Sunday, November 11, 2012

Moroccan Travels, Part Five... El Jadida

This week, Justin and I have four friends from the U.S. visiting! We'll be playing tour guides for part of their trip and then having some new experiences in Morocco and beyond. I'll leave those as a surprise for a future blog post... But in the meantime, I'm very much looking forward to their visit and it's put me in a travel state of mind

I introduce to you El Jadida, a city that Justin and I visited back in September. The Portuguese settled in El Jadida in 1502 and built a fort that they named Mazagan. The city quickly became a major center of trade, given its location on the Atlantic. In the 1700s the sultan expelled the Portuguese from El Jadida and dynamited the city as they fled.  The city was resettled by Arab tribes and a large Jewish community in the 19th century, after which it was called El Jadida (which means "the new one").

We only spent a short time in El Jadida, but here are some of the sites that we saw. First, an underground cistern built by the Portuguese in 1514. It was first used as an arsenal, then an armory, and finally a cistern in the mid 1500s. The reflections of the columns and vaulting on the water is truly breathtaking and even a bit mysterious, which might explain why it was used in Orson Welles' film Othello back in the 1950s.

We strolled through the old medina (medina means "city" - the older cities in Morocco all have what's called an old medina, which is where a lot of the historic sites are located) and looked over the city and water from the ramparts which surround the medina.

As I mentioned, El Jadida had a large Jewish population in the 19th century, most of whom emigrated to Israel in the 1950s. We did get to see a deserted synagogue which interestingly had a Star of David with a crescent floating above it - it's a bit small but you should be able to see it near the top of the building:

We also took a quick day trip to Azemmour, a small coastal town just about 20 minutes away from El Jadida. Azemmour also had beautiful ruins of ramparts, old gates, and a kasbah - but what we loved the most were murals that were painted all along the inner walls of the old medina. Here's a cool one by an artist called "El Hani," whom I learned has been painting since the age of 9 and mostly uses sticks, old credit cards, and his fingers!

Thinking about everyone still recovering from the hurricane and the Nor'easter. I hope that you are rebounding and able to move forward without too much pain or difficulty. I've been reading about all of the people in New York and New Jersey who have mobilized to help others and it is really beautiful to see. Missing everyone!

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