Category Archives: Travel to Morocco

Rue Laksour and The Mouassine, Gateway to the Marrakech Souks

Marrakech Souk, Bab Laksour – The Mouassine District

Marrakech’s hippest shopping destination is rue Mouassine in the Marrakech Medina. Bab Laksour and the Marrakech medina’s Mouassine district is an intimate introduction for first time visitors to Marrakech. The Mouassine in the Marrakech medina boasts many trendy, fashionable boutiques, antiques dealers along with arts and crafts shops. The Mouassine has become one of the best places to shop in Marrakech. One of the easiest ways to get to Bab Laksour and the Mouassine is from Avenue Mohammed V just after the Ensemble de Artisans which leads to rue Laksour. This route offers an alternative to entering via the Jemma El Fna and the crowded souks.

Riad El Fenn

The Mouassine District is also home to Vanessa Branson’s stylish Riad el Fenn, located at the Derb Abdallah ben Hssain. Riad El Fenn (fenn means art in arabic) is a former palace with panoramic views of the medina and Atlas mountains from its terrace. Also close by is the classical  Moroccan restaurant, Le Tobsil.

The Kounouz jewelry shop is also a well known place to shop and Maison d’ Argan for those who cannot make it to Essaouira. There are many spice and essential oils and natural product stores in the Mouassine. There are also many hanouts, Moroccan owned domestic shops,carpenters and a motorcycle repair shop. Normal domestic life blends seamlessly with the tourist scene in the Mouassine.

Just footsteps from rue Sidi Yamani are antique shops, the Mouassine mosque and fountain. Kulchi, a stylish clothing boutique and Chez Khayati known for quality leather poufs and babouches are two well known boutiques.

Kifkif Marrakech Medina

Kifkif is another intimate and trendy boutique that has jewelry, textiles, leather goods and accessories made by local artisans with a European twist. Kifkif’s owners have a boutique in both the Moussaine District of the Marrakech medina and in Sidi Ghanem, an industrial artistic district 15 minutes outside of the city center of Marrakech.

Rue Laksour, the main street of the Mouassine has a candle shop that sells colored scented candles. There is also a store with traditional Berber musical instruments nearby Stylia Restaurant which is a former palace with a huge ornate door offering the very best in traditional Moroccan cuisine.

The emporium, Artisanal Dar Essalam is also worth visiting. You cannot miss it with its over sized wooden doors decorated with a white stucco portal. The Artisanal sells all kinds of craft items and paintings, a veritable Aladdin’s cave at fixed prices for those who don’t want to haggle with shop keepers over tea.

As you walk on the narrow streets of the Mouassine, a small wood shop displays its wares, bowls, boxes and trays. A covered section has another emporium, the Palais Vizier, which sells carpets. Mosques, local hanouts and riads line the streets of the Moussaine which offers the feel of ordinary life in the medina.

Well known in the Mouassine for socially responsible shoppers is a women’s cooperative called Al Nour that sells hand embroidered sells scarfs, children’s garments and fine linen accessories, all made by handicapped women.

Berber carpets line the wall of the Mouassine. Facing A Nour is an archway topped by a building of Portuguese origin which bridges the street. There is a spice and natural products shop. Passing through the archway you will find the large wooden door of the Kssour Agafay which is a 16th century riad once home to a noble chorfa family. It has been completely restored to its former glory featuring painted intricate stucco decoration and 4 meter high doors and carved wooden ceilings, by Abel Damoussi. As well as being a guest house it is also an exclusive private members club. If you knock on the door you might be lucky enough to be shown round.

Nearby Kssour Agafay are two fine Berber jewelry shops and a ceramic store. Finally a kelim and rug shop with antique wooden doors on display, the Bazaar Chichoua, completes the rue Ksour and leads on to the rue Mouassine.

If books are what you fancy then off route of the rue Mouassine is a French language bookshop filled to the brim of coffee table books on Morocco. To the right is the busy covered street leading to the Place Bab Fteuh and beyond it the entrance to the Souk Semarine. To the left the rue Mouassine leads on up to the Mouassine Mosque and its Fountain.

