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GLENN LONEY'S MUSEUM NOTES
March, 2015 RAMBLES REPORT FOR THE MAROCCO SAFARI OF JANUARY 2015
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
To navigate to items in this table of contents, click on (*)
ONWARD/UPWARD/DOWNWARD WITH INDEPENDENT MOROCCO! *
April in Paris? No! No! Morocco in January! *
Arrive in Casablanca, But Go Directly to Rabat-The Administrative Capital… *
Rambling Round Rabat: No Rebates for Shattered Sultanic Ruins… *
MEKNES: Onward To The Medina & Market- But Mainly March Off To the Multi Arched Medieval Graneries… *
VOLOUBILIS: Ancient Roman Ruins in Voloubilis- Trajan’s Empire Extended Only This Far West in Africa… *
FEZ: Fussing Around in Fez- Three Towns; Three Different Eras; Different Sites & Sights… *
Frozen Out of the Atlas Mountains: Snow Plows To The Rescue- Followed by the Sahara Desert Camp & Erg Chebbi… *
A Camel Ride in the Sahara Sunset- Then Freezing to Death in a Fake Bedouin Encampment… *
KASBAHS: Come With Me To The Kasbah- But Bring a Blanket & Something Savory To Nibble… *
MARRAKESH: Meeting Marvelous Medieval Marrakesh- Where Magnificent Arab Calligraphies Ready Made… *
The First Time I visited Morocco, I landed in its Spanish Section.
In Malaga-for "Eight Days of Bulls"-I took Ship from Algecieras to Algeria, eventually ending up in Tangiers, which at that time was located in Franco Occupied Morocco.
When I was photographing the Harbor Docks, an Over Friendly American asked me if I were going to the Party that Lee [Princess Radziwil] & Truman [Capote] were giving that evening Up on the Hill?
Having only read about these Great & Famous Personalities in Time Magazine, I pleaded Ignorance & went my way…
But that was way back in 1956.
Francisco Franco finally died & went-if not to Heaven-at least to the Valley of the Fallen, where he is Imperially Embalmed & Eternally Interred.
In the Meantime, both Spanish Morocco & French Morocco became Independent, but the Moroccan Majority were Second Language French Speakers.
This meant that even Arabic was not always their Primary Language, for a number of Moroccans still Speak, Read, & Write Berber-which looks like a Riot of Geometric Forms, based, as it is, on Ancient Phoenecian.
I had read that the newly Free & Independent Morocco was ruled by a Western Friendly Arab Inflected Monarch-King Hassan II-who was Especially Friendly with Malcolm Forbes, who threw Fabulous Feasts in Moroccan Enclaves.
Friendly neither with Capote nor Forbes, I then & thereafter kept my distance from North Western Africa…
Because-Somehow-I Thought It Was South of the Equator…
After the Autumn Onslaught of Broadway & Off Broadway Play Premieres, it is usually a relief to greet January as a Play Free & Travel Ready Destination Month.
Considering the Horrendous Winters of Recent Years, Norway or Ulan Bator do not Make the Cut.
No, indeed! South of the Equator is the obvious Way to Go…
So why did I choose Morocco for a Winter Get Away?
Well, when you look at a Very Big Map of the African Continent, Morocco seems a Vast Expanse of Saharan Desert!
This is a Major Mistake: Much of Morocco is a Green & Fertile Paradise.
Even in the Saharan South, there are Fields & Farms, as well as Sandy Stretches.
One could say: Saharan Sands & Fertile Fields…
But, North or South, it is still Cold in January.
This Proved a Boon, for almost all of the Kasbahs, Karavansaries, Bedouin Tents, & Boutique Hotels that Colleague Scott Bennett & I visited were Unoccupied: Tourist Free.
Just imagine Squeezing Through a Narrow Passage in an Ancient Maze of Mud Brick Houses, only to have a Small Wooden Door pop open & to be Instantly Transported into a Six Story Medieval Courtyard, where every Room, every Nook, every Surface was crammed with Richly Carved Woods, Intricately Patterned Carpets, Highly Embossed Copper Salvers, & Glitteringly Gilded Trays…
That was our Repeated Experience in Marrakesh, Fez, Rabat, & even in Frenchified Casablanca.
The Casablanca Airport looked not only State of the Art Modern, but Huge & Expanding as well.
Taking Photographs of its Impressive Exterior was Forbidden: Do Moroccans also Fear Arab Terrorists?
Actually, our Excellent Guide Driver-an Admirable Berber-wanted to get us to Rabat as swiftly as possible.
This was Not Difficult for the Admirably Enlightened King has decreed Major Highway Developments that ought to make US Lawmakers ashamed for letting Our Infrastructure Decay.
Flying In, we were amazed-especially from Overhead-at the Profusion of Brand New Cloverleaves, Four & Five Lane Intersections, & Super Smooth Road Surfaces.
