Useful travel tips when visiting Fez, Morocco – Born2Invest

Looking for where to stay in Fez? Read our review of Palais Amani, a boutique hotel in the heart of the Fez medina. Plus, here’s what to do in Fez, including visiting a hammam, the best Moroccan cooking school, where to eat in Fez and a guide to the souks and what to buy in Morocco.

Exploring Fez

With over 9,500 alleys, 1,000 cul-de-sacs and 10,500 historical buildings, Fez-el-Bali, the oldest part of the city, is the perfect place to get lost! For us, it is our last stop on our journey through Morocco.

For some reasons, I imagine Fez (or Fes) similar to Marrakech, but I could not have been more wrong.

Marrakech is relatively flat and open, and while I didn’t think it at the time, in comparison to the souks of Fez, Marrakech’s souks are relatively open as well. In Marrakech, many of the homes within the old city, the riads, have been converted to hotels. Restaurants, cafes and rooftop terraces are plentiful.

Fez, on the other hand, is hilly, the souks and old city are a series of enclosed, narrow walkways. It is hard to grasp how large it is as you walk around as you never can see much of it at a time. There are still a lot of families living within the old city of Fez, and life continues much as it has for centuries.

What to do in Fes (or Fez)

One of Morocco’s Imperial cities, Fes, a UNESCO World Heritage site, remains much as it has for 1,200 years. The tourist brochure describes it as a melting pot, adding ingredients from the many cultures that have ruled it over the years: “Arab nobility, Andalusian sophistication, Jewish ingenuity and Berber tenacity.”

With such an ancient history, there is a lot of things to do in Fes, including visiting many sites of historical and cultural significance to Morocco.

Fes was founded by Idris I in 789 AD. In 817, families started arriving from Cordoba, Spain, having been expelled from their homes. Al Quaraouiyine (or Karaouiune), the world’s oldest university, opened in 857, and you can still see it today. The Quaraouiyine Library dates to the 12th century and houses over 32,000 manuscripts. This is but one of many medersas, (also spelled madrasa) or universities, in the city hundreds of years old. Fez was renowned in ancient times as an intellectual capital. And even today, Fez is known as the artistic, religious and intellectual capital of Morocco.

The Nejjarine Museum of Wood Arts and Crafts located within the medina (not far from the Quaraouiyine University) is in a restored foundouk, or traditional guesthouse or caravanserai for traveling merchants. Goods could be stored on the ground level with lodging on the upper levels. The rooftop offers fantastic views of Fez and has a small café.

The Glaoui Palace, the Marrakech home to the Pasha of Marrakech we were first introduced to at Kasbah Telouet on the first day of our desert tour, has fallen into disrepair like many of the magnificent palaces from the wealthy families who once lived in Marrakech.

A walk to the most famous and newest gate, the Bab Bou Jeloud or Blue Gate at the west entrance to Fes el Bali, the old city of Fez, Morocco, is well worthwhile. The gate, built by the French in 1913, features blue tiles on one side and green on the other. From here, atop a hill, there are lovely views of the city of Fez.

No trip in Fez would be complete without taking a dip at the Hammam. (Photo by David Holt via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0)

No trip in Fez would be complete without taking a dip at the Hammam. (Photo by David Holt via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0)

Where to stay in Fez? Palais Amani Boutique Hotel

Your choice in Fez is to stay within the medina or outside in the more modern, new part of town. There are many large, international hotel chains in the new part of town, most of which, in my opinion, lack traditional, Moroccan character and hospitality.

We like small, boutique hotels reflecting the character of the country in which we are traveling, with a preference for family or locally-owned accommodation. Palais Amani provides a fantastic place to experience Moroccan hospitality and explore the Fes souk or medina.

Staying at Palais Amani

All our accommodation in Morocco was nice, but Palais Amani was my favorite. It is simply stunning. After four years of renovation, the hotel opened in 2010. Amani means “wish” or “desire” in Arabic. The Palais’ original building dates to the 17th century. The more recent owners, the wealthy Lahlou family (bought circa 1920), lived in it until the 1970s, when many wealthy families moved from the center of Fez.

At one point about 30-40 of the Lahlou’s extended family lived within the walls of the Palais, and their living quarters have been converted into elegant suites by the current owners, Jemima Mann-Baha and her husband Abdelali Baha.

Over two stories, 15 guest rooms surround a magnificent garden with a large fountain in the center. A large terrace overlooks the garden from one end and a rooftop terrace provides views of the internal courtyard and of Fez.

When you come through the doors from the medina, you enter a quiet, lush garden oasis. Perfect for relaxing after the bustle of the medina.

Visiting the Hammam in Morocco

For Moroccans, this is a weekly ritual. In chatting with one of the ladies working at the hotel, she confirmed every week on her day off she visits the hammam. Moroccan women have beautiful hair and skin and one can’t help wondering if this is the reason!

No visit to Morocco would be complete without a visit to the hammam, meaning “hot water” in Arabic, also known as the Moor baths. Steam bathing, an essential part of the hammam experience, is also part of the Roman bathing tradition. You see women in the markets crushing the argan nuts to make the soft, oily soap used in the hammam. You can also buy the mineral-rich rhassoul clay, another part of the traditional ritual.

There are many options to suit any budget. The public hammam is very reasonably priced. The “spa” is much as though you would visit at home. A private hammam, you will often find at your accommodation. Our experience was at Palais Amani’s hammam.

What to expect when visiting a Moroccan Hammam?

In a traditional bath house, men and women will be separated. The treatment is usually performed naked, but if that makes you uncomfortable, you can wear a bathing suit or underwear.

Our treatment was in the hotel and we were the only people in the hammam. Our treatment was together as a couple. (One of the advantages of a private hammam.)

