Today we are going to Muse about travelling in Morocco. If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.
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The New Adventure
In 1961 I boarded a plane at Nouasseur, Morocco, heading back to the states, off to the university, closing a significant chapter of my youth. For two years I had lived with my parents and younger brother and sister in Casablanca. I loved it. I was old enough to understand a lot and young enough to have no responsibilities. It was a formative period of my life.
Except for one day spent in Tangier twenty years ago, I had not been back. When Jeanette and I began to kick around ides for places to go, things to do, we got talking with our new neighbors who honeymooned recently in Morocco. They could not say enough good things about their trip. They loved it!
So we took the cue. Morocco it was. I’ll tell you about it.
We used American Express Travel services for our arrangements. They made all the reservations: flights, hotels and private drivers. They were very accommodating and efficient. I recommend them.
Our first destination was the city of Marrakech in the southern part of Morocco. When I hitch hiked as a youth I stayed in hostels or pensions or slept in fields. That obviously was not going to be the plan with Jeanette in the equation.
We decided to stay in the La Mamounia. This famous hotel has been the favorite of people since it opened in the 1920’s. Churchill often stayed there. Recently in 2013 Vladimir Putin’s daughter’s wedding was held there.
The hotel is large and is graced by beautiful gardens. Here are some images.
La Mamounia was originally a property owned by royalty. As such it is quite a large property with extensive gardens, several villas, a casino and of course the hotel proper.
The Interior is elaborately decorated with mosaics, tile and marble.
This was our room.
I was particularly taken by our shower. There was a tub, yes, which we never used but otherwise the entire room was the shower.
The section of the hotel in which we stayed was somewhat dark with long hallways.
We pass someone in the hallway. Jeanette says, “Hello”. He replys. “Bonjour”. As we pass I say, “Bonjour”. He Says, “Hello”. Hmmm!
This is the view from our room. We were very near the heart of the Medina, the ancient center of Marrakech. The Koutoubia Mosque dates from 1184 AD.
There were certain oddities about the hotel that gave it a unique charm. One afternoon I was enjoying the lounge next to the French dining room.
Directly in front of me was a large mirror. There was a similar mirror directly behind me. You can see them in this photo.
We have all seen mirrors reflected by a mirror on the opposite wall. They seem to recede smaller and smaller into the distance, going on to infinity. A terrific optical illusion! But that is not what is going on here. Here, the mirrors seem to recede on a curving path. With each reflection a little more of the wall on the left is visible as is a little less of the wall on the right. How is this possible?
I spent quite a bit of time studying the mirrors (and people think I am dull!) and I finally determined that the mirrors are not set flush in the recess of the wall. The right edge of the mirror is set slightly further in than the left edge. Therefore, the mirror does not reflect what is directly in front of it but what is seen at a slight angle. And you thought I did not notice things!
But enough about the hotel. Lets talk about Marrakech.
The city is one of the four imperial cities, meaning in times past it was the main home of the then king. It has actually been home to several dynasty’s. It has a number of royal constructions: palaces, tombs, official building. Near the Koutoubi mosque is Jamaa el- fnaa, a large square said to be the most active in Africa.
It is home to acrobats, snake charmers and merchants of every type.
When I was a boy there were water sellers who were colorfully dressed and sold cups of water to the thirsty. They are still there, but they are all show. They no longer sell water; they just pose for pictures for tourists.
This is what they looked like in 1960 when they really did sell water to those who needed it.
The weather was spotty when we were there so the square was not as vibrant as normal. Still it was very interesting. Leading off the square are a labyrinth of narrow lanes full of shops.
The region is known for carpets. The yarn is dyed in the back alleys of the souk.
Here you see it hanging while it drys.
These are some of the pigments used. We were told they are all natural dyes made from plant or mineral material. And this is the cheerful craftsman at work.
Our only issue was the walking. Our guide did not want us to miss anything and he kept us on our feet for nearly six hours. When both of us felt we were on the edge of paralysis we called it quits.
Our visit concluded with a Moroccan dinner in the depths of the Medina. We took a cab. Here is the restaurant. A little dark, but what the hey!
The dinner was special, at least five courses, served family style. We were amused. The portions were the same regardless of the size of the party. There were just the two of us. The table next to us was a party of four. They got the same serving as we received.
In the Kasbah, the fortified residential area, there are some elaborate tombs. The workmanship was truly fine. The ancient architecture is exotic. I found the delicate lace-like work seen on the walls or columns incredible. It is all carved into the plaster. I was told it was done by hand with out a stencil. I don’t know how.
After three days in Marrakesh we headed to Rabat, another imperial city and the home of Muhammad six, the present king
more to come
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