Big bold blocks of Desert Sand were being rapidly converted into Factories, Industrial Estates, Smart Modern Housing Tracts, Splendid Schools, &, of course, Shopping Malls.
Everywhere, it seemed, there was Development: Construction, Power Substations, Cultural Centers, Irrigation, Agriculture…
But there are not only Royally Mandated On the Ground Improvements!
How about Free Health Care?
How about Free Public Education-as Far & High as Moroccan Students can go, even PhD Ward?
The King-unlike so many American Congressmen-believes that Public Education Benefits Everyone, not only preparing Young Moroccans for Rewarding Careers, but also in combating Centuries Old Ignorance & Superstition.
King Mohammad VI-No Longer a Moroccan Sultan in Title or in Spirit-even has created a Special State School where any Moroccan Child from Anywhere in the Kingdom who has Special Talents can study alongside the Crown Prince & his Royal Siblings.
No More sending Royal Princes off to Le Rosay in Switzerland, as so many Arab Potentates have done.
In the Moroccan Future, there will be a Bond of Understanding between Monarch & People.
But King Mohammad is not only Looking to the Future for a Better Life for Moroccans.
He has Decreed that Women should be Paid the Same as Men in Comparable Employments.
That is a Move Forward that neither many American Congressmen nor Big Box Franchises are about to Make Happen.
Also, Moroccan Women have Equal Rights with Moroccan Men!
Nor do they have to Hide Inside their Homes, clad in Black Burkas.
You can still see Moroccan Ladies in Ancient Attires, but you can also glimpse a Bikini Clad Cyclist now & then…
Hidden Splendour in Rabat: The Only Guests in an Antique Boutique Hotel!
When we reached Rabat, I looked for the Local Marriott or High Rise Hyatt, but we were whisked to what seemed a Side Street, crammed with Small Shops.
Down a Narrow Alley, we dragged our bags toward a Very Narrow Doorway: Whaaat?
No Room at the Inn? Were we going to Spend the Night in a Dusty Closet?
Not at All! This was only the Unassuming Entrance to our Historic Boutique Hotel: The Riad L’Alcazar.
Once inside, we found ourselves in a Large Square Courtyard, its Six Stories secured with wondrous Wrought Iron Balconies, with Spacious Suites on all Four Sides.
Fortunately, there was a Modern Elevator, so we soon found ourselves at the Very Top, with a Wide Ranging View over the Rooftops of Rabat.
Not only could we see Local Families at Work & Play in their Backstairs Open Courtyards-Unseen from the Street-but we also had a Fashion Parade of Drying Dresses & Kiddie Rompers…
Yes, we were So Close that we could also see What Was for Dinner!
How about Stewed Apricots & Prunes, festooned around a Lamb Shank?
Almost everywhere we went in Morocco, this was Standard Fare, usually served in a Colorful Ceramic Dish, topped by a Conical Ceramic, to keep Flavor from Escaping & Heat from Dissipating…
These Pottery Table Basics are called Tangines.
As for our own Boutique Dining Experience, we also had Tangines-crammed with Lamb & Stewed Apricots & Prunes.
But, because it was January-not the High Tourist Season-we ate in Lonely Splendor in that Towering Courtyard, surrounded by distinctive Moroccan Furniture, Hand Turned Bowls, Chased Silver Salvers, Ornate Oriental Lamps, Picturesque Paintings, Complicated Hand Woven Carpets, Shimmering Shawls, Fluffy Curtains, & Sedate Sconces…
I took a look at the Posted Menu, printed for Our Own Exclusive Use: Only One Option for Dessert: Orange Slices, Sprinkled with Cinnamon…
In fact, that was Our Only Dessert Option the Entire Time we were in Rabat!
My Moroccan Jewish Parisian Artist Friend, Mlle. Sandra Laredo, still has an Aunt living in Rabat, but there was so much to Do, so much to See, so much to Hear, so much to Learn, & so much to Photograph-for my INFOTOGRAPHY™ Arts Archive Website-that there was No Time Left Over.
When Sandra first came to Manhattan, she’d been instructed to contact me for Artistic Assistance by a Parisian Dance Critic who’d been my PhD Student at CUNY Grad School.
What, I asked, was an Apparently Spanish Laredo doing in Paris?
Sandra explained-what I should have suspected-that, in 1492, or thereabouts, Los Reyes Catolicos, King Ferdinand of Aragon & Queen Isabella of Castile, guided by the Holy Roman Catholic Inquisition, received a Divine Mandate to rid Spain of Jews, Moors, Infidels, & Protestants.
So the Iberian Laredos fled to Morocco, where they were warmly welcomed, as Jews still are!
They & their Portuguese Cousins were then known as Sephardic Jews.
The Displaced Moors-driven from Granada, Cordoba, Castile, & Toledo, where Arab Jewish Christian Scholarship had flourished-were also absorbed into the Moroccan World, where they were known as Al Andaluz, after their former home in Iberian Andalusia.
