Tag Archives: Morocco Travel

Discover the Diverse Region of Ouarzazate, Through Kasbahs, Berber Villages & Road Trips

Ouarzazate Region, Kasbah

Ouarzazate Region, Kasbah

Ouarzazate became famous when it’s nearby Kasbah; Aït Benhaddou appeared in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. This spellbinding quiet town is the perfect home base for exploring the southern region of Morocco which is comprised of ancient Kasbahs, the Dadès Valley, the Gorge of Todra, the Atlas Films Studios, the Skoura Palmeraie along with the Sahara Desert regions of Merzouga, Zagora and M’hamid / Erg Chigaga. On a private tour from Ouarzazate there are many site seeing opportunities ranging from visiting the historic Ait Benhaddou Ksar, Kasbah Taourirt, open air forts Atlas landscapes to the the Valley of Roses and Erg Chebbi Sand dunes.

Ouarzazate is often referred to as a city “without noise” and is a direct translation of its name. This dusty Sahara town has immense desert charm and is the Hollywood of Morocco. Ouarzazate’s unique combination arid and dry North African landscapes boast stunning views of the Atlas Mountains. Ouarzazate was once the leading administrative city in the region and was purely developed for this purpose by the French during colonization. As the region of the South expanded, Tinghir and Errachidia, became a provinces with Ouarzazate losing its name as a hub for administrative purposes.

“See Ouarzazate and die” are feelings often expressed by Moroccans with regards to this magical city that is the door to the Sahara desert. Located just four hours from Marrakesh, Ouarzazate is the main Berber city in the south. It is also known for its spectacular sunsets and dramatic mountain and desert scenery. Surrounded by breathtaking valleys, Ouarzazate was once crossing point for African traders seeking to reach northern cities in Morocco and Europe. During the French period, Ouarzazate expanded considerably as a garrison town and became the administrative centre of the Zagora region.

As a diverse region Ouarzazate offers various site seeing opportunities ranging from the Atlas Film Studios, the CLA Film Studios, the Oasis of Fint, Ancient Ksars and Kasbahs along with Berber Villages.

 

Kundun, Atlas Film Studios, Ouarzazate

Kundun, Atlas Film Studios, Ouarzazate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to Visit in the Region of Ouarzazate:

Atlas Film Studios/ The Oscar Film Studios are flanked by Holly-wood style Egyptian figures and cover 30,000 square meters of desert. David Lean filmed Lawrence of Arabia at The Atlas Film Studios in the early 1960’s. Since then many famous directors have followed in his footsteps to exploit the magnificent scenery. International blockbusters shot here in recent years include: the French version of Cleopatra, Bertolucci’s Sheltering Sky, Scorsese’s Kundun, Gillies MacKannon’s Hideous Kinky, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Black Hawke Down, Oliver Stone’s Alexander The Great, Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, and Penelope Cruz’s Sahara along with the series Game of Thrones. Most of the filming takes place in the desert in the south however you can view the Tibetan monastery featured in Scorese’s Kundan and an Egyptian temple from Cleopatra.

Cleopatra, Atlas Studios, Ouarzazate

Cleopatra, Atlas Studios, Ouarzazate

CLA Film Studios was established in 2004 in partnership with Dino de Laurentis, Cinectittà and Sanam Holding. CLA Studios is open daily to travelers visiting Ouarzazate and the ideal place to see a combination of costumes, props, film sets other movie items used in major independent films and television productions. CLA studios is surrounded by varied landscapes, from desert to oasis. Renowned directors like David Lean, Bernardo Bertolucci, Martin Scorsese, Ridlye or Oiliver Scott Stone, chose to film at CLA Studios for its location. Films and television series shot at CLA Studios range from Lawrence of Arabia, The Sheltering Sky, Black Hawk Down, Kundum, Gladiator, The Mummy 1 and 2, Alexander the Great, The Kingdom of Heaven, Sahara, Troy, Exorcist 1 and 2, Hidalgo and Babel.