Traditionally, a hammam is a warm, steamy environment. In Palais Amani, the hammam is underground to help retain the heat.

The traditional Hammam treatment

As we descend the stairs entering the hammam, the room softly glows with candlelight. We sit on benches and the treatment begins with a foot and hand scrub with bath salts. A conditioning clay mask is put on my hair. Mark doesn’t receive the hair treatment. We each have our own attendant who performs the treatment.

From here we move into the large hammam, an open warm and steamy room. Here the washing takes place. The attendant washes and rinses you head to toe with the soft argan and eucalyptus oil hammam soap. A thin layer of mineral-rich clay may or may not be applied at this point.

Then you do nothing! Just relax on the bench in the steam for 20 minutes or so which opens your pores for a deep cleanse.

Next, a rinse and a vigorous scrubbing follow with a rough mitt which resembles a loofah. This removes dead skin and leaves your skin tingling. Your pores are already open from the steam and this is very stimulating!

A shower follows—in my case, to wash the clay from my hair as well. My hair was very soft following this treatment! At this point, we are swaddled in our bathrobes and led to a lovely relaxation room. After about 20 minutes or so, we head on to a massage. (The massage is not part of a traditional hammam experience, but since you are already relaxed, it makes a nice addition.) The hammam experience lasts about 45 minutes.

If you did this in a public hammam, it would be a fraction of the cost, but it is also a more public experience, and as a couple, an experience you would have separately. While not totally authentic, as most Moroccans visit the public hammam, I am happy with the choice at the hotel. It was most enjoyable and one of those things you must try at least once!

Guests dining in Fez were greeted with a lovely breakfast spread of various soups, homemade breads and cheeses.

Guests dining in Fez were greeted with a lovely breakfast spread of various soups, homemade bread and cheeses. (Source)

Dining at Palais Amani

Breakfast at Palais Amani is a feast. Each morning breakfast is different, featuring a local item and an array of accompaniments. We had not seen much cheese in Morocco, to the point we asked a couple of people as dairy didn’t seem to be part of their diet. At Palais Amani, each morning, we had the most divine soft white cheese marinated in olive oil and spices.

Moroccan breakfasts are a feast and a wonderful way to start the day. Many of the items served at Palais Amani for breakfast we had not tried elsewhere in our travels through Morocco. This included wonderful soups and homemade bread.

There is a restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner, and two bars. One on the main level which features a fireplace for cooler evenings, and one on the rooftop, for warmer evenings and to enjoy the views of Fez. Both bars serve a menu of local tapas dishes. The restaurant menu changes regularly and features a selection of local cuisine using seasonal produce sourced from the Fez souk.

You can also dine on the terrace overlooking the courtyard or at one of the tables nestled within the gardens.

Shopping in the Fez Medina

If you are at all interested in Moroccan food, (and who isn’t?), Palais Amani also offers cooking classes. The half-day course begins with a trip to the souk to shop. I think the most interesting aspect of this was seeing which stalls they shopped in—it was not necessarily the stalls or shops I would have selected.

The meat, in this case, fresh chicken, was delivered to the hotel. The fruit, vegetables and spices, we carried with us. A dizzying variety of goods are sold in the market, including fish, beef, chicken, camel meat, fruit and vegetables. Women and children pass, carrying large oven trays of dough. This is bread on its way to the communal oven for baking. They are charged a very small fee per piece for baking. Most households make bread daily.

Cheese, olives and freshly made pancakes are also sold in the market. Dried meat, an item Fez is known for, is also sold. Many men eat dried meat in a yellow lard mixture for breakfast and lunch. We tried the dried meat with eggs at Palais Amani one morning for breakfast.

People shop every day, buying fresh food, and there is little refrigeration both in the market and at home.

Kitchen tips from the pros

Following our shopping excursion, the cooking session begins in the gardens of Palais Amani. The chef and her assistant demonstrate making an eggplant salad, zaalouk and a chicken tagine. The garden is a lovely setting for the class, but by the time you visit Palais Amani, your cooking class will most likely take place in their new cooking classroom on the rooftop. The room, which was under construction during our visit, looks fantastic for a cooking class.

There were three in our class and one lady was vegetarian, so much to our amazement, we learned how to make the chicken separately from the vegetable tagine.

One of the tips we learned in this class was about cooking with olive oil. Because the chef wanted the olive to flavor the chicken (as opposed to using it to brown the chicken), the olive oil was added to the liquid after it boiled and the chicken had begun cooking.

Dessert was a simple recipe of spiced orange slices.

We enjoyed the dishes from the class served with a glass of wine for lunch.

Fez restaurants and other places to dine

Dining out in Fez is a relatively recent custom, necessitated by growing tourism numbers. When I read articles saying you should be in your accommodation by about 8 p.m. for safety reasons, I was intrigued. This is quite different from most places we travel and other places in Morocco including Marrakech.

Having been to Fez, I now understand. There is little to do in the medina in the evening. Most things close around dusk. The narrow, twisting alleyways are largely empty. It is difficult to see around the corners. And while lit, they are not well lit. Basically, the place is closed for business, so there are few places to go and few people out and about.

Traditionally, entertaining for guests was at home so there is not a history or culture of restaurants in Fez. All of which I found fascinating!

So, what do you do for dinner? Well, of course, there are options. One is to dine at another of Fez riad. Another is to dine at one of the few available restaurants. They have a pick-up service—someone comes to where you are staying and walks you back to the riad or restaurant. This is for both safety and so you can find the restaurant. Keep in mind, Fez is hilly so expect a bit of up and down on the walk through the medina. It was fascinating to be “out” in the empty streets of the medina.

