|Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 11, 2018 at 3:35 PM||comments (0)|
A great way to discover the Moroccan city of Marrakech is through a Guided walking tour of its Art Deco Architecture in the new city of Gueliz. You can spend an afternoon gallery hopping, shopping at designer boutiques and eat your way through Marrakech's, trendsetting new town. As one of the most sought-after Colonial cities in Morocco, Gueliz is all the rave. Morocco’s Colonial history and the beginning of Art Deco Gueliz dates back to 1912 when an agreement was signed with France, called “Protectorat.” A French army general and colonial administrator named Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey had the vision to modernize Morocco with the preservation of its cultural traditions and local customs. Lyautey created the Ville Nouvelle (new town) Gueliz, originating from the French word Église, which means church. Gueliz was the first town to be built outside the Marrakech medina with views of the Atlas Mountains and a referendum requiring no building to stand beyond 3 stories high or the equivalent of a palm tree.
First built as a military camp, Gueliz was small and occupied primarily by the French. This French quarter grew rapidly and architects embraced Parisian Art Deco by creating large avenues, bustling cafes and theatres, along with charming villas and a central market. Gueliz was designed by French architect, Henri Prost. Its original main tree-lined avenue was called Avenue de France. Today Avenue de France has been renamed Boulevard Mohammed VI and is filled with modern office buildings, banks, boutiques that are surrounded by magnificent Art Deco facades that remain from the city’s colonial past. Travelers and locals frequent Boulevard Mohammed VI for evening walks and picnics, sipping Moroccan tea at its sprawling cafes on sunlit terraces and to shop at luxury boutiques as they take in the glorious flora and fauna in full bloom year round. One of the Art Deco highlights of Gueliz is the Church of Holy Saints-Martyrs, built in 1928 and inaugurated in December 1931. It was also designed by the architect and urban planner French Henri Prost and commission Marshal Lyautey,
La Mamounia Hotel & Gardens- Perfect for afternoon tea, sunset cocktails or pool lunch, this Art Deco historic hotel is where Alfred Hitchcock wrote the movie The Birds. It is situated on the edge of the walls of the old city of Marrakech and is named for its 200-year-old gardens, which were given as an 18th Century wedding gift to Prince Moulay Mamoun by his father.
Jnane El Harti (Harti Gardens) - A creation of the urban garden Jnane El Harti dates back to the end of the 1930s. Translated as "janân al-harthî", which means, "Gardens of my plowed earth" this garden was originally created to produce food. The current Jnane El Harti occupies six hectares is decorated with wooden benches and maintains a sprawling cactus garden, a restaurant with views of the garden and a sports hall. Perfectly representative of East and West, the Harti Gardens is a mixed space of Mediterranean vegetation with olive, citrus and ficus surrounded by European lawns, shrubs, palms and cactus.
Where to Shop in Gueliz: Designer Boutiques & Concept Stores 33 Majorelle - With two levels of design, fashion and accessories created by Moroccan and international designers, as well as the traditional Moroccan goodies like the green pottery from southern Morocco and a selection of funky babouche, this is the shop for trendy souvenirs and gifts. Like a high-end department store, new designers are exposed with a collection hanging regularly, giving this concept store the leading edge on the latest trends. A small gallery is attached and features a changing art exhibit. The location is perfect – across from Majorelle Gardens. Address: 33 Rue Yves Saint Laurent
Majorelle Gardens Boutique - Easy to find and with a friendly owner Toufik, this is one of the best up-market boutiques for fine Moroccan fashion with a Western twist. Using the finest silks, Toufik creates a stunning collection of kaftans, velvet vests, and cotton tunics are part of the collection that changes regularly. But if you don’t see exactly what you are looking for, custom orders are possible and take up to two weeks. Address: 9-11 Soukiat Laksour
MOOR - Owned by fashion designer Yann Dobry of Akbar Delights in the medina, Moor features a selection of upscale Moroccan couture. Using the finest artisans and materials, Moor is known for its embroidered silk, cotton and linen tunics. The cool and calm colors throughout the shop create a relaxed shopping experience. Look up or even just on the walls – the décor, a selection of Moroccan home wares sourced from around the Kingdom, is also available! Address: 7 Rue des Vieux Marrakchis , Guéliz
Yahya Creation - If the patterns created by Moroccan lampshades and lanterns peak your interest in taking a fine lantern or lampshade home with you, be sure to stop by Yahya Rouach’s showroom. Clients including Harrods and Neiman Marcus have been known to stop by to commission orders. Yahya’s pieces are unique and one-of-a-kind. His pieces light up various areas of the Royal Mansour hotel and other boutique raids in Marrakech. Address: 49 passage Ghandouri, Rue de Yougoslavie, Guéliz
