Saturday, April 15, 2017

2017 Grand World Voyage, Day 199, Marrakech (Part 1 of 3)

Our first stop today was in Marrakech new town or the Gueliz to visit the Menara Gardens.  This garden of olive trees was established in the 19th century.  Next we did a walk about at the Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech with its striking, 70 meter tall minaret built in 1162.  There were hordes of tourists in Marrakech!!!  Our Guide Laribi told us it was the start of the busy tourist season and the Marrakech economy relies heavily on tourism.  On to the Saadian tombs, accessible only through a small passageway in the Kasbah Mosque.  No expense was speared by Al-Mansour to build his own tomb, he had imported Italian Carrara marble and honeycomb decorative plasterwork with pure gold.  Next we went to the Bahai Palace, also built by Sultan Ahmed Al-Mansour.  The interior decoration is a wonderful display of tiles, painted ceilings and ornate wrought-iron features showcasing the opulent lives of the times.  We paid a visit to the Majorelle Gardens.  In the midst of the hectic Marrakech metropolis, there is an Eden-like garden restored by Yves Saint Laurent. A fabulous ensemble of plants, colors and materials, Saint Laurent’s burial place, this fascinating oasis was a great place to relax.  Next we toured the Ali Ben Youssef Madras Koranic School and Mosque built in the 16th century by the Saadians and could house up to 900 religious students. The architecture is beautifully preserved and we explored the tiny rooms where the students used to live.  We saved the best for last, the Marrakech Medina(Old City), a UNESCO world heritage and remains the nerve center of the “Red City”.  The Medina, the labyrinth district with its narrow alleyways are a kaleidoscope of colors, scents and sounds, and was the highlight of our trip to Marrakech.  The souks are basically undercover markets that sell everything from chickens to high-quality crafts.  Even if you don’t like shopping, the souks are a cultural experience you wouldn’t want to miss.  We wandered amid the bustling maze of stalls, shopping and taking in the sites until we made our way to the large entry to the Medina, the Jemaa Square.  The square is a vibrant hub of cafes, bric-a-brac stalls, musicians and snake charmers.  Here the entire spectrum of Moroccan life enfolds before you.  In reality, Morocco is a country of beggars...every which way you turn someone is asking for money.  We really enjoyed our timely Marrakech and we are off to Fes tomorrow.  This is part 1 of a 3 part blog.


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