Here are a couple of our restaurant recommendations for Fez:

Dar Roumana

A riad in the Fes medina, Dar Roumana offers a pick-up service from your accommodation. Following a twisty, hilly 20-minute walk from Palais Amani (we would have never found it on our own), we arrive at Dar Roumana. It was interesting using the pick-up service and being out “late” in the Fes medina.

A traditional riad, the restaurant is in the internal courtyard. The guest rooms overlook the courtyard. Dinner was 350 dirhams (35 euros) for three courses or 275 dirhams (27 euros) for two courses. Alcohol is served.

The interior of the riad is beautiful, the tiles and plasterwork, intricate. As I sat there eating, I decided I could decorate my home in Moroccan style!

Dar Hatim

This is dinner in a family home in the medina. The Bouaa family have converted part of their home into a beautiful restaurant serving traditional, Moroccan cuisine. The food here was as good as any fine dining experience.

The chicken bastilla (or pastilla), the house specialty, which we highly recommend, was a perfectly spiced combination of sweet and savory! The special of the day was a lamb shank cooked in a tagine, her mother-in-law’s recipe. Melts in your mouth!

Both the tagine and the bastilla were the best of the trip, and we ate a lot of tagines! A three-course dinner for two (no alcohol) including tax and service was 590 dirhams or 59 euros. Alcohol is not sold, but you can bring your own bottle.

However, I have saved the best for last. You must see the ceiling in this restaurant! On the ground and first floors is the most magnificent carved wooden ceiling, made by her brother-in-law. Stunning! Absolutely stunning. The craftsmanship in it is amazing. The details and intricate carvings must be seen to be believed! It took him over a year to make. They are a lovely family and you will enjoy your meal.

Dar Hatim offers a pick-up service. It is very near Palais Amani (about a five-minute walk).

What to buy and where to shop

Good souvenirs from Fez (and Morocco) include rugs, slippers (babouche), clothes or scarves (hand-woven), argan oil, pottery, spices, Moroccan lanterns or leather goods.

Wandering through the narrow alleyways of the souks is a highlight of the things to do in Fez and a must when visiting Fez. Still the center of commercial activity in Fez, auctions are held daily in the medina, selling wholesale goods to other merchants for resell in shops throughout Morocco.

Fez is highly known for producing one of the best carpets in the world or what they call "Souk Tillis". (Photo by Esin Üstün via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

Fez is highly known for producing one of the best carpets in the world or what they call “Souk Tillis”. (Photo by Esin Üstün via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

Trades or Souks in the Fez Medina

The medina is organized into souks or trades. Here is a list of some of the larger trades:

Tanners – one of the best-known trades, see below for more details on visiting the tanneries.

Weavers – making cloth and clothing.

Pottery – Fez’ blue pottery, since the 11th century, is characterized by intricate floral or geometric motifs and cobalt blue color. The exact formula for the ingredients to achieve the distinctive blue color of tiles and pottery are a closely guarded secret. (The dark green color you also find in tiles and pottery comes from a mixture of copper, sand and lead oxide.)

Souk de Henna – sells dyes and henna, ingredients for cosmetic products including rhassoul (mineral-rich clay used in the hammam), kohl (used in eyeliner and mascara, traditionally lined the eye for its antibacterial properties), and rosewater, among other things.

Knife makers and sharpeners

Embroidery – Fassi (meaning from Fes) embroidery is known for its quality. High-quality embroidery is made of very small (2 mm long) stitches on both sides, making the piece reversible.

Souk Tillis – Carpet or rug makers – see separate article for more information on buying a rug in Morocco

The Nejjarine district for woodwork including cabinets, tables and chairs. (And the museum dedicated to woodwork.)

Clothing – traditional Moroccan clothing has intricate embroidery work.

Metalworks – Es-Seffarine Square, you can rent these large pots for a party, trays, teapots, copper, metal, silver and iron works. Wrought iron and metal Moroccan lanterns are found here.

Souk Attarine – two large doors, one at each end, were the traditional medicine shops

Babouche or Moroccan slippers – the pointed toes are Arabic, while rounded toes are Berber style slippers.

Take a guided tour of the souks or proceed on your own. A couple of tips if you go independently:

  • There is actually an “official” tour route through Fes’ souks. Many of the guides follow this route on the tour.
  • There are designated places for each craft. The “official” spot for each craft is marked by a sign. Reading the sign tells you the history and a bit about the guild and their craft.
  • The sign is usually outside a shop or vendor the tourism board has “approved”

We went on a guided tour, setting out through the souk with a guide for a couple of hours. He explained the system of signs and designations outlined above.

The colorful tanneries at Fez introduces you to an array of leather goods made from cow, goat and sheep skins. (Photo by Torrenegra via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

The colorful tanneries at Fez introduce you to an array of leather goods made from cow, goat and sheepskins. (Photo by Torrenegra via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

Visiting the Tanneries in Fes

When we were walking through the souk by ourselves, constantly we were offered “assistance” to find the tanneries. When we walk along with a local, no one mentioned the tanneries! Very interesting.

Visiting the tanneries either in Fez or Marrakech is a must. In the Chaouwara Tanneries in Fes, work is still undertaken exactly as it has been done for hundreds of years. The smell is awful, but upon entering, we were given a “Berber facemask,” a sprig of fresh mint to use to help mask the smell.

Going upstairs to view the vats from one of the many terraces surrounding the tanneries provides a better perspective to understand the process.

How is leather processed in the Fez tannery?

Softening

The animal skins soak for one week in an open vat which contains lime. You see men in rubber boots stomping on the skins. Cow, goat and sheep skins are used for leather. These are the white vats.

Washing and rinsing

This happens in the covered area at the far back right near the open vats.

Dyeing

The skins are then placed in open vats once again where dyeing takes place. Multiple skins are in the same vat. These are the colored vats.

