This Blog is a window to Tamazight( Berber) Culture in North Africa( Berber Land)
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Marrakech; the Red Town in Morocco( History)
There is much to see and do in Marrakech. An entire day can be dedicated to wandering around all the different souks, seeking out the best bargains. The city also offers several historical and architectural sites as well as some interesting museums.
Djemaa El-Fna is the highlight of any Marrakech night. Musicians, dancers, and story tellers pack this square at the heart of the medina, filling it with a cacophony of drum beats and excited shouts. Scores of stalls sell a wide array of Moroccan fare (see the Eat section) and you will almost certainly be accosted by women wanting to give you a henna tattoo. Enjoy the various shows, but be prepared to give some Dirhams to watch. By day it is largely filled with snake charmers and people with monkeys, as well as some of the more common stalls.
The Souks (suuqs), or markets of Marrakech, just adjacent to Place Djemaa El-Fna, are where you can buy almost anything. From spices to shoes, jellabas to kaftans, tea pots to tagines and much, much more. Undoubtedly, being a foreigner means you will end up paying higher prices than a native would, but be sure to bargain nonetheless. If you happen to run out of dirhams, you'll also find plenty of people in the souks who will eagerly exchange your dollars or euros (though a fair rate here is less likely than at an official exchange). All that said, the sellers here are much less aggressive than say, Egypt or Turkey, so have fun! Visiting the Tanneries can be an interesting experience. Even if some people tell you the area is only for locals, it is possible to visit the Tanneries without paying a youngster. After finding a Tannery, ask one of the workers if you can visit it and take pictures.
Koutoubia Mosque, right besides Djemaa El-Fna, is named after the booksellers market that used to be located here. It is said that the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque is to Marrakech as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. The minaret is visible from Gueliz which is connected to the Medina by Avenue Mohammed V. At night, the mosque is beautifully lit.
Saadian Tombs were not discovered until the beginning of the 20th century. They have been preserved just like they were during the glory days of the Saadian rulers. Unlike the El Badi Palace, they were not destroyed, probably for superstitious reasons. The entrance was blocked so they remained untouched for hundreds of years. Inside you will find an overload of Zelij (Morrocan tiles) and some beautiful decoration. It doesn't take a lot of time to explore, but it is definitely worth the visit. While here, look for the tombs of Jews and Christians; they are noted by their different markings and direction of the tomb.
Majorelle Gardens , in Gueliz has an entrance fee of Dh 40 and is more expensive than other attractions. However, it provides an excellent respite from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. The park boasts a collection of plants from across the globe, including what seems like every cactus species on the planet. Get here early to avoid the crowds. Inside the gardens is also the Museum of Islamic Art, for which an additional entrance fee is charged.
Dar Si Saïd Museum, on Rue Riad Zitoun Jdid, is a museum 5 mins away from Djemaa El-Fna. Set in an old palace, it houses many different artifacts from Morocco through the ages, such as wood carvings, musical instruments, and weapons. It is dedicated to the Moroccan craft industry of wood, gathering a very beautiful collection of popular art: carpets, clothing, pottery and ceramics. All these objects are regional, coming from Marrakech and all the south, especially from Tensift, High Atlas, Soussthe, Anti Atlas, Bani, and Tafilal.
Ben Youssef Madrassa is one of the largest Madrassas in the North Africa. It is a school attached to the Ben Youssef Mosque and is home to beautiful art and architecture. El Bahia Palace is an ornate and beautiful palace, popular with guided tours and stray cats. The palace is well worth a visit and gives a great impression of what it must have been like to be a 19th century nobleman in Morocco. There is a nice garden with banana flowers, tranquil courtyards, and other lovely plants. Admission is Dh 10.
El Badi Palace is a palace now in ruins and inhabited by storks and stray cats. There are some underground passageways to explore. Admission is Dh 10. The view from the terrace is majestic.
The Menara gardens, which are located west of the city, and consist of a mixture of orchards and olive groves surrounding a central pavilion which is a popular sight on tourist postcards. The pavilion was built during the 16th century Saadi dynasty, and renovated in 1869. It has a small cafe.
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The MedinaThe old, historic district of the city.
The main square in the Medina is Djemaa El-Fna. It is surrounded by endless labyrinths of souks (bazaars) and alley ways covering all of the Medina. Djemma El-Fna is a must as there is always something to see there day and night whether it be snake charmers, acrobats, sooth-sayers,or the musicians and food stalls. At night the square really comes to life as people navigate toward the exotic aromas and the entertaining sights. As the evening darkens, the hustle bustle of activity rages on. The exotic music appears louder and more hypnotic.
