Author Archives: Colin Kilkelly

About Colin Kilkelly

After 20 years of journalism and commercial experience in the Maghreb, I have now settled in Marrakech. I have just launched a new, professional blog focusing on investment, business and culture issues in the new Maghreb post Arab Spring Maghreb

Souks Outside Marrakech, Your Morocco Guide

Souk-Amiziz

By  visiting local souks outside Marrakech you can experience local Berber country life and absorb the character of the marketplaces where they meet each week. This is an important social occasion where local producers sell their wares including, fruit, vegetables and livestock. Merchants from Marrakech sell essentials such as: tea, coffee, sugar, packaged foods, cooking items, clothing and electronics. You can also come across carpets, jewelry and pottery generally cheaper than in Marrakech. There are many things available to buy from the souk: henna, spices, rugs, Berber slippers and sandals, pottery, Berber djellabahs for men, dresses for women and handmade wooden kitchen utensils.

Amizmiz has the best Berber souk  in the region on a Tuesday as well as sampling the local wares, it is a good starting off point for treks in the surrounding Atlas Mountains and meeting the Berbers in their home environment for mint tea and a meal served in their homes.

Set against the majestic backdrop of the High Atlas, the picturesque village of Tahanaout attracts visitors with its landscape and attractive sturdy Berber red clay buildings.  The village which is 30 km from Marrakech is surrounded by olive groves, orange  and lemon trees. Its souk is also held on a Tuesday. Pottery making and cooking demonstrations are on offer from the inhabitants of Tahanaout,  you  can learn how to make homemade bread, makoda, couscous and other traditional regional dishes.

There are good opportunities for bird watching whilst strolling along the riverbanks, where you can see  Moroccan wagtail, white stork and cattle egret. You can trek to the Ouirgane, N’Fis and Ourika Valleys and the waterfalls at Setti Fatma. You can also ride donkeys or hire a 4X4 cross country vehicle. If you want to stay in Tahanaout  you can book into the Terres d’Amanar an extensive eco lodge with gardens and stunning mountain views on the outskirts of the village. The Kasbah Angour is also nearby both establishments can arrange local tours including trekking on foot or by donkey and  4×4 overland vehicles for further afield .

Other centers for weekly souks include  Tnine Hem on Monday, Sidi Ghiat on Sunday and Aghmat with its ancient ruins on Friday. Asni  also has a large market on Saturday, Ijoukak on Wednesday and  Khemis Ouirgane on Thursday. Ouirgane itself is a delightful place to spend a few days for trekking and relaxation. It is close to the Tiz N’Test pass, Mount Toubkal, Toubkal National Park and the Tassa Ouirgane National Park. This is trekking and ecotourism country at its best. It is possible to travel around by 4×4 but if you are up to it by foot, donkey or horse is best. The air is clean the mountain scenery and the Takherkhoute forests are enchanting.

Chez Momo Ourigane

One of the of the best places to stay in Ouirgane is the idyllic Domaine de la Rosaraie, set in sixty acres of  parkland with a  large garden filled with roses .

Domaine Malika is new on the scene in Ourigane and for an upscale and chic mountain experience there is none better than the Domaine Malika. .

Chez Momo is a charming auberge, Moroccan country style home overlooking the High Atlas. They are also known for the excellent cuisine and elegant dinner setting. If staying in Ourigane dining at Chez Momo is a must.

Au Sanglier Qui Fume  has been in existence since 1945. It started by catering to Foreign Legion soldiers working on the bridge and acquired its distinctive name because it was used by wild boar hunters. Its restaurant has great character including the heads of wild boar hanging from the walls. The food is a blend of French and Moroccan cuisine. It remains a classical French establishment.

The Tassa Ouirgane National Park and the Toubkal National Park provide great trekking opportunities in amongst the valleys and local Berber villages hamlets and fields with the Atlas mountains towering above them. You can visit the salt mines at Marigha. Here the Berbers have been mining salt by their traditional method unchanged for centuries. They transport the salt by donkeys and sell it locally.