Ancient Moroccan Ksars & Kasbahs

Ait Benhaddou Ksar is located 32 km from Ouarzazate lies the picturesque village. Aït Benhaddou of Aït Benhaddou is situated in Souss Massa Draa on a hill along the Ouarzazate River. Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here and Orson Welles used it as a location for Sodome and Gomorrah; and for Jesus of Nazareth the whole lower part of the village was rebuilt. In recent years more controlled restoration has been carried out under UNESCO auspices. Aït Benhaddou is one of many locations in this region used for shooting Hollywood films.

Kasbah Taouirt was was built by the Pasha Glaoui. Kasbah Taouirt’s location was strategic for trading routes and in the 1930’s when the Glaoui ruled the South it was then one of Morocco’s largest Kasbahs. Explore its nooks and crannies and discover some local female painters who sell their art inside as well as the many quality silver shops just steps outside the Kasbah.

Kasbah Tifoultoute is an ancient Kasbah (fortress) in Ouarzazate located 8 kilometers West of the city. Kasbah Tifoultoute once belonged to the family of Thami El Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakech. The kasbah of Tifoultoute served as decor for films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Jesus of Nazareth. There is a stunning view from the terrace of the Atlas Mountains.

Berber Villages:

The Berbers are the original inhabitants of Morocco. The Berbers once occupied much of North Africa before they were persecuted and driven out or into the mountain ranges by the Arabs who came from Yemen in the 7th Century. One-third of Moroccans are Berber and live in the mountains, in villages within the Middle-Atlas and within remote areas of Morocco. Today, most Berbers understand and speak Arabic but their primary language is Berber. During a private tour to Morocco you can visit Berber villages in the High Atlas, the Middle Atlas or Anti-Atlas Mountain regions of Morocco. Within the Berber Villages you can visit old ksars, have lunch with a Berber family, and also learn about their village life. Ait Ouzine is a small village of 1200 inhabitants nestled within the Middle Atlas Mountains. Aït Ouzzine-Nkob is a Berber village inhabited by over 300 families who live in beautifully painted crenulated kasbahs, with their own henna fields, water wells, livestock, and gardens. This peaceful village is tucked away along an impressive desert route connecting the Draa Valley (Tansikht) and Rissani. On a private tour, travelers can meet a local Berber family, sip tea in the Saghro Mountains, and dine on couscous.

Merzouga Erg Chebbi Dunes

Merzouga Erg Chebbi Dunes

Sahara Desert Regions:

Merzouga is a small village in Southern Morocco which is home to the highest and most gold dunes called Erg Chebbi. Merzouga is located in the Moroccan Sahara Desert and has the largest underground natural body of water. It’s Erg Chebbi dunes are the most visited by Moroccan tourists who want a majestic and authentic Sahara experience for camel trekking and desert camping.

M’Hamid El Ghizlane is the last Oasis in the Great Sahara Desert and historically where caravans gathered before setting off on journeys to Timbuktu. M’Hamid is also referred to as Bounou which historically was a village of various Southern tribes such as the Ait Atta Berbers, Drawa and the Hassani.

Zagora is referred to as the “direct door to the Sahara” since it is the last town before one reaches the heart of the Dunes of Tinfo, M’hamid and Erg Chegaga also known as Erg Chigaga.

Erg Chegaga (Erg Chigaga) is one of the two major regions of dunes in the Sahara Desert, the other being Erg Chebbi of Merzouga. These dunes are located in the region  referred to as the Sous-Mass- Draa and approximately 50 kilometers west of M’Hamid El Ghizlane and 98 kilometers south of Zaogra. Erg Chegaga remains virgin and an untouched region of Morocco and can be reached only by 4×4 land cruiser or camel trekking on a private tour to Morocco.

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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Morocco Luxury Tours to Africa

Royal Mansour, Marrakech,  Luxury Morocco Tour with Travel Exploration

Royal Mansour, Marrakech, Luxury Morocco Tour with Travel Exploration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explore Africa on a Morocco luxury tour. Morocco luxury tours are custom-designed to deliver authentic, unique travel experiences. On a Morocco luxury tour you will immerse yourself in the history, people and culture of contemporary Morocco. Hand curated by our experts the customized tours that  Travel Exploration offers are for the inquisitive traveler.

Our private cultural tours and outdoor adventure tours are one of a kind and the perfect choices for couples, families and small groups. Travel Exploration’s Morocco luxury tours have earned a reputation of excellence from travelers around the world and also from Trip Advisor.

