fondly,

Diane Sawyer

Writing News

 Montauk Mystery Montauk Steps Tomoka Mystery Cinderella Murders Montauk Cave

I recently received the news that the Kindle editions of The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, and The Tomoka Mystery are now available on Amazon and other on-line sites. With the addition of these three titles, all five of my mysteries are now available as e-books. Hooray! By the way, Amazon released them on my birthday. How special is that!

 

This and That

Do you remember last month’s item, which featured famous sayings and their lesser-known follow-up lines? For instance, “Curiosity killed the cat…but satisfaction brought it back.” One of my readers, you know who you are, added this hilarious example to the list:

“Talk is cheap…It takes money to buy whiskey!”

For this month’s “This and That” (and a lead-in to the lengthy travel section), I’d like to share several proverbs and sayings I’ve gathered while exploring the world. This Irish proverb is well known: “May the road rise up to greet you. May the wind be at your back.” This Mexican proverb is probably familiar too: “Tell me who you travel with, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Lesser known are these proverbs I discovered while visiting Morocco.

  • Bread is sacred. Respect it. If you see a piece in the street, pick it up and set it aside. At the table, pass it hand to hand to you brother; never toss it to him.
  • After lunch, rest awhile; after dinner, walk a mile.

 

Travel

Many of you enjoyed last month’s piece about the city of York, England, and encouraged me to include more travel pieces. Thank you. This time, I’ve chosen a small-group bus tour of Morocco. All of this came about when I received a telephone call from a friend of two fun-loving sisters I had met on a bus tour of Turkey. The three of them were part of a group of six friends with all their plans made for a trip to Morocco, but one friend had dropped out due to illness, and they hoped I could fill in for her and meet them in New York City a week later and fly to Casablanca, Morocco. Whew! I checked my calendar, briefly discussed the idea with my husband, and said “yes!”

As I made arrangements and packed, doubts about this spontaneous trip sprung up like palm trees around an oasis. I didn’t know anything about four of the people I’d be traveling with. And what did I know about Morocco? Suddenly I remembered a gritty old black and white movie from my childhood where a spy slithered through Tangier’s twisting alleyways and gasped, “Take me to the Kasbah,” as he collapsed in a pool of blood and his trembling hand reached for the dagger poking from his back. But what would the real Morocco offer? Guidebooks revealed that many diverse cultures had shaped Moroccan customs. But I had little time to ponder the mystery or history of Morocco.

My flight from Tampa arrived in New York, I met my new traveling friends, realized I couldn’t have chosen a better group (I called them “My Southern Belles”) and then it was Goodbye North America and Hello North Africa! Throughout the trip I jotted down impressions and expanded upon them when I returned home. Here are excerpts from an eyes-wide-open view of a fascinating country and the trip that began at Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport. There we were greeted by our guide, Mustapha; our driver, Abderrahim; and our baggage handler, Salah. We exchanged dollars for dirhams, caught glimpses of international travelers wearing their native dress and headgear, and heard a diversity of languages. We boarded our tour bus and met our tour mates, who had traveled from Brazil, Canada, and the United States.

Here we are midway into our third day…

The next leg of our trip brought us to Meknes, the Moroccan Versailles, and the Sultan’s Palace where 50,000 slaves, 500 wives, and 1500 servants once served the king’s every wish. Famous for its wines, Meknes has many elegant restaurants, but our group chose a simple lunch in a boulangerie, where we savored Moroccan-style pizza on flatbread, quiche with béchamel sauce, and Moroccan pastries dipped in honey and sprinkled with nuts, and of course the Moroccan specialty, mint tea. We were still full from last night’s dinner of harira, a vegetable soup thickened with chickpeas; tajine, a chicken entrée baked and served in an earthenware dish with a volcanic-shaped dome; and a desert of fresh pomegranates.

Late that afternoon, we arrived at the town of Voloubilis, known for its extensive Roman ruins. We climbed the rocky path to a summit overlooking lush valleys filled with a lavender haze and wandered through the remains of the once thriving city. As the wind whistled through the cypress trees, we saw Roman baths, private homes with mosaic-tile floors depicting dolphins, Hercules, Neptune, and Bacchus’s tryst with a nubile maiden beneath the watchful gaze of Cupid. We wandered past a badly charred oven used to bake bread and a one-room “factory,” where workers had pressed olives, and as shadows lengthened we stood before the Triumphal Arch of Caracalla. The sun, a fiery red ball with a shimmering orange aura, floated over the distant hilltops, dropped through the archway, and disappeared into a black velvety void. A magical moment that will forever define for us the colors of sunset.