Only in the 20th Century, did Sandra’s Father come to feel that the Laredos might be more secure in Paris…
Actually, as Racial Relations have matured in Morocco, Jews are More Than Welcome.
Under King Mohammad VI, in fact, Moroccan Jews who emigrate to Israel retain their Moroccan Citizenship always Welcome to Return for a Visit-with their Israeli Born Children also receiving Dual Citizenship!
That’s certainly Not the Policy in Sa’udi Arabia…
Now-rather than Retype all the Pertinent Information from Our Moroccan Guidebook-I’ve Taken the Liberty of Adapting the Text, adding Loney Comments in Brackets , where they may be Apposite or Helpful.
Rabat has been the Capital City of Morocco for nearly a Century, but it has a long Moorish History.
Nonetheless, the Dominating Atmosphere is that of a Relaxed French Provincial Town.
On top of the Moorish Fortifications & Ages Old Architecture, the French imposed Broad Boulevards, lined with Trees & Cafés.
Rabat has never attracted Massive Urban Immigration, so it remains quite Sleepy, more of a Backwater than most Capital Cities.
There are the Ruins of the Old Medina & Kasbah, overlooking the Bou Regreg River, where the Hassan Mosque is Standing Proud.
Built in the 12th Century by Sultan Yacoub Al Mansour, it was meant to Dwarf nearly all other Islamic Monuments in the World.
Disuse & Earthquakes have destroyed much of the Mosque, but what remains is a Forest of Pillars & the Massive Squat Bulk of the Tower, 50 meters high.
Near the Hassan Tower is the Marvelous Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
Nearby is the Town of Salé, which boasts a Less Genteel or Honorable History than Rabat, as it was the Dominant Town in their Partnership of the Republic of Bou Regreg.
Pirate Admirals operated from Salé’s Safe & Easily Defended Harbor, Raiding with Impunity as far away as Ireland & England, but giving 10% of the Booty to the Government of the Republic.
These Free Lance Pirates became known as the Sally Rovers.
Today, Salé is more of a Suburb.
In fact, quite a Scruffy Burb at that, but the Sense of Piratical Disrepute clings to it, giving an Air of Raffish-if Faded-Glamour.
Also important is the Chellah, which probably began Existence as a Settlement clustered around the nearby Freshwater Springs.
These then Evolved into the Phoenician-then Roman-City of Sala, before Decaying into Ruins, as Rabat developed to the North.
However, the Sultans of the Merenid Dynasty chose to Bury Their Dead here, so it is as a Necropolis that the Chellah is most famous.
The Ruins of Roman Sala are Exposed, but it is the Minarets of the Tomb Complex, topped with Storks Nests, that provide the Picturesque Background.
Meknes is one of the Imperial Cities, along with Cities such as Fez, Marrakesh, & Rabat: it was once a Key City & Capital within the Kingdom.
Built as a Berber Stronghold-from which the Khajarites overthrew their Arab Rulers in the 8th Century-it became the Principle Trading Center for Regional Berbers.
After Historical Setbacks, the City slowly resurrected itself under the Stewardship of Moulay Ismail, brother of an Alaouite Sultan.
On his Brother's Death, he took over the Country, constructing a Huge City at Meknes, fit for a Sultan.
Sadly the City did not Long Outlast its Sultanic Builder, as Earthquakes-combined with the Re Emergence of Fez & Marrakesh as Pre Eminent Cities meant that Meknes gradually Faded into Ruins.
Today, Meknes is a City of Walls-Punctuated with the Odd Monumental Arch & the Occasional Flash of Former Glory in the Beautiful Tiling of a Grand Gateway or an Artful Arcade of Moorish Pillars.
[Sultan Moulay Ismail was a Equine Fanatic, maintaining a Massive Stable of Arabian Steeds-as well as the Horse Borne Warriors to Ride them into Battle.
[Both the Powerful Mounts & the Hungry Horsemen had to be Fed, so Moulay Ismail constructed a Massive High Arched Granary to provide their Cereal Rations.
[Today, the Remains of these Lofty Roman Arches make this Ghost Complex look like Rome’s Baths of Caracalla in Multiples.
[This is the Big Photo Op in Meknes, but the Ancient City also has some Impressive Fortifications & Elaborate Tiled Gateways.
[Our Local Host was clearly disappointed that Meknes lacked the Attractions of Fez & Marrakesh.
[This meant that few Foreign Visitors ever stayed Overnight…]
Voloubilis is a wonderful Roman Site, marking the Full Extent of Roman Rule & Power under Emperor Trajan.
This Ancient City was the Western Border of the Roman Empire.
Although Archaeologists believe there were already Neolithic & Phoenician Settlements on the Site, under Juba II, a Roman Client King, Voloubilis moved increasingly into the Roman Orbit, being formally annexed by Emperor Claudius.