On a luxury tour to Morocco Travelers will discover Andalusian and Moorish architecture, glorious houses of worship, magnificent marketplaces, mystical Kasbahs and Berber villages. What sets our customized private tours apart are the hand curated choies we offer we offer which are inclusive of English-Multilingual speaking drivers who work for our company full time, local expert historical guides who are the top in their field and from each city and region you will visit on a Morocco Luxury Tour along with the best choices of riads and boutique hotels that are tailored to your taste as a travelers.

Luxury Desert Camp Morocco Luxury Tour

Luxury Desert Camp Morocco Luxury Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine trekking across the Sahara Desert in a private camel caravan at sunset followed by an Arabian Nights dinner in Luxury Desert Camp in the heart of the Merzouga’s Erg Chebbi Dunes. Morocco has been at the crossroads of world cultures for centuries and makes for the perfect luxury travel destination.

Morocco’s delicate balance of ancient traditions and contemporary culture blend together to offer a 21st Century travel experience. Travel Exploration has insider access that offers unique, private encounters to those who choose to travel with us on a Morocco luxury tour.

Things Your Will Experience on a Customized Morocco Luxury Tour:

Private picnic Sip tea in the Valley of Nomads with Cave dwellers

Dine on Couscous with the Berbers in the Saghro Mountains

Participate in a private, Cooking Class with a Dada Chef

Visit exclusive, Riad and Villa gardens, all led by the best historical guides who are Moroccan and an experts in their field.

Stays at Boutique Riads and Hotels

For More Information about a Private Morocco Luxury Tour or call (800) 787-8806.

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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A New Children’s Library Opens in the Fez Medina

Fez Medina Children's Library

Fez Medina Children’s Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UN statistics suggest that average literacy rates in Morocco are as high as 67% (in 2011). However, this figure hides large discrepancies between males and females and between urban and rural populations. Typically, girls in Morocco are less well-educated than boys. Additionally, in rural communities or poorer areas of the medinas, parents may remove children from school at an early age to work or help the family. The Medina Children’s Library in the medieval old city of Fez aims to support children’s learning and make it fun.

Co-founder of the library, author Suzanna Clarke, says: “Houses I have visited in the Medina rarely have books beyond the Koran, and certainly none for children. Lots of children don’t continue their education past primary school and are expected to become part of the family business.”

Fez Medina, Children's Library

Fez Medina, Children’s Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since its opening in January 2015, the Fez Medina Children’s Library has become a big hit with local kids. On average, between 35-50 kids attend every day. In May 2015 alone, it welcomed over 1,100 children through its doors. Wafae, aged nine, explains: “Before the library was here, I only used to play in the street with my friends.” And Kawtar, five years old, added, “I come to the library because I want to read more stories. They stay with me always.” Local children are really excited to have a place to go to discover books, listen to stories and read in a welcoming and safe environment near their homes. They can also borrow books for up to a week to read at home and share with their families. Khadija, aged 13, explains: “I come to read short stories and novels in French and Arabic. I also like to take the books home to read them.”

The library has been conceived with a particular focus on younger children: pre-readers and developing readers (up to the age of 14 years old). Children in the Fez medina have ample access to TV and the internet, but children need age appropriate and culturally relevant books to fuel their learning and development as they grow. Through their own enthusiasm for reading, they can also ignite an interest in their parents, many of whom themselves are illiterate.

Children's Library, Fez Medina

Children’s Library, Fez Medina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as reading, the children can come to the library to listen to stories read from books. Once a day in the week and twice daily at weekends, a volunteer reader brings the stories alive and continues a tradition of oral storytelling very familiar to the children. They sit quietly to listen and are eager to answer comprehension questions. The sessions encourage them to discover the stories contained in the books for themselves.

The librarians are locals and receive a salary for their work. Hamza, 23, is studying for a degree in English.  He got involved because “I live in the medina, I like reading and I like children.” He and fellow librarian Safae supervise the kids in the library and faithfully record their attendance and the books they borrow.

The Medina Children’s Library is managed by the Fez Association for Children of the Medina. The association’s members are volunteers committed to improving the lives of children in the Fez Medina and to bringing their own love of reading to the children of their local neighbourhood. They have great ambition to expand the library to new premises and add extras such as creative, sport and environmental activities to the library’s remit.

