Morocco Marrakech Reviews
Marrakech; a rich history Jul 16, 2008
Regardless of the origins of the word, Marrakech gave its name to the whole country of Morocco in all its many foreign versions - Morocco, Maroc, Morokko, Marruecos, etc. All these names come from the Latin "Morroch" which derives from the medieval name for Marrakech.
The Almoravides made Marrakech the capital of an empire that covered most of
the Magreb (Northwest Africa) and extended well into Europe. With the Almoravide conquest of southern Spain, Marrakech was invested with the cosmopolitan culture of Andalucia. Under the Almoravides Marrakech became a bastion of Islamic civilization and an intellectual center where the most famous scholars and philosophers of the age converged. The power of the Almoravides also made Marrakech into a great commercial center and wealth flowed into the city, further transforming its architecture. Lavish buildings were constructed and splendid gardens designed. The ancient ramparts and gates of the city are monuments to its medieval pre-eminence.
Marrakech is not only a fantastic city, it is also a symbol of the Morocco that once was, and which still survives here. The streets of the old and pink city have been too narrow to allow the introduction of cars, and tourists searching for the "real" Morocco have turned the medieval structures of Marrakech into good business.
The hordes of tourists that come here all through the year have still not managed to change its character. Actually their high number contribute in a postive way to preserve one of the greatest monuments of the Morocco that once was. And the people of Marrakech love their city even more, and Moroccans all over the country would not let down an opportunity of visiting it.
The city has never failed to leave an indelible mark upon visitors. Sir Winston Churchill was particularly taken by Marrakech and, in his war memoirs, has left this evocative memorial to the southern Moroccan city: "Here, surrounded by its extensive palm-groves that have sprung out of the desert, the traveler may rest assured that he will never tire of the majestic view of the snow-covered Atlas Mountains. The sun is dazzling and warm, but never unbearably so; the air is sharp and refreshing, yet never unpleasantly cold; the days are perfect, the nights are cool. The local inhabitants, dressed in their burnooses of various colors and patterns, are themselves a permanent picture; every countryman is a possible painting, every crowd is a pictorial composition. Should anyone be seeking a warm sunny winter, it is to be found in a truly unique setting here in Morocco."
Marrakech is a rail terminus for other parts of Morocco. Roads link the city with the north and with the Atlantic seaport of Safi. Local industries relate to desert crops and include tanning and handicrafts. Marrakech is famous for its fine leather-work and desert carpets. In the surrounding area lead, zinc, copper, molybdenum and graphite are mined.
Tours from Marrakech :
Southeast of Marrakesh, through the friendly Berber villages of Aghmat and Dar Caid Ouriki, there are terraced gardens along Wadi Ourika and ended at Arhbalou. The famous winter sports resort, Oukaimeden (2,600m) is only 74km from Marrakesh. Setti Fatma includes 100 year-old walnut trees and seven waterfalls. Annameure which is the village of the Ait Oucheg tribe, you can climb up to Djebel Yagour, the center of Moroccan prehistory that has over 2,000 cave paintings. 47km south from Marrakesh would be the Berber village of Asni where people come to barter in the souk every Saturday. Imlil is the charming mountain hamlet where the starting point for hikes (4,165m) through Toubkal national park. East of Marrakesh is the Ouzoud Falls where
water plunges for more than 100m. Wadi Mehasseur is the "gateway to the abyss" in Berber that cascades through vast rock formations to end in the artificial Ait-Aadel lake surrounded by red-colored hills.
Hobbies & Activities category: Cave; Climbing activity; Garden or botanic display; Swimming & water activities; Hiking opportunity; Resort or relaxation spot; Skiing opportunity
THE DJEMAA EL-FNA ("assembly place of the nobodies") is the focal point of Marrakesh. It is a large square where many of the budget hotels and souks are located.
The famous town square of Marrakech, Jemaa l-Fna, owes little of its fame to its own beauty, but to the continuous day and night life. During most of the days, perfomers of every kind put up their shows, continuing until the food stalls start to move in.
From the Jemaa there are several entries to the fantastic suuqs, and for anyone who needs to relax for a while, there are plenty of cafés around the Jemaa, where the main attraction is looking at the ongoing activities.
Jemaa el-Fna owes most of its fame to the large number of spectacles going on all around all the time. Snake charmers, singers, story tellers, healers and fakirs attract a dominantly Moroccan audience. The food stalls take over the Jemaa as soon as the orange juice sellers have packed up and gone home. The food is prepares from fresh on the spot, and you can choose between fish, meat or vegetable dishes. The concept is easy, you point at everything you desire, indicate the quantity and within few minutes it is there in front of you
The food is exquisite, tasteful and much appreciated by Moroccans and brave tourists. Never forget the good rule of eating in Morocco: eat where the Moroccans eat — they know where to get good food!