During a walk through this gateway of the Marrakech souk you will also discover an impressive, colorful array of shops lining the street that offer the best in Moroccan handicrafts including jewelry shops, ceramics, leather goods, lanterns ,carpets, rugs, clothes, lighting design shops and fine linen (Kis boutique and Esprit Coton) spices and natural products such as Argan. Marrakech’s Mouassine District is full of surprises.

For More Information about a Marrakech Tour of the Bab Laksour or Mouassine District in Marrakech

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 16th Century Douiria Discovery in Marrakech, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Marrakech -Mouassine Derb El Hammam Douiria

A previously hidden discovery of great historic and cultural importance is emerging from behind layers of white plaster in a private residence next door to the great 16th century Mouassine mosque built when the Saadian dynasty made Marrakech their imperial capital. Marrakech became one of the great cities in the Islami c world with a population of perhaps 50,000. The major projects of the dynasty including the mosques at  Mouassine, Bab Doukkala, Ben- Youssef  and  Sidi Bel -Abbes  gave the city a new dynamic.The Saadians initiated a grand building program and moved the Jewish population to the Mellah and distributed land to Chorfa families so they could occupy the area.

Between the mosque and the Mouassine fountain an archway leads into a small street, the Derb al Hammam alongside  the great wall of the mosque . The area is undergoing major restorative work. There is  a massive entrance door into the mosque on the right hand side and on reaching the Douiria you find a small entrance “the Saba”.  The open doorway reveals two  internal doorways.

On the left, stairs lead up to the douiria which was a guest apartment and the other door leads in to the house and the hammam  which gives its name to the street. The guests were given an honored place separate from the domestic life of the house. The Douiria in its restored form is an important commentary on 16th century Moroccan social history the courtly art of hospitality for honored guests who were housed so close to the mosque.

The Mouassine Derb El Hammam 16th Century

As you enter the apartment you come into the central room, a lounge which has two seating areas  facing each other crowned by carved wooden designs and  an intricately painted ceiling. On either side two rooms face each other . They could have been a bedroom or sitting room.  Four large panels in the central lounge repeat floral patterns in a set of three colors: green, red , yellow. The completed restoration will reveal a symphony of color.

The room behind the hall has a wooden ceiling decorated with a sun design. The walls and pillars with stucco decoration reveal brightly colored designs the ” testir ” geometric tracery radiating around a central star called ” the cobwebs of the Prophet é. The ” touriq ” ornaments represent leaves and the sculpture, a  ” honeycomb ” of wood , stone, or plaster, repeating a pattern called mqarbes.  Plasterers or “guebbassa ” could generally read and write. The effect suggests an ornamental garden. .

Patrick Man’ach  and Hamid Mergani of the Maison de la Photographie  in Marrakech and the Berber Ecomuseum  Dar Tafza near Ourika bought the Mouassine  Douiria in December 2012 and the restoration work is supported by friends including  Xavier Salmon, of the Louvre museum in Paris,  Hugo van Tilborg, Bruno Biker,  and Peter Mestralett.

This apartment was inhabited from 1954 to 2013 by a family from Marrakesh, who concreted the floors and put layers of white plaster over the walls and ceilings which actually helped to preserve most of the decorative motifs and ornamentation underneath.

16th Century Ceiling Derb El Hammam

When they acquired the douiria, rain was falling from the terrace, toilets had destroyed some of the  stucco. They could not see the ornamental details but what was visible was the wood elements, the doors, and ceilings. The walls were covered with water paintings. They completed tests in different parts and found that  under the painting was a layer of white plaster, and another layer of painting and  a further layer of 6 cm. of white plaster. Underneath this they found the original pink plaster which covered the walls.

They painstakingly removed the layers of white plaster and the interior of the douiria began to change as various ornamental features were revealed giving a subtle variation and lightness to the decor. They discovered that the original pink pigment layer on the walls was intact.

They had to consider the right process to clean the pigments and preserve them.  They also had to avoid using any water in the process as this could damage the pigments. Water, on cotton, was used to remove the white plaster layer and reveal the original delicate pink on the walls.

This cleaning process was particularly important in the chamber at the back of the Douiria adjacent to the mosque wall. Two columns of white plaster stretching up to the ceiling were covered with paintings. Following the careful removal of the white plaster tests showed a motif of pink plaster, and an elegant motif probably from the early 17th Century, the period of  Sultan Moulay Ismail.

