Monday, September 28, 2015

Walking Marrakesh

Our local guide Abdul met us at 9.30 this morning (Monday 28th September) and we set out together (including Rob this time - yay he is MUCH better!) in the crazy traffic and narrow laneways of the Marrakech medina for a morning of adventures, our last full day in magical Morocco. 

First stop, and very close to our riad, was the Palace El Bahia, built over 16 years at the end of the nineteenth century for the country's prime minister who seemed to share power equally with the Sultan of the day. It was intended as a very grand palace of its time (with room for four wives) and we were all very impressed by the beauty of its cedar interiors, the Andalusian style decoration and mosaic work and extensive gardens.

Abdul led us through the maze of the medina's streets - through the old Jewish district (the Mellah) and the Kasbahs. The Jewish population of Morocco is much reduced these days as the royal family received big bonuses from the Israeli government  after 1948 and then after the 6 day war in 1967 for any Moroccan Jews who emigrated to Israel (so many were "encouraged" to do so).

 Marrakesh is known as the "red city of Morocco"...and reds of every hue are all around us!
The hand of Fatima is everywhere in Morocco (and all over the Middle East apparently)....the universal sign of protection, especially for warding off the "evil eye".  

I was lucky to catch this pic of a busy bakery as most people here make it clear they don't want to be in my photos (and that's fair enough!).
 We made our way to the Saadien Tombs which are a major attraction in Marrakesh. They date from the 1500-1600s. Among the graves are those of Sultan Ahmad al Mansur and his family.  The bodies are laid out on their right side with faces pointing east towards Mecca. During the 16th century Morocco used to trade sugar for Carrara marble from Italy (kilo for kilo) - so beautifully decorated Carrara marble (and cedar) are the main materials used in these tombs.
The Koutoubia Mosque is a real landmark here. In fact no other building in Marrakesh can be built higher than the minaret of this mosque (77m) so, as a result, there is no high rise development in this city of well over one million people. The Koutoubia Mosque was built during the 1100s and has inspired the Giralda of Seville (our next stop on this trip) which was constructed in the same era.

Abdul walked us for hours then through the souks of this ancient city........leathergoods, antiques from all over Africa, textiles, food, exotic lamps and carpets, jewellery, textiles, metalwork, decorative wood name is all here in Marrakesh. No pictures though please!!!

Morocco is a paradise for lovers of colour...Pantone must make regular visits here to create their colour pallettes!

This was the olive market...just got in a quick picture before anyone said no no!
We were well and truly ready for lunch by 2.30 and with Abdul's help we made it to the iconic Dar Essalam Restaurant, set in an exquisitely decorated 17th century palace , founded as a restaurant in 1952, and still run by the same family today.  One of its biggest claims to fame prior to our visit is that it was used as a location in the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock film "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (James Stewart & Doris Day).  We too enjoyed a beautiful lunch at the Dar Essalam today.

The plan then was to rest awhile at our lovely riad before heading back out again for one last visit to Jemaa El Fna and the lovely old style bar we'd found the previous evening with the gorgeous view over the rooftops of the old medina.

However, from about 4.00 o'clock onwards the biggest storm broke over the city, emptying bucket loads of driving rain from the sky, deluging the city streets, and flooding whole areas (including parts of our riad). Everyone says it NEVER rains like this in Marrakesh.....but it certainly did tonight...

I took the pic below of the courtyard outside our room after a half an hour of heavy rain and the water was at least 6 - 7 cms deep. Maxie and Rod's room was flooded (however they got an upgrade) along with a number of others in the riad.

The city is not built to handle rain like came to a standstill tonight. So we spent our last night in Morocco at our rain soaked riad with all the lovely staff waiting on us with drinks and snacks and musicians playing.....just perfect.....and still the rain fell.

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