Where to Eat in Gueliz: Trend-Setting Restaurants & Classic Art Deco Cafe's Grand Cafe La Poste - Gueliz's chic Brasserie which has kept the charm of the time Liautey is part of the history of Marrakech. La Poste has a 1930's ambiance with a grand staircase and cozy upstairs large nook with a fireplace along with chic dark spaces reminiscent of the days at Parisian literary cafes. This traditional Brasserie's menu makes it perfect place for brunch, cocktails or an evening meal. Address: Avenue Imam Malik, Gueliz
Le Petit Cornichon - A one-of-a-kind bistronomique culinary experience in the heart of Gueliz with an excellent wine list. The menu is lovingly created by resident manager, Erwann Lance. Lance has several Michelin restaurants in Paris and New York. He also the former head of dining at the Royal Mansour, in Marrakech. Le Petit Cornichon is one of the hottest tables in town and serves up some of Marrakech's most delightful French cuisine with a twist. Each dish is full of local flavor and stylishly presented on plate. The weekend's three-course tasting menu including fois gras is a must. The wine list offers local Moroccan wine traditionally not found in other restaurants along with a large selection of exceptional international wines. Address: 27, Rue Moulay Ali, Gueliz
Baromètre Marrakech - A new chic address in Gueliz, Baromètre is a type of underground culinary lab where Mediterranean fusion tapas and contemporary fare are served alongside exotic cocktails. The food is beyond delicious therefore make sure to leave space for more the one dish. Be prepared for a speakeasy, mysterious atmosphere that is perfect for the food enthusiast. Address: Rue Moulay Ali Gueliz | Résidence Al houda, Gueliz
Cafe Les Negociant - A landmark cafe in the center of Gueliz. Built in 1919, this is one of the city's historic "man cafe's" and a meeting place for a morning traditional Moroccan nous-nous or mint tea. Cafe Les Negociant has been refurbished in keeping with it's Art Deco architecture. Address: 110 Mohammed V, Gueliz
Pâtisserie Amandine - Perfect for a late afternoon hot chocolate or cappuccino. Amandine offers wide range of French pastries, Moroccan cookies and one of the best mille-feuille in town. It's macarons in rainbow colors, zesty lemon tarts and delightful, raspberry panna cotta pots should be on every foodie's bucketlist. Address: 177 Rue Mohammed Al Béqal, Gueiz
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on December 26, 2016 at 9:45 AM||comments (0)|
Marrakech is home to several magnificent, must see Palaces located in the historic district, also referred to as the medina. When visiting Marrakech on a Private Tour to Morocco these Top Rated Palaces are historically significant and offer a window into the former lives of royalty who built and managed these century old lavish homes. The palaces of Marrakech are essentially riads (courtyard homes) based upon the concept of Roman villas with lush interior courtyards, ornate architecture, hand crafted cedar wood and painted ceilings and succulent gardens. Marrakech's palaces are typically surrounded by walls given this was a tradition of protection and to prevent those passing by from seeing inside. Many of the Marrakech palaces and riads have been been transformed into boutique hotels and guest houses. Several of the palaces such as the Bahia Palace, El Badi Palace, Dar Si Said Palace, are historic landmarks, that have remained open to the public as to visit on a Guided tour of Marrakech. These palaces are also used by art organizations such as the Marrakech Bienalle and the Marrakech International Film Festival for both public and private events.
The Bahia Palace was built at the end of 19th century by Si Moussa, grand vizier to the sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abderahmane 1859 -1873, as his personal residence. The work on the palace was continued by his son Ba Ahmed who was grand vizier to Sultan Moulay Hassan and the powerful regent to the young sultan, Abdel Aziz. They brought craftsmen from Fes who created carved and painted and guided wooden ceilings and reception rooms and numerous courtyards. The haphazard warren of rooms is partly due the growing number of official wives and concubines with their children. The most imposing feature is the vast courtyard used for official occasions and decorated with a central basin. It leads onto to gardens and palm trees. When Ba Ahmed died all his possessions were seized by the sultan and the palace is completely empty of fixtures and fittings. The Bahia has an imposing entrance through the main gate, which is just up from the Jewish Mellah. It was the headquarters of the French military during the French Protectorate and the American novelist Edith Wharton stayed there as a guest of Marshal Lyautey in 1917. The Royal family still uses the Bahia palace for official occasions.
