THINGS TO TRY IN MOROCCO
Posted by Worldtraveland
Explore the Moorish history
Set in its own fenced enclosure and sunk several metres below the current street level, is the Koubba El-Badiyin. It looks unprepossessing but it’s the only surviving structure from the era of the Almoravids, the founders of Marrakech, and as such it represents a wormhole back to the origins of Moorish building history. It dates to the reign of Ali ben Youssef (1107-43) and was probably part of the ablutions complex of the original Ben Youssef Mosque. It’s worth paying the slight admission fee to descend the brickwork steps and view the underside of the dome, which is a kaleidoscopic arrangement of a floral motif within an octagon within an eight-pointed star.
Visit the Tanneries in Fes
Fes is famous for its leather products and most of them come from the leather bazaar (souq) in old Fes. The tanneries have been in operation since medieval times and little has changed, which makes them absolutely fascinating to visit.
To see the tanneries, you have to head into a leather shop filled to the brim with handbags, jackets and slippers. This is not just an excuse for your guide to make a commission off of your visit; the best views are from these shops. Sprigs of fresh mint are essential when you visit the tanneries since the animal hides are stinky, and the pigeon poop they’re treated in doesn’t help.
Explore the history of Morocco through its museums
The Dar Si Said Museum (Riad Zitoun El-Jedid, +212 5 24 38 95 64), former home of the brother of Ba Ahmed, builder of the Bahia, now houses a large collection of crafts and woodwork. Among all the kitchen implements, weapons and musical instruments are beautiful examples of carved cedar, rescued from the city’s lost dwellings.
Inaugurated in 1997, the Musée de Marrakech is housed in a converted early 20th-century house. The museum exhibits rotate, but the star attraction is the building itself, particularly the tartishly tiled great central court, roofed over and hung with an enormous chandelier that looks like the mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The former hammam is lovely and makes a fine exhibition space.
Shop in a handicrafts store
Don’t let the humble entrance fool you – Centre Artisanal is the closest thing to a department store in Marrakech, albeit a department store selling nothing but handicrafts. It’s the ultimate souvenir store, with everything from trad clothing (babouches, jellabas, kaftans) to jewellery, and home furnishings to carpets. Prices are fixed at slightly above what you would pay in the souk, but this at least does away with tiresome haggling.
Enjoy the Moroccan groove
Pacha is an enormous complex which, apart from the club itself, also includes two restaurants – Jana and Crystal – as well as a chill-out lounge and swimming pool. The dancefloor and bars can accommodate up to 3,000 smiley souls, and guest DJs are flown in most weekends. The names include many of those you’ll find elsewhere on the international Pacha circuit. The club is some 7km south of town, so getting there and back can be pricey.
Almost too big for its own good, Palais Jad, just outside Bab Jdid, has a nice restaurant and bar with (usually) a boring live band playing vintage rock covers on the ground floor, and a voluminous club down below (separate entrance along the street, admission 100dh) that today houses a nightly ‘oriental cabaret’ frequented mostly by Moroccans.
Step into a Sultan’s palace
Constructed by Sultan Ahmed El-Mansour (1578-1607), the Badii Palace is one of the two principal monuments of the Saadian era (the other is the Saadian Tombs). Today it survives only as a denuded ruin, but once it was a model of triumphal ostentation. Walls and ceilings were encrusted with gold from Timbuktu, while the inner court had a massive central pool with an island, flanked by four sunken gardens. At the centre of each of the four massive walls were four pavilions, also flanked by arrangements of pools and fountains. It took some 25 years to complete the palace and barely were the inaugural celebrations over before the ageing ruler passed away. His palace remained intact for less than a century before the Merenid sultan, Moulay Ismail, had it stripped bare and the riches carted north for his new capital at Meknès.
Posted on March 26, 2014, in Explore Destinations, General Reading and tagged Badii Palace, Centre Artisanal, Dar Si Said Museum, fes, Koubba El-Badiyin, Marrakech, Morocco, Pacha, tanneries. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.