Our local guide for today is … wait for it … Mohammed. A nickname for Mohammed is Simo so he goes by that name.
Avenue Mohammed VI, built by the French, is the main thoroughfare through Marrakesh. It is called the Champs-Élysées of Marrakesh but was renamed.
Marrakesh is often referred to as the City of Gardens. There were over 100 underground tunnels that carried water from mountains. These are no longer functional due to drought and population growth. They have to dig deeper wells.
In 2021, Condé Naste Traveler said that the La Mamounia in Morocco is the best hotel in the world. It was originally built for the royal family. We understand that when Alfred Hitchcock stayed there, he got his idea for his classic movie, The Birds. We didn’t stay there!
In case you want to see other top hotels in the world, here is a link: https://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/the-best-hotels-in-the-world/amp
Marrakesh is at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. This Berber city was started when many of them moved down from the Atlas Mountains. The tallest mosque in Marrakesh is the Kutubiyya Mosque and the minaret measures 250 feet high. No building can be higher. It is the only mosque in the Medina.
The wall that surrounds the Medina is 11 miles with 16 gates. There were originally ten but they needed more gates for increased access. There are 200 watchtowers that were for businesses to see that the caravans were coming as well as for safety to see if they were being attacked.
We see a brightly colored dressed man called a water seller. They follow the sun. The plastic bottle has put him out of business, but people pay money to have a picture taken of him or with him. This generation is old and is likely to be the last of the water sellers. He has bells and copper water cups that clank when he walks.
In 1147 of the 12th century, a mosque was started by the Almoravid dynasty, but it was never finished because they were conquered. The new Almohad Dynasty did not want to give any credit to the old dynasty so it built the mosque next door.
Marrakesh was founded by the Berbers. It started as a military post and then traders arrived. Mali was part of Morocco. Marrakech was the capital of victory by Ahmed Almansour Adahbi in the 16th century. This Saadien Dynasty included Spain and Algeria and is known as the first golden age of Morocco.
Jews and specifically Sephardic Jews were welcome here. They were allowed to trade under the name of the sultan. They especially found work as tailors. Jewish men, instead of Muslim men, were allowed to take woman’s measurements. This is forbidden for Muslim men.
We visited the Bahia Place which was built in the late 19th century and is the only one open to the public.
A riad must have a garden on the inside of the building. The garden creates an intimate and private space away from the outside world. A Moorish Garden differs from European gardens since it has fruit trees. This attract many birds. This is more practical since fruit from lemons, grapefruit, and oranges can be used.
Ba Ahmed worked as chamberlain of the Sultan of Morocco. When the Ottomans beheaded the Sultan Ahmed Dehbi, Ba Ahmed did not immediately announce his death. It might even be speculated Ba Ahmed might have been in on it. He assumed the role of prime minister.
After the death of the sultan, he built the Bahia Palace named after his favorite of four wives. It took six years to build. He also entertained many cocubines. Concubines are called beautiful diplomats. It was an honor to be sent by your community to have an intimate audience with the sultan. Once their mission was complete, they would often return home. The palace hired only blind musicians because what happens in the palace, stays in the palace.
Ba Ahmed named his nephew the sultan despite that fact that he was 16 years old when he became prime minister. Sultan Abd al-Aziz threw lavish parties and spent a lot of money with expensive fireworks. He collected many exotic animals for his palace zoo including the Atlas lion. This animal is extinct in the wild so we wouldn’t have saved it if he hadn’t taken it into captivity.
The French used this building during occupation. The cedarwood comes from Morocco. The stucco is carved by hand. The tiles are from Fes.
Kasbah Mosque was built in the 11th century and has now been renovated. In older mosques the men sit in the front and the women sit in the back. In newer mosques there are balconies and this is where the women sit.
Storks are seen as good luck and are respected by the people. They build their nests on high walls especially minarets.
Next we visited the tombs of Saadian dynasty which is known as the second golden age.
The black plague came to Morocco from London in the 16th century. Every one was affected. The brother of the sultan and many of the family died, especially the children. Pandemics are an ugly thing then and now.
Kasbah means village and many are surrounded by walls. The sultan lives at the top of the hill surrounded by the rich and influential people.
The busiest trade route was between Timbuktu and Marrakesh. Timbuktu means “by the well of the woman with the big belly button”. Much money was traded here for gold, slaves, sugar, etc. The Moroccan ruler liked Italian marble. He would trade sugar to Italy in exchange for Italian marble.
There are five pillars of Islam and they must pray five times a day. Geometric designs are used and are infinite.
In an Islamic Garden you will find olive and palm and fig and pomegranate and grapes as mentioned in Koran. There are four rivers (ponds) that are mentioned and represented that will be found in Paradise – wine, honey, milk, and water.
These are the colors used to dye fabrics and other items:
- Orange – henna
- Green – mint
- Purple – murex shells
- Blue – indigo
- Black – coal
- Red – poppy
- Saffron – yellow
Blue and white are the colors that represent Jewish. Green is a holy color of Muslims. It is the color of survival. Green is a welcome sight when you come out of the desert. Yellow is the symbol of happiness.
- One teaspoon of cumin in water cures diarrhea immediately. I will have to try it next time.
- Menthol is refreshing. Eucalyptus burns. We smelled some menthol and it went all the way down to my throat. It’s sure to cure what ails you!!
- Orange blossom oil is for relaxation and sleep. It sure does smell good.