– Red dye is from poppies

– Blue is from indigo

– Yellow is from saffron, and due to the expense of saffron, these are dyed separately and not in open vats.

There is a vast selection of leather goods on sale. Check if there is a smell to the garment before you buy it—if it smells like the tannery, do not buy it—it has not been properly processed and that smell will never go away! The garment should smell like leather (clean leather).

Palais Amani at a glance

Name Palais Amani
Where Fez
Style Moroccan Elegance
Atmosphere Classy, beautiful gardens
Type Small Boutique Hotel inside the Medina
# of Rooms 15
Service Excellent, friendly and helpful
Dining Breakfast included- served in the restaurant or terrace, 2 bars serving tapas, rooftop terrace and one overlooking the gardens.
Additional Services Hammam and massages. Can arrange tours and transportation.
Extras Cooking School
What we Liked Everything!
Recommended For Perfect for first time Morocco visitors, short breaks, or food lovers. Easy to start or end a longer Morocco trip.
Good to Know 2- night minimum stay. No car required. Exclusive offers available if you book directly on the Palais Amani website.

Expect to get lost at least once wandering through the medina! It is all part of the fun. Palais Amani offers a wonderful place to stay to see what life was like in the medina for Fez’ wealthy families. The cooking school and hammam are great opportunities to experience Moroccan culture.

(Featured Image by Esin Üstün via Flickr. CC BY 2.0)

DISCLAIMER: We were guests of Palais Amani. This article expresses my own ideas and opinions, based on own experience. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.

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Get ready for spring! Our guide to great gifts for the season – Billings Gazette

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Billings Gazette

Get ready for spring! Our guide to great gifts for the season
Billings Gazette
New products for 2018! Unique & whimsical accessories that will round out any outdoor space. From planters, sure to match any décor, to fountains and furniture, you will find the perfect piece to help make your yard and landscape look their best

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Disturbing 'Game of Thrones' Secrets Every Die-Hard Fan Should Know – The Cheat Sheet

Games of Thrones relies on a lot of tricks in order to come out with its crazy scenes. After all, the show notably has had so many death scenes and they had to get creative to depict those gruesome killings. But the most disturbing trivia behind the show doesn’t just revolve around death.

Actors have since talked about weird things they had worn for the show that will probably make you look at their cool costumes a little differently (pages 4 and 8). Also, one of the show’s biggest stars had a pretty crazy prank done to him (page 6). Those are just some of the show’s craziest secrets.

Here are 10 disturbing Game of Thrones secrets every die-hard fan should know.

1. Emilia Clarke got stuck to a toilet while covered in fake blood

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones Even with a fake heart, this sounds gross. | HBO

Daenerys Targaryen had the memorable scene where she ate a horse’s heart. That involved her being covered in a lot of blood that led to something strange afterward.

“It was kind of like a gummy bear,” Emilia Clarke told Jimmy Kimmel. “But covered in fake blood that tasted sort of like bleach, which was gross.” She then continued, “Then there was a moment when we were filming it that I disappeared, and I was stuck to the toilet.”

That wasn’t the only gross part of doing the scene. Clarke revealed she ate about 28 hearts to get it right. “They made the heart out of solidified jam but it tasted like bleach and raw pasta,” she told The Mirror. “Fortunately, they gave me a spit bucket because I was vomiting in it quite often.”

Next: This actor really skinned an animal.

'Alien-like' rabbit foetuses, cat skin rug for sale on Trade Me | Stuff.co … – Stuff.co.nz

This stuffed rabbit is up for auction on Trade Me.

This stuffed rabbit is up for auction on Trade Me.

What do you do when your farm cat dies of old age?

If you’re Andrew Lancaster, you skin it, stuff it, and sell it on Trade Me.

The Tauranga-based taxidermist has been selling cat- and possum-skin rugs, alongside mounted rabbits, magpies, weasels and ferrets, under the user name getstuffed1 for years.

More than 70 people have added these unborn,

More than 70 people have added these unborn, “alien-like” rabbits to their Trade Me watchlists.

His most recent listing includes a rug made out of his deceased farm cat – which he said he had found dead in an outbuilding – and five rabbit foetuses which have been preserved in a jar.

READ MORE:
* Taxidermist auctions off cat-skin rug
* Taxidermy cat bag sells for $545
* How I developed a taste for exotic pest meat

Bidding on the cat-skin rug had reached $158 on Sunday morning, with two more days still to run.

Before being made into a rug, this farm cat kept rat and mice populations down, Lancaster said.

Before being made into a rug, this farm cat kept rat and mice populations down, Lancaster said.

The rabbit foetuses were proving less popular, with bids sitting at $30.

“Looking alien-like, these five unborn baby rabbits were found inside the mother which was recently taxidermied,” that listing said.

“Cool object for home, office, shop display. Looks great when lit up.”

Lancaster was also selling a possum-skin rug, a stuffed magpie and a stuffed rabbit.


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The rabbit had “probably had a few fights over the years with one ear a bit ragged”, the listing said.

In 2013, Lancaster told Stuff he usually steered clear of stuffing cats and dogs.

“You get a lot of people who say they’re pets and should be left alone and not stuffed.”

He said he sometimes received “nasty” comments about his work, but everybody was entitled to their own opinion.

“Some people like taxidermy and some people hate it.”

Comments on the cat skin rug listing were mainly positive, with people saying the sale was no different from that of a cow hide rug.

“A cat is not somehow more valuable or sentient than a pig or a dog or a cow,” one said. 

Another commenter said they did not understand how people could label Lancaster’s taxidermy ‘sick’ or ‘cruel’. 

“Bet they all eat meat and wear leather and don’t even realise what that animal went through.”