We drove through rolling hillsides along an unlighted two-lane road, occasionally catching sight of another bus. Black feathery clouds slid across the moon, our only beacon of light, giving us the surreal impression that we were on an alien planet, far from the stars and setting sun of Voloubilis. We arrived in the royal city of Fez, often compared to Florence, Italy. A brief glimpse revealed the contrast in architecture between La Ville Nouvelle, the New City, built by the French, and the ancient imperial city.

Could tomorrow possibly surpass this incredible day?

(Now we are in the city of Fez, the cultural heart of Morocco, known for handcraft items and markets. I would add “dazzling with wonderful sights, sounds, aromas, and colors.)

Yellah!”…Our local guide Abdul cried, urging us to pick up the pace as we stepped back in time and entered the mysterious world of the medina, the ancient quarter, known for its open-air markets, called souks. The tangle of narrow streets of slippery stones led us past vendors’ stalls. They overflowed with apples, nougat candy, goats’ heads, live chickens, and kaftans, as well as pointy-toed leather slippers (usually yellow, as vivid as the sun) called babouches, which sat next to spices, leather wallets, and woven baskets, which were stacked near figs, dates, and skewers of lamb. Dazzling colors were everywhere, especially when the wool dyers with their arms and clothes stained red, blue, and green, dipped yarn into huge vats, poured the tinted water into the street, and hung the strands out to dry.

(Here on day 6 is the gorgeous city of Marrakech, Capital of the Sultans, the gateway to the desert…)

What a wonderland of swaying palms, broad avenues, and gardens that showcased the dazzling buildings of shrimp, rose, and terra cotta hues. Cars, bikes, and motorbikes roared past mules pulling carts. Pedestrians, many balancing packages on their heads or children in slings on their backs, hurried along with the traffic. Downtown, we parked near the palace and royal gardens, ablaze with red and pink roses. Mustapha, our tour guide, led us to the Museum of Moroccan handcrafts. The building itself was a jewel with tiles, archways, and beautiful carved doors, surrounding a courtyard with fragrant mandarin orange trees, hibiscus, and pomegranate trees, filled with chirping birds. Glass cases displayed Berber jewelry, dazzling silver pieces embedded with coral, agate, amber and turquoise.

That evening we went by bus to a show, billed as “Fantaisie de Marrakech.” It took place at a desert complex of turrets, towers, minarets, called Chez Ali, a reference to Ali Baba’s palace. Along with 2,000 other visitors (!) we walked through receiving lines of dancers in sparkling costumes and headed for the dinner show held in enormous tents. Sitting cross-legged on cushions, we dined on several kinds of tajine and enjoyed the talented dancers, drummers, and musicians. Then came the big spectacle performed in a huge field next to our tents. Horseback riders raced forward, shooting their rifles into the star-filled sky. They galloped around and then returned, one by one, passing by us. We gasped and applauded as they flung themselves over, under, and alongside their Arabian stallions. A memorable evening!

{You might be interested to know that I wrote a children’s story set in Morocco, entitled “The Yellow Slippers.” It was published in Cricket, a leading children’s magazine.}

 

Cooking Delights
Curried Rice

Ingredients (serves 6) (goes great with chicken or pork)

1 Tbsp cooking oil; 1 cup coarsely chopped onion

2 bay leaves

1 tsp(or more) curry powder; 1/2 tsp (or more) chili powder

1 cup white rice; 2 Tbsp raisins

1/2 tsp salt; 2 cups water; 1 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup shredded carrot;1/2 cup cashews or peanuts, toasted

Directions

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until hot (or use an electric wok). Add onions, bay leaves, curry powder and chili powder. Stir continually for 5 minutes.

Stir UNCOOKED rice, raisins and salt into onion mixture, and continue stirring for one minute. CAREFULLY add water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in peas and shredded carrots. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes more or until heated through. Remove bay leaves. Sprinkle with nuts. Serve. Bon appétit!

 

Have a wonderful August. Sorry I didn’t include the ten facts about cats, as promised in the last newsletter. I’ll save that fun for next time.

Fondly,

Diane

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