Patrick Man’ach and Hamid Megrani  decided that the douiria had to appear as it was,  as the quality of its preservation was exceptional.  Elements would only be added where, there absence would present a problem in the general appearance  of the apartment in its original form.

They selected two young expert potters  from Dar Tafza, in the  Ourika valley who understood what needed to be done during the restoration. Xavier Salmon stayed some weeks in the douiria to complete the tests and understand the details. He transmitted his passion for the restoration process to the young craftsmen. A total workforce of ten men was selected.

They uncovered and completed  restorations on the terrace , removed the surface layer  and checked the wooden beams. If the beams were in bad condition, they were replaced. They cleaned all the “dead earth” the mud which had fall over the reverse side of the décor up to one meter or more. There is a vacuum between the décor ceiling and the beams supporting the terrace floor. The structure of the walls was checked and carefully repaired. Inside aeration was reintroduced systematically in the construction, to guarantee the ventilation in the spaces.

On the façade, they had to pull down a heavy layer of cement, repair the façade with original old bricks and they found a beautiful portico and remains of pink stucco. After some weeks of intervention, the façade appeared in its simple, elegant  perfection.

Inside, they had to cover the wooden doors and eliminate the cement floor of the patio. Then they discovered the three cupolas of bricks for the ground floor hamman. The beams supporting the inner walls were in a very bad condition: it was a very delicate operation to cut them in pieces, remove and replace them. The complete structure of the douiria was isolated from humidity and direct water. Toilets and septic tanks were removed.

A systematic sequence of photography was introduced to cover all steps of the restoration. Students of the Ecole d’Architecture de Marrakech visited the Douiria regularly and were introduced to the concept of patrimony.

The doors and wooden ceilings were left untouched.  Nothing was done to the colors except careful cleaning and nourishing of the wood.

The pigments were intact and nothing was added. The original pink plaster was repaired using gypsum from a gypsum quarry in the Ourika valley .The gypsum stones were heated in an oven and  filtered resulting in excellent quality stone which was used to repair the pink layer of plaster when needed.The restoration is still in process with a workforce of ten men . The next period  of restoration will be consecrated entirely to cleaning the pigments.

They have approached UNESCO  via  Mr. Abdelghani Tayyibi Director of the National School of Architecture in Marrakech and Delegate UNESCO Chairman for Morocco to obtain the UNESCO  designation or title as a Masterpiece at Risk. The designation would help those who wish to restore and revive buildings at risk. Morocco does not have the legislative or regulatory apparatus to qualify a building as a ” masterpiece at risk” and what qualifies a building for such a category.  Architectural agencies which can respond to the ancient architectural considerations are also still lacking. Many buildings of various sizes, could benefit from obtaining this qualification, and the government would then have an additional means of action to initiate restoration projects.

One wonders what other hidden treasures exist under layers of plaster in other properties in Marrakech’s medina. Marrakech can only benefit by more such discoveries that can be put on public display. Morocco’s turbulent history has meant that much from earlier generations was destroyed.

Apart from the magnificent Medersa Ben Youssef so much of Marrakech’s Islamic art treasures are hidden from view and non believers are not allowed to enter religious establishments. Hopefully one day this may change for a few of the older mosques and zaouias.

When the restoration work on the Dar El Hammam Douiria is complete it is planned to open it to the public and to mount high level art exhibitons there. If you want to visit the Douiria in Marrakech contact the owner at www.douiria.org

By Colin Kilkelly

For More Information about a Marrakech Tour or to visit the restored 16th Century Douiria

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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Essaouira’s Jewish Heritage, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Synagogue Rabbi Pinto Ark

In the new Moroccan constitution adopted in 2011 in the context of the Arab Spring , His Majesty King Mohammed VI reaffirmed the “Hebrew distinctive characteristic” of Morocco as ” one of the age-old pieces ” of “its national identity”” and he called for “the restoration of all the Jewish temples ” in the Kingdom. In a message at the restoration ceremony of the 17th century Slat al Fassayine Synagogue in Fes, King Mohammed VI reiterated his commitment to religious freedom and spiritual diversity, and emphasized the importance of the three-thousand-year-old Jewish legacy in Morocco.

