Sunday, March 18, 2012

Moroccan Travels, Part One... Marrakech!

Justin and I spent last weekend in Marrekech - our first real Moroccan sightseeing outside of places that we've visited during Peace Corps training. We set a goal of visiting one new place a month - Not always big things, sometimes just day trips to neighboring communities, but just a small goal to make sure that we can see as much as possible of this beautiful country. And as you will see from the Marrakech photos, we started our travels off with a bang!

Here's a quick look at all of the things that we were able to do in our short visit there (we take our sightseeing very seriously!), then lots of photos below. Hopefully we'll be able to take another trip there soon.
  • The Ibn Youssef Medersa, a Koranic college from the 14th century and one of the most important historic buildings in the city.
  • The Koubba Ba'Adiyn, a small building that is the only surviving remnant of a huge mosque and palace from the 12th century.
  • The Museum of Marrakech, housing a beautiful collection of Moroccan art and sculpture, jewelry, coins, ceramics, and architectural details from buildings - and the building alone is its own museum, absolutely beautiful.
  • The Koutoubia Mosque, just across from Marrakech's main square, built in the 12th century.
  • Djemaa el Fna Square, a massive open space that once held public executions, but today is filled with lots of tourist-trapping entertainment: snake handlers, musicians, monkeys dancing on shoulders, open-air butcher shops, and a huge outdoor market. And at night the square is even cooler, as it becomes an open-air food hall. Chaotic as anything but fun.
  • The Souks, which is a term for a tented booths selling a product. In Marrakech the souks are divided by the type of product sold - leather, textiles, spices, jewelry, medicine, chickens, etc. A lot of hassling from the souk-owners as you walk by (they seem to know every language!) but still quite an interesting experience. When we are finishing up our Peace Corps service and if I am confident about job prospects (that's a big if!!) I want to go back to the Marrakech souks and buy some fun things to bring home.
  • El Badi Palace, built in the 16th century and in ruins now but huge and amazing to think about what it must have been like.
  • Bab Agnaou, which marked the entrance to a 12th century palace (the word "Bab" means door).
  • Bahia Palace, from the late 19th century and beautifully restored.
  • The Saadian Tombs, built in the 16th century and home to about 60 members of the Saadian dynasty.
  • The Marrakech tanneries, where leather is made in the same way as it has for centuries. A stomach-churning smell but an interesting visit.
  • Bab Debbagh, a door into the old medina (old city) near the tannery district. Supposed to have a beautiful view from the top but unfortunately the stairs were closed when we went. 
  • Dar Si Said Palace, now home to the Museum of Moroccan Arts, a small beautiful building with equally beautiful work.
  • Marrakech's Jewish cemetery, in what is called the Mellah, once the largest Jewish district in the country and home to about 16,000 Jews (now, a much smaller number).

The Saadian tombs - amazing intricate details on the walls

The Kasbah Mosque, just next to the Saadian Tombs

Marrakech post office in Djemaa el Fna Square (for those of you who
don't know, Justin and I collect photos of post offices - you
can check out the full collection on my Facebook page)

The Koutoubia Mosque

Bastilla, a traditional Moroccan dish

The evening food stalls in Djemaa el Fna Square

Eating outside in the Square - Justin with the waiters hustling behind him!

A beautiful door in the old medina (old city)

View of one of the tanneries

Beautiful intricate carving on the walls of the Dar Si Said Museum

In the Dar Si Said Museum

one of the many, many, many beautiful ceilings you can find everywhere!

Dyed leather (still with fur in it) in the tanneries

Got on a kick of taking photos of lanterns, they are so beautiful!

Jarred olives, preserved lemons, capers, etc at a restaurant

PCV reunion at the Ibn Youssef Medersa

Close-up of wall carvings at the Ibn Youssef Medersa

Beautiful artwork at the Museum of Marrakech

At the Museum of Marrakech

Beautifully carved Arabic script at the Ibn Youssef Medersa

posing at the Ibn Youssef Medersa

A VERY tasty dessert called "milfay"

Wash the dessert down with an equally amazing juice of banana and avocado!

And maybe for dessert #2 (or #3, I lost count)?

Decorations in our Riad (similar to a B&B)

More of the Riad

Our PCV friends in the oasis on the Riad's roof

The Jewish cemetery

Caught a lovely moment in the Bahia Palace

Bahia Palace
Djemaa el Fna Square by night

Remnants of tiles at the El Badi Palace - after seeing the other beautiful palaces,
I can imagine what this must have been like!

In underground caves at the El Badi Palace

Another part of the El Badi Palace

The Saadian Tombs

The Bab Agnou

A friend I made at the Saadian tombs (for those of you who don't know, I have a pet turtle,
currently living with his Grandma and Grandpa Bernstein in Brooklyn!)

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