Tag Archives: Berber Life

The Tissa Horse Festival, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Horse riders perform with guns during the El-Jadida International Horse Show in El-Jadida

During the year, the small town of Tissa,on the edge of the Rif region, in the province of Taounate, is a quiet rural community, tucked away in the hills of the Moroccan countryside, fifty kilometers away from Fez. From 11-15 September 2013, the town will be transformed, as it is each year, in to one of the premier horse festivals in Morocco.

The culture and tradition of horses and horsemanship is deeply rooted and widespread in Morocco. The Fantasia or Tborida are contested by competing teams dressed in colorful traditional gandouras and djellabas, charging the full length a field only pulling up at the last minute whilst firing their djezail flintlocks with a thunderous explosion. The Tborida teams led by a ma’alem, or teacher,form up Into a single line and at the signal begin the charge. In the closing stages they must rotate their djezails with one arm at full gallop before pulling up and firing.

They are assessed by the judges for horsemanship, maintaining their line during the charge and successfully pulling up at the end. The horses are trained to do this, but even so, riding at full gallop with the reins in one hand and the djezail in the other is an impressive feat of horsemanship. Very rarely a horse may run on after the halt. To stand in front of the charge even though it is behind a barrier is to sense something of the fear these riders inspired in the enemy. The firing of the djezails is very loud and the smoke billows in the air,along with the occasional wad from one of the djezails dropping to earth.

The French Romantic painte, Eugène Delacroix, immortalized the Moroccan tribal horseman riding into battle following his first visit to North Africa in the 1830’s and the son of the Pasha of Marrakech, Hassan El Glaoui, famous for his paintings of Moroccan riders and horses once remarked that his father who died in 1956, went to war on horseback.

The large tent city erected for the festival also provides traditional music and dancing as well as displaying artifacts, ceramics and jewelry and providing food and drink. The festival is an important event for the local economy and has been held in Tissa since medieval times. It coincides with the mouassem of a local saint, Sidi Muhammad ben Lahcen who lived in the 15th century.

Like all good horse shows the different breeds of horses are the subject of close attention; pure bred Arabian stallions, Barbary mares and Arab-Berber horses are bought and sold. To bring the Horse Festival of Tissa to a close, there is a huge parade in the stadium. The international horse show at El Jadida under the patronage of King Mohammed VI has done much to reintroduce the Barb horse , which has great strength and endurance , back into international breeding circles.

Tissa has a great reputation as a horse show with a fair, sometimes a circus, a huge bazaar, and finally the official folklore of the region “Hayti”. It is visited by 4,000 spectators each year and is a great opportunity to enjoy an important regional event and mix with the locals and Moroccans who have brought their horses from all over the country. Moroccans living abroad in France, Spain and Italy also participate in festivals such as Tissa.
Tissa was garrisoned by the French during the protectorate because it was on the way to Fes and has an upper Tissa on the hill with a church and other buildings and lower Tissa lies at the bottom of the hill.

For More Information about the Tissa Horse Festival or a Fes 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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North African & Berber Jewelry, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Jewish Woman, Berber Silver Jewelry Fes

In the nineteenth century Morocco began to receive European and American visitors who were also visiting neighboring Algeria,Tunisia and Libya. Early photographers like the Scotsman George Washington Wilson and others began to take photographs of the countryside, towns and people including posed photographs of Berber women adorned in their fine Moroccan jewelry. These photos became the first travel postcards and help to encourage early tourism and an appreciation of North African jewelry.

Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans  and Jews mingled culturally with the Amazigh people . When the Arab  Islamic conquest came in the 7th Century the Berber people were assimilated along with the Jewish population under Islamic rule. The exit from Andalusia of the Moorish and Jewish populations in 1492 added another rich creative seam to Morocco’s already talented craftsmen.

Berber Silver Necklace

The Amazigh Berbers and the Jewish craftsmen permitted to work with precious metals such as gold and silver preserved a unique identity in which jewelry expressed their  social and tribal  customs particularly the use of intricate jewelry as a marriage dowry, central to their way of life and Berber traditions as were carpet weaving, woodwork , and ceramics. North African jewelry preserves the enduring creative diversity and beauty of this living artistic tradition preserved by skilled craftsmen in places such as Tiznit and Taroudant.