Ben Youssef Medersa
Visit the Ben Youssef Madrasa, an Islamic college in Marrakech, Morocco, named after the Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106–1142), who expanded the city and its influence considerably. It is the largest Medrasa in all of Morocco.The college was founded during the period of the Marinid (14th century) by the Marinid sultan Abu al-Hassan and allied to the neighbouring Ben Youssef Mosque. The building of the madrasa was re-constructed by the Saadian Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib (1557–1574). In 1565 the works ordered by Abdallah al-Ghalib were finished, as confirmed by the inscription in the prayer room. Closed down in 1960, the building was refurbished and reopened to the public as a historical site in 1982.
El Badi Palace The El Badi Palace was built in the 16th century by the Saadian Sultan Ahmad al-Mansour following his victory over the Portuguese at the battle of the three Kings in 1578. This epoch making event changed the course of history as King Sebastian of Portugal and his allies were defeated and Portugal never again held sway in Morocco apart from a few costal outlets like El Jadida, Essaouira and Azemmour. The Sultanate of Morocco was at the pinnacle of its power. Portuguese ransoms and captured booty as well as Sub Saharan African gold and the sugar trade paid for the construction of the palace. Sultan Ahmad al-Mansour died shortly after the El Badi’s completion in 1603. He had asked his court jester what he thought of his palace and the jester replied that it would make a fine ruin. By 1690 this came to pass, as Sultan Moulay Ismail stripped the El Badi completely to adorn his palace in Meknes. What you see today is a mere shell but it does give a sense of the massive proportions involved along with sunken gardens and dungeons. As so often in Moroccan history buildings were destroyed by conquerors or successors building their own stately palaces. There are fine views from the towers of the Medina and the Atlas mountains. Storks nest on the ramparts as they do along the high walls of the Royal Palace adjoining it. The Marrakech Folklore Festival Son et Lumiere with Berber dances and music takes place in July in the grounds of the El Badi and its huge ramparts and walls provide an imposing historical venue. The El Badi Palace has a museum and exhibits of which includes and a 12th-century minbar that once stood inside the Marrakech Koutoubia Mosque. The Royal Palace, whose high walls and gates follow on from the El Badi, is also known as Dar el-Makhzen, is part of the imperial grandeur of Marrakech. It was built on the site of the Almohad Kasbah, by the Almohads in the 12th century and underwent changes by the Saadians in the 16th century and the Alaouites in the 17th century. It was one of the palaces owned by the Moroccan king, and the palace employed the most accomplished craftsmen in the city. The rooms are large, with unusually high ceilings for Marrakech, with zellij and cedar painted ceilings. At the entrance is an ancient pulley fastened to the ceiling.
Dar Si Said Palace & Museum of Moroccan Arts
Dar Si Said, also known as the Museum of Moroccan Arts, is located to the north of the Bahia Palace, right from the Rue Riad Ziroun el-Jedid. It was formerly the house of the brother of Bou-Ahmed, Sisi Said. The collection of the museum is considered to be one of the finest in Morocco, with jewelry from the High Atlas, the Anti Atlas and the extreme south; carpets from the Haouz and the High Atlas; oil lamps from Taroudant; blue pottery from Safi and green pottery from Tamgroute and leatherwork from Marrakesh. There is also a fine small garden laid out in classic Moroccan style but the glory of Dar Said is the carved and painted ceilings on the top floor which are the finest example of painted ceilings in Marrakech. Some of the wooden screens and frames were recovered from the El Badi palace. Today in the Middle East, Moroccan craftsmen are sought after as creators of Moroccan carved and painted ceilings in palaces and corporate headquarters. Their craftsmanship was displayed in the New York Metropolitan Museum exhibition “The Moroccan Court” in New York in 2011 and in the following year at the Shangri-La residence in Honolulu as part of a promotion for Moroccan business and cultural exchange between Morocco and Honolulu.
