Friday, January 05, 2007


Five days in Marrakech. We had been there 20 years ago but this time we had the kids. The usual scrum at the airport, with enormous queues, and where the taxi drivers ignore the fixed prices on the sign. We took the bus!

Jemaa el-Fna
In the evening we went into town to see the famous square. It hadn't changed one bit, still largely Moroccan with its storytellers, musicians, boxers, and tricksters. there seemed to be far more numbered food stalls. The first few sold nothing but cooked snails, the next roast chicken with flames leaping into the night sky, then restaurant after restaurant. All of this is packed away for the day and comes out again at night. Haggled for a drum and, after walking away, had the guy do the usual running after us to offer a cheaper price. We bought it.

This minaret is huge, sqaure and acts as a sort of signal tower when you get lost, and everyone gets lost in Marrakech. It's unfortunate that most mosques now prohibit or at least put off westerners from entering. It's not entirely clear how the extremists hope to convert us all if their places of worship forbid entry. These are wonderful spaces so entirely different from Christian churches which are choked full of imagery and alignment. There's a sense of space and peace which induces contemplation. They're unworldly.

El Badi palace
A ruin, but what a ruin. This huge palace had a number of olympic size pools and fountains, along with rooms for visitors and underground storage. The garden plays a central role in islamic architecture and is Koranic in inspiration - paradise is a garden fo delight. El badi is a great place to wander. You can wander inside now empty pools, go underground and imagine what its marble clad walls must have looked like. Even now it's impressive.

Musee de Marrakech
This is worth it - a palace with a huge central room and chandalier where you can sit and contemplate. they play gentle music in the background and a fountain gurgles in the centre in a yellow light. There's a bath and other rooms.

Medersa Ben Yussef
A Mersa was a school and this one has a superb courtyard with a fountain, pool and ornamenntal walls. It is calm, spacious and inspiring. On the first floor there are small and sparse rooms. Schhooling was centred on the Koran and recitation was essential. These places would have hummed with voiced poetry in their time.

Gil and I went for a walk to a huge garden park on the outskirts of the city. There was football and even when the sun went down hundreds were strolling. You see many more women here than you would in Egypt or elsewhere in the middle East.

The Menrara and Pavilion
Walked to the park with its huge pool (12th century) is cool and quiet with a few families feeding bread to the enormous carp. It's not really a garen more a huge olive orchard.

It is a shoppers' paradise, and we bought pots, fossils ( a huge ammonite), bangles, drums and other knicknacks. Gil boughht a couple of eastern looking dresses.

Saadian Tombs
These are difficult to find, hidden behind huge walls but worth the time to visit. the tombs are sumptuous with delicate pillars and the ornamenrtation one expects when no naturalistic representation is allowed. This pushed Islamic artists to look for a geometric aesthetic where the detail and repetition point towards metaphysical concepts of infinity and being. The stalactite niches are, represent, I believe the cave in which Mohammed received his inspiration.

Bab Agnaou walk
We walked along the walls due west, past some courting couples, and back down and through the Bab Agnaou and snaked our way back to the sqaure. It can be quite edgy at night in the darker streets and alleys.

Found a good French restaurant at the end of the street - RDV (Rendevous). Marrakech has a big French influence and this restaurant sold good French food at ery good prices with excellent service. the waiters were chatty and informative. Thye've also taken to cafe society - sitting for hours with a coffee. Best to avoid the cheap joints such as Mabrouka, although they do a passable pizza. Walked through a richer suburb to an Italian restaurant in Guliez, which was very good.

Hotel Al Andalous
Wouldn't recommend the Hotel Al Andalous -pool freezing, pool guy aggressive, food average and advertise tennis courts don't exist. Staff and service are way below par. The rooms, however, are fine.


At 12:14 PM, Anonymous MoRocco said...

you are right! it is definitely a shopping paradise!! ;)


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