The library is open 10am – 7pm on weekdays and 10am – 6pm at weekends at 41 Zkak Rouah – Talaa Sghira in the Fez Medina. Further information on the library and how to contribute are available at: www.medinachildrenslibrary.org

Article References:

http://www.data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ADT.LITR.ZS

http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/morocco_statistics.html

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about the Fez Medina’s Children’s Library or a Tour of Fes

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, 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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Art Deco Casablanca: Must See Historic Buildings

Art Deco Facade, Casablanca

Art Deco Facade, Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prior to the establishment of the French Protectorate in Morocco (1912-1956), Dar al Bayda, as Casablanca was then known, was a modest port of a population of around 12,000. A few years into the Protectorate, this had increased 10-fold and has hardly stopped growing since. Today, Casablanca is Morocco’s bustling economic hub, home to many international companies and Africa’s biggest port and its largest shopping mall, Morocco Mall. For visitors to this metropolis, the big draw is the stunning Hassan II Mosque. However, the French left a significant architectural legacy. As you walk the streets, look up and around you beyond the crowds, the traffic and the hubbub of city life to discover Art Deco Architecture in Casablanca.

The drive to develop and expand Casablanca provided the impetus for a large urban development program at the start of the Protectorate era. This included wide city avenues, open squares and public buildings from which the ruling power could organise its realm. Back in Paris, the swirling loops of Art Nouveau were being superseded by the more angular shapes of Art Deco, which melded perfectly with Morocco’s indigenous geometry inspired by the Islamic edict against the depiction of the human form. A new architectural style was born: Mauresque blended traditional Moroccan designs and techniques of mosaic, plasterwork and wrought iron with influences from turn-of-the-century Europe, combining the straight lines of Art Deco with the sweeping curves of earlier styles.

Palais De Justice, Art Deco Casablanca

Palais De Justice, Art Deco Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of these buildings have been restored and are still in use. Others have suffered a less fortunate fate. Some of the best examples are around the large open expanse (now traversed by Casablanca’s modern tramway) of Place Mohammed V. Around the square, you can see the main Post Office (1918), the Palais de Justice (courthouse, 1925) and the Wilaya (administrative headquarters, built between 1927 and 1936). Pop into the Post Office to see all the original Art Deco fixtures and fittings still in tact. In the streets leading away from the square, look above the shop fronts and imagine the grandeur that these buildings represented in their heyday. The French planned this city as a showpiece, a statement of the potential of their African Empire and no effort was spared.

Post Office, Art Deco Casablanca

Post Office, Art Deco Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several great examples of Art Deco Architecture in Casablanca are in an area to the east of the square, bordered by Boulevard Mohammed V to the north, Avenue Lalla Yacout to the south and stretching as far as Rue Ibn Batouta to the east. Admire the facades as you wander along Rue Idriss Lhrizi. Seek out the Hotel Guynemer on the parallel Rue Brahim Belloul and the Transatlantique on Rue Chaouia, or the Cinema Rialto on the corner of rue Mohammed el Qorri and rue Salah ben Bouchaib. The crumbling Hotel Lincoln, constantly the subject of a rumoured restoration program, sits opposite the Marché Central, at the intersection of of Boulevard Mohammed V and Rue Ibn Batouta; the Hotel Volubilis, on Rue Abdelkrim Diouri is thankfully the result of a successful one.

If you have longer in Casablanca and a keen interest in Art Deco architecture, you can take a taxi or the new tram to the Mers Sultan neighbourhood, to the south of downtown Casablanca. Largely shunned by today’s nouveau riche and not typically visited by the day trippers who crowd to the Hassan II mosque, this area is full of treasures ready for discovery. Some of the apartment blocks and villas echo the grandeur of Marseilles or Miami Beach. Here you will find the playground of the former French colonialists – the bars, cafes and cinemas, but their wealthy clientele are long gone. Hunt down the Café Champs Elyssée, built in the shape of a cruise liner; the Cinema Lynx and the Bar Atomic.

For a luxury Art Deco have your Morocco travel agent book you into Le Doge Hotel & Spa, a boutique hotel located in a historic villa just 10 minutes from the corniche and 5 minutes from La Squala historic fortifications.