Dar Menebhi Palace The Dar Menebhi Palace close to the Medersa Ben Youssef was built at the end of the 19th century by Mehdi Menebhi. The palace was carefully restored by the Omar Benjelloun Foundation and converted into a museum in 1997. The house itself represents an example of classical Andalusian architecture, with fountains in the central courtyard, traditional seating areas, a hammam and intricate zellij tile work and carvings. The museum’s large atrium (originally a courtyard, now covered in glass and fabric) contains a very large centrally hung chandelier consisting of metal plates decorated with fine geometric and epigraphic cuttings. Several features of the original courtyard, including the floor-set basins and mosaics have been retained. The museum holds exhibits of both modern and traditional Moroccan art together with fine examples of pottery and ceramics from Fes and Moroccan Jewish, Berber and Arab cultures. Dar El Bacha The Dar El Bacha on the Rue Bab Doukala was the palace of the Pacha of Marrakech, Thami El Glaoui, who was Pacha from 1912-1956. He entertained the cream of western high society with parties at Dar El Bacha with Winston Churchill, Colette, Maurice Ravel, Charlie Chaplin and many others. As he collaborated with the French protectorate and contrived to remove Sultan Mohamed V into exile in Madagascar, he was and remains, unpopular to this day. Although Sultan and later King Mohamed V forgave him on his return from exile, all Thami’s properties were confiscated after his death in 1956. The Dar El Bacha is now a Royal Palace and a trade union federation occupies part of its imposing edifice. It was rumored that a museum was to open there but nothing has transpired. Many would like to visit this palace but it remains closed.
For more information about Marrakech's Palaces on a Guided Tour Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on October 17, 2016 at 4:35 PM||comments (0)|
The city of Fes, Morocco is a historic landmark and must see for those interested in Moroccan Jewish Heritage. On a guided Jewish Heritage Tour of Fes the magnetic culture of Moroccan Jewery will be revealed through the eyes of a local expert. Fes is the oldest contiguous free, working medina in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of Moroccan Jewery of Fes is fascinating and engaging. Stories of the Fes Jewish Mellah are those of co-existence, culture, love and prosperity along with alienation which was followed by a severe population decline once Israel became a state.
On a guided Jewish Heritage Tour of Fes you will learn about the roots of Moroccan Jews and how a population that once reached 300,000 + gradually disappeared. You will go beyond what is written in guidebooks and history books to hear an insiders perspective about co-existence between Moroccan Arabs and Moroccan Jews, that once described the livelyhood of the Jewish Fes pre and post World War II. As recent as the 1940's there were still over 200,000 Jews in Morocco with the majority of the population residing in Fes.
The Moroccan city of Fes lays claim to once having the largest Jewish community in the entire Muslim world however fewer then 2500 remain in the country today. Those few are primarily living within a close knit community with their extended family in the Imperial city of Casablanca. Casablanca's Jewish community and culture remains small yet vibrant. The city of Casablanca has several working synaogogues, a community center, kosher butchers, kosher restaruants and is home to the Museum of Moroccan Judaism, lauded for being the only Jewish Museum in the Muslim world today.
The historic presence of Jewish Morocco runs through the veins of the country. The former Jewish population built synagogues, cemeteries, shrines and created prosperity and wealth within the Mellahs. The Jews of Fes were leaders in trade, the garment business, experts in agriculture and jewelry designers. Moroccan Jews for example were the creators of the ancient tradition of filagree jewelry made using gold and silver. This particular Moroccan tradition uses metalwork made with tiny threads that are twised together to form intricate and beautiful designs. Filagree jewelry often featured the Star of David, chamsas and other ornate symbols.
Although the Jews of Fes were confined to living in the walled Mellah it was done so for their protection and to the benefit of both royalty and the government. The Jewish Mellah of Fes and the mellahs in other Moroccan cities were located close to the Royal palace and the governor's residence. Many Jews were consultants for the King and also the government making their level of contribution and importance to Moroccan culture and society exceptional.
Since the exodus of Moroccan Jews when Israel became a state, many in Morocco claim the economy changed drastically as they took with them a great skillset, once shared with their Muslim breathren. While the Jews left land, shrines, cuisine traditions and businesses, among other riches, the Moroccan economy never recovered from the particular labor trends that helped maintain and enrich the country that were associated with the Jewish community.