 – Stuff

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'Alien-like' rabbit foetuses, cat skin rug for sale on Trade Me – Stuff.co.nz

This stuffed rabbit is up for auction on Trade Me.

This stuffed rabbit is up for auction on Trade Me.

What do you do when your farm cat dies of old age?

If you’re Andrew Lancaster, you skin it, stuff it, and sell it on Trade Me.

The Tauranga-based taxidermist has been selling cat- and possum-skin rugs, alongside mounted rabbits, magpies, weasels and ferrets, under the user name getstuffed1 for years.

More than 70 people have added these unborn,

More than 70 people have added these unborn, “alien-like” rabbits to their Trade Me watchlists.

His most recent listing includes a rug made out of his deceased farm cat – which he said he had found dead in an outbuilding – and five rabbit foetuses which have been preserved in a jar.

READ MORE:
* Taxidermist auctions off cat-skin rug
* Taxidermy cat bag sells for $545
* How I developed a taste for exotic pest meat

Bidding on the cat-skin rug had reached $158 on Sunday morning, with two more days still to run.

Before being made into a rug, this farm cat kept rat and mice populations down, Lancaster said.

Before being made into a rug, this farm cat kept rat and mice populations down, Lancaster said.

The rabbit foetuses were proving less popular, with bids sitting at $30.

“Looking alien-like, these five unborn baby rabbits were found inside the mother which was recently taxidermied,” that listing said.

“Cool object for home, office, shop display. Looks great when lit up.”

Lancaster was also selling a possum-skin rug, a stuffed magpie and a stuffed rabbit.


Ad Feedback

The rabbit had “probably had a few fights over the years with one ear a bit ragged”, the listing said.

In 2013, Lancaster told Stuff he usually steered clear of stuffing cats and dogs.

“You get a lot of people who say they’re pets and should be left alone and not stuffed.”

He said he sometimes received “nasty” comments about his work, but everybody was entitled to their own opinion.

“Some people like taxidermy and some people hate it.”

Comments on the cat skin rug listing were mainly positive, with people saying the sale was no different from that of a cow hide rug.

“A cat is not somehow more valuable or sentient than a pig or a dog or a cow,” one said. 

Another commenter said they did not understand how people could label Lancaster’s taxidermy ‘sick’ or ‘cruel’. 

“Bet they all eat meat and wear leather and don’t even realise what that animal went through.”


 – Stuff

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Can Mexican gray wolves coexist with people, cattle? Ranchers, conservationists test the idea – AZCentral.com

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As wild Mexican gray wolves are rounded up at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, both sides of the Mexican Wolf Recovery Project sound off on the concerns of ranchers and environmentalists. Tom Tingle and Alex Devoid/azcentral.com

Todd Swinney was tending cattle in the high country near Eagar last spring when he spotted them, a pack of Mexican gray wolves known as the Diamond Pack.

He had been walking for hours in the cold through a pine forest, straining to see through the thickets of trees. He breathed in the smell of soggy pine needles as wind gusts nipped at his face. 

The wolves stood and stared at him. They seemed to be stirring from a nap, as Swinney remembers it. The animals had let Swinney get close, within about 40 feet, closer than he cared to be.

Sometimes he could scare wolves away on Call, the horse he named after Captain Woodrow Call, the retired Texas Ranger and fellow cattleman from “Lonesome Dove.” But this time he was on foot.

He jumped up and down, hollered and waved. They weren’t scared. They didn’t understand how dangerous he could be.

Cattlemen and wolves have been at odds for decades, almost from the time they began to share the land. Settlers to the West nearly drove Mexican gray wolves extinct in government-sponsored eradication campaigns intended to benefit livestock herds.

RELATED: Endangered Mexican gray wolf population remained flat in new count

Even now that the wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the old conflict weighs on their fitful recovery. 

Authorities may still kill them or remove them from the wild under the law if they prey on livestock because the wolves are deemed a “nonessential experimental population.” Illegal shootings happen every year and those human-caused deaths contribute to wolf advocates’ fear that Mexican gray wolves may never recover.  

Cattle guardian, wolf savior

Todd Swinney is a range rider, a person who tries to

Todd Swinney is a range rider, a person who tries to protect grazing cattle herds from wolf attacks by scaring off the wolves with noise and other techniques. He talks about his job while sitting atop his horse, Cal, at a ranch near Springerville, Tuesday, November 7, 2017. (Photo: Tom Tingle/The Republic)

In the woods that day, Swinney lifted his shotgun, a 12-gauge “beater-upper.”

Researchers from several universities estimated in 2006 that cattle only make up a small fraction of Mexican gray wolves’ diet, but Swinney couldn’t have these wolves near the herd.

Luckily for the Diamond pack, he wasn’t out to kill.

Swinney believes cattleman and wolves can coexist. He uses ranching techniques to reduce conflicts between livestock and wolves, countering two competing undercurrents that wolves are bad for cattle and cattle are bad for wolves.  

Swinneymonitors wolves with the help of federal and state authorities, while strategizing with wolf advocates to steer them away from cattle.  

His role is both the cattle’s guardian and the wolves’ savior, working under a partnership with the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife. It’s one of a growing number of partnerships in the organization’s coexistence program.

Coexistence programs propose to solve a tug of war that has complicated efforts to recover the Mexican gray wolf population and remove it from the endangered species list.

Recovery plan stokes new debate

Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a long-awaited revised recovery plan that walked a tightrope between many interests.

It considers human-caused deaths a leading threat to Mexican gray wolves. Many of these deaths stem from conflicts between wolves and livestock.

The recovery plan compels states and tribes in the U.S. to implement “regulatory mechanisms” to reduce the number of wolf deaths caused by humans. And it calls on Mexico to do the same.