The jewelry includes pendants, earrings , bracelets, amber necklaces and the distinctive Berber cross and the Hand of Fatima to ward off the evil eye. The geometric patterns also reflect  tribal identity and in rural areas the jewelry is usually silver, whilst urban jewelry is sometimes made from gold with floral and arabesque designs with filigree and enameling also reflecting  ancient inherited Egyptian, Greek, Byzantine and Roman traditions. Indeed many techniques and materials from diverse locations were used by craftsmen over thousands of years. Beads and coins and amber are common in North African jewelry.

Jewish Hand of Fatima, Filagree

Some materials are believed to have protective and healing qualities and symbolic meaning. Silver is linked with honesty and purity, and when combined with certain stones it is said to heal select ailments. Red Mediterranean coral, associated with life-sustaining blood, is prized for its healing properties. It is worn to promote fertility and to prevent harm to children. Yellow amber attracts sunlight and deflects darkness.

Berber Moroccan Jewelry, Pendant

The two brothers, Patrick and Yves Guerrand Hermes have both been remarkable collectors of North African Jewelry. Patrick Guerrand Hermes, the youngest son of the founder Emile Hermes was the  owner of Villa Ain Kassimou in Marrakech . He sold the contents of this villa including an extensive North African jewelry and a large art collection, on 9 October 2009, at Sotheby’s in Paris before moving to Tangier.

This house in Marrakech is known as prestigious occupants. It was originally built for Olga Tolstoy, daughter of the great writer Leo Tolstoy, before being sold to Barbara Hutton, the wealthy American heiress, who was married five times, including Cary Grant and Prince Igor Troubetzkoy. The collection was reported to have embodied the spirit of North Africa and Morocco.

Patrick Guerrand Hermes introduced his brother Xavier Guerrand Hermes to Morocco and he bought a riad in the Medina in 2011. His extensive collection of over thirty years of North African jewelry and photographs “Desert Jewels”  were displayed at the Museum for African Art in New York and the Philadelphia Museum.

For More Information about  North African Jewelry Travel Exploration Morocco’s Guided Professional Jewelry Tours  

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 48th Marrakech National Festival of Popular Art, July 2013

Marrakech National Festival of Popular Arts Badi Palace

Held under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the National Festival of Popular Arts  is the French acronym in Marrakech is the oldest festival in Morocco. Held annually in Marrakech, Morocco it showcases folk arts of the kingdom through its music, art and local handicrafts.

It is famous as a joyful celebration of the ancient traditions of tribal dancing and music and poetry of the Berber tribes. The center piece is the thrilling spectacle of the evening performance in the huge floodlit grounds of the ancient Badii Palace in the Medina of Marrakech. Tickets are sold at the Theatre Royal on Avenue Mohammed VI for each evening’s performance. As this year’s Festival is being held for the first time in Ramadan, the evening performances which evade the heat of the day are especially welcoming. The brilliantly choreographed performances succeed each other as each team of male and female dancers, drummers and musicians dressed in beautiful tribal costumes, each led by a Maalem or troupe leader, appear from different parts of the stage to give their performances. The language used to introduce the performances is Amazigh, the Berber language, which adds to the thrill of this unique event. If you are in Marrakech, it is a must see annual occasion.

Marrakech National Festival of Popular Arts Parade

On the first evening prior to the performance the troupes parade in their finery from the edge of the Guéliz, the modern part of town, starting at the fountain close to the Hotel Marrakech on Avenue Mohammed V to the Badii Palace in the medina. It is a spectacle not to be missed.
The teams train and compete each year to take part in the festival and the Maalems or troupe leaders , play a significant role as guardians of the traditions of dance and music. The troupes are selected by different regional competitions. This Festival plays a vital role in preserving the berber tribal heritage by keeping these traditions alive. You can see the 16mm films transferred to video of the Berber tribal dances taken in the Atlas Mountains in 1957 by Daniel Chicault the French explorer. They are on permanent display at La Maison de la Photographie.
(http://www.maisondelaphotographie.ma) which is close to the Medersa Ben Youssef in the Medina. (46, Rue souk Ahal Fès ,200 m behind Ben Youssef Medersa). You can also visit the Berber Ecomuseum at Ourika which has historic still photos of the Berber tribes along with original carpets and Berber jewelry. The museum is part of the Maison de la Photographie which has been run since 2009 by Patrick Mana’ch and Hamid Mergani.
The festival foundation team have also introduced the concept of a festival village incorporating different musical performances, music workshops, exhibitions of handicrafts, regional products, conferences and films devoted to Moroccan heritage. FNAP has recently joined the European Forum of music festivals in the world. Founded in 1991, this network is the largest dedicated to world music. It has festivals in twenty countries and attracts more than three million visitors.