Le Doge Hotel & Spa Casablanca

Le Doge Hotel & Spa Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Moroccan government is pouring money into the regeneration of Casablanca and one can only hope that some of these Art Deco buildings can be rescued and restored. Casablanca is a city of extremes – the wealthiest business moguls reside in new villa developments along the coast, while the poorest rural migrants scrape a living around its large shanty towns. It seems that modern Casablanca never stops moving. However, if you look carefully, slow your pace and look up above the grimy ground floors and beyond the botched renovations, you will discover the city’s former glory of Art Deco Architecture: the brass, the parquet floors and the chandeliers just need a spit and a polish to shine once again.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about Casablanca Art Deco Tours

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, 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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Remembering Jewish Essaouira, Heritage Sites & Synagogues

Muslims & Jews in Essaouira, Praying for Rain

Muslims & Jews in Essaouira, Praying for Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essaouira owes much of its past, present and future to its situation on a bay sheltered from the fierce trade winds of the Atlantic Ocean by an archipelago of small, rocky islands. Towards the end of the 18th century, Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah (Mohammed III) created a strategic role for Essaouira in his new trade policy oriented towards the Atlantic. He instructed the construction of the Kasbah (King’s Quarters) and the Skala fortifications which became the basis for the medina (old city) we see today. He ordered the closure of Agadir harbor, further south, and effectively routed a large amount of trade between Europe and West and Central Africa through his new port. The Sultan was the first Head of State to recognize US Independence in 1776, thereby creating a strategic linkage in support of his trade objectives in Morocco.

In order to ensure the success of his strategy, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah invited 10 prominent Jewish families from the key commercial centers of Morocco to settle in what was known then as Mogador and manage the trade. These families were largely the descendents of those expelled from Andalusia at the end of the 15th century and had gained a strong reputation for their skills as merchants. They became the “Tujjar as-Sultan“, the Sultan’s traders. These families – and many foreign consuls and negociants – settled in the newly-built houses of the Kasbah, which featured typical Swiri architecture of rooms set around a colonnaded interior patio, the latter often large enough to accommodate merchandise. Such buildings can be seen in the area near Bab el Minzeh and Bab Sbaa and along Rue Laalouj, where the French Institute and Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah Museum are excellent examples.

Chaim Pinto, Jewish Synagogue Essaouira

Chaim Pinto, Jewish Synagogue Essaouira

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the start of the 19th century, the population of Essaouira was majority Jewish. There were as many as 40 synagogues. Some, like the Simon Attia synagogue were the private synagogues of a large family, while others, such as the Slat Lkahal, were community centers of worship. As the affluence of the city grew, it attracted many migrants from the rural areas, seeking economic opportunities. The Mellah, a typical feature of a Moroccan city and a principally Jewish neighborhood, was built to house these families. Essaouira also had a Mellah Kdim, the “old Mellah”, which was an extension of the Kasbah and housed the Jewish middle classes. Mogador was unique in Morocco in that Jews, Muslims and Christians – those of Jewish, Berber, African, European and Arabic descent – lived side-by-side. There was a fruitful exchange at all levels of society, from artisans like silversmiths passing on their trade, to the interchange of intellectual and musical influences such as seen in the Andalusian music which continued to be taught and performed in Mogador long after the flight of Jews and Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula.

Jewish Cemetery, Essaouira

Jewish Cemetery, Essaouira

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, there are a number of Jewish sites which can be visited and/or are under renovation in Essaouira. Essaouira’s two Jewish cemeteries are open to visitors by calling the number of the guardian posted on the door. The older of the two is only separated from the sea by a wall and is regularly inundated. It features the mausoleum of Rabbi Haim Pinto (1748–1845), which is the subject of a hilloula (pilgrimage) every Fall. The graves are often laid on top of each other and the inscriptions are no longer legible. All that remains are circular or triangular symbols indicating whether the occupant was male or female.

The ‘new’ Jewish cemetery, across the street, was opened in the 18th century to accommodate the growing population. It is the final resting place of a number of rabbis, intellectuals and musicians as well as many of the ‘ordinary’ residents of Essaouira-Mogador. The cemetery tells the stories of many great families of Mogador such as the Corcos, the most famous of the original ‘Sultan’s merchants’ and the Yuly and Levy families – some of whom are certainly ancestors of the first Jewish US senator, David Levy Yulee.