The plan would delist the wolf when its population in the wild averages 320 in the U.S. and 200 in Mexico when counted over eight years. At least 114 Mexican gray wolves roamed parts of Arizona and New Mexico in 2017, while Mexico had about 31. The U.S. population had grown slightly in recent years, but fewer pups survived in 2017, leaving the overall count almost unchanged from 2016.

A key element of the plan is releasing captive wolves from a binational breeding program into the wild to diversify this species’ genetic makeup. Authorities may also translocate wild wolves to other designated corners of Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico to disperse genetic diversity.

After these wolves are moved or released, the plan requires 22 in the U.S. and 36 in Mexico to survive until breeding age or for a year, depending on their age.

MORE: Federal government releases long-awaited recovery plan for endangered Mexican wolf
Mexican gray wolf recovery plan criticized for doing too much, too little

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may also capture wolves from the wild to place in captivity, according to the recovery plan. Many of these removals from the wild are due to conflicts with cattle andthey chip away at population numbers just like deaths. 

Environmentalists say the plan imperils the wolves, while many cattlemen say it allows too many.

Environmental groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, have sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming the plan falls dangerously short of safe population numbers and fails to protect wolves from inbreeding and illegal killings.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., introduced legislation that would effectively circumvent the plan by lowering the population numbers needed to remove the wolf from the endangered species list.

While politics and lawsuits play out, those who believe in coexistence see it as a way forward on the ground.

MORE: Jeff Flake wants to remove federal protections for Mexican gray wolves

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Tools to live side by side

With the wolves so close to Swinney that cold day, he loaded rubber buckshot into his shotgun’s chamber. It was a less than lethal way to drive the wolves away, a method the Arizona Game and Fish Department had trained him to use.

For a moment, Swinney was afraid to shoot the wolves.

“It’s a large predator and I know these animals are supposed to move away from me,” he said. “But what if I piss ’em off when I shoot ’em with this stuff.”

Rubber buckshot is one of the strategies he uses to coexist with Mexican gray wolves. He switches strategies often and assesses which ones work best from year to year, he said

“There’s no silver bullet,” he said.

Human presence helps by just being out with the cattle.

Swinney tracks wolf movements with telemetry equipment, tapping into the radio collars authorities attached to many wolves. He has an arrangement with the state wildlife agency to keep tabs on these wolves.

He keeps their locations close to his vest, mindful of what poachers could do with the data.

Additionally, he picks cows for the herd that have been able to stand their ground against domestic dogs, so if a wolf attacks they might not flee and abandon their calves.

“I want these cows to know that they can beat them dogs if they have to,” Swinney said.

He also doesn’t let them scatter off because he wants them to help each other chase away a wolf if one approaches. A lonely cow makes for easier prey.

A fellow cattleman told Swinney he saw a group of three or four cows run off a pack of wolves by Crosby Crossing, south of Eagar.

Sharing experiences and strategies like these among cattlemen is an important element to coexisting with wolves, if each party is willing to listen, Swinney said.

Swinney visited Montana to learn about management strategies cattleman use there to avoid bear and wolf attacks on cattle.

Defenders of Wildlife, the conservation organization, helps pay Swinney to protect the cattle from conflicts with wolves at the ranch he works for. And the organization has written a guide on how livestock producers can coexist with wolves.

The group suggests clearing out cow carcasses that could attract wolves, building fences, using guardian dogs and an array of scare tactics, among other methods to keep wolves a safe distance away.

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‘No such thing as coexistence’

Coexistence methods can make a difference, said Michael Robinson, a wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.

But grazing is an inherent problem in wolf habitat, he said. The federal government could improve it on public land by placing more regulations on public-land grazers to protect native flora and fauna.

Robinson points out that the U.S. Supreme Court has called grazing a privilege, not a right. 

Although, the law specifies that grazing privileges “shall be adequately safeguarded,” according to court documents.

Many cattleman feel coexistence isn’t the solution it’s cracked up to be and that wolf advocates aim to banish cattle grazers from public land. 

“There is no such thing as coexistence between an apex predator and domestic animals,” said Woody Cline, the president of the Gila County Cattle Growers Association.

Cattleman can receive compensation for cows preyed upon by wolves through a couple of avenues. The federal Livestock Indemnity Program, for example, pays 75 percent of market value.

MORE: Arizona ranchers can be compensated for cattle killed by wolves

When Laura Schneberger lost several calves in 2003, the compensation didn’t make her whole, she said. She is the president of the Gila National Forest Permittees Association and grazes cattle in New Mexico amid high elevations and rough terrain.  

For those who don’t raise livestock, it’s hard to understand the value of a cow beyond its market value, like the time and sweat it takes to raise that animal, Swinney said. Losing one cow can also affect overall livestock production.

Schneberger lost more cattle to wolves last summer, she said, but it’s a cumbersome process to file for compensation and she is still gathering the necessary paperwork.

Many methods to coexist, or scare wolves away, don’t have a lasting affect, she said.

“To pretend that that’s the solution and we’re all doing it wrong, that’s basically just discrediting ranching,” she said. 

Her husband shot a Mexican gray wolf as it attacked their cattle in 2013. 

They received numerous death threats after that, she said, although investigators ruled it a legal shooting.

Conflict off the range

Schneberger oversees a Facebook group called “wolves, cattle, and the people who live between them,” where members share photos of livestock eaten by wolves, among other images.

Schneberger shared one of a protester with a sign that read, “cows on the Gila are a (failed) experiment.”

Most wolf advocates want to rid public lands of ranching, she said, “but I’m not going anywhere. My grandparents are buried in this place. This is where we make our living.”

Mexican gray wolves are “under grave threat,” not the livestock industry, Robinson said. Many ranchers refuse to coexist with wolves.

He is a well-known wolf advocate, who one commenter in Schenberger’s Facebook group mocked in his absence.