For More Information on the 48th National Festival of Popular Arts 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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Ouarzazate Then & Now, A Growing Berber City in Southern Morocco, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Portrait of Writer-Journalist John Gunther

Ouarzazate has one main street, about fifty yards long, and two thousand people, of whom two hundred are French.  The temperature can reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. ”  So says world-renowned journalist John Gunther in 1952, of his visit to Ouarzazate, during the reign of the Pasha Glaoui, whose honored guest he was.

“The sight I enjoyed most,” he says, “next to the kasbahs, was the general store, run by a Greek.  It resembles closely the general store in Twin Corners, Montana, or Greensboro, Vermont.  The frigidaire has cold beer, ham is sliced by a machine made in Toledo, and you can buy anything from a can of sardines to a monkey wrench.”

Ouarzazate Main Square at Dusk

“From Ouarzazate, two roads stretch out which are among the most interesting in all Africa, one going southeast to Zagora, along the celebrated Valley of the Draa, the other projecting eastward through an equally celebrated valley, that of the Dades, which is solid with crumbling kasbahs.  We chose the latter.  Five minutes after we were on the road, it became clear to us–if we needed to know it–that indeed Africa is a continent of contrasts.  We passed first a long line of camions (heavy trucks) carrying manganese, and then a stately camel caravan.”

Ouarzazate today has grown into a city of over 60,000. One of the most popular places to go at dusk is Place Al Mohadine which is home to Ouarzazate’s largest, local outdoor market that sells everything from spices to rose water and a charming cafe named Habous.

Modern Town of Ouarzazate

Inhabited by Berbers, in the past Ouarzazate was a point for African traders passing in and out of Morocco.  During the French era, it was a garrison town.  Ouarzazate today is the center of the Moroccan film industry,  and the starting point for most Sahara Desert tours, as well as being the closest city to the kasbah Ait Benhaddou.

Ait Benhaddou Kasbah, Ouarzazate

Some famous films that were shot at Ait Benhaddou Kasbah include the Kingdom of Heaven, and Penelope Cruz’s Sahara.

Main street in Ouarzazate today

For more information about Ouarzazate Tours or to Contact a Ouarzazate Travel Agency

For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara DesertBerber 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 (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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How Does the Ramadan Fast Affect Tourists in Morocco? Your Morocco Travel Guide

Men At Prayer During Ramadan

How does the Ramadan fast affect tourists traveling to the Imperial Cities, the Sahara Desert and other regions of Morocco during this high holy holiday? Can tourists eat or drink in public during Ramadan?  This article should clear up the confusion on this issue for tourists, to explain the most polite solutions for tourist behavior at this time, and to assure tourists that there is no problem with them visiting Morocco during Ramadan.

Because the Islamic calendar is lunar, holidays such as Ramadan advance by approximately ten days with each subsequent year.  This means that Ramadan makes a cycle through the entire calendar of twelve months each twenty-some years.  This year, Ramadan started on August 12th, 2010 in Morocco.  The fast presently starts in Morocco at approximately 4:30 AM, and ends in the evening at approximately 7:30 PM.

Islamic Lunar Calendar

Tourists in Morocco during Ramadan often hear that some people are not required to fast because of sickness, or health conditions such as diabetes, as well as women having their menstration.  But non-Muslim tourists are often confused about the polite way to behave with Muslims during Ramadan; what tourists are permitted to do, or not do; and tourists wonder which stories they hear are true, or not true.

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca Morocco

Morocco’s Ramadan Law:

It IS actually true that Morocco’s laws prohibit “a person commonly known to be Muslim” from “violating the fast in a public place during Ramadan.”  It is called the Ramadan Law, and is under Article 222 of the Moroccan Penal Code.  (This law also applies to Muslim tourists coming from known Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, if they were to flaunt the fast in public.)   The penalties are from one to six months in prison and a fine of up to approximately 100 Euros.  The law states that the only Muslims who are exempt from this requirement are children, the elderly, the sick;  and pregnant, lactating or menstruating women.