In the North of Morocco, the city of of Tangier and the blue washed mountain town of Chefchaouen, once had a prominent community of Spanish Jews that resided there. Jews emigranted to Morocco during the Inquisition. Today there there are Moroccan, Jewish Heritage Sites in Casablanca, Marrakech, Zaogra, the Skoura palmeraie, Coastal Essaouira, the Ourika Valley and Ourigane National Park.
Most prominent though is the impact the Jewish community made within the social character of Fes.
FES JEWISH HERITAGE TOUR - MOROCCO PRIVATE TOUR HIGHLIGHTS
Visit Ibn Danan Synagogue, a 17th Century Jewish landmark, Talmud Torah Synagogue, Talmud Torah and El Fassiyeen
Explore the Jewish Cemetery Museum and the Tomb of Solica
The Royal Palace and Stories of the Jewish Mellah The home of Maimonides and the Jewish Community Center Dinner at a Rabbi’s Home or Kosher Restaurant
Meet the Local Fes Jewish Community (Friday evenings)
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on August 2, 2016 at 7:25 AM||comments (0)|
Morocco’s history of Jewry and the co-mingling of Jews with Berbers and Arabs are a key factor in why Morocco is a perfect choice for Jewish Travelers to take a Jewish Heritage Tour today. The cultural diversity of contemporary Morocco reflects its historic vantage point as a gateway to Europe and the world. Morocco’s Jewish Heritage offers visitors an encounter with ancient historic traditions, customs, architecture, monuments and sites that have permeated Moroccan society for centuries. Visitng Morocco and its historic Jewish Heritage Sites will be a once in a lifetime experience so you will want to make it memorable. Planning a Tailor Made Jewish Heritage Tour requires doing some reserach and selecting a Morocco Travel Agent that specializeds in Jewish travel expeirences.
Tips for Planning a Tailor Made Morocco Jewish Heritage Tour are:
#1: Where To Go in Morocco: Choosing which Jewish Heritage Tour to take in Morocco can be daunting. For this reason we recomend you decide first on the timeframe you have to travel for your Morocco holiday. Morocco is spread out and while the majority of Jewish Heritage sites are located in the Imperial Cities of Fes, Meknes and Mararkech there are magnficent Jewish historic sites worth seeing in Essaouira, Ourigane and Azan. Make Sure to Stay at Least 8 Days. The two options most travelers consider are either an 8-Day Imperial Cities Jewish Heritage Tour or a 10-Day Jewels of Jewish Heritage Tour. These are purely focused Jewish Heritage Sites and for those travelers interested in combining Moroccan historic and cultural sites along with a camel trek in the Sahara Desert, a longer Tailor Made Jewish Tour is recommended.
Choosing which Jewish Heritage Tour to take in Morocco can be daunting. For this reason we recomend you decide first on the total timeframe you have to travel for your Morocco holiday. Morocco is spread out and while the majority of Jewish Heritage sites are located in the Imperial Cities of Fes, Meknes and Mararkech there are magnficent Jewish historic sites worth seeing in Essaouira, Ourigane and Azan. The two options most travelers consider are either an 8-Day Imperial Cities Jewish Heritage Tour or a 10-Day Jewels of Jewish Heritage Tour. These are purely focused on Jewish Heritage and for those travelers interested in combining cultural sites and a camel trek in the Sahara an 11-12 Day Tailor Made tour is then recommended. #2: Selecting a Jewish Travel Agent: The first step is to select an agent based in Morocco who has a deep Knowledge of both Moroccan and Jewish Hertiage. Consider Alecia Cohen. She is a Morocco travel designer and expert on Jewish Heritage. Alecia offers extensive personalized planning services for Jewish travelers interested in Morocco's historic sites which serve as a detailed guide for each traveler in discovering the best of Jewish Morocco. By learning about your individual interests, Alecia Cohen will make travel recommendations inclusive of cultural and educational activities that will create a lifetime memorable experience. Alecia Cohen will design your Jewish Heritage Tour step by step with you. She ensures that travelers to Morocco will have the opportunity to experience a real connection to the local Jewish commmunity, attend synagogue services, participate in private tours of Jewish sites and dine on Kosher and traditional Moroccan cuisine. As someone who lives, Morocco and has a passion for the people and the culture, Alecia Cohen guarantees Jewish travelers a unique tailor made Jewish Heritage tour itinerary that is stand out.