Under Emperor Trajan, followed by Septimus Severus-who was the only Roman Emperor born in North Africa-the Polis flourished, with many Grand Buildings constructed.
A Basilica/Court House suggests a Key Role in Regional Administration, while the Magnificence of some of the other Major Monumental Ruins hints at Great Wealth & Prosperity.
The Ruins of the Court House & the Capitoline Temple are amongst the most complete & impressive, but the Most Remarkable Aspect of Voloubilis is/are the Mosaics.
There are a great many Major Mosaics-still in situ-that show All Manner of Scenes: Mythological, Pastoral, & Erotic.
All are in Very Good Condition, demonstrating the Remarkable Skills of their Makers-who bought their Subjects Unerringly to Life.
[From a Distance, the Roman Ruins look not only like the Shattered Shards, Pockmarked Pillars, & Battered Basilicas you will find in & around Rome itself.
[In fact, there are some Temple Ruins & Crusted Corinthian Columns outside Athens which resemble these Imperial Survivals.
[To the Glory That Was Greece & the Grandeur That Was Rome, you could make an Arabic Addition: Virgin Votaries Mourn Vanished Voloubilis…
[The Occasionally All Too Explicit Erotic Mosaics are not only Extremely Well Preserved-Under the Open Air, not Undercover-but some of them are also Sexually Shocking.]
Fez is one of the most Venerable Cities in the Islamic World, not only because it boasts a Wonderfully Intact Medieval Medina.
Fez is a City of Three Parts: Fez el Bali [Old Fez], dating back to the 9th Century Idrissid Dynasty; Fez el Jdid [New Fez], dating back to the 13th Century, & the New Town, built by the Colonial French.
Historically, the City has been at the Heart of the Country, both Politically & Intellectually.
It has been the National Capital on a number of occasions, & the Nationalist Movement of Resistance to the French Colonial Occupation took much of its Direction from Heated Debate in Fez.
Unlike Marrakesh-with the Open Space of the Djema El Fna & the Koutoubia Mosque at its Heart-Fez is a much more Claustrophobic City, with a Medina full of Narrow Alleys & a Jumble of Uneven Rooftops.
It is far more of the Arab World than is Marrakesh: at its Heart are the Shrine of Moulay Idriss II-which has long been a Major Cult Center, as well as the Kairaouiyne Mosque, built by Tunisian Refugees in the 9th Century, which became a Major Force in Islamic Thinking.
It is thought that Pope Sylvester II-who introduced Arabic Numerals to Europe-studied here, as did Ibn Battuta, the Famous Geographer, as well as Ibn Khaldoun, a famous Islamic Historian & Lecturer in Islamic Law.
Fez is a City to Savour-not to Rush Through…
At First Glance, it presents a Never Ending Maze: Blank Windowless Walls, but behind them lie Courtly Courtyards; the Stinking Vats of the Colorful Tanneries-looking like a Child's Primitive Painting Palette, as well as Architectural Wonders like the Superb Carvings & Alabaster Work of the Attarine Medressa.
Whilst Outsiders are Welcome, Fez has not Opened Its Arms, like Marrakesh.
Instead, it has remained Introspective & Challenging to Comprehend, but all the More Rewarding, once you have got Beneath the Surface.
One Consequence of the Dense Complex Network of Secret Alleys & Crowded Souqs is that you might want to consider having a Guide!
Important Sites include the Zaouia [sanctuary] of Moulay Idriss II.
Founder of Fez, Moulay Idriss rapidly achieved Cult Status not long after his Death.
The Cult was Suppressed by Subsequent Dynasties, but it Resurfaced in the 14th Century.
Although Infidels cannot enter the Shrine, it is possible to stand near one of the Elaborate Entrances to Peer Past the Kneeling Supplicants to the Edge of the Tomb, a Large Block, Shrouded in Green.
Another Islamic Monument that can be Glimpsed-but Not Entered-is the Kairaouiyne Mosque.
It was founded by Refugees from Kairaouiyne, in Tunisia, in the 10th Century, but is now so much part of the City that its Shape cannot be Distinguished, because so many Buildings have been piled onto its Walls.
Even from Above, only the Courtyard Areas & the Minaret are Easily Identifiable.
When you are standing by the Mosque Doors, the Rows of Pious Praying Muslims Draw the Eye into the Open Courtyards with their Ornate Fountains, surrounded by Elegant Pillars.
The Attarine Medressah is an Islamic Monument that may be entered.
A Medressah-or Madrassa, to American Readers of Islamic News Reports-is a College or Center of Koranic Study, attached to a Mosque.
It normally Consists of a number of Cells, clustered around a Courtyard.
The Attarine Medressah is not very large, but it is Exquisite in its use of Carved Wooden Screens, Alabaster, delicate Zellij Tile Work, & cooling Marble Surrounds.
Quite a Contrast are the Colorful Dye Vats of Fez.