The guardian of the cemeteries can also grant access to the Haim Pinto synagogue, just back inside the medina at Bab Doukkala, in the Mellah. The neighborhood is part of an urban clearance program and the synagogue, although thoroughly renovated inside, sits in a precarious position surrounded by crumbling and decaying buildings, the former homes of Jewish families.

Slat Synagogue, Essaouira Restoration Project

Slat Synagogue, Essaouira Restoration Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a few doors along, back towards the central medina, is Slat Lkahal, a community synagogue currently under painstaking renovation by Haim Bitton, helped by the generous donations of members of former Mogador Jews. Those who are lucky to meet him there will learn of the intricate connections between Jewish communities in Manchester, London, Italy and Mogador. So far, he has managed to rescue key elements of the original synagogue from demolition and is carefully restoring them using local artisans. He hopes to turn rooms on the upper floor into exhibition and meeting spaces.

Back in the Kasbah, the Simon Attia synagogue is the subject of an ambitious restoration program. Once also the Rabbinical Court of Mogador, the aim is to restore the space used for worship on the ground floor and create a library of documents related to Moroccan Judaism alongside accommodation for students of these works upstairs.

Most of Essaouira’s synagogues are long gone. Few have actually been demolished, but most have passed into alternative uses and only the older members of the Mogador Jewish diaspora recall their location. There are still plenty of clues to the size of the former Jewish population of Essaouira, however. A wander around the labyrinthine alleyways of the Mellah or Kasbah will reveal several doorways with the Star of David on the lintel and a conversation with any of Essaouira’s older residents will reveal the proximity and goodwill of the Muslim and Jewish communities in times gone by.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about Essaouira Jewish Heritage Sites or an Essaouira Jewish Heritage Tour

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, 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

Mohammed Choukri, A Post War Moroccan Writer

Mohamed Choukri, Tangier

Mohamed Choukri, Tangier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Few Moroccan authors have achieved international recognition beyond the Francophone world because of the lack of translations of their works. The international acclaim of writer Mohammed Choukri and the fact that not only his works, but his remarkable life story, are known beyond the Arabic and French-speaking worlds is largely due to the support he received from globally acclaimed authors Paul Bowles and Tahar Ben Jelloun along with his own, incredible determination.

The man who was to become one of Morocco’s most well-known and controversial writers had inauspicious beginnings. He was born in 1935, in Beni Chiker (also known as Aït Chiker), a small village in Nador province, in the Rif mountains of north east Morocco, near the Algerian border. Life in such remote northern villages at this time – under the Spanish Protectorate (the French governed the area further south) – was harsh. The young Mohammed’s family was desperately poor and his father was a tyrant. Several of his siblings died of hunger, negligence or – in the case of his brother Abdelkader – murder at their father’s hands. The family moved to the cities of Tetouan and Tangier (at that time an International Zone) in search of economic security. Mohammed fled the family aged 11 to make his own life and adopted the name Choukri, a derivation of his home village.

Mohamed Choukri, For Bread Alone

Mohamed Choukri, For Bread Alone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a child, Choukri survived on his wits. Homeless and starving, he took small jobs to get by, but resorted to theft and prostitution to survive. He used drugs and alcohol and mixed with prostitutes, beggars and street dwellers, the existence of whom most wealthy Tangerois preferred not to acknowledge. His meals often came from the garbage – he found the trash of the International Zone far more nourishing than those of his Moroccan neighbors. This grim and desperate period of his life was the inspiration for three autobiographical works, the most well-known of which is his novel, For Bread Alone. The title is a reference to the lengths he had to go to just to get dry, stale bread to eat.

At the age of 20, in an exceptional demonstration of determination and foresight, Choukri took himself off to school. In the year of Moroccan independence from France and Spain, 1956, he left Tangiers for the quieter fishing town of Larache and at 21 began primary school for the first time. He eventually finished his schooling able to write in classical Arabic (which was neither his mother tongue nor the Moroccan dialect used in daily life) and became a school teacher himself.