In the evening, there are rows of open-air food stalls, jugglers, snake charmers, storytellers and magicians. Around the square there are rooftop cafes and restaurants with balconies, where you can watch the entire spectacle.
THE KOUTOUBIA is the tallest (70m) and most famous landmark in Marrakesh. It is visible for miles in any direction.
From the "Square of the Dead" DJemaa El-Fna Square, one can already see the city's landmark, the minaret of the venerable Koutoubia Mosque. It was named after the souk el koutoubiyyin, the bazaar of the book-traders, which is nearby. It might well be noted that this market originated in the 12th century, a long period during which a Christian European would have been hard-pressed to write the word book. The hall-type mosque has 17 aisles and 112 columns covering a total floor area of 5400 sq.m (58,000 sq. ft) and is thus among the largest of its kind - 25,000 faithful can say their prayers within it. At the end of the prayer hall is an ornately carved minbar (pulpit), which is supposed to be a remnant of the Almoravid mosque destroyed by the Almohad builders of the present edifice. The pulpit is said to have come from Cordoba; its donor is believed to have been the Almoravid sultan Ali ben Youssef (1107-1143).
The square minaret, which wasn't completed until the reign of Yacoub el Mansour (1184-1199), was the direct model for the Giralda in Sevilla and the Hassan Tower in Rabat. It is considered the ultimate structure of its kind. The tower is 69 m (221 ft) in height, its lateral length 12,8 m (41 ft). Six rooms one above the other, constitute the interior; leading around them is a ramp, by way of which the muezzin could ride up to the balcony. The tower is adorned with four copper globes. According to legend, they were originally made of pure gold, and there were once supposed to have been only three. The fourth was donated by the wife of Yacoub el Mansour as compensation for her failure to keep the fast for one day during the month of Ramadan. She had her golden jewelry melted down, to fashion the fourth globe.
What is a mosque? A mosque is the place of worship in the religion of Islam. It is essentially a prayer hall, where people come to pray at five appointed times during the day: just before dawn, miDDay, afternoon, before sunset, and night. Prayer is an obligation of every Muslim, but as in any religion, some moments of prayer are more important than others and some people are more observant than others. The most important prayer is that of Friday noon, for which many if not most people will go to the mosque for prayer services which include a sermon by a religious authority. Most of the space of a mosque is simply an open prayer hall, with a niche in the wall (mihrab) indicating the direction of prayer, which is facing Mecca, 2500 miles away near the Red Sea coast in Arabia. A stepped platform for the preacher will also be found in the front of the prayer hall, which is covered with mats and rugs. Mecca's importance lies in the fact that it was the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed in 570 A.D., was the early capital of Islam, and remains the central focus of the religion.
It houses the oldest and best preserved of the three most famous minarets, as well as the largest.
The suuqs of Marrakech is a labyrinth where you soon lose directions. Maps in guide books turn out to be of help only when you stick to one of the few wide alley ways.
This is the place ot lose directions, since none will take advantage of you if you seem stranded. And what a place it is. Moroccans love it, and foreigners too, so there is more goods to choose from than in any other suuq of Morocco.
Some might find it over the edge, but there is a selfconfident elegance to the strong colours and wild shapes of everything from carpets to water mugs.
THE SUUQ is a living place with an intricate infrastructure. Different labours are assembled in quarters, and the nobody seem to be disturbed if you stop up and watch the handcrafts perform their century old professions.
Covering of the suuqs is essential: during the summer season temperatures pass 40°C for months. The coverings and the coolness of the stone houses make the suuqs a place to hide from the sun. Among the most common materials are found palm fronds.
Buying products of the nature is great fun in Marrakech, and most of the shops specialicing in everything from gourmet dates to humdrum henna have the kilo prices clearly marked.
For many tourist with haggling fatigue, this is a relief. And few of these vedors seem to allow you to walk away with the wrong product, and openly invite you to taste before you buy.
You wont have to walk far before the first great offers on carpets come your way.
Moroccan carpets are available in different styles, some of indigenous patterns and techniques (these are the best!!!), while others are of imported style. The carpets you see here are all typical Moroccan, even if they might remind the foreign visitor of carpets of other countries.
Prices are OK, but there is a lot of mint tea drinking, wagging, wringing, head shaking, sighing and smiling to be done before you reach the price level where you could say that you really did a good deal.