Sometimes one can read about small protests that take place in Morocco against this law.  The truth is, while this law is on the books, people are rarely prosecuted.  Usually, if there is a token protest, the police do their best to try to prevent the protesters from arriving at the protest location, instead of arresting them.

Remember, it is NOT forbidden by law  to EAT during Ramadan (even though it IS socially unacceptable for Muslims who should be fasting), which means that Muslims who decide not to fast in their own homes will incur no penalties (other than sin against God).  The law is very specific saying that Muslims “shall not violate the fast in a PUBLIC place.”  Keeping the fast is difficult, and becomes much more difficult if people actively break it in front of others who are fasting.  Therefore, the reason for this law is two-fold:  to make it easier for those who are fasting, as well as to both teach the young, and communicate the idea to all Muslims that breaking the fast is most definitely not socially acceptable.  This goes right along with several other laws in Morocco which prohibit certain behavior IN PUBLIC PLACES by Muslims (discussed below).

The whole key here is PUBLIC PLACE.  Let’s explore what this means.

Women Shopping During Ramadan

Those Excused from Fasting:

Children are not required to fast at all, although older children (8-12) might be encouraged to try it on a couple of special days during the month.  But no child is FORCED to fast those days.  Those who do usually try hard to get through the day because it gives them the feeling of being “grown up.”  They see the adults doing it, and they want to be part of that adult world, to feel respected and admired for doing so.

Younger children would never be encouraged to fast, even on those one or two special days.  They are still growing and Islam clearly recognizes that fasting is not good for their growing bodies.  If you go to a semi-private location, such as a swimming pool at a private club, you will find all the Muslim mothers feeding their children during the day, and no one objects to this.  But they are not eating out on the public street.  Muslim mothers certainly feed their children at home during the day, as well.

The elderly DO fast.  Elderly people fast unless they are in extremely poor health.  In many cases, doctors even advise them not to fast, but many of them do it anyway.  They do it because they feel there is moral value in fasting, and in many cases, it is a case of self-respect.  Some very elderly or infirm people give up fasting, but very rarely.

Sick (or injured) people are not to fast.  The question becomes how sick or injured one must be.  If blood comes out of one’sbody, such as if someone cuts themself in the kitchen with a knife accidentally, that would invalidate their fast for that day.  But the question is how much.  Suppose a man gets a tiny knick from his razor, is that enough to invalidate the fast?  Supposedly not.  But since that becomes questionable depending upon the size of the knick, many Muslim men shave in the evening during Ramadan, just in case.

People with serious health conditions such as diabetes can fast and are encouraged to do so if their illness is not severe and they have it properly under control.  Those with more advanced or severe diabetes are often told by doctors that they should not fast, yet some of them do anyway.  It seems to be a question of pride (or even showing off to others that they “can” do it) and maintaining respect both in their own eyes and from others, particularly if they are not old.  Some diabetics insist on fasting and even fall into comas because of it, yet continue to fast anyway.  Most Muslims, if questioned about these people insist that they most definitely should not be fasting.

People who are just a little bit sick (a light cold, headache, even sore throat, or ear infection) still have to fast.  If someone had a fever, they would be excused from fasting.  Malingering, when someone is just very slightly ill or not feeling their best is definitely not an acceptable excuse.

Pregnant women are not supposed to fast, but in fact, many do.  This is because pregnant women are supposed to make up the fasting days later in the year on their own.  The explanation given by some Moroccan women for fasting while pregnant is that, “I would not be able to make up all those days on my own.”  However, this behavior is most definitley not condoned by Islam.

Lactating women are not supposed to fast either, and are also required to make up the days on their own.

Menstruating women are not required to fast.  Most women find these days a welcome break during the middle of fasting.  However, if they are working in a company with mixed Moroccan and foreign workers, they will not join others in the lunchroom who are not fasting, even if they themselves are eating during those days; instead they wait, and eat at home.  The reason is interesting.  They say that if a man at their workplace sees them eating, he will know it is their time of the month.  They say they don’t like their male co-workers knowing this personal information!  Therefore, they don’t eat at work.  They must also make up those fasting days later in the year.