Arguments over coexistence and wolf recovery are found in other corners of social media too. While far more Facebook pages are dedicated to wolf recovery, the page “Wolf Hunters of the World Unite” has over 800 likes and tugs at the lowest common denominator on both sides of the wolf debate.

Pro-wolf and anti-wolf commenters trade insults that highlight a cultural divide between rural and urban communities.

The page is passionately against Mexican gray wolf recovery in Arizona and New Mexico as well as recovery of other wolves in Idaho, where Defenders of Wildlife has also promoted coexistence.

The page touts photos of many dead wolves. Among them is one of a mangled pup and another of a bloodied wolf in the snow wearing a radio collar.

One meme says, “‘Defenders of Wildlife’ makes me want to … VOMIT!” and another shows a photo of a wolf skin rug, with the words, “The only way to ‘coexist with wolves.'”

Benefits to the ecosystem

Craig Miller, senior southwest representative for Defenders

Craig Miller, senior southwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, is trying to help reach a middle ground with environmentalists and ranchers who have strong opinions on opposite sides of the attempt to recover Mexican wolf populations in Arizona. He stands near the wolf recovery area near Springerville on November 7, 2017. (Photo: Tom Tingle/The Republic)

Craig Miller works with Defenders to promote coexistence and watches the arguments build from both sides. Fellow conservationists have called him a “grazing apologist” for his work.

In his world, relationships are a currency. He guards them as he builds more. And he hesitates to make public the ranchers who work with Defenders of Wildlife.

A path forward to restore “vibrancy and the fertility and the productivity of nature” lies in resolving differences over wolves, he said. It’s important to humans’ own ability to survive.    

Wolf advocates often praise a cascade of benefits the reintroduction of wolves had on the ecosystem at Yellowstone National Park.

While Swinney hopes wolves will similarly benefit Arizona’s ecosystem, he believes the measures he takes to coexist with wolves have kept more cows alive. That’s the ranch’s bottom line.

A difficult year for the Diamond Pack

On that cold day in the pines, Swinney fired his shotgun into the branches of a big pine tree above the Diamond Pack. It got their attention. They knew he was serious.

As they trotted away he fired another shot behind them. “I doubt that I hit ’em with that rubber buckshot.”

These wolves didn’t have older animals around anymore to model appropriate fear of humans, Swinney said. Most wolves he’s seen distance themselves from him.

“It’s kinda like leaving a bunch of 16-year-olds without adult supervision,” he said. “They’re gonna get into trouble.”

Finding a way for humans and wolves to share the landscape will never be easy.

Wildlife managers wanted to remove wolves to disrupt the Diamond Pack from preying on cows. But Miller said removing wolves from the wild can throw off pack social dynamics and worsen conflicts with cattle. 

In 2017, the pack had a hard time staying together.

After a series of cows fell prey to wolves, authorities captured an adult male and a younger male from the pack in January. They began an investigation into a young female wolf’s death in May. And after more cattle fell prey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services killed an additional adult female in August.

MORE: Mexican gray wolf pup found dead; wildlife officials investigating
Feds: 14 endangered Mexican wolves found dead in 2016

As of January this year, the Diamond Pack had disbanded for three months and authorities consider them single wolves.

Proximity to livestock is dangerous for Mexican gray wolves, wrote wolf advocates, including Defenders and the Center for Biological Diversity, in the lawsuit they brought against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It can lead to death at the hands of humans, they said, which greatly threatens these wolves’ survival.

Cline, the head of the cattle growers association, agrees with that assessment, but wouldn’t mind seeing these wolves buried in the past with the dinosaurs.

“They are not doing the Mexican gray wolf any favors by putting him out there in the middle of people,” he said.

Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in the Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Follow the azcentral and Arizona Republic environmental reporting team at OurGrandAZ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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The annual Mexican gray wolf population survey in Alpine, Ariz., shows that poaching is slowing the species’ recovery.

READ MORE: 

Business leaders call for Mexican wolf restoration in Grand Canyon area
Arizona elk headed to W. Virginia as East looks to undo native species’ regional extinction
Battle over public lands shifts to D.C. as Flake, Gosar push for sale in La Paz County

 

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Ax Throwing and Beer, a Fun New Combo in Brooklyn – New York Times

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“Everyone always says, ‘What could possibly go wrong?’” said Ginger Flesher-Sonnier, 49, the owner of Kick Axe, a new bar where guests toss shiny silver axes at big wooden targets. This sporting club has 10 metal-caged ax ranges in which groups of up to 10 are assigned an “ax-pert” who, in addition to providing basic throwing lessons, goes through safety guidelines that separate axes from alcohol (no drinks on the range) and people from targets (all ax retrieval happens at the same time, so no one is throwing).

However, once you hold that little ax, which is a bit heavier than it looks, fears of errant blades dissipate and it becomes all about the thrill of “sticking it” — that is, getting the ax to hit the target with a deeply satisfying wood-splintering thwack. “When they get that first one to sink in, it’s great,” said Ryan Lynch, 24, one of the aptly bearded “ax-perts.” “It’s such a gratifying experience.”

At Kick Axe, there are big leather couches and tartan chairs, taxidermy and cow skin throw rugs, but also some sparkling satellite chandeliers to remind you that you’re still in Brooklyn.CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

The Place Kick Axe is just off Fourth Avenue, down a semi-industrial street lined with graffiti-covered warehouses. Look for the big plastic bull out front. Inside, there’s a lounge resembling a midcentury-modern mountain lodge. There are big leather couches and tartan chairs, taxidermy and cow skin throw rugs, but also some sparkling satellite chandeliers to remind you that you’re still in Brooklyn.