For more information about Souks and a Marrakech Tour

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 Festivals, Your Morocco Tour Guide

El Jadida Horse Show

Traveling to Morocco during one of its incredible festivals is a great way to explore Morocco, haven an up close experience with people and better understand Morocco’s varied traditions. Visiting a festival in Morocco as part of a private Morocco tour can done year round given Morocco offers a wide range of festivals and mousseums (traditional local celebrations). Many regions in Morocco from the seaside bastion El Jadida, the Portuguese Port and Berber City of Essaouira and the city of Fez all have celebratory festivals and mousseums. The Fez Festival of World Sacred Music which takes place each June is one of Morocco’s most popular festivals along with Mawazine of Rabat. Morocco’s Festivals have much to offer ranging from elaborate fantasia horse shows to exotic local music and are all held out doors in heart of of old Moroccan cities which make the experience of traveling to Morocco’s festivals all the more worthwhile.

Fez Festival of Sacred Music

For more information about Morocco’s Festivals:

The Tan Tan Moussem: November – December. This is a traditional festival of nomadic tribes Check nearer the time for exact date.

Saffron festival in Taliouine: Octoer – November. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices and is also used for coloring. Talioune is the main centre for saffron production in Morocco.

The International El Jadida Horse Show October 2013.This show held under the patronage of King Mohammed VI celebrates the culture of the horse which is widespread in Morocco with many areas supporting their Fantasias or Tbourida teams at local Mouassems or saint’s days. It is also an important international event for blood stock and horse breeding and dressage .

The Erfoud Date Festival October 15 -31st. This festival celebrates the dates harvest in the Erfoud . Morocco has 100 different varieties of dates with 45 of those in the south of Morocco alone.

Eid al-Adha: October 15th – 31st: A sheep is sacrificed to celebrate Abraham’s preparing to sacrifice his son but being providentially spared on finding a ram caught in the branches of a tree nearby. It is a major family occasion in Morocco where those who can afford it slaughter a sheep which provides meat for days afterwards. On the eve of Eid al-Adha, the same day and the next, public and private companies do not work. The festival takes place two months and 10 days after the end of Ramadan. The celebration is called “Eid-el-Kebir”
Azalay Festival of African music in Ouarzazate, 1 – 30 November 2013

The Azalay Festival: Features African music of all styles: rock, jazz, blues, rap and salsa. There are Concerts, exhibitions and conferences.

Ras-el-Am or Muharram: November 5th.This is the first day of the Hejira, the Muslim New Year. The Muslim era began July 16 622 (or 20 September 622, according to some), the year of the Hegira. In November 2013, we are entering the year 1435 of the Hegira. The date of this New Year is based on the lunar calendar.

Anniversary of the Green March: November 6th.This celebrates the peaceful takeover of the Spanish colonial provinces in the Sahara by the Green March of civilians launched by King Hassan II in 1957 to liberate territory Morocco regarded as rightfully belonging to it.

Sultan Marathon des Sables in Ouarzazate: April 4th – 14th.This grueling event in temperatures of 40 degrees centigrade begins in Ouarzazate and runners cross desert sands for 240km. The Marathon provides financial support for local charities.

Ashura in Morocco: November 13th – 14th. Ashura is celebrated on the 10th day after the day of the Muslim year (the 10th day of Muharram), the word for “ten”. The festival lasts for two days and you may hear volleys of firecrackers going of in the street. For days before small boys collect money for firecrackers not unlike Guy Fawkes day in England.

Taragalte Sahara Culture Festival -Mhamid El Ghizlane November.This festival celebrates Morocco’s tribal Saharan nomadic heritage particularly around Mhamid, thye gateway to the desert. Cultural and ecological workshops are accompanied by sporting events.

Independence Day in Morocco: November 18th. Morocco’s achieving independence from France in March 1956 and the triumphant return of a forced exile in 1955 of king Mohammed V. There are many official ceremonies held throughout Morocco.

International Khouribga Documentary Film Festival:November 20th – 23rd. The documentary film festival of Khouribga takes place , 120 km south of Casablanca. The festival includes tributes to personalities, exhibitions (paintings, photographs and relics), a conference and training workshops on techniques of staging. Several taken are presented by categories.

Almond Blossom Festival Tafraoute: January 1 to February 28th.The almond trees usually bloom in January and February, and Tafraoute is filled with bright and vivid colors. The dates of the festival can change due to the climate .

