Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Excavation at Aghmat, Morocco’s Medieval Capital

Aghmat Palace overview

The Medieval  site  of Aghmat can be found beside the modern village of Ghmat which is 30 km south east of Marrakech in the northern foothills of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Professor Ron Messier, Professor Emeritus Middle Tenessee State University and Senior Lecturer in history at Vanderbilt University and his codirector Professor Abdallah Fili faculte des letters Universite d’El Jadida have been following a trail of gold a it was part of the camel caravan routes from sub-Saharan Africa through the ancient city of Sijilmassa which Ron Messier’s team excavated through to Morocco’s Medieval Capital, Aghmat. Coins minted in Sijilmassa have been  found in  an excavation in Jordan and Aghmat too minted coins for the Almoharavid empire which stretched into Spain.

The international archaeological program has been studying Aghmat Since June 2005 Medieval texts suggest  that Aghmat existed before advent of Islam in the 7th Century. It flourished under the Idrissids  in the 8th and 9th centuries and attained the rank of an Amazight city state in the late 10th Century. It became a capital under the Almoravid dynasty from 1056 to 1070 when the Almoravids moved their capital to Marrakech. Aghmat  gradually declined in competition to Marrakech.

It was an important city for routes through the Atlas Mountains on the trans Saharan trade and attracted scholars from Ifriqiyya (Tunisia) and Andalusia. The site contains the tombs the Andalusian kings al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad of Seville and Abdallah ibn Bulukhin of Granada. Zaynab Nafzawiyya settled in Aghmat married three successive rulers,the independent Maghrawa emir and the first two Almoravid emirs.

Aghmat consisted of two towns Aghmat Ourika and Aghmat Haylana home to Bani Masmuda tribesmen. It was a rich city fully irrigated and minting gold currency for  the Almoravids.

Aghmat Hammam

The archaeological excavations have  so far revealed a hammam , a palace and a mosque.the archaeological process of discovery is aided by modern equipment which can identify the ancient foundations which are now under ground. Ancient texts also describe the city providing valuable clues. The excavations have been conducted to ensure preservation as well as revealing what was buried beneath the surface. The hammam, the first structure to be excavated is remarkably well preserved and fragile areas have been supported whilst respecting the original integrity of the building and its original materials. When Aghmat declined and the hammam fell out of use it began a second life as a pottery and the excavation discovered the potter’s  wheel. The palace was a typical Andalusian palace of the 14th Century and at the end of the 2011 excavation  a separate level revealed occupation from the 9th -12th Century under the Almoravids when Aghmat was their capital. The mosque which was  definitively confirmed during the 2011 excavation was founded by Wattas ibn Kardus in 859AD. There were several phases to its construction. It was found to have a moveable minbar on wooden rails  the only other of its kind was found in the mosque at the ancient city of  Sijilmassa.The team also found an Islamic inscription from the Koran as they did in Sijilmassa. The inscription reads “God is the light of the heavens and the earth”

Excavations at Aghmat

In April 2007 the Aghmat Foundation was founded by a group of patrons under the leadership of Moulay Abdellah Alaoui to provide financial support for further excavations and the construction of a museum for the artifacts that have been found and for conservation and preservations of the excavations.In 2009 a partnership agreement between the Aghmat Foundation and the Moroccan Ministryof Culture which delegates to the Foundation matters of managing archaeological research, conservation and protection of the excavated remains and  the opening of the site to the public.

It is easy to visit the site of Aghmat close to the village of Ghmat and the archeological work is a testimony to the close cooperation between the Moroccan Ministry Culture and The United States.

Excavation work continues each season and Professor Messier is working hard to achieve more sponsorship to support the continuing  discovery process,  which is more difficult since 2008  during the current economic downturn.