#3: How to Travel with the Experts: Local Historical Guides Verse National Jewish Historical Guide. There are two types of Historical Guides in Morocco, both authorized by the Ministry of Tourism that are a good fit for a Tailor made Morocco Jewish Heritage Tour. Local Licensed, Historical Guides: Morocco Jewish experts located in each city that have a license to host private couples, families and groups only in the city where they have obtained their license. National Licensed Guides: Morocco Jewish experts that have a National License and are authorized to tour the entire country of Morocco with private couples, families, and groups. #4: Kosher or Vegetarian Cuisine: As a Jewish traveler you have the option of a Kosher meals or Vegetarian cuisine depending on your level of strictness with kashrut. Kosher fare can be provided via private Jewish caterer where by you the cuisine will be delivered to your riad or hotel daily. A private Kosher Chef is also available at some hotels with advance arrangements. There is Kosher fare available at Kosher restaurants in Casablanca and Fes. The other offered is is Vegetarian cuisine which can be easily accommodated at all riads, hotels and restaurants.
#5: Where you will Stay - Accommodations at Boutique Riads & Hotels: Morocco is known for having some of the best boutique riads and hotels. Many offer an Arabian Nights sensibility. Riads are restored palace style accommodations with courtyards, fountains, lush gardens and traditional Moroccan tilework. Staying in the medinas at Boutique Riads (old cities) will allow better access to Jewish Heritage Sites. If you keep Shabbat then for some cities we will recommend staying in the ville nouvelle (new city) as this will enable you to be in closer walking distance to the Moroccan synagogues. #6: Travel Budget: Travel Exploration Morocco's Jewish Heritage Tour rates are based upon the itinerary we customize with you, the number of travelers and the complete Morocco Tour ameniteis such as a private driver, licensed expert historical guides, boutique accommodations, meals and other fees. For this reason pricing for Travel Exploration's Jewish Heritage tours can be obtained by contacting a us directly.
#7: Understanding the Jewish Heritage Sites & Moroccan Historic Sites Your Morocco Tour Will Include: The sites you will visit can be customized. For Jewish Heritage Tours they primiarly range from Synagogues to Cemeteries, Gardens, the old Mellahs along with Zaouias and Tombs in each Imperial City and the rural regions. Jewish Heritage Tours can be tailor made to include Moroccan historic sites of great important such as the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the Mausolum of Kings and Kasbah Oudaya in Rabat, the Universities and Mosques of UNESCO Fes, the Majorelle Gardens and Souks of Marrakech, along with a visit to Berber Villages and a Camel Trek in the Sahara Desert. Some of the Jewish Heritage Sites you can anticipate visiting on a Tailor Made Jewish Heritage Tour are: Museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca, Synagogue in Casablanca: Beth El, Synagogue in Meknes: Talmud Torah, Synagogues in Fes: Ibn Danen, Slat Alfassiyine, Synagogues in Marrakech: Slat Al Azama, Synagogue in Seffrou: Bet Em Habanim, The 700 Year Old Adobe Synagogue in Arazan, Synagogues in Essaoura: Slat Lkahal, Simon Attias, Synagogues in Tangier: Mishe Nahon, Jewish Mellahs in Meknes, Fes, Seffrou & Marrakech, Jewish Cemeteries in Fes, Marrakech & Essaouira
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on December 2, 2015 at 2:45 PM||comments (0)|
Fatima Mernessi, Muslim Feminist Author and native of Morocco passed away in Rabat on November 30th, 2015. Mernissi was born in Fes, Morocco in 1940 and became known as one of the Arab world's leading literary authors who challenged the Islamic establishment by focusing on feminist issues along with human rights and democracy. A graduate of the Sorbonne University in Paris, her education was grounded in political science. Later she obtained her doctorate at Brandeis University.
Mernissi was a pioneer of her time. She researched and analyzed Islamic thought and the relation of succession to the Prophet Mohammed. As an Islamic feminist her goal was to facilitate ideas and an open discussion about women challenging their traditional roles along with its relation to the West. Mernissi returned to her native country of Morocco after receiving her doctorate and taught at the Faculté des Lettres on the subjects of sociology and psycosociology. She also worked on sociological research for UNESCO and the ILO. Deep comparisons between the East and West was the topic
Fatima Mernissi focused on most. Various interpretations of Islam, the Koran and the deconstruction of Islamic ideology on women permeated her written works. By questioning Islamic thought she attracted a following of young Muslim women and also Westerners.