Candle Procession in Sale, Rabat: January 13th – February 8th.On the eve of Mouloud, in honor of Sidi Abdellah Ben Hassoun, patron saint of the city and the barcassiers of Salé organize the procession of candles to the Saint’s mausoleum.

Eid al-Mouled in Morocco. June 13th – 14th.This festival commemorates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, and his baptism seven days later.

Gnaoua Musicians, Essaouira Gnaoua Festival

Essaouira international Gnawa Festival June 12th -15th.Every year Essaouira, Morocco’s favorite seaside resort with its stunning beaches and ramparts hosts international and Moroccan musicians for what has become a world class music festival which also celebrates the Sufi spirituality of traditional Gnawa .If you want to attend the event book accommodation well in advance.

Fez Sacred Music Festival: June 13th – 21st. This world class festival features different kinds of music from internationally famous artists, including Moroccan Sufi chants, Egyptian madhi odes and Pakistani hawwali amongst many others.

Ramadan June 28th – July 28th: Ramadan falls on the ninth month of the year of the Hegira, and is the month of fasting from dawn to dusk during which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet . The streets come alive at night as families and friends celebrate the breaking of the fast.

Lailat al-Qadr (Feast of the revelation of the Koran) July 24th.This is the Night of Destiny when the angel Gabriel came down to reveal the word of Allah to the Prophet Mohammed. The night of Lailat al Qadr is the holiest night of the year, a night of prayer and devotion.

Eid al-Saghir (Eid ul-Fitr) July 28th – 29th.The end of Ramadan is marked by the festival of breaking the fast and is a joyful family occasion when gifts are exchanged. Eid el Saghir is celebrated annually on the 1st of the month shawal, the month following the month of Ramadan. All shops and offices are closed.

For More Information about Festivals of Morocco

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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Natural Wonders of Morocco, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Tizi-N-Test-Pass

The Tizi N’Test pass from Marrakech, Morocco to Taroudant leads you over the Middle Atlas, heartland of the Berber people, through hair raising hair pin bends at 2,092 meters overlooking valleys and gorges, small fields and mountain villages. It was here from Tin Mal, the site of the famous Berber mosque that the Almohads rose up and took Marrakech from the Almoravids in 1152.

This winding route is not a drive that is recommended to first timers and no one travels it at night. Nowadays the motorway from Marrakech to Agadir means that most of the commercial vehicles do not take the mountain pass which means less hair raising over taking, hoping that no one is coming round the corner. First timers are well advised to hire an experienced driver to travel in safety and enjoy the views which are amongst the best you will see in Morocco. The volcanic period centuries ago provided incredible geographical mountain features crowned now with a variety of greenery, trees and earthen berber villages.

The French administration completed the road in 1929 and it is a remarkable feat of civil engineering. It opened up a natural mountainous barrier which preserved Berber independence for centuries. When Sultan Moulay Hassan and his army tried to cross the Tizi ‘N Test pass in 1893 in a blizzard they were saved by the brothers Madani and Thami El Glaoui and the Sultan bestowed a Krupp cannon and regional powers on his saviors. It was a turning point in Moroccan history and Thami El Glaoui went on to be Pacha of Marrakech from 1893 to 1956. To travel this winding route is to understand the history of the Berbers as well as enjoying a fine adventure and some of the best views in Morocco.

Dades Gorge

The winter snow capped Atlas mountains towering over Marrakech are an unforgettable sight and the Ourika valley with its river and green pastures seen from the road snaking up from the road along the side of the valley is also one of the wonders of Morocco . You descend to the picturesque village of Ourika and go on up to the waterfalls of the Setti Fatma shrine and the stony river bed which leads on into the mountains.

You can ski in winter at nearby Oumkaimeden and view Mount Toubkal close up from the trekking station at Imlil. Trekking in the area or climbing Mount Toubkal is a great adventure and you can also enjoy the forests and mountain walks of Toubkal National Park which is nearly 250,000 acres in size, or take to a bicycle or mountain bike. It is rare to find such natural beauty and extensive adventure opportunities within easy reach of a major city like Marrakech.