King Mohammed VI commended the institutions and individuals whose years of effort led to the restoration of Slat al Fassayine and called for the restoration of all Moroccan synagogues.  Morocco is intent on making the Judeo-Moroccan cultural heritage a priority as part of its larger domestic program to preserve the unique and historic aspects of Moroccan culture.

“As is enshrined in the Kingdom’s new Constitution,” His Majesty said, “the Hebrew heritage is indeed one of the time-honored components of our national identity. For this reason, I wish to call for the restoration of all the synagogues in the other Moroccan cities so that they may serve not only as places of worship, but also as forums for cultural dialogue and for the promotion of our cultural values.”

Essaouira Jewish Cemetery 16th Century

Essaouira is the site of an annual pilgrimage to the grave of the renowned Rabbi Chaïm Pinto,known for many miracles during his lifetime, he died 1845. His home and synagogue are preserved as an historic and religious site. It is situated in the Mellah. The hiloula of Chaïm Pinto is held in September every year and is attended by many devout jews from all over the world..

The Chaim Pinto Synagogue, is an historic site in Essaouira, Morocco, formerly known as Mogador,   and was the home and synagogue of Rabbi Chaim Pinto. Although there is no longer a Jewish community in Essaouira, the building is an active synagogue, used when pilgrims or Jewish tour groups visit the city. The synagogue is on the second floor of a three-story, courtyard building inside the walls of the old city that also contained Rabbi Pinto’s home and office. The building is of whitewashed plaster over masonry. The synagogue consists of a single large room. There are two women’s sections, one across the courtyard and one on the third floor, both with windows looking into the synagogue. The synagogue room underwent a modern renovation in line with the policy of restoring  Morocco’s Jewish synagogues announced by King Mohammed VI, concealing the ceiling and column capitals, and painting the wood of the Torah Ark and Bimah light blue. The other synagogue being renovated is Slat Attias

Synagogue Rabbi Pinto Interior

Essaouira’s mellah covers over 10 percent of the town, but Jews constituted almost 40 percent of the population in the late 1880’s. Jewish stars on the doors to the mellah show the degree to which Jews were accepted in Essaouira, to the point that some of the richer Jews did not even live in the mellah. Commemorative plaques indicate the buildings in which synagogues were located. The Jewish community formed an important link with the outside world for Morocco not only as regards trade but also in terms of art and culture. André Elbaz the painter is one of many, who lives in France but always remembers his birth place, Essaouira, and continues to exhibit there at the Contemporary Art Centre at Essaouira.

Former inhabitants of Essaouira, most of them Jewish, formed a committee to rehabilitate the town. The Jewish cemetery, just outside the city gates, is extremely well-kept.

Rabbi Haim Pinto

The cemetery  is renowned as the site of an annual pilgrimage to Rabbi Haim Pinto. Annually, on the hillula or anniversary of the rabbi’s death (26 Ellul on the Jewish calendar), Jews from around the world come on pilgrimage to the rabbi’s grave. Essaouira was founded in 1765. The oldest tombs date from 1776. These tombs carved out of marine sandstone, are interesting. Contrary to Jewish tradition and Mosaic Law, they are sculptured with very marked human forms.

A famous citizen of Essaouira, the adviser to King Mohammed VI , André Azoulay ,who is Jewish, has said that his birthplace Essaouira is, “the single place in the Arab world equipped with a population mainly Jewish until 1930, could be used today as example for the dialogue between the Jews and the Moslems throughout the world”

During the 19th century the Jewish population in Essaouira grew from 4,000 to 12,000 from 1830 to 1912, and declined to about 6500 in 1936.This is attributed to the decline of commerce and other economic activity during the French Protectorate era in Mogador in favor of Casablanca and Agadir.

The immigration trends of the 1950s and 1960s caused the Mogador Jewish community to dwindle. n the early 1970s most of its Jewish community members resided in USA,Canada, Europe and Israel. By 2005, the community had almost disappeared.

Essaouira used  to be an example of a small town in which Muslims and Jews lived side by side in both rich and poor districts, working together but socially segregated – and in peace. The rise of Essaouira as a commercial port in the 19th century because of the cotton trade and the links with major ports such as Manchester and Liverpool saw the Jewish community involved in export –import trade in Essaouira reach its zenith. It was unique because there were almost as many Jews as there were Muslims, so the term “minority” did not really apply, as it did in every other town and city in Morocco and everywhere in the Arab world.