Back in Tangiers in the swinging 60s, he continued to document his early life, often writing in cafes and bars, where he found himself brushing shoulders with European and American literati and liberals. It was a friendship and collaboration with the US writer, Paul Bowles, which facilitated the publication of For Bread Alone in 1973 in England.
Choukri’s shocking story was out there. Although it drew explicitly on the reality of his life, it was controversial and was condemned by conservative and religious commentators in Morocco. The French translation by Tahar Ben Jelloun, a Moroccan author well-known in his own right, ensured a broader audience on its publication in 1981. Although printed in Arabic in 1982, For Bread Alone was banned in Morocco until 2000. It was as if the educated – those who could actually read his work in a country with high illiteracy – could not accept the reality of poverty in their own, newly, independent country.

Choukri published several full-length works and short stories, often printed in English before Arabic. He was still writing in the late 1990s. He died from cancer in 2003 and was buried in Tangier. In a final recognition of his contribution to Moroccan and Arabic literature, his funeral was attended by the Minister of Culture, numerous government officials, personalities and the spokesman of the King of Morocco.
During his life, Mohammed Choukri claimed that he could not put a false veneer on his work, his writing was “a protest, not a parade.” He wrote in an attempt to expose and to criticize those people and the circumstances that he felt had stolen his childhood and his teenage years. US playwright Tennessee Williams described For Bread Alone as “A true document of human desperation, shattering in its impact”.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about Mohammed Choukri and Tangier

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

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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10 Best Things To Do in Morocco, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Cooking Class, Travel Exploration

Cooking Class, Travel Exploration

From the Atlas Mountains to the Atlantic Coast and from the Great Sahara Desert to Imperial Marrakech, Morocco offers a wide range of things to do. Adventure activities in Morocco offer travelers the opportunity experience another dimension of during a Morocco Private Tour. Travel Exploration has created partnerships with cooperatives and local experts for Morocco travelers to participate in that will enrich their private tour experience.
Glide across the High Atlas on zipline with your family or rise early to take in the Moroccan sunrise via a hot air balloon ride. Explore birdwatching in Sidi Boughaba or in the grand lagoon of Oualidia. Escape the bustling city of Marrakech for the day to visit the palmerie for a lesson of Falconry with some of Morocco’s most regal birds and their masters. Discover magnificent food-markets and try your hand at a Cooking Class with a Dadaa Chef or go deep into the heart of the medina on a Fes Food Tour. Visit a winery in Meknes and savor local cheeses in the hills of Fes. Participate in Tasting Marrakech, a guided dinner excursion in Djemma El Fna Square or bake bread with the Berbers. Join in to create your own designs ast a Fes Pottery Cooperative for half day and learn about the ancient Fasis pottery traditions. If all this is not enough to wet your palette then head off the Desert where you can quad-bike in the Erg Chebbi Dunes and sand board across the Sahara at Sunset.
Things to Do Morocco

Things to Do Morocco

10 Best Things to Do in Morocco:
1. Quad Biking in the Sahara Desert – Quad bike across the Sahara Desert or Essaouira’s Atlantic Coast. Perfect for the active traveler.
2. Sandboarding in the Sahara Desert – Sandboarding in the Moroccan Sahara Desert. Ideal for families and the active traveler.
3. Bird Watching Sidki Boughaba & Oualidia – Morocco is the perfect climate for the serious birdwatcher.
4. Hot Air Balloon over Marrakech – An excursion at sunrise over the High Atlas Mountains in Marrakech.
5. Falconry Morocco – Discover falcons and rare Moroccan Royal Birds in the Marrakech Palmeraie.
6. Fes Food Tour – A Souk Tasting Trail in Fes led by a Moroccan hostess. Morocco’s ideal culinary adventure for foodies.
7. Cooking Class Marrakech –  The best Cooking Class in Marrakech, led by a traditional Dada Chef. A four hour experience for foodies.
8. Zipline Across the Atlas – Zip-line across the Altas Mountains near Toubkal National Park.
9. Wine Tasting Morocco  – A Boutique Wine Tasting Tour. Visit Moroccan vineyards in the Meknes region.
10. Zellij & Pottery Design Tour –  Try your hand at making traditional Moroccan pottery and zellij tile in Fes.

For more information about Things to do in Morocco on a Morocco Private Tour

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, 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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Filed under Morocco Travel