On the eastern side of the Atlas Mountains is the Todra Gorge with its huge canyon which is an immense rock formation running seven miles through the mountains and an attraction for trekkers. You can also visit the Dades Gorge 100 kms north of Ouarzazate between the Middle and Anti Atlas. Besides being home to many ancient Kasbahs it is a site of remarkable beauty running alongside the Dades river.

South of Ouarzazate is the desert town of Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi which is one of Morocco’s two great erg’s, the other being being the Chighaga Erg near M’hamid. They are a mass of sand dunes which change their formation with the blowing of the wind so that they are never the same. They reach a height of up to 150 meters. Erg Chebbi spans 22 kilometers from north to south and up to 5-10 kilometers from east to west. This is a chance to experience the stillness and beauty of the real desert and to take a camel trek or a four wheel drive vehicle and sleep out under the stars in a desert camp.

Morocco has 3,500 miles of pristine unspoilt beaches stretching from the Dakhla in the South along the Atlantic coast through Agadir , Taghazout, Oualidia, Essaouira , and new resorts such as Lixus, Mazagan, Taghazout and Plage Blanche offering excellent opportunities for surfing. Morocco’s Mediterranean coast has beaches from Tangier and Asilah to Al Hoceima and the new resorts of Tamuda Bay and Saida. The Mediterranean beaches do not have the strong undercurrents present on the Atlantic coast and there is good scuba diving at Cabo Negro.

Morocco’s natural wonders also include a number of national parks and forests in both nortern and southern Morocco. Toubkal National Park is the oldest and largest. The others are found at Al Hoceima , Haut Atlas Oriental National Park, Ifrane, Merdja Zerka ,Souss Massa, Talassemtane and Tazekka National Park. These extensive cedar forests are home to wildlife such as golden jackal, red fox, leopard, barbary apes and extensive bird life. Morocco is home to important wet lands including Merja Zerga on the Atlantic coast which hosts 1,400 species of birds many of them migrating. Between 15,000 and 30,000 ducks are said to winter at the lagoon, and it regularly holds 50,000 to 100,000 waders including flamingos.

For More Information about Natural Wonders of Morocco

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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Marrakech Saints and Zaouias, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Marrakech Seven Saints

Marrakech has seven patron saints who were Sufi mystics and Islamic scholars who are said to look after the city and each has a zaouia which is a mausoleum where pilgrims and those wishing for the help of the Saint or Sidi can pray at his tomb. The larger zaouias in Marrakech have mosques and they are charitable religious foundations who care for the sick, blind and crippled as well as orphans or the old and infirm. The spirit of charity is an important part of the role of the saints who were Sufi mystics and pilgrims give donations to the Zaouia. The concept of the Marrakech seven saints in Morocco predates Christianity and Islam and Cueta (or Sebta meaning seven),Jebel Hadid and Fez all have seven saints.

The Alaouite Sultan Moulay Ismail (1672-1727) requested the Sufi scholar Abu Ali al Hassan to organize the Ziara or pilgrimage of the seven saints  along more orthodox lines and establish or refurbish the zaouias.

This was to raise the spiritual level of Marrakech as a pilgrimage centre. At the time groups of Sufi mystics had begun to play an important role in jihad or the struggle against the Portuguese and Spanish and the bid to unify Morocco after tribal and dynastic struggles.  Moulay Ismail also wanted to ensure the orthodoxy of the devotions to saints. The cult of saints in Morocco has always been a subject of  some controversy and unease in certain quarters  as according to strict Islamic doctrine prayers should only be directed to Allah.  However Morocco’s Malekite rite has its own variations and Sufism is well established.

The saints who were selected were Sidi Youssef Ben Ali, Cadi Ayad Sidi Bel Abbes (Marrakech’s most revered saint),Sidi Ben Slimane el Jazouli ,Sidi Abd el Azziz,Sidi el Gheswani and Sidi es Soheyli  and Sidi Abdelaziz Tebbaa . This is the order in which the Ziara or pilgrimage is conducted. Only two of the saints were born in Marrakech, Sidi Youssef Ben Ali and Sidi Abdelaziz Tebbaa .