In 2003 she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award which was established by Felipe Prince of Asturias to encourage and promote scientific, cultural and humanistic values that form part of mankind's universal heritage. Mernissi's best known works are Beyond the Veil, The Veil and the Male Elite, A Feminist Interpretation of Islam and Dreams of Tresspass. "Feminists, women and men alike: we stand on the shoulders of giants like Fatema Mernissi." - Laila Lalami, Moroccan American Author
Recommended Reading - Books by Fatima Mernissi:
Beyond the Veil The Veil and the Male Elite Dreams of Tresspass Tales of a Harem Girlhood Women & Islam Democracy & IslamSheherazade Goes West The Forgotten Queens of Islam Women's Rebellion & Islamic Memory
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on November 29, 2015 at 2:15 PM||comments (0)|
With its relative proximity to Europe and increasingly easy to access from international airports, Morocco has long attracted visitors from abroad. A large part of its charm is due to its historical significance as a cultural crossroads between Arabic, Middle-Eastern, African and European cultures and communities. Modern Morocco is developing fast and its cities rival any in Europe or North America for facilities, infrastructure and modern conveniences. In rural Morocco - in the plains, mountains and deserts - life continues as it has for centuries. This juxtaposition of traditional life and modernity, the familiar and the exotic, is as appealing today as when adventurers and discoverers passed through in bygone eras. The indigenous people of Morocco are the Berbers (also known as Amazigh, literally "free men"). They were the original inhabitants of the mountains and deserts. A little-known facet of Morocco’s history is where Berber and Jewish history and culture intertwine. There were several waves of Jewish immigration to North Africa, potentially beginning in the BCE period and certainly pre-dating the arrival of Islam from Arabia in the 7th century.
The result of such a long history of cohabitation and assimilation and integration of others' cultural practices has created a modern Moroccan population which - at up to 50% Berber (the remainder being by large majority of Arab descent) is resilient to external shocks and reluctant to upset the balance of closely-knit communities. As a result of this unique history and the careful political management by the constitutional monarch, King Mohammed VI, Morocco has not suffered the upheaval of Arab Spring-style uprisings, while its neighbors and allies have been shaken to the core. Tensions have been meticulously mitigated and complaints painstakingly investigated in order to avoid the social unrest which has rocked the region. The modern monarch has also taken time to cultivate productive relationships with key Western powers. The relationship with the EU, including on some contentious issues such as immigration, trade and international security, is closer than it has ever been.
The relationship with the USA is similar. Morocco was the first country to recognize US independence and - over 200 years later - Morocco remains a key ally in the strategic Middle East and North Africa region. These relationships and their importance to Moroccan economic and social stability are at least in part behind Morocco's strenuous efforts to tackle international terrorism and religious extremism.
Your national government will provide travel and security advice for visitors intending to visit Morocco. In general, the risk of international terrorism is no greater than in major cities of Europe or the US. Like in those cities, there is a risk of petty theft. Morocco is a developing country and the wealth gap between local people and tourists can drive a small minority to crime. Be sure to exercise the usual precautions on your visit regarding cash, jewelry and other valuables. Do not carry them around in large or visible quantities and make sure you are aware of the potential for pickpockets in crowds. Overall, Morocco is one of the safest countries in Africa or the Middle East and North Africa region. You will be welcomed with a smile and great hospitality by virtual strangers. Enjoy your trip!
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on June 23, 2015 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
Storytelling is experiencing a revival in many Western countries right now, but the tradition of oral storytelling, or hikayat, in Morocco is almost 1,000 years old. Morocco has a strongly oral culture - everything from recipes to stories to legal agreements have been passed down from generation to generation in the absence of the means to record such information and against the backdrop of widespread illiteracy. In the past, storytellers travelled around to perform in public places and at community events and palace celebrations. They were not only a form of entertainment - they were also used by the authorities to pass information and moral messages. In today's era of satellite TV and the internet, storytelling is a dying art. Although visitors to Marrakech may find the odd storyteller on Place Jmaa el Fna, the crowd around them is smaller than ever and because the stories are told in Arabic or a Berber dialect, the performers cannot attract the support of foreign tourists.