Aside from ownership of the land in and around the town, which always remained in the hands of the caids and makhsen – local landed gentry and royal family clans – most urban-style import-export business was dominated by Jewish families.

The one exception was all artisan work connected to wood, directly linked to the vast forests around the town. From the very beginning of royal trading in the 18th century, the Corcos family dominated the import of tea leaves from Britain, which originated from its Far East colonies, and was thus responsible for making tea the traditional morning beverage in Morocco.

Essaouira’s last Jews began to leave following the Six Day War. Many of the working-class families left the mellah, the Jewish district in Arab cities, for Israel. The Kasbah’s well-off business leaders headed mostly to France and Canada. But thousands of Jews remain here, buried in two cemeteries on the edge of town, including Rabbi  Chaim Pinto. Thousands of Jews return each year to venerate his tomb and those of the many Moroccan Jewish saints and ancestors uniting them with their past and  also celebrating the future.

Many religious schools, a yeshiva, and several English-French Jewish schools were founded in Essaouira in the 1800s. In the early 20th century, the Jewish population in Essaouira was still higher than the Muslim population, and urban life was regulated by the Jewish calendar.

Essaouira’s real beginning as a import-export center came in 1760 when the sultan of Morocco appointed families from Casablanca, Marrakech and other northern cities to settle here and become official royal traders. Many if not most were Jewish. The town grew. According to Ottmani, seven of the town’s leading families in the 19th century were Muslim, while 25 were Jewish, with names such as Corcos, Afriat, Bensaoud, Cohen Solal, Belisha, Ohana, Pinto and El-Maleh.

In the beginning, these families conducted trade by ship mostly with Britain, but also handled local trade and the camel caravans coming from Timbuktu across the desert, with links to Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo and Mecca. In modern times the caravans disappeared, but international trade focused on Europe became highly competitive.

The silver jewelry work was famous for the much sought-after filogram design, the Dag Ed Essaouiri – thin lines converge on a circular center as meticulous radii, a design that was instantly recognizable as native to Essaouira. The master silversmiths were all Jewish, as were many of the workers, who lived mostly in the mellah. Today, the remaining silver designers are Berbers, many of whom worked with the local Jews until they left. The local Arab jewelers all work in gold. Israel has been a part of the attempt to commercialize. There is an ongoing attempt to link French-speaking Jews back to their countries of origin in North Africa. In some cases, it has been successful, as French and Canadian Sephardim, and in some cases Israelis, have bought homes there.

The Essaouira Alliance Israélite Universelle School, was founded in 1765. While no longer an Alliance school, the building remains the same, with its open courtyard, narrow staircases, and rooftop view of the Atlantic ocean.

For More Information about the Essaouira’s Jewish Heritage or an Essaouira 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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Taroudant, Mini-Marrakech & Walled Berber City, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Tarodaunt Walled City

If you want a relaxing stay in an authentic walled Berber town look no further than the medieval town of Taroudant. It lies beside the High Atlas mountains in the Sous Valley in the southern part of Morocco and it has retained its authentic Berber character and roots. Taroudant is well placed as a base for exploring the region  to the east of  Agadir  and its beaches, it is on the road to Ouarzazate and the Sahara desert and adrive over the dramatic Tizi n’Test pass to Marrakech.

It is said to resemble a smaller version of Marrakech with its walls and ramparts surrounding the city. For a very short time Tarodaunt was indeed the capital of the Saadian dynasty  used as a base for attacking the Portuguese in Agadir. The Saadians then moved to Marrakech. Taroudant saw its golden age during the reign of Mohammed ash-Sheikh who constructed the city walls and built the great mosque and its minaret in 1528. Taroudant unlike the imperial cities of Fes, Marrakech and Meknes does not have a ville nouvelle, a modern part of town, which greatly adds to its authentic ancient atmosphere and charm. It has a population of around 70,000 but retains its small market town character.

Taroudant remains a traditional Berber fortified  town enclosed by its ramparts which are the best preserved in Morocco, nearly 6 kilometres long with bastions and nine gates that still remain intact. A perfect way to see the town walls is to take a horse drawn caleche or hire a bicycle. It was an important staging and trading post on the ancient camel trading route and there is still a small tannery outside the ramparts selling products made from camel hide such as leather bags,sandals and belts. The town is well known for its quality leather products.