Marrakech Bel Abbes Zaouia

The Zaouia of of Sidi Bel Abbes is the largest in the Medina.  Born in Sebta (Ceuta) in 1145 Sidi Bel Abbes came to Marrakech as a youngman having pursued religious studies from an early age. He settled in a cave on a hill near a source of water and became a hermit. He lived there for 40 years without ever entering the city but became famous as a preacher. Sultan  Yacoub El Mansour persuaded him to move into the city and provided him with a house and a madrassa where he could teach. He cared for the poor especially the crippled and the blind and the Zaouia carries on the work today. Sidi Bel Abbes died in 1205. The  Zaouia  of Sidi Bel Abbes is located 100m north of the Bab Taghzout. Non believers cannot enter but it is possible to catch glimpses of the large complex and its mosque.

Sidi Mohammed bin Suleiman Al Jazouli pursued his religious studies in Fez. He played a leading role in the Sufi brotherhoods who conducted jihad against the Portuguese and Spanish and he attracted thousands of devotees. He died in 1465 at Jazoula near Essaouira   His body was transferred to Marrakech. He is the author of the famous collection of prayers called Dala’il al- Khairat ( the paths of benefits ). This is a renowned work of Sufi mysticism. The Jazouli Zaouia was redesigned in the 18th Century and lies north of the Medina, near the Dar el Bacha.

Sidi Suheil  was born near Malaga and is known for his Sufi poetry and openness to new ideas at a time of strong religious orthodoxy. He was brought from Spain by Yacoub El Mansour. He wrote two masterpieces on the proper names of prophets mentioned in the Koran and a biography of Sidna Mohammed. He died in Marrakech in 1186. He is buried near Bab Rob . Students with memory problems are said to pray at his tomb.

Sidi Cadi Ayyad came from Ceuta or Sebta. He was the most famous scholar in Granada of the  Malikite rite in the Muslim West . With the advent of the Almoravids , he was  exiled in Tadla before moving to  Marrakech where he lived until his death in 1149. His book ” Al- Chifaa ” is renowned. He is buried in an old marabout near Bab Aylen.  Marrakech’s university is named after him.

Sidi Ben Abdallah El  Ghazouani  came from the Berber Ghomara tribe. He consolidated the Sufi revival initiated by Sidi Ben Slimane el Jazouli. After pursuing his studies in Fez and Granada ,he moved to Marrakech to complete his training under Sidi Abdelaziz Tabaa . He was imprisoned by the Wattasids and sent to Fez but he returned to Marrakech. He founded a Zaouia and died in 1528. He was buried near the Mouassine mosque.

Sidi Sidi Abdelaziz  Tebaa was a silk merchant in Fes who  became attracted to the spiritual life. He moved to Marrakech and was the chief disciple of Sidi Ben Slimane  el Jazouli and spread  Sufi  ethics  amongst the trade guilds in Marrakech  establishing an important link which remains to this day. He was buried near the Ben Youssef Mosque in 1508.

Sidi Youssef Ben Ali was of Yemeni origin, he was a brilliant student of Sheikh Ben Asfour in Marrakech. He suffered from leprosy and lived in the leper colony in Bab Aghmat. He was renowned for his patience and humility despite his suffering. He died in 1196. His mausoleum was built by the Saadian Sultan Moulay Abdallah . His  Zaouia  is located opposite Bab Aghmat . He  often recited a  poem : ” God dispels concerns, God spreads the light, God protects the weak God always forgives and everywhere God will not abandon you .”

The Seven Saints of Marrakech occupy an important place in the history, life and culture of the city. The seven towers built in 2005 at Bab Doukkala are in memory of the Seven Saints.

For More Information on Marrakech Saints and Zaouias

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 Mosques of Marrakech, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech

The famous Koutoubia Mosque dominates the skyline of Marrakech. Koutoubia Mosque is 77 meters high, including it’s majestic minaret, and was built in 1158 by the Almohad Caliph Abd al-Mu’min (1094–1163) then completed by his grandson the Almoravid Sultan Yacoub El Mansour in 1195. Caliph Abd al-Mu’min also built the Giralda Tower in Seville and the Hassan Tower in Rabat which was never completed. The towering square Koutoubia minaret in Marrakech is all the more striking because the limestone walls remain undecorated by modern restorers.