The Tanning of Hides has been done in exactly the same manner for Centuries.
The Hides are first treated in Vats of Urine & Pigeon Excreta-which is an Overwhelming Smell.
Then the Dead Animal Skins are put into Round Vats filled with Differing Colors of Dye.
Workers trample slowly back & forth in the Vast Arena of Vats, up to their Thighs in Goodness Knows What…
This is one of the best Photo Opportunities in Fez-the Multitude of Vats & Dyes contrasting with Whitewashed Walls all around, Draped in Drying Hides.
[Forget all about Bat Shit!. Or Bats Out of Hell…
[The Odor is Unbelievable, but what about those Dye Spattered Men, sloshing about in those Deep Dye Pits, Day after Day, Week after Week, Month after Month, Year after Year?
[Their Bodies become Dyed as well, but as the Dyes are Caustic, they must eventually Die of the Dye?
[A Welcome Respite to the Dyers Domain-fleeing the Ardent Merchants of Supple Hides, some with Contrasting Colors, others with Embossed or Incised Decorations-a Round of Mint Tea was both Soothing & a Visual Astonishment.
[Our Red Fez Topped Waiter filled a Tray with Ten Glasses or so in the Open Air Café.
[Then he took the distinctive Arabian Teapot in hand, pouring the First Glass back into the Pot.
[Then he swooped his Left Hand behind him, holding the Tray-which he could no longer see.
[Raising the Teapot high above his Head in his Right Hand, he also swiveled it behind him & began pouring Glass after Glass, not spilling a drop, but Never Looking Behind Him, confident that this Magic Ritual would not Fail…
[The Moorish Moroccan Munchies were also very good, but not as Showy as this African Tea Ceremony.
[Madame Butterfly, Eat Your Heart Out! Your Nipponese Tea Ceremony cannot Compare…
[One Funerary Fez Site that many Americans won’t want to miss is the Vast Jewish Cemetery of White Washed Tombs & Grand Rabbis Galore…]
The Drive from Fez to the Erg Chebbi takes a full day, and covers a Remarkable Range of Scenery.
Leaving Fez, you climb into the Middle Atlas, through Alpine Scenery.
This European Atmosphere reaches its Peak at Ifrane, which was built as a Summer Hill Station for French Colonials from Fez & Marrakesh.
The Quaint Chalets, with their Tiled Roofs seem to come straight from Switzerland or Austria.
[Yes, Indeed! But we were caught in an Epic Snowstorm, so this looked more like the Bavarian Alps in High Winter.
[Scores of Cars & Trucks were trapped deep in the Downy Drifts, Unable to Move.
[Fortunately, a Snow Plow came to Our Rescue, but this made us miss Many Miles of the Vast, Endless Atlas Mountains, one of the Stony Wonders of the World.
[Of the Atlas Range, you might say: Seen One Alpine Peak, Seen Them All…
[But that’s Not Quite True: Each Peak seems Taller, Higher than the one before it: Matterhorn after Matterhorn, with an Aigner & a Zügspitze thrown in for Good Measure.
[Truly, here in the High Atlas, the Colorado Rockies look like Foothills.
[Forget about the Austrian Dolomites…]
It takes Half a Day to cross the Barren Middle Atlas Plateau, but the Scenery becomes more impressive as you approach the South. Here-not far from Er Rachidia-is the Entry to the dramatic Ziz Gorge.
Steep Canyon Walls seem barely able to contain the Mass of Palm Trees that threaten to Burst Out, their Top Most Leaves reaching above the Amazing Canyon.
The Juxtaposition of the Harsh Desert Scenery with the Fertile River Valley-fringed with crumbling Pisé Kasbahs-is typical of the Landscape in the Southern Oasis Valleys.
Just beyond Er Rachidia is the Sleepy Town of Erfoud: a Coke© Stop before heading out into the Dunes of the Erg Chebbi.
The Erg Chebbi is one of the First Tendrils of the Sahara that reach into Morocco's Eastern Corner.
Rising up several hundred feet, the Crescent Summits of the Towering Sand Sea fit every Romantic Notion that Outsiders may have ever held about the Sahara.
Approached from either Erfoud or Rissani, the Unromantic Roadway passes through Black & Fractured Rock that testifies to some Tumultuous Event in Geological History, before Petering Out onto a Vast Gravel Plain.
[It is also Awash in a Sea of Plastic Bottles: Lying Still or Wind Wafted…]
On the Horizon lies the Erg Chebbi.
The Best Time to Delight in the Dunes is either Dawn or Sunset.
Then-as the Light Changes with every Passing Minute-so also do the Dune Colors: from Harsh Yellow, through Honeyed Gold & Ochre, into an almost Purple Coloration.
The Night Sky is one of the most Amazing Sights: with little or no Light Pollution, as well as Clear, Dry Desert Air, it can seem that Every Star in Creation is Visible.