The Crowd Mostly 20-somethings out in packs for a night of group fun in the Gowanus Industrial Playground; archery, rock climbing and shuffleboard are nearby. There are also some braver, slightly more timid 30-somethings paired up on adventurous date nights. (No ax-murderer jokes, please.) There seems to be an unofficial dress code of country-casual, with the majority wearing plaid or flannel shirts and grungy jeans.

The Playlist The constant thump and clang of axes hitting and missing the targets provide the beat of the night, complemented by the high-pitched squeals and guttural screams of boisterous team competition. Though no one is actually getting hit with an ax, it can sure sound like it.

Getting In Anyone can walk in and sign up for time on a range, if it’s available. But reservations are recommended, especially on weekend nights, which book up quickly with birthday parties or big groups. The rate is $35 per person for 75 minutes. It’s a minimum of eight people to book your own range, otherwise you’ll have to share with strangers. But making new friends is part of the fun here, too.

Drinks Beer and wine only, for obvious reasons: a dozen canned beers (starting at $3) and a small selection of reds and whites ($7.50). Bar snacks include Pop-Tarts and microwave soups (from $4).

Kick Axe, 622 Degraw Street, Gowanus; 833-542-5293; kickaxe.com. Open Monday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, noon to 1 a.m.; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday, 12:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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Harry Styles puts $8 million LA bachelor pad up for sale and reveals secret love for cow print and home spin classes – Mirror.co.uk

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Harry Styles puts $8 million LA bachelor pad up for sale and reveals secret love for cow print and home spin classes
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The gated three-bedroom, five-bathroom home boasts "epic" views of downtown and the ocean, through floor-to-ceiling windows. Littered throughout the 14-room house are tell-tale signs of 24-year-old Harry's quirky style. The master bedroom offers

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Is Yoga Good For Your Skin? Here's How A Regular Practice Keeps Your Complexion Healthy – Elite Daily

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed yogi, or you just dabble in the practice from time to time, chances are you didn’t just wake up one day and hit the mat (unless that’s exactly what happened, and if so, right on). Everyone has their reasons for why they began their yoga journey. For me, child’s pose relieved stress, while downward dog helped me become more flexible, but aside from the physical benefits, did you know yoga is good for your skin, as well? Mind you, this isn’t a green light to toss your favorite moisturizer in the trash, but it is a bonus incentive to join a class, or stretch it out on your living room rug.

Personally, I’ve never thought too much about how exercising affects my skin, aside from raising an eyebrow at the occasional rumors about how working up a sweat could cause breakouts. BTW, for the most part, this is a total myth: Interestingly enough, NYC dermatologist and creator of BeautyRx Dr. Neal Schultz, M.D., told Refinery29 that sweat can actually benefit the skin by acting as a natural moisturizer that cleanses the pores, cools down the skin, and kills bacteria.

However, unless your vinyasa is taking place in a heated studio, or the sequence you’re performing requires one challenging pose after another, yoga doesn’t always generate that dripping perspiration that, say, sprints on the treadmill would achieve. So how, then, does yoga keep your skin healthy?

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Yoga is so much more than a gentle workout (side note: Sometimes it’s really not all that gentle, and anyone who’s attempted crow pose can vouch here); it’s a full-body experience that targets the mind, body, and soul. Physically, you’re flowing on the mat, but your mind is soaking in the mantras of your instructor, or a soft instrumental melody to bring awareness to your mental state and work through any emotional tension.

Now, here’s the link between stress and hormonal acne: When anxiety levels spike, your body responds by producing an excessive amount of the hormone androgen, which stimulates the oil glands. Combine this sebum with lingering dead skin cells and bacteria, the mixture clogs up pores, and bam, you’ve got yourself a monstrous breakout. (This kind of acne isn’t exclusive to your complexion either, friends. Hormonal breakouts come in the form of back acne, they can pop up on your chest, etc.)

In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, Lycored yoga ambassador Kristin McGee explains that yoga can ultimately reduce stress levels through “deep diaphragmatic breathing” exercises, while the meditative aspect and slow, mindful flows of the practice can “ease any inflammation.” Relax the mind, relax the body, relax all the hormones floating around just waiting to wreak havoc on your skin. Sounds easy enough, right?

The physical effects yoga poses have on the body also contribute to healthy, glowing skin.

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In addition to becoming much more flexible (seriously, you should see my bridge pose) and less anxious, I’ve noticed that when I regularly practice yoga, my digestive system is on point. This is because certain poses like bound lotus, forward fold, and spinal twists massage your digestive organs and stimulate a healthy flow.

According to the UK company BIOEFFECT, when you’re all clogged up, your body is unable to process the skin-loving nutrients that come from things like veggies and fruit, and this can cause dull skin and acne. So the more you practice yoga, the more *regular* you’ll be, if you know what I mean, which means less pollution to muddle up your complexion.

Additionally, yoga poses that focus on the legs and on grounding through your feet and hands for balance stimulate your immune system and blood flow to keep your internal organs in prime condition. “Dynamic postures,” McGee tells Elite Daily, like downward dog, cat-cow (one my personal favorites), and sun salutations, which “build heat and keep the body moving” are all great for your skin.

Because yoga postures require you to “use your own body” to balance and mold into these taxing positions, she continues, things like deep, low lunges, plank variations, and inversions “force the muscles, bones, and joints to work,” therefore improving “muscle tone” and “elasticity.” What’s more, when you work to improve your flexibility through these sorts of poses, McGee adds, they “librate the joints,” which keeps skin soft and supple.

Of course, practicing yoga is just one of many natural treatments to keeping skin healthy. Products like moisturizers and daily cleansers, as well as staying hydrated and eating a well-balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals, will all help you sustain a clear complexion and healthy skin throughout your entire body. What you put in, you’ll get out, so show your body some love, and it will do the same.

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