Marrakech–Not To Be Missed

Posted in Africa, Blog, Morocco

Most of my time in Marrakech was taken up by convention activities, but I did manage to squeeze in a few sites and would recommend these to any visitor to Marrakech:

Place Djemma El-Fna
It’s the heart and soul of the city. It’s wild–like a medieval circus or a street theater with a hundred stages and thousands of attendees from parts unknown. You may find it hard to believe the mix of humanity in the great square, and the curious way that so many places in the world, and times both ancient and modern, seem to be meshed together in this public square.

Majorelle Gardens and the Berber Museum
The gardens are nice–not as spectacular as the guidebooks would have you believe–but that reaction may have something to do with the the masses of tourists who visit this place. But Berber Museum here is a gem. It is set in the former studio of the French painter Jacques Majorelle who came here to paint and create this garden in the 1920’s. In the 1970’s Yves St Laurent and Pierre Berge acquired the property, restored it and established a Foundation, which in 2011 opened the Berber Museum. This wonderful exhibit represents a rich panorama of various indigenous tribes, the most ancient of Northern Africa, from the Rif Mountains to the Sahara Desert. There is chamber displaying a gorgeous collection of jewelry. There are displays of traditional dress with their woven textiles. There are musical instruments,  leather goods, basketry and carpets. There is also fascinating photography, films, and audio. It is altogether a small but truly special museum that beautiful showcases the richness of Berber culture.

Bahia Palace

Though only a relatively few of the palace’s 150 rooms are open to the public, what you can see is truly lovely, with stained-glass windows, intricate marquetry, carved and painted ceilings, floor-to-ceiling silk panels. Though unfurnished,  the rooms, particularly those of the harem that housed wives and concubines, are opulently decorated. The palace was built and decorated by Morocco’s best artisans of the late 1800s. It was so beautiful it was claimed in 1908 by warlord Pasha Glaouni, where he enjoyed entertaining his French guests, who were so impressed that they booted out their host in 1911, and installed the protectorate’s resident-generaux here.

Mellah

The Mellah or Jewish quarter is interesting to see. It has tall mud brick homes with wrought iron balconies along narrow streets. Most of the Jewish families moved away to Israel in the 1960’s, but the city is working to restore and maintain the character of this historic district.

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