[Having already had Tourist Camel Rides in Asian Rajastan & in East Africa, I more or less Knew What To Do.
[But those Dromedary Delights & Bactrian Adventures came before I Fell on My Head, so I lurched about the Sandy Sahara’s Daunting Dunes with my Handicapper Cane.
[Dismounting with Difficulty, I was led to an Elaborate Desert Tent, where Bedouin Drummers were Plying Their Tourist Trade on a Carpet Covered Patch of Sand.
[Dining by Candlelight-Did Omar the Tentmaker have Candles or a Kerosene Lamp?-we ate Our Hummus & Desert Dried Dates with our Right Hands, because an Arabic Left Hand must be kept free for You Know What…
[Also: You do not show the Soles of Your Feet to Your Host: a Sign of Great Disrespect!
[If you are Being Beheaded in another Sector of the Arab World, there seems to be No Guide on Foot Etiquette…
[After Dates & Hummus-as well as more Mint Tea-I slunk into the Bedouin Tent, where I spent most of the Night fighting off Total Frigitity.
[I have never been So Cold in my Entire Life, so, Next Time, Keep the Camels!]
Heading West from Erg Chebbi, Tourists soon enter the Dades Valley, one of the Three Major Southern Oasis Valleys.
Typical of the Region, it is a Broad Path of Towering Palm Plantations, cutting through Barren & Rocky Landscapes.
The Profusion of Decaying Fortifications & Tribal Enclosures has given it the Local Name of The Valley of A Thousand Kasbahs.
In addition to the Ruins & Palm Plantations, there are also the Famous Gorges.
The Most Notable is the Todra Gorge: Stop to admire the Sheer Sides of the Gorgeous Gorge towering above.
At the Gorge Entrance is a simple Restaurant/Hostel by a Quietly Bubbling Stream.
Pause here to sip a Mint Tea-or perhaps Take Lunch.
Then Onward to visit the Dades Gorge, continuing on to Skoura.
Along the Way, pass through Ouarzazate, on to the Dizzying Switch Backs of the Tizi n Tichka, one of the Most Dramatic Mountain Passes in Morocco.
[Dramatic is hardly the Word for this Breathtaking Descent. Especially when making it in a Raging Snowstorm…
[Every time we rounded yet another Switchback, I thought we’d Reach Bottom at that Patch of Level Ground glimpsed below through Gusts of Snow.
[But No! Flatness was briefly achieved, then we were Switchbacking Downward again.
[On the Way, we witnessed One of the Many Reasons the Current King is so admired & loved: His Obvious Care for His Subjects.
[When that Atlas Snowstorm became an Impenetrable Blizzard, the King sent out Details of Soldiers to bring Food & Supplies to Stranded Tribesmen.]
The Most Interesting Route to the High Atlas lies to the East of this Modern Road, but it is still only a Narrow Graded Track-suitable only for 4x4 Vehicles.
Two Kasbahs-Ait Benhaddou & Telouet-have a Story To Tell…
[Unfortunately, the Kasbah where we were billeted was neither Picturesque nor Comfortable.
[Forget about Hummus or a Space Heater!]
Linking these Kasbahs is the Oued Mellah Valley, once a MajorTrading Route.
In the 19th Century, it came to be ruled by the Glaoui Tribe.
Initially, they were no more than One Tribe Amongst Many, but their Fortunes were changed by a Passing Sultan-who left them some German Artillery, which was believed to Possess the Power to bestow Baraka, or Blessings.
Thanks to this Single Gun-Primitive by European Standards but far in advance of most Tribal Muskets-the Glaoui Tribe began to Swell in Wealth & Importance.
When the Colonial French governed Morocco as a Protectorate, they used the Glaoui Tribe as their Feudal Overlords in the South, governing the Unruly Other Tribes by Proxy.
Exposure to French Influence made the Glaoui Rich & Ostentatious, with a Veneer of Sophistication-beneath which they never lost the almost Medieval Mentality of Native Tribesmen.
The High Atlas is the Highest Mountain Range in North Africa, also boasting the Highest Mountain in North Africa: the Jebel Toubkal, at 4167 Meters.
This is a Spectacular Land of Tumbling Streams, Jagged Mountains, & Terraced Berber Villages, where Mint Tea is Always on Offer.
Be prepared to drink Lots of Mint Tea.
This is known as Le Whiskey Berbere-always prepared with Great Care & Ceremony.
This involves Pouring the Tea from a Great Height, but always putting the First Glass back into the Teapot.
Mint Tea is typically served in Small Glasses. It is always Very Very Sweet-Quasi Death to Diabetics…
Marrakesh is an Historic City of Ancient Monuments & Countless Narrow Winding Streets, filled with Artful Artisans selling their Colorful Crafts.
The Most Famous Landmark is the Minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, dominating the Heart of the City, looming over the Djema El Fna.
This Irregular Square was formerly a Place of Execution but it now Plays Host to Entertainers & Vendors, creating the Atmosphere of a Permanent Carnival.