There is one guide book about Morocco which says something which is completely wrong. It says that in the days before Ramadan, you start to see some of the women and older people fasting a few days before Ramadan, in order to “practice” and be habituated  when Ramadan starts.  This reasoning is wrong.  What IS correct is that they are making up missed days from the year before, as those days need to be completely made up before the new Ramadan fast begins (or they are answerable to God for each day not made up).  Some elderly people could be making up days they missed.  A few, extremely devout people do fast a few extra days, as they feel they will earn “extra points” with God for doing a few extra days of fasting.

Ladies in Djemaa El Fna Square, Ramadan

About Public Spaces in Morocco:

The Ramadan Law is not the only law relating to public space in Morocco.

A similar law (and similarly confusing to many tourists) is about alcohol.   In places like Agadir on the boardwalk next to the beach, or in bars located in other cities, there is sometimes an outdoor section where clients can sit and order drinks.  In some locations, tourists can order a beer or glass of wine and drink it while seated in the outdoor section.  While Muslims can also order a beer or glass of wine (except during Ramadan or other Muslim holdiays when it is strictly prohibited), they must sit inside to drink it.  Those Muslims who are sitting outside are only drinking coffee or other non-alcoholic drinks.

Is this hypocrisy?  Most tourists think so.  However, Moroccans feel it is proper because being a Muslim country it is more offensive to Muslims in the street to see other Muslims consuming alcohol than it is for them to see non-Muslims consuming it.  It is a bit like vulgar words being bleeped out on broadcast American TV.  Everyone knows they are saying vulgar words, but at least Americans don’t have to hear those words.  It’s a similar situation.  Muslims in the street know that others are inside consuming alcohol, but at least they don’t have to see other Muslims doing it.

The Ramadan Law has a similar reasoning.  People can eat if they want to, but if you’re Muslim, you are just forbidden from doing so in PUBLIC.

Chebekia Moroccan Pastry Eaten At Ramadan

A Guide for Tourist Behavior During Ramadan:

Understanding these factors, what should non-Muslim tourists do?  Out of respect, they should follow similar behavior as Muslims who would be diabetic, or ill, or pregnant.

These Muslims would eat at home.  If they were sick while out somewhere, yet needed to eat or drink, they would go in a private place where no one would see them (a few people might go into a restroom if there were no other place, but only as a last resort).  Very few restaurants would be open during the day, but tourists would find a few, primarily in hotels.  Both Muslims and tourists could buy water at a shop, but should not just open it and drink it in front of everyone.  Instead, they should find a place to drink privately, not in public.  (One Moroccan Muslim man was attacked in Fes two years ago by civilian vigilantes for drinking water in the medina street, arrested, and subsequently released when his family proved he was diabetic.  But it’s clear he was pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and would have known it.  He could easily have explained in advance he was diabetic, and asked anyone if there was a private place where he could sip his water.)  So this is no reason for tourists to be alarmed.

If a tourist and were openly eating and drinking during Ramadan, people would most likely just give him dirty looks, understanding that he was a tourist.  But the polite and respectful thing to do would be for him to eat and drink well before going out.  It is advisable for tourists to take water in their bag, by all means, but just find a private place to drink it.  If a tourist needs to eat, he / she shouldn’t do it in public.  It’s perfectly acceptable for tourists to eat in any restaurant you find that is open, and these are most likely to be found in hotels or known tourist locations.

Harira & Dates, Breafkast (L'Ftour) Ramadan

Ramadan can actually be a very interesting time to visit a Muslim country.  After dark, families go out late, and plenty of interesting things go on until quite late in the evening.  Just be considerate of people during this month.  The Ramadan Law is actually just asking (and ensuring) that Muslims also continue to treat each other respectfully.

For more information about traveling to Morocco’s Imperial Cities or Sahara Desert During Ramadan

For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara DesertBerber 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 (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Exploring Moroccan Kasbahs In Ouarzazate, Kasbah Taourirt & Ait Benhaddou, Former Residences of Pasha Glaoui, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Kasbah Taourirt, Ouarzazate City Center

For anyone interested in touring Morocco’s kasbahs or ksars, I highly recommend starting with Kasbah Taourirt, the Pasha Glaoui’s former palace in Ouarzazate. Its location was strategic for trading routes and in the 1930’s when the Glaoui ruled the South was then considered one of Morocco’s largest Kasbahs. As a Moroccan traveler you can explore its nooks and crannies to discover its history and often local female painters who sell their art inside as well as the many quality silver shops just steps outside the Kasbah.