Today, Cafe Clock in the Kasbah district of Marrakech is the perhaps unlikely bastion of this oral tradition. Both the cross-cultural cafe, with modern graffiti on the walls and the best camel burger in town on the menu, and the storytelling program based there, were developed by Mike Richardson, the cafe's British owner. Since December 2013, even before the second branch of Cafe Clock officially opened its doors in Marrakech that March (the first is in Fez), a group of young, enthusiastic Moroccans had gravitated around master storyteller, 'Haj' Ahmed Ezzarghani. Since then, they have been working hard to preserve the storytelling tradition and bring the old stories and fables to a wider audience. Haj collected stories during his work as a travelling salesman and performed them in the turbulent 1950s outside Bab Boujloud in Fez. Haj meets with his young apprentices three times per week at Cafe Clock. At the first meeting, Haj recounts a story, which the apprentices translate into English and practice. The next time they meet, they perform the story in English and Arabic for the group. Haj doesn't understand much English, so the young storytellers help each other out and he critiques the theatricality of their performance. On the third meeting, they perform the story for the Cafe Clock audience.
There is a core of four apprentice storytellers, who are all students of English in Marrakech. Jawad Elbied, 24, is just finishing his English degree with a dissertation in Moroccan Storytelling. He says: "Storytelling has a special value in Moroccan society, but young kids today don't know the stories - they are only interested in the internet and YouTube. Haj reminds me of my grandfather and his generation. He reminds us of our origins." It is clear that storytelling has benefitted Jawad and his fellow apprentices. He speaks confidently and eloquently in English and twice a week he does so before a large crowd at Cafe Clock. Furthermore, through the Hikayat Program, which is in the process of becoming a non-profit association in Morocco, he has had the opportunity to travel around Morocco and even to Iran to share the stories and teach them to others. The storytellers have also appeared on the UK's Channel 4 and on Al Jazeera. "The value of stories is that they enable the audience to create their own film; to imagine the characters and the action in their own way," Jawad explains. "We need to reach out to new audiences by being creative and offering attractive stories." Through the association, the storytellers hope to use modern technology to diffuse the stories and record them for future generations. If you would like to hear the stories, they are performed on Monday and Thursday evenings at 7pm Cafe Clock Marrakech. As well hearing the apprentices in English, visitors also have the opportunity to see Haj in action. Even for those who don't understand Arabic, his performance is a piece of theatre, a relic of a bygone era brought to life and definitely worth seeing! The Storytelling Program has also been extended to Cafe Clock in Fez, where a group of apprentices works with a local master storyteller. The Hikayat Morocco group is also available for performances and workshops and can be contacted via Cafe Clock or via their own website Hikayat Morocco.
Recommended Reading: The Last Storytellers, Richard Hamilton
For more information about Storytelling at Café Clock Written by Lynn Sheppard Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients. For more information about Storytelling in Morocco or the Art of Hikayat on a Marrakech Tour Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on June 7, 2015 at 6:40 PM||comments (0)|
UN statistics suggest that average literacy rates in Morocco are as high as 67% (in 2011). However, this figure hides large discrepancies between males and females and between urban and rural populations. Typically, girls in Morocco are less well-educated than boys. Additionally, in rural communities or poorer areas of the medinas, parents may remove children from school at an early age to work or help the family. The Medina Children's Library in the medieval old city of Fez aims to support children's learning and make it fun. Co-founder of the library, author Suzanna Clarke, says: "Houses I have visited in the Medina rarely have books beyond the Koran, and certainly none for children. Lots of children don’t continue their education past primary school and are expected to become part of the family business."
Since its opening in January 2015, the Medina Children's Library has become a big hit with local kids. On average, between 35-50 kids attend every day. In May 2015 alone, it welcomed over 1,100 children through its doors. Wafae, aged nine, explains: “Before the library was here, I only used to play in the street with my friends.” And Kawtar, five years old, added, “I come to the library because I want to read more stories. They stay with me always.” Local children are really excited to have a place to go to discover books, listen to stories and read in a welcoming and safe environment near their homes. They can also borrow books for up to a week to read at home and share with their families. Khadija, aged 13, explains: "I come to read short stories and novels in French and Arabic. I also like to take the books home to read them." The library has been conceived with a particular focus on younger children: pre-readers and developing readers (up to the age of 14 years old). Children in the Fez medina have ample access to TV and the internet, but children need age appropriate and culturally relevant books to fuel their learning and development as they grow. Through their own enthusiasm for reading, they