At the time the area around Koutoubia was the centre of the old city and the Almohads had built a palace there which was later destroyed but you can still see the foundations. The courtyard of the mosque in Marrakech originally housed booksellers and scribes who could write documents, hence the Arabic name kutubiyyin gave its name to the Koutoubia or book seller’s mosque.

The call to prayer rings out from the Koutoubia minaret and is echoed by all the mosques in Marrakech which is a wonderful sound particularly in the early morning. The Malakite rite in Morocco permits the call to prayer to be sung and depending on the muezzin who conducts the call to prayer, it can be very beautiful. Moroccans, as with all muslims, pray five times a day and their religion rules their daily lives. Whilst a non believer cannot enter the mosque, the exterior view of Koutoubia both from a distance (it can be seen from 29 kms) and close up is a stunning sight and is Marrakech’s icon. It is floodlit at night.

The minaret of the Kasbah mosque known as the El Mansouria, is in the old fortified city close to the Bab Agnaou adjacent to the Saadian tombs. The minaret of the Kasbah Mosque resembles Koutoubia. Built in 1190 by Sultan Yacoub El Mansour it was restored in the 16th Century. The minaret is decorated with green and white zellij tiles.

The Mouassine mosque on Rue Mouassine is just up from the Dar El Bacha Palace. It is a large and imposing building with a hammam , a medersa and a large fountain in a square to the left of the mosque. It was built by the Saadian Sultan Abdullah el Ghalib in 1560.The Bab Doukala mosque was also built by the Saadians in 1557 who built also built several other mosques including the Barrima mosque, the Zaouia of Sidi Bel Abbes, the Zaouia of Sidi Ben Slimane al-Jazouli, Zaouia of Sidi Youssef Ben Ali, and the Sidi Moulay el Ksour mosque.

Ben Youssef Medersa, Marrakech

The Ben Youssef Mosque is on the main square close to the Marrakech Museum and the Medersa Ben Youssef was originally built by the Almoravid ruler Youssef Bin Tachfine in 1070 and his son Ali Ben Youssef built the largest mosque in the city on the site to be the center of the new city after the conquest by the Almohads . It was built between 1121 and 1132 and was said to have cost a fortune to build with a huge fountain in the central courtyard. It was refurbished by the Saadian Sultan Abdallah al Ghalib and the Saadians also built the magnificent Medersa Ben Youssef between 1563-1564, which tourists can enter . You can also see the Koubba Ba’adiyn with its superb carvings in its dome which was part of the orginal mosque. It is in the park facing the mosque and you can buy a ticket for it in the Medersa Ben Youssef.

The Ben Youssef Mosque underwent a further architectural transformation in the 19th Century by the Alaouite Sultan Suleiman who restored the mosque which had fallen into ruin in the 17th and 18th Centuries but all traces of the Almohad and Almoravid interiors were lost. Mosques in Marrakech have undergone a continuous process of recreation along with the Medina. The situation only stabilised during the French Protectorate and subsequent post independence restoration efforts.

Today the Ben Youssef Mosque dominates the square with its imposing walls and if you are lucky you may be able to see inside through its large door. In the alleyways of the Medina you can glance through open door ways and sometimes catch a glimpse of the interiors, many are plain white with arches .Sometimes there is raffia matting around the walls and carpets laid on the floor. On Fridays it is worth watching the prayers and sermons of the imam on the 2M TV channel in Morocco’s finest mosques to see some of the interiors.

The Ben Saleh Mosque is in a square at the end of Derb Dabachi. It is remarkable as being the sole example of Merinid architecture in Marrakech .It is currently been refurbished. Behind the mosque is the Medersa Ben Saleh which was built n 1671 by Sultan Moulay Rachid and has been completely restored having been a ruin for many years.