Ait Benhaddou Kasbah, Ouarzazate, A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The word kasbah has two meanings. The first meaning of a kasbah is a fortified village, such as the mountain village of Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In some cases, the word is used to describe the old medina quarter of ancient cities throughout the Middle East and North Africa, such as in Algiers.  Kasbahs are essentially attached earthen houses that were built and coexist in a sprawling pattern, which also contain structures for other uses such as bath houses or granaries.  Built out of adobe (mud and straw), they were usually situated on a mountain hillside to make defense easier.

A Kasbah Taourirt window, as viewed from the inside: wide inside, and very narrow to the outside, to keep arrows out.

The second meaning of a kasbah, which refers to that  of Kasbah Taourirt in Ouarzazate, was a place for the local caid (leader) to live which demonstrated a sign of wealth, and also as a place for defense when the city was under attack.  In this case,Kasbah Taourirt once served the dual purpose of being both an administrative center, as well as a fort.

For this reason, kasbahs were generally built with high walls and either no windows, or very narrow windows to keep out arrow attacks.

Kasbahs in southern Morocco are generally built on a rock base.  Rammed earth is used for the load-bearing walls, which are usually about two feet (60 cm) thick.

Construction of rammed earth walls by traditional methods

Lighter-weight adobe is used on the top story for ornamental work.

Kasbashs are generally started on a rectangular pattern, three stories high, with a tower rising from each corner.  Off of that, with time, the kasbah expands with additional rooms and passageways being built in a twisting, turning pattern, without any organized plan.  This is the beauty of exploring a kasbah, that one never knows whether around the next corner it will turn, or twist, or go up or down.

Kasbah Taourirt at Night

Kasbah Taourirt, located in the center of Ouarzazate, a Southern Sahara city and often referred to as “the door to the desrt” is one of the first kasbahs worth visiting on a Sahara Tour.  Kasbah Taouirt’s impeccable exterior architechture offers a good understanding of how kasbahs were constructed centuries ago and will enable you to have a better appreciation when you visit other kasbahs in Morocco such as Ait Benhaddou Kasbah and Kasbah Telout.

A passageway in Kasbah Taourirt

When visiting Kasbah Taourirt, make sure to have your Morocco Travel Agency provide a historical guide so that you are able to ask questions about the history of the era, construction and be guided throughout it’s maze like interior walls.

Pasha Glaoui–was once known as one of the richest men in the world.  Today some of his former residences are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Much of the Kasbahs in the Southern region of Morocco have been restored and while not to their original grandor can lay claim to being simply magnificent.  Most of the rooms Kasbah Taourirt are very plain however its interior architecture and exterior are majestic.  The fun in exploring any ancient Kasbah comes from wandering through the maze of passageways.  Kasbah Taourirt, like Glaoui’s other kasbahs, consists of approximately 300 rooms, and was built to house up to 1,000 slave sand family members.  According to a historical guide who mans the front entrance, Glaoui had four official wives and 20 legitimate children.  He also had 14 concubines and a total of 60 children all together.  Included in the kasbah rooms were  stables and garrisons, public reception and ceremonial rooms, domestic living quarters, as well as school rooms for the children.

Kasbah Taourirt Ceiling in an Official Reception Room

Many interesting architectural features can be found inside the Kasbah Taourirt.  Traditional dyes were used to color in the ceilings tiles that include saffron for the yellow, henna for the red, mint for the green, indigo for the blue, and kohl made from crushed galena (lead ore) for the black.  Other ceilings are made out of decorative thatched palm fronds and bamboo, which in some cases are painted, in others, plastered over.

Candle ledges, each about one meter high, in Kasbah Taourirt

In the photo above, it appears that windows might have been closed up, but this is not the case.  Found throughout the kasbah, these were ledges made for candles.

Kasbah Taourirt - one of the few decorated rooms

Many famous films include scenes that were filmed in Kasbah Taourirt.  Some are: Lawrence of Arabia; The Harem; Diamond of the Nile with Michael Douglas; Rules of Engagement; Prince of Persia; Terres du Lumieres; The Mummy; Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité; and Tés au Sahara (Italian).