Its souks are welcoming and relaxed and excellent value for discerning shoppers, especially for local crafts and Berber and Tuareg jewellery, for which it is renowned. Prices here are significantly less than in the big cities like Marrakec and Fes. There are souks near each of the two main squares, Assarag and Talmoklate.

There is also a weekly souk outside the city walls, near the new university district. Taroudant has always benefited from the diverse agricultural produce from the Souss  and remains a local market town  .The Berber market, called Jnane al-Jaami, sells spices and dried fruits but mostly clothes and household goods. The Arab souk, however, specialises in handicrafts such as terracotta, wrought iron, pottery, brass and copper, leather and carpets, rugs and jewellery. It is a place to gain a real insight into Morocco’s everyday culture and environment.

It has a very equitable climate in winter and in summer it is cooled by the current from the Canaries. It is therefore no surprise that Taroudant is home to some of the best hotels in the south of Morocco; they include the the exclusive haunt of the rich and famous, the Hotel Gazelle D’Or, which began as hunting lodge for a French baron in the 1920’s and was converted into a hotel after the  Second World War, it has superb grounds. Other well known hotels include the Dar Zitoun and the Hotel Palais Salam and there is a full range of hotel accommodation in town. The Riad al Hossoun also comes highly recommended and has a superb garden and views of the Atlas Mountains.

Activities outside Taroudant include visiting Berber villages in the foot hills of the High Atlas and Anti Atlas mountains and the Oases and experiencing the wild life and birds in the Souss Massa National Park The village of Tioute 36 kms from Taroudant has a Kasbah on a hill which has been partly converted into a restaurant area with a pool which is alluring in the summer heat. The ancient fortified village of Freija is 11 km from Taroudant also has a Kasbah, now the Riad Freija.

For More Information on a Tarodaunt Tour 

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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Dakka Marrakchia Music Festival, Your Morocco Tour Guide

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Dakka Marrakechia musicians

Marrakech has been celebrating the Marrakchia Music  festival since the Saadian dynasty in the 15th and early 16th century.It takes place in February each year and celebrates traditional music passed down by generations in honour of  the seven patron saints or ‘Sabaatou Rijal’ of Marrakech.

The seven saints of Marrakech were: Qadi Ayad, Imam El Jazouli, Imam Souhayli, Sidi Youssef Ben Ali, Sidi Abdelaziz Tabbaa, Sidi Abdellah El Gazouani and Abou El Abbas Essebti. To represent these seven saints, musicians from seven districts, the El Moukkaf quarter, Bin Laarassi, Bab D’Bagh, Derb Dabachi, Sabtiyyine, Cashbah and Ben Salah, take part in the festival. During the Dakka Marrakchia Festival ordinary locals, such as shopkeepers, artists and craftsmen, become the heart of the event, filling the air with traditional music choral chants and rhthyms.

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Rhythmic music and chants

Groups of male musicians perform with percussion instruments and drums accompanied bychoral chants. Instruments include the lakrakash, taarija, naffar and tara.The Asdekaa Nakhil Association (their name means “Friends of the Marrakech Palm Tree”) organises the festival each year.

The followers of the Saint El Jazouli played an important role during the Saadian dynasty by establishing zaouias to give religious support to their cause the music reflects the fervour of those times as well as the traditions and civic pride of Marrakech.

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 Medina Gardens of Fes, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Jnan Sbil (Formerly Bou Jeloud) gardens entrance

The Medina Gardens of Fes make for the perfect Fes Tour to compliment this UNESCO World Heritage Site’s ancient Mosques, Monuments and Zaouias. The Bab Bou Jeloud is the main entry point to Fes el Bali. This area divided the cities of Fes Jedid and Fes el Bali and was developed into three palace gardens by Sultan Moulay Hassan in the 19th Century. These were the gardens of Dar Batha,Bou Jeloud and  Dar Beida. The Jnan Sbil gardens (formerly the Bou Jeloud gardens) on the north-western edge of the medina has palms, eucalyptus, weeping willows, citrus trees and bamboo. The park was opened to the public by Moulay Hassan in the 19th century. Jnane Sbil encompasses 7.5 hectares and is located in the heart of city. It is one of the oldest gardens in Fes. Because of its historical importance, great care was taken to restore the Jnan Sbil garden to its original design and after four years of detailed restoration and renovation of the heirloom plants, the hydraulic systems and the famous waterwheel, the project was completed and re-opened in June 2010.

