May 7th – Medina of Marrakesh and the Bahia Palace, Morocco
Marrakesh, the “Red City” or “City of Ochre”, is exotic and historical. It sucks you into her bosom and fills you with wonder and awe. Around every corner awaits another alleyway to explore where you can discover something else that will enchant and entertain.
Established in 1062, her rich history is everywhere, but most evident within the walls of the old fortified portion of the city, the medina. UNESCO named the old town a World Heritage sight in 1985.
A few days earlier we had the privilege of exploring the even larger medina in Fez, but I was equally enamored by the old streets of Marrakesh.
“Since the independence of Morocco, Marrakesh has thrived as a tourist destination. In the 1960s and early 1970s the city became a trendy “hippie mecca”. It attracted numerous western rock stars and musicians, artists, film directors and actors, models, and fashion divas, leading tourism revenues to double in Morocco between 1965 and 1970. Yves Saint Laurent, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jean-Paul Getty all spent significant time in the city” ~ Wikipedia
A photographers paradise, I knew I had died and gone to heaven as I captured ancient doors, earthen walls, marketplaces filled with vibrant offerings, women dressed in their flowing djellaba, playful kittens, and friendly smiling faces.
I don’t know where the “real” Morocco starts and ends, but I hope that this collection of photos will give you a good example of what we saw and experienced while walking through the medina.
A visit to the Bahia Palace, where 360 rooms were once adorned with Italian marble and Sudanese gold. Again it is the detail in the ceilings that most catches my eye. The grand vizier of the sultan lived here with his four wives and numerous concubines.
We also saw the richly decorated tombs of the Saadi Dynasty.
An interesting bit of trivia, I learned that the office of muezzin was sometimes given to a blind man. This would prevent him from looking down into the homes or courtyards and therefore violating someones privacy. We also learned that the square-shaped minaret is indicative of the Berber (Amazigh) construction vs. the round style found in most of the muslim world.
The walls of the old city are where the city gets its nickname, the “red city”. They stand 19 feet (5.8 meters) tall, are made out of an orange-red clay and chalk and have 20 gates and 200 towers along them. We exited through Bab Agnaou which was built in the 12th century.
We had the opportunity to shop for authentic Moroccan jewelry at a shop known for its quality silver. I rarely purchase anything while we travel, but a necklace caught my attention and my hubby splurged on an early Mother’s Day gift for me.
The Jemaa el-Fnaa is one of the best-known squares in Africa. You can find anything from Snake Charmers to acrobats to monkey trainers to pickpockets. It was only mildly crowded mid-afternoon, but was hopping with life when we returned later in the evening on our optional horse-drawn carriage ride.
The evening was topped off with an Arabian folklore show and dinner that included classic Moroccan music and elegant belly dancing with a whirling dervish performance.
Overnight: Riad Bahia Salam, Marrakesh
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for the way Marrakesh embraced us. I did not come here with any pre-conceived ideas of what to expect other than it had been highly recommended by dear friends who had loved it. We had a long day, filled with sights that ranged from poverty to splendor, ancient to modern, and traditional to hip. We were entertained and ate a glorious assortment of delicious foods. Another day that made me feel lucky to be alive…