There are hundreds of mosques in Marrakech both ancient and modern and new mosques continue to be built many with the financial support of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

For More Information on  the Mosques of Marrakech or a Marrakech Tour 

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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Imperial Meknes, What to See and Do, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Moulay Ismail Mausoleum and Spiritual Site

Morocco ‘s 4th Imperial City of Meknes is often left off tourist itineraries. Meknes is a UNESCO World heritage site and has massive imposing ramparts, 25 kms long, built by Sultan Moulay Ismail, of the Alaouite dynasty, who ruled Morocco from 1672-1727. He chose Meknes as his capital because of the resistance and intrigue he encountered in Fes and Marrakech. He successfully defeated warring tribes and religious brotherhoods in the south uniting the country and repelling European invaders in the north, liberating Tangiers from British rule. The Sultan Moulay Ismaeil also withstood the Ottoman invaders who took Tunisia and Algeria.

Having won many battles and ensuring the unity of what became the modern Moroccan state, he returned to build Meknes as his capital over a period of 55 years. Moulay Ismail was not one to do things by half measures. The old town of Meknes had been the capital of a Berber tribe which had come from Tunisia, the Mekanassa. Alongside this old medina town the Sultan built his imperial city which provided accommodation for his wives and some 500 concubines and 800 children with 24 royal palaces, mosques, barracks and ornamental gardens, surrounded by four sets of massive defensive walls .

The Sultan also installed his army of black soldiers, the Abids or Black Guard, which grew to a force of more than 25,000 in number during his reign in Meknes. He used this slave army to impose a centralized state instead of using unreliable Moroccan tribes to enforce his rule as other sultans had done before him. He created a huge complex, which you can still see, for storage facilities and stabling for thousands of horses at the Heri el Souani granary. He used 50,000 Berber and European slaves to build the imperial city. He plundered the roman remains of Volubilis and completely removed the interior of the Badi Palace in Marrakech to build his imperial city.

Despite his iron control during his reign he failed to ensure the succession. Shortly after his death his sons dismantled most of what he had built within the walls and removed the materials to other locations following a pattern repeated in Moroccan history up until the French Protectorate and conservation efforts following Morocco’s independence in 1956.

Dar Jamai Museum, Meknes

Meknes has some remarkable entrance gates or babs, the best known and most ornate is the Bab Mansour, embellished with zellij tiles and Islamic script engraven on stucco. It is at Place el Helim which separates the Medina from the Imperial city and the nearby Bab Jema en Nouar ,both designed by Moulay Ismail’s court architect, a Christian renegade known as Mansour el Aleuj. The Dar Jamai Museum overlooks the Place el Helim and is a former palace built in 1882 for the Jamai family, two of whom were viziers to the sultan. Since 1920 it became one of Morocco’s best museums displaying the work of urban craftsmen and traditional Berber tribal artifacts. Its exhibits include ceramics, antique Fes and Meknes pottery, Berber jewelry, rugs, kelims, antique carpets, embroidery and woodwork. You can also enjoy the greenery and fountains of the museum’s Andalusian garden . Upstairs the vizier’s salon is arranged as a typical 19th century palace reception room with period decorations and furniture.

Opposite the Grand Mosque is the Medersa Bou Inania, a Merinid Medersa ( Islamic college) built in 1358 by Bou Inania ,who also built the renowned Medersa of the same name in Fes which is much larger. The medersa has fine zellij tiles, delicate stucco relief work and a carved olive wood ceiling. You can climb up to the roof for a fine view of the green tiled Grand Mosque and its minaret. The medersa itself is closed to non muslims.

In the Imperial City the tomb of its founder Sultan Moulay Ismail remains and is open to non muslims. It has courtyards which lead to the tomb hall which is finely decorated with zellij tiles and crafted stucco decorations. You can view the tomb but should not advance in to the chamber which is visited by pilgrims.

Moulay Ismail’s parade ground, the mechaouar, for reviewing his troops, is now called the Place Lalla Aouda and lies to the south of the Bab Mansour . The Koubbba al Sufara further on, is where the sultan received ambassadors and stairs lead down to a large crypt with dark rooms which are said to be dungeons but were apparently for storage.

The medina is smaller than that of Fes or Marrakech but nevertheless has good souks for jewelry, textiles, carpets and kelims. For accommodation you can choose riads in the medina including Riad Yacout or Riad D’Or and the Ville Nouvelle has a number of hotels including the Ibis and the Transatlantique. If you fancy a drink there is Le Pub and there are a number of restaurants in the medina including Dar Sultana and Restaurant Zitouna and in the Ville Nouvelle, such as Chez Phillipe and the Bistrot Art & Wine Bar. Meknes is a good place to stay whilst visiting the nearby Roman ruins of Volubilis with its famous mosaics and the religious pilgrimage town of Moulay Idris.