When visiting the Ouarzazate, region, make sure to begin your tour at Kasbah Taourirt before exploring Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO world heritage site as this will give you a head start and background of appreciation that you can bring along during your Kasbah tour.

For more information about a Kasbahs, Waterfalls & Ruins in Morocco

For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara DesertBerber 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 (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you toda

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Pasha Glaoui’s Legacy & Kasbahs in Morocco, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Pacha Glaoui

Pasha T’hami Glaoui was the most powerful man in Morocco between 1953 and 1956, in addition to being one of the richest men in the world at that time.  The title Pasha means Governor.  Glaoui was the Pasha of Marrakesh (since 1912), Ouarzazate, and most of the Moroccan south during the time Morocco was under French rule. The most important Kasbahs’ in Morocco that were occupied by the Pacha Glaoui during his reign and are frequented by Moroccan travelers today are Kasbah Taouirt, located in the center of Ouarzazate, Ait Benhaddou, located 15 kilometers outside Ouarzazate and Kasbah Telouet which sits in the village of Telouet nestled outside the Onilla Valley.

Glaoui Palace in Marrakesh during the days of Pacha Thami El Glaoui

As a result of the Pasha Glaoui siding with the French since the beginning of the 20th Century, Moroccans view Glaoui as a traitor.  However it was the Glaoui’s siding with the French which propelled him toward such enormous wealth and power.

Thami El Glaoui in center front row watching Paris dancers in Marrakech in 1952

So, how did Glaoui become so powerful?  Glaoui was born to Si Mohammed ben Hammou, who was a baron (also called a “caid” in Morocco) and his Ethiopian concubine Zora, in 1879.  Si Mohamed died in 1888.  T’hami became the teenage assistant of his eldest brother Si Madani, who took over after their father’s death.

Kasbah Taouirt Ouarzazate

In 1893, while Sultan Moulay Hassan was on a tax-gathering expedition, the two Glaoui brothers and their mother had the good fortune to save the sultan from a blizzard and starvation while he was on a tax-gathering expedition through the mountains.  To show his gratitude, the sultan gave the Glaouis a gift of the 77-mm Krupp cannon, which can now be viewed in the Kasbah de Taourirt in Ouarzazate.  At that time, this was the only such weapon outside of the imperial army.  The Glaouis used it to subdue rival warlords in the surrounding then-feudalistic society, which continued through the 1950’s.

77-mm Krupp Cannon given to the Glaouis

In 1907, Si Madani was appointed as the Grand Vizier to Sultan Moulay Hafid, and Thami was appointed as Pasha of Marrakesh.

The Glaoui’s actual family name is El Mezouari, a name given to their ancestor in 1700 by Sultan Moulay Ismail.  El Glaoui refers to their belonging to the Glaoui tribe, which is mostly located around the 4 x 4 mountain pass of Telouet.  Many natives of Telouet now have the name Glaoui, but are not actually part of the El Mezouari family.

Glaoui Kasbah in Telouet

The Glaouis were already rich, and their early wealth was based on salt.   Their wealth continued to grow though what was brought by the camel caravans crossing the Sahara from as far away as Mauretania and Sudan.  Once Glaoui sided with the French, they gave him free reign in “pacifying” the South, as well as giving him both the olive and saffron trades, and Moroccan salt and mineral mines.  Glaoui also earned a substantial income from the red light district in Marrakesh known as the “Quartier Reservé.”

T'Hami El Glaoui (center) in LIFE Magazine

In 1953, Pasha Glaoui conspired with the French in the exile of Moroccan Sultan Mohamed V.  However, Mohamed V returned to Morocco in 1955 after the French decided Morocco was falling into chaos, and left, abandoning their support of Glaoui.  All of Glaoui’s property was siezed by the state, and his kasbahs fell into disrepair.  In 1956, Morocco gained independence, and Glaoui died.

Thami L'Glaoui

In recent years, much restoration has been done on the various Glaoui kasbahs, which are considered a very important part of Morocco’s heritage.

For more information about a Morocco Travel visit to the Pachi Glaoui’s Kasbahs in Morocco

For more information about Travel and Tours to Morocco plus highlights on Moroccan culture visit Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara DesertBerber 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 (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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