The Oued Fes river and the Oued Jawahir (river of pearls) flowed through the garden and a broken down water wheel remains as a reminder of how the medieval city was powered by water wheels which provided craftsmen and their workshops with power. On the western edge near Bab Makina, the Nouria Cafe is still open and is a very pleasant place for tea or lunch.

Andalusian Style Garden, Batha Museum

Dar Batha ,which is now the Museum of the Arts and Traditions of Fes, is the only one of these palace gardens open to the public. It is an Andalucian garden which boasts a three-hundred year old Quercus Rotundifolia, Washington Fifera, Cycas Revolta and Moroccan fountains. The Batha Garden is a serene escape from the bustling medina in Fes. It serves as a location for the Fes Festival of Sacred World Music each June.Andalusian gardens are based on the charbagh, the four-part garden with water ways and fountains.

Shaded with citrus trees and perfumed with orange blossom, red roses and sweet-scented jasmine, Islamic gardens were designed for tranquillity, reflection and relaxation in mind, earthly paradises to inspire a spiritual experience and inner peace.

In the arabo-andalousian culture the garden is a major element of  architectural balance and of lifestyle. Fes was one the first cities in the world to built a water distribution network which enabled the city to develop the art of gardening. The city was founded following the muslim exodus from Spain in 1492 following the Reconquista and the exiles from Andalousia brought with them the artistic creativity culture and vision of Moorish Spain which has distinguished Fes ever since.

Palais Jamai Hotel Garden

The Palais Jamai which is Fes’s premier five star hotel and also a former palace has a superb  Andalusian garden once the property of the Grand Vizier of Sultan Hassan, Haj Amaati Jamai. The  garden is oldest example of Andalusian style in Fes with Al Hambra Classical Axial lines.

Robert Johnstone, has created a beautiful garden in the ruin at Riad Idrissy which  can be viewed daily from noon until 8pm. Johnstone describes it as “half garden, half allotment.” In it he grows gardenias, a jacaranda, papyrus, and a mix of edibles that are used in the riad’s kitchen, such as verbena, mint, chillies, sorrel, rosemary, parsley and tomatoes.

Jardin des Biehn is based on traditional Islamic forms, with water channels intersecting the garden, and fountains at one end. It was formerly the summer palace of a pasha who housed his concubines and slaves there. Now a boutique hotel, the rooms all open onto the lovely garden, which features roses, irises, large trees and a variety of edible herbs.

Fes et Gestes is a colonial house, which is now a maison d’hote. It has four equal garden beds, with a grand fountain in the centre.

Palais Mokri, Fes

The El Mokri Palace is located on the Southern of the old Medina on a hill – the hill of springs (El Ayoun), on the edge of the small valley of Wadi Fes and above the south gate, Bab Did.Built in around 1906 by Si Tayeb El Mokri, son of the king’s grand vizier the grand palace has a large garden with terraces and fountains. Ryad Mokri also has a a fine and well tended garden.

For more information about a Fes Tour or a Garden Tour of Fes 

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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Jewish Heritage Tours Casablanca,Your Morocco Travel Guide


Temple Beth-El, Casablanca

Casablanca is respectively admired for its longstanding Jewish Heritage. Casablanca is the perfect place to take a Jewish Heritage Tour. The Jewish community in Casablanca, Morocco has a strong history  that has survived along with it’s synagogues, cemeteries, monuments and shrines. When visiting Casablanca a Jewish Heritage tour from the Port or from your hotel offers insight into the ties of the historic Jewish community and what remains today.

The 4,500 Casablancan Jews in Casablanca 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. The Jewish community of Casablanca also contributed to the construction of the Hassan II Mosque, the second largest in the world. On a Jewish Heritage Tour it is possible to visit the Muslim shine of Sidi Belyout.  Some Jews visit annually the Muslim shrine of Sidi Belyout, 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.

