Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Marrakech


This past weekend, we checked another thing off of our bucket list--a visit to the fascinating city of Marrakech in the North African country of Morocco. I can not begin to tell you what a sensory experience it was, with the sounds, the tastes, the smells, the view all teasing us with every step we made. In so many ways, I felt like we had stepped back to Biblical times. 

One of the first sights that caught our eye upon arrival was the Koutobia Mosque, built in the 12th century, from where the 5 calls to prayer each day can be heard throughout the city (including the one before sunrise every morning that called and called and called us to rise long before we were ready!)


After being let out by car at the city gate of the médina ( the old city,) we cautiously threaded our way through the narrow alleys with our luggage, dodging motor scooters, shoppers. and horses, to a 
non-descript alley which led to our beautiful oasis in the midst of the chaos of the city--the Riad Kniza, our home for three nights.

Photo courtesy of Riad Kniza

Dating from the 18th century, the Riad Kniza has been completely restored to a small boutique hotel in an authentic Moroccan style.



The hospitality of the Riad was outstanding, starting with the traditional green mint tea served in beautiful Moroccan glasses upon arrival


as well as the breakfast feasts prepared each morning just for us.


The Riad boasted its own hamman spa

Photo courtesy of Riad Kniza

a beautiful terrace

Photo courtesy of Riad Kniza

and swimming pool.



Our room was meticulously furnished with some of the antiques from the owner's antique shop.


After a brief rest, we left the tranquility of the Riad and headed back down the alley seen above, to the streets for our guided tour


with our delightful host Haj Mohamed, who has been a guide for 34 years, having escorted several US presidents, movie stars including Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Jennifer Anniston. The day before we walked the streets with Mohammed, he had escorted Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. So, I'm sure he was quite delighted to be escorting VIP'S like hubby and me, along with our 2 travel buddies and good friends from London.


We walked through quiet alleys,


thronging streets,

Photo by Charene Jones

past more snake charmers than I could count


towards the bustling Djemaa el Fna square, 


which is the crossroads of the city, filled with acrobats, story-tellers, snake charmers, musicians and dancers. At night, the square turns into a beautiful open air restaurant, full of tables and options for Moroccan dishes.


We quickly made our way through the souk (market), stopping at one shop to try on caftans like Goldie Hawn bought, and to see the table she was shipping back to her home in the States. Lots, lots more to come in a future post about this market.


Then we wrapped up with a cultural visit to the Ben Youssef Madrasa, an Islamic college built in the 16th century.


130 dormitory cells encircle the courtyard carved in marble, stucco and cedar. It may have housed as many as 900 students.


There are no human or animal representations in the carvings according to Islamic law, so the carvings consist of geometric patterns and inscriptions. One of the fascinating aspects of Moroccan design that we noticed during our visit.


As the sun set on our first day, we enjoyed a typical Moroccan dinner and made plans for the rest of the stay. Hope you'll come back for the follow-up posts which include camels, goat, sheep ( in no certain order,) cooking class, hamman spa treatments, the people of Morocco, mountain excursions and market mania.

Climb on board for the Marrakech Express!

3 comments:

  1. Wow~
    This looks like an amazing trip.
    Thanks for traveling with us this Tuesday :-)

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  2. Debi, in my next life I SO want to be you!!! The photos are fantastic and the adventure even more so!!

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  3. Spectacular photos and commentary, Debi! Wow, what a location. It is now on our must see list as soon as possible. You are rapidly becoming my favorite international tour guide! :)

    Thank you again and hope you are having a wonderful week. – g

    ReplyDelete