In general, a good carpet will cost around 300- 500 dh per square meter. The carpets you see here are of good good quality, and each should cost not much more than 200- 300 dh
THE MENARA Set slightly out of town, the Menara gardens offers not only a pleasant escape from roaming Marrakech, it also has one of the most photographed settings of Morocco, one which is most enjoyed just the last hour before the gates close. At this time of the day, the place is also cleared of the package tourists, running around with cameras and open remarks on everything they see.
A walk around the menzah must be good for love. Blushing couples do the walk, without holding hands, and most certainly without kissing. All this only adds to the total experience.
So what is this place actually? It is designed as a summer escape- remember that Marrakech is like an oven through mid-summer- with both orchards and olive groves. The pavilion and the basin existed from earlier times, but the present structure was set up in the middle of the 19th century by Sultan Adu r-Rahman.
one of Morocco's most beautiful cities stands a sumptuous palace housing the very quintessence of Moroccan art.
On the ground floor you can find clothes, objects in beaten copper, arms and Berber jewellery. Splendours from the past? Not at all, for many of the objects on display are still used and worn in mountain areas.
The first floor salon impresses with its Hispano Moorish decoration and elegant furniture in cedar wood. It is such an accurate reproduction that, at any moment you half expect to see a bride in her ceremonial dress return to the armchair and show herself off to all the admiring guests.
The other rooms are filled with an abundance of . Stop a moment to examine coming from the Sahara ion, characterised by the use of leather, and large, ple mats evoking the dry beauty of the semi-desert.
A remarkable collection of door and window frames is to be found around the courtyard, all encrusted with the most delicate and refined ornamentation. And in the streets outside you will soon understand that the town and its inhabitants know how to keep the traditions of their culture alive.
The most worthwhile tourist traps are collected inside a rather small zone, starting in the north with the suuqs, continuing through the town square of Jemaa l-Fna with its crowd of storytellers, musicians and the Koutoubia mosque which is visible from practically anywhere in Marrakech.
i will prepare inchallah another review about marrakech by night; it's very very interesting :)
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Jan 17, 2007
Be very careful when visiting the souks. Hold on to your purse and your partner as it takes less than a minute to lose both. If you get lost, you could head for the Koutoubia Mosque. At 77m high, this monument is the easiest navigation point for central Marrakech and it's also floodlit at night.
Things to see in Marrakech:
The breathtaking Jardin Marjorelle is the most beautiful garden in Marrakech, combining lush vegetation with traditional Moroccan architectural elements. The French painter and plant collector Jacques Majorelle (1888-1962) settled in Marrakech in 1923 and laid out a subtropical garden, which opened to the public in 1947.
The French designer Yves-Saint Laurent bought it in 1980, restored it with Pierre Bergé and founded a small museum of Islamic art. Bamboo, towering palms and huge cacti flourish next to a goldfish pond sustaining aquatic plants. Ultramarine walls and tiles are set against the cool green foliage.
Place Djemaa El Fna
In the heart of the pink-walled Marrakech Medina is the central square Place Djemaa El Fna, the city's liveliest night-spot, which transforms from a daytime bus station and market to an open-air theatre of folklore in the evening. Tip: Camera-happy visitors should be warned that so much as pointing a lens at a Gnaoua results in them speeding over for some cash. Similarly, the ornately-dressed water vendors rely mainly on tips from being photographed. There are plenty cafés with roof terraces around the place, so get yourself a cosy place in one of those enjoy your coffee/tea and the view.
The rest I leave up to you:)
I’d recommend a day trip to Ouarzazate which is the home of of the largest movie studios in the world, Atlas Studios. Several historical movies were shot on those studios (e.g. Astérix et Cléopâtre, Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, Kundun, Gladiator and lately Alexander, Kingdom of Heaven and Babel). It was also the location of the November 26, 2006 episode of the television series The Amazing Race.
Since Ouarzazate had been a small crossing point for African traders seeking to reach northern cities in Morocco and Europe. During the French period, Ouarzazate expanded considerably as a garrison town, administrative centre, and customs post and casbah of Taourirt is must see ;)
If you find some time I would also recommend a visit to Essaouira , (formerly known as Mogador, its old Portuguese name) which is a city and tourist resort in Morocco, on the Atlantic coast. The Medina of Essaouira is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed city, as an example of a late-18th century fortified town, as transferred to North. The town maybe isn't as well know as Casablanca but definitely much more picturesque.
Part of the Morocco - 2007 January travel blog
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