As well as being famous for its ramparts Meknes and the region is also a major agricultural centre and is home to the famous vineyards of Celliers de Meknes at Chateau Roslane which produces many fine Moroccan wines. Ask your travel agent to arrange a visit.

For More Information on Meknes Tours and Attractions

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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Films to watch before Traveling to Morocco, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Casablanca With Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman

Two older well known films featuring Morocco are Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much which features James Stewart and Doris Day and was made in 1956. It has all the tense drama of a Hitchcock thriller and has a scene on the Jemma El Fna square where Hitchcock makes a cameo appearance looking at acrobats on the Place in a cafe as a man is stabbed nearby. The French built fortress like police station on the square features prominently in the film. It was made in the same year as Morocco gained independence and captures some of the excitement of the period.

The film Casablanca in 1942 starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid and features Claude Rains as the French police officer, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Dooley Wilson. All the scenes were shot in a Hollywood studio but the Moroccan street scenes are not too bad and the romantic drama won 3 Academy awards. The hero Humphrey Bogart has to choose between the woman he loves played by Ingrid Bergman and helping her husband in the Czech resistance escape the pro Hitler Vichy forces in Morocco. The picture accurately portrays the war time drama and the plight of refugees in Morocco during the Second World War and was rushed out to coincide with the Allied landings during operation Torch in North Africa in 1942. It is one of the great romantic films with some of the greatest cinema actors of all time. Casablanca still basks in the glory and today’s Rick’s Bar is well worth a visit, you can watch the film as well.

Morocco, Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich & Adolphe-Menjou

Josef Von Sternberg’s production of Morocco in 1930 with Marlene Dietrich and a very young Gary Cooper who is serving in the French Foreign Legion. The film opens with a legionnaire column marching into Mogador . The column stops in the souk and waits as the call to prayer rings out and the people pray, the scenes are very well observed. The shots of life as a legionnaire give an idea of what the period under the French Protectorate was like. This is the film where the young Marelene Dietrich caused a sensation by singing in the local nightclub in top hat and tails and kissing a woman who gave her a white rose after her performance. Both the heroine and hero have a troubled past and a are trying to found a new life in Morocco. It again explores the theme of Morocco as a land of eastern mystery where the characters can find themselves. In the end she follows the legionnaire column into the desert to be with her true love despite the wealth and security offered by another suitor.

The film Hideous Kinky came out in 1998 starring Kate Winslet and Said Taghamoui. In 1972 Jane’s two daughters Bea and Lucy move to Marrakech to escape the boring routines of London. The film captures the hippy period in Morocco. Both Kate Winslet ‘s character and her two daughter’s also go through a voyage of discovery aided by Said Taghamouti’s character who helps them to return to London.

Paul Bowles

The American novelist Paul Bowles narrates Bernado Bertolucci’s version of his great novel The Sheltering Sky starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich and Campbell Scott. As often happens the novelist did not like the film, the novel was perhaps too stark for a Hollywood extravaganza. There are great desert scenes and Paul Bowles appears in a cameo part as well as narrating the film. He spent 52 years living in Tangier writing and thinking about Morocco during his own personal journey of discovery. He was the best known American expatriate in Morocco of the period and introduced many writers of the period to the country.

If you search on Youtube you will find films of old Morocco in 1920,1930,and 1950’s and vivid street scenes and it is thrilling to see places as they were then and are now in modern Morocco. You can also find historic pictures of Mohammed V, Churchill and De Gaulle reviewing French troops in Marrakech during World War II as well as the historic Casablanca conference with President Roosevelt.

Morocco is a very photogenic country because of its string scenery and great films such as David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, Orson Welles’s Othello shot in Essaouira, Martin Scorsese’s, Kundun and also the Temptation of Christ. Many international films continue to be made in Morocco and Morocco has its own burgeoning film industry and film stars.

Written by Colin Kilkelly

For More Information on Films to Read before visiting Morocco or a Morocco Tour 

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Morocco Travel Opportunities, Uncategorized