For more information about the Excavation at Aghmat, Marrakech Morocco or a Marrakech Tour 

For More Information About Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate
Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.
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The Jewish Moroccan Heritage, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Moroccan Jews from the South

The busy medinas of Morocco with their maze of zig-zagging streets reveal the daily life as it was for Morocco’s jewish population  who lived in the mellahs the walled-in old sections of the cities of Rabat, Fez, Marrakech and Casablanca. The daily haggling over food and handicrafts as the Muslim call to prayer echoed from the minarets was the reality for jews for hundreds of years. Jewish tourists come from all over the world to retrace the lives of their ancestors who played such a significant role in Morocco’s history.

Morocco was home to many great Rabbis and Kabbalists including R’Yitzchak Al-Fasi (Rif) (1013-1088), the Rambam (1160-1165), R’ Joseph Gikatila and the Ohr Ha’Chaim Ha’Kadosh (1698-1742).

In the 1492  thousands of Jews were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition. Many came to Morocco bringing their skills and creativity honed by the Andalusian period in Spain which deeply influenced Moroccan art and culture.

Jewish Menorahs Museum of Moroccan Judaism Casablanca

A good place to start for reviewing this heritage is the Jewish Museum in Casablanca which covers an area of 700 square meters, is the first of its kind in the Arab world.It contains   large multipurpose room, used for exhibitions of painting, photography and sculpture.There are three other rooms, with windows containing exhibits on religious and family life and exhibits on working life and two rooms displaying complete Moroccan synagogues. There are also libraries featuring documents,photgraphs and videos.

A visit to Casablanca’s Jewish Cemetery in the mellah is open and quiet, with well-kept white stone markers in French, Hebrew and Spanish. Once a year, Casablancans celebrate a hiloula, or prayer festival, at the tomb of the Jewish saint, Eliahou.

Temple Beth El, Casablanca

Casablanca’s 4,500 jewish community live outside the mellah in the European city, where they worship in over 30 synagogues, eat in kosher restaurants, entertain themselves in community centers, and attend Jewish schools and social service centers. Jewish Casablancans worship at Temple Beth El, the largest synagogue and an important community center, seating 500 persons.

Some Jews visit the Muslim shrine of Sidi Belyouteach year, Casablanca’s patron saint. Many Jews of Casablanca celebrate the hiloula of the saint Yahia Lakhdar in Ben Ahmed, about an hour south of Casablanca near the town of Settat.

Fez, the most complete medieval city in the world and home to the Rif (R’ Yitzchak Al-Fasi, 11th Century) and the Rambam (1160–1165). Shopping in its Medieval souks is to dive straight into ancient Morocco’s still living heritage which is also part of Morocco’s Jewish heritage as well.

The Em Ha’Banim and Ibn Danan Synagogues, t the very important large Jewish cemetery, opposite the Royal Palace (where “Solika the Righteous Woman,” the most famous woman in Jewish-Moroccan history, is buried) and the Nejjarine Fountain. We explore one of the most fascinating and famous Souks in the Moslem world with its narrow, medieval, maze-like streets and absorb the mystique of this remarkable eighth-century city,  Fez is the most ancient of the Moroccan Imperial cities, founded in 790  by Moulay Idriss II.

Meknes was once an imperial capital with impressive ramparts and had a large Jewish population and Morocco’s modern capital Rabat and Sale have interesting reminders of Jewish culture.

Marrakech, Morocco’s other imperial city has a famous mellah in the medina with its own souk with the famous Slat La’azama Synagogue .The splendid sites of Marrakech; the Badii Palace,the Bahia Palace,the Saadian tombs, the Medersa  Ben Youssef and the souks filled with handicrafts and artifacts many of which are directly descended from the work of the jewish craftsmenwho were part ofthe everyday life of the city.

Outside Marrakech in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in the remote village of Timzerit for eight days during the holiday of Sukkot,  Jews from around the world visit this site to honour the memory of one of Morocco’s most famous rabbis. Ironically, Rabbi David U Moshe is, by legend, an Ashkenazi — an emissary from the city of Safed in the Holy Land who came to southern Morocco to raise money from local Jews. When he died suddenly , he was given a Amazigh (Berber) name — “U Moshe” means “son of Moses”.