Huge Historic Palaces-such as Bahia Palace-Vie for Attention with Smaller Museums, whilst Formal Gardens-large & small-offer some Respite from the Bustling City.
What draws many people to Marrakesh, however, are the Souqs-a Vast Network of Interlinked Quarters, each Focusing on a Separate Trade, such as Carpentry, Metalworking, Weaving, & Dyeing.
Wandering through the Narrow Avenues-Ringing to the Sounds of Manufacture & Packed with the Finished Products being Expertly Sold-is the Quintessential Marrakesh Experience.
The Saadien Tombs, the Koutoubia Mosque, the Djema El Fna, & the El Badia Palace are Not To Be Missed.
The Saadien Tombs largely date to a Glorious Period in Moroccan History: the Era of Ahmed El Mansour, the Saadien Sultan who controlled Vast Tracts of Territory-including the Gold Fields of West Africa & many Key Trade Routes.
Thanks to this, the Saadien Throne grew Immensely Wealthy, so when the Sultans died, they were buried here, in Some Splendor.
The Tomb Halls are Beautifully Decorated-with Marble, Carved Alabaster, & delicate Zellij Mosaic, made from Glazed Tiles.
The Alaouites-who succeeded the Saadiens-Feared the Love the Population had for the Saadiens, so they built a Huge Wall around the Saadien Tombs, to ensure that they did not become a Focus for Dissent.
Thus the Saadien Tombs remained Hidden & Unknown-until an Aerial Survey during the French Colonial Protectorate revealed their Location, so a Narrow Passage was then cut through the Surrounding Wall.
The Koutoubia Mosque dominates the Marrakesh Skyline, with the distinctive Three Golden Balls atop the Minaret.
It is said that the Wife of Youcoub El Mansour ate Three Grapes in One Day during the Fast of Ramadan. In Penance, she melted down all her Jewellery & molded them into these Three Balls.
[That sounds like Balls, indeed…]
The Minaret displays the Classic Proportions of all Maghrebi Minarets, while Each Side was Individually Decorated-which can still be seen in the Decorative Bands of Faience that only survive on the Top Story.
El Badia translates as The Incomparable-a Fitting Epithet for the Palace of Ahmed El Mansour.
As befitted so Wealthy a Sultan, the Finest Craftsmen from across the World were employed in its construction.
The Centerpiece was an Enormous Courtyard where Raised Paths concealed Intricate Waterways that irrigated Four Large Gardens, sunk into the Ground & filled with Beautiful & Aromatic Trees.
Pools & Pavilions lined the Walls of the Courtyard. Even now, the Raised Walkways, Sunken Gardens, & some of the Pools & the Pavilion Ruins remain, Mute Testimony to the Former Glories of El Badia.
The Souqs of Marrakesh can easily match Contemporary Fantasies of what an Arabian Bazaar should be.
Positively Labyrinthine: a Maze of Streets & Narrow Alleys, divided into Different Quarters, each set apart by the Craft practiced there.
Above the Dyer's Souq are Billowing Sheets of Cotton-freshly dyed & drying out-while the Carpenter's Souq is redolent with the Aroma of Freshly Cut Wood being turned into Intricate Furniture.
[The Wood Turning that most astonished me was being rapidly rounded by a Young Hand & Foot Lathe Operator.
[He was seated Cross Legged at a Very Small Lathe, whirled around by One Foot, while he sawed away at the Wooden Shaft with a Small Bow, held in his Left Hand, while his Right Hand worked a Miniature Wood Chisel to Turn a Dowel into an Ornate Wand, with Wooden Rings encircling it.
[Amazingly, he also had some Sharp Chisels stuck between the Toes of his Right Foot, so he could make Multiple Rings at the same time.
[It seemed that he could spend the Rest of His Life, here in the Woodworkers Souq, turning & turning…]
The Metal Souq resounds to the sound of Hammers & Bellows as Lamps, Tables, & Benches are Forcefully Coerced into Shape.
The Djema El Fna is part Market, part Travelling Fair: a Dazzling Array of Entertainers congregate here every day.
There are Jugglers, Mime Artists, Musicians, Fortune Tellers, Snake Charmers, & Boxers-all plying their Various Trades, while Eager Vendors supply the Madding Crowd with Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice, Super Sweet Dates, Hot Breads, & Fresh Fruits.
Boiled Sheep Heads loom out of Steamy Clouds, backlit by Roaring Braziers, lending a Gothic Aspect to this Strange Scene.
Here is the Old Fountain, known as Chroub Ou Chouf, as well as the Medieval Fondouks that were once Hotels for Caravan Traders.
The Archaeological Site of the Koubba Almoravides is the Oldest Remains from Early Marrakesh.
That Tempting Aroma arises from a Communal Bakery where Local Housewives Bake the Bread they have already Mixed & Kneaded at home.