Jewish Cemetery, Casablanca

On a Jewish Heritage  Tour you will start your morning off visiting Casablanca’s Jewish Sacred sites and then continue seeing the highlights of old Casablanca. The synagogues, cemeteries, monuments and communal institutions of Casablanca show how important the city has been to the Jewish community during the twentieth century.

Temple Beth-El:
Visit Temple Beth-El, the Jewish Synagogue in Casablanca. Beth-El, is considered the center piece of a once vibrant Jewish community. Its stained glass windows and other artistic elements, is what attracts tourists to this synagogue.

Casablanca Jewish Syngagogue

Jewish Mellah: 
The mellah of Casablanca is young by Moroccan standards, not much more than a century old. It assaults the senses in the evening, with a sea of women in brightly colored djellabahs carrying and selling fruit and vegetables throughout the cramped, narrow streets.  While Jews no longer live in the mellah, kosher butchers are found in the old market, next to other butchers selling horse meat. The 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.

Visit the Museum of Moroccan Judiasm in Casablanca. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism of Casablanca is a museum of history and ethnography, created by the Jewish Community of Casablanca in 1997 with the support of the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage. The Jewish Museum in Casablanca is tucked into a residential neighborhood and holds a treasure trove with it being the Arab region’s only Jewish Museum. It uses world-class standards of conservation for its national and international collections. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism presents religious, ethnographic and artistic objects that demonstrate the history, religion, traditions and daily life of Jews in the context of Moroccan civilization.

Museum of Moroccan Judiasm, Casablanca

The Jewish Heritage tour includes a visit of the Jewish Museum in Casablanca also referred to as the Museum of Moroccan Judaism which covers an area of 700 square meters, is the first of its kind in the Arab world. It consists of:

– A large multipurpose room, used for exhibitions of painting, photography and sculpture
– Three other rooms, with windows containing exhibits on religious and family life (oil lamps, Torahs, Chanukah lamps, clothing, marriage contracts (ketubot) Torah covers…pastedGraphic.pdf and exhibits on work life;
– Two rooms displaying complete Moroccan synagogues;
– A document library, a video library and a photo library.
– The Museum offers guided visits, sponsors seminars and conferences on Jewish-Moroccan history and culture, and organizes video and slide presentations. On special request, it organizes group visits in Arabic, French, English or Spanish.

Casablanca’s Jewish Cemetery:
The 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.

Casablanca’s Jewish Club: Option – If time allows.

Lunch Options:  Kosher Food in Casablanca, Seafood or Moroccan Fare.

Kosher Jewish Lunch:
– Cercle de L’Alliance is one of the centers/buildings where Jews from Casablanca hang around. The bottom floor/lobby is where people sit around, smoke cigars or cigarettes and socialize. You will also find a small bar and a mid size restaurant on the same floor with great appetizers and outstanding food

– D.E.J. J. is a restaurant that primarily serves dairy, pizzas, salads and pastas. Meat is not served here.

– La Truffe offers skewered chicken accompanied with sides of bread, salad, olives and pickles. It is the most reasonably priced kosher restaurant located in the downtown area of Casablanca across from the medina.

Searfood or International Fare:
An international seafood restaurant by Casa’s port, the Corniche, or reknowned seafood haunt, El Mer or Rick’s Cafe– a famous Piano Bar run by an American and named after the Movie “Casablanca.”.

Hassan II Mosque:
After lunch visit the Mosque of Hassan II. Casablanca is home to the Hassan II Mosque, designed by the French architect  Michel Pinseau. It is situated on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic, which can be seen through a gigantic glass floor with room for 25,000 worshippers. Next visit the Hassan II Mosque.The Mosque of Hassan II’s promontory offers lovely views overlooking Casa in the residential Afna quarter.

Casablanca Habous Market & Cooperatives:
– End the day with a visit to Casablanca’s Habous Market and Local Casablanca cooperatives. Shop and Explore local crafts and wood work traditions, leather and carpets.

For more information about an Casablanca Tour

For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial Cities,Seaside Resorts,Sahara DesertBerber villagesA Taste of Morocco,Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best ofMarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel ExplorationTravel 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 (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jewelry Tours, Jewish Casablanca Tours, Jewish Food, Jewish Heritage Casablanca, Travel to Morocco