The Medina is also the place to stay in a Riad, a Moroccan house with an internal courtyard. Most windows are inward facing towards the central atrium. This design of property suits Islamic tradition as there is no obvious wealth statement being made externally, no windows to peer through. Entering a Riad is like discovering an Aladdin’s Cave in comparison to it’s non-descript exterior. They are great places to stay and offer an intimate and relaxing retreat.
Directly south of the Djemaa El-Fna is Rue Bab Agnaou. A five-min walk takes you straight to the famous Bab Agnaou entrance to the Kasbah district of the Medina. The Bab Agnaou entrance, through the ramparts, is by far the most impressive entrance of all medina rampart entrances. The Kasbah, in comparison to the Derbs (streets) surrounding the Djemaa El-Fna, portrays a calmer, less abrasive atmosphere. It is home to the Royal Palace, also the former El - Badi Palace and the Saadian Tombs. This naturally creates better security, cleaner streets and a hint of being a special place within the medina. The Kasbah has its own little bazaars (Souikas), food stalls, restaurants, hotels and riads for travellers to enjoy, such as Riad Laksiba which was featured on House Hunters International in sept 2010 to a 97 Million global viewing audience.
Les Bains de Marrakech, 2 Derb Sedra, Bab Agnaou (same building as Riad Mehdi), +212 438 1428 . Tourists-oriented in good sense: couples can have hammam together in a private room. Extensive list of massages and spa treatments from 30min to a full day. Reception and attendants are proficient in speaking English, however, the scrubbing and massage personnel speak only very basic vocabulary.
Hammam Dar el-Bacha, 20 Rue Fatima Zohra, men 7AM-1PM, women 1-9PM
Hammam Bab Doukkala, Rue Bab Doukkala, southeast corner Bab Doukkala Mosque, women noon-7PM, men 8PM>
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Spices at a Marrakech market.Along with the major souk adjacent to the Djemaa El-Fna, there are a plethora of smaller souks throughout the city where any number of products can be bargained for. Keep an eye out for a wide array of hand-crafted candle-holding lanterns, as well as spectacular displays of local spices.
Argan oil, produced only in Morocco, is used in Moroccan cooking and beauty treatments. If you enjoy its unique nutty flavor, be sure to pick some up in the souks. It will cost you over US$30 for 250ml in the airport, but Dh 40 maximum at the local shop.
Marrakech is home to a large tanning industry, and leather goods of high quality can be bought here cheaply. Check out camel leather items especially - jackets, round poufs, and handbags.
For the shoes always check they have no paper inside the plate (sole in french) because it is very common, don't be fooled by demonstration of how they bend the shoe and turns back to the position try it yourself by feeling and hearing how the paper bends. For poor quality one you shouldn't pay more than Dh 40 and for a good one no more than Dh 90, shop around and learn the difference between the quality.
Also of interest would be items made of the local cactus silk, which is really rayon, a natural fiber made of plant cellulose and produced in Morocco. Rayon holds the chemical dyes well which accounts for the vibrant range of true colors (natural dyes cannot produce a "true" color). On offer are scarves, handbags, tablecloths, bedspreads and throws in stunning colors. Some merchants try to charge a premium price for this "cactus silk". Check well because there are many fakes and sellers will usually tell you any lie to get you pay a high price.
Be sure to wander round the potters' souk, and look for brightly colored platters and bowls, as well as tagines in all sizes
Lovely cashmere shawls can also be had for less than a fiver with a little bargaining.
If you cannot stand the bargaining, there are two government run shops where you can buy handicrafts at fixed prices. Look for boutique d'artisans. One is near Djemaa El-Fna while the other one is in the ville nouvelle.
An option to explore the souks in a more tranquil way is to go during the Friday prayer. Although some shops will be closed, most stay open and are significantly less crowded than at other times.
You can order special gold jewellery items like a chain with your name on it or using a customised design but ensure you have agree on the price beforehand.
The main Carlie at Djemaa El-Fna is definitely worth a visit and the food is priced on menus. In little back streets the ambiance is more quiet, although the price is higher and the quality may vary a lot. Touts for Djemaa huts can be among the most persistent in Marrakech.