Have a Hot Slice or a Whole Loaf!
Here also is the Communal Furnace that heats the Area's Communal Steam Bath, continuing the tradition of the Hammam.
Another Popular Site is/are the Majorelle Gardens which were lovingly restored by Yves Saint Laurent.
Founded by the French Artists, Jacques & Louis Majorelle, the Majorelle Botanical Gardens are Immaculately Maintained, including an Intimate Museum which displays the Eclectic Artwork of Yves Saint Laurent.
[Actually, we did not make it over to the French Inflected Garden Complex, so we missed looking at Yvesian Artworks.
[This Misadventure was caused by a Morning Marathon along a Major Thoroughfare, which left us Trapped in Traffic most of the Morning.
[So we also missed the Major Museum, as well as some other Moorish Monuments.
[Nonetheless, it was a Surprise & Delight to discover a Brilliant Young Arabic Calligrapher working away in a Secreted Scriptorium.
[I bought a Dozen of his Colorful Codices, including one that bore the Title of PEACE.
[Taking a Copy of this Marrakeshian Peace Offering with me to Sa’udi Arabia, I was astonished to learn-from an Authenic Arab-that it did not Translate as Peace at all.
["No, Dr. Loney! What it so elegantly says is: GLENN LONEY."
[In Colorful Calligraphy, no less!
[When I took all my Calligraphies down Fifth Avenue, to have them Framed by Friedman, all the Staff marveled at them.
["He should make these into Large Scale Posters!"
["If you can get in touch with him, tell him he needs to make a Coffee Table Book of these!"
[Unfortunately, he didn’t give me His Card, neither Printed nor Calligraphed…
[An Unquestionable High Point of Meeting Medieval Marrakesh was our stay in Stefano Scalera’s Treasure House Boutique Hotel: The Riad Palais Khum.
[It is a Veritable Museum, artfully decorated with Venerable Antiques, as well as Picasso Prints!
[Our Host also operates a Hotel in his Native Milano. If it’s Anything Like Palais Khum, we have to Check It Out next time in Italy!!]
Cosmopolitan Casablanca: Monster Mosque of King Hassan II!
Not so much as a Second of Casablanca was filmed within a Hundred Miles of the City.
[So There! Play It Again Sam?]
The Hassan II Mosque is a Massive Undertaking, funded by Contributions from the Public-thus its Construction is estimated to have taken 5% of Moroccan Cash out of Circulation.
Its Siting echoes the Koranic Verse: The Throne of Allah was built on the Water, by being built Out Over the Atlantic.
The Mosque is the Second Largest in the World. Its Vast Minaret soars to 200 Meters, topped by Lasers that beam out towards Mecca, once the Sun Has Set.
The Mosque of Hassan II has a Massive Sliding Roof above the Prayer Hall, as well as the Long Fountains that Bubble beneath the Prayer Hall..
[You have to See This to Believe It! Inside, it is Dripping with Huge Crystal Chandeliers.
[The Ritual Baths or Hammam for Muslim Women are Immense.
[They could accommodate Scores of Pious Ladies, as can the Immense Overhead Balconies above the Mosque’s Prayer Floor, which are Ritually Required because Muslim Men do not want to be Distracted by Females to whom they are not Married nor Related.
[This Magnificent Mosque makes most American Mega Churches look like Small Change indeed!
[Oddly enough, as Casablanca is so Cosmopolitan-so Euro Centric in some Aspects-some of its Special Appeal is not Moorish nor Moroccan.
[My Favorite Boutique Hotel is, in fact, Italian Futurist/Art Deco in its Bold Decors.
[It is the Hotel Le Doge, featuring a Stunning Art Deco Staircase & a Sleekly Futurist Deco Mural by the Artist/Adventurist, Tamara de Limpiska
[Our Genial Host-M. Kouhen-is a Proud Casablancan, but he went off to Switzerland and Belgium to learn the Profession & Trade of Hotelier.
[He told us that His Family-One of the Most Important in the City-are the Major Millers of Cereals.
[The Meals were excellent, but I didn’t try either the Hummus or the Oatmeal…
[But, if & when I return to Casablanca, I’m going to Reserve My Room at Hotel Le Doge well in advance!]
Morocco Barocco: Leave No Surface Undecorated!
Even with almost Two Weeks On the Road to Morocco, it was simply Not Possible to see All the Sights.
Some Major Monuments really require Days, not Hours, to Study & Savour.
Indeed, the Powerful Outlines of some Mosque Minaret Complexes call for Careful Contemplation at various Hours of the Day.
But so many Complex Colorful Wall Surfaces, Complex Colorful Geometric Tiles, & Complex Colorful Patterned Floors do cry out for Closer Study.
Among Other Reasons-including Mint Tea & Lamb with Apricots & Prunes-this may well be why so many Previous Visitors return to Marrakesh.
In 2014, it was the Most Visited City in the World!
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