Also,20 minutes from Marrakech on the Ouarzazate road is the tomb of Moulay Ighi (“Master of Ighi”) which is visited by jews and muslims alike.Other important shrines in the region  are Rabbi Raphael HaCohen at Achbarou,Rabbi Shlomo Ben Lhans and Rabbi Shmuel( “Abu Hatzeira”) in Erfoud cemetry. All are places are places of pilgrimagebymuslims and jews alike.

Two hours drive form Marrakech is Essaouira which was once the port of Mogador and became the main port for western imports during the reign of HassanI. This was the period of the cotton trade and Essaouira had a large population  engaged in trade, a third of the city was jewish. It is now a vibrant tourist,art and culturalcentre receiving majorfestivals like the Ganoua Music festival each year. It has manymany galleries and craft shops, Essaouira is particularly noted for its wood carving.Its Medina is a UNESCO world heritage site and the synagogue of the venerated Rabbi Chaim Pinto  is located in the Mellah.

Ouarzazate  has an important mellah close to the souk and superb kasbahs some of which were jewish in the Skoura Oasis 40 kms from Ouarzazate.

For more information about Moroccan Jewish Heritage & a Moroccan Jewish Tour in Casablanca, Morocco 

For More Information About Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate
Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Moroccan Artists & Designers, Ahmed Laghrissi, Hicham El Madi and Myriam Mouabit

Moroccan Pottery Design, Ahmed Laghrissi

There are many Moroccan designers, artists and craftsmen breaking new ground and leading innovations in lifestyle and creativity. Moroccan Designers Ahmed Laghrissi, Hicam El Madi and Myriam Mourabit are three exceptional practioners of their art. All were born in Morocco and have been influenced by either great family artists, their environment and Moroccan visual arts and culture. When visiting Morocco on a Pottery and Zellij Tile Design tour or on your own, one can discover galleries, souks and private spaces filled with  these and many other visual artists. Morocco is a mecca of great designers ranging from Moroccan pottery to furniture to tile work, painting and lighting.

Moroccan Pottery Designer, Ahmed Laghrissi

Ahmed Laghrissi

Born in 1962 his fatherand grandfather were potters in the traditonal coastal  pottery centre of Safi  where most Moroccan pottery is still created.The son of Laghrissi Abdelkader, a renowned artist and potter, Ahmed Laghrissi  who was taught by Boujemaa Lamali a potery grandmaster in the early twentieth century.

He  inherited his father’s passion for the trade and is now himself a master-potter in Safi. His creations are inspired by Arab-Muslim art, and are highly individualistic whilst retaining their classic identity based on berber traditions such as Zaian and calligraphy. His researches blend old and new techniques and colours sometimes using enamel bequeathed by his father.

Hicham El Madi

Hicham El Madi has lived in Marrakech for a number of years , he was born in Casablanca and studied at the Institute of Appllied Arts  and worked in Paris for a software design company creating designs for may different companies including Louis Vuitton. He travelled in Pakistan,Oman, Syria, Vietnam and Tunisia. hbeganto design furniture and on moving to Marrakech he worked on   furnishing appartments and moved naturally into interior design.

He finds his inspiration in the Moroccan craft industry. He creates from materials such as wood, molten aluminum and ceramics, to create contemporary interior decorations for riads, homes, shops, and hotels,working closely with local artisans, his creations are very popular with both Moroccan and foreign clients.

Moroccan Designer, Myriam Mourabit

Myriam Mourabit

She designs hand made objets d’art, that draw on the spirit and sensitivity of her cultural heritage.Her work focuses on the sensory relationship between materials and colour  where the combination of nature and refined style are brought together in perfect harmony.

Her exclusive designer objets appear  in several shops and galleries in Morocco and abroad, her creations are stylish designs inspired by henna art and “zouak”,   with close links to the traditions of  Morocco’s craftsmen.

She  trained at the Duperré School of Applied Arts  and the National School of  Decorative Arts in Paris. She designs and develops commercial spaces and designs furniture for individuals using refined and high quality materials.

For more information about Moroccan Pottery and Zellij Tile Design Tour 

For More Information About Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate
Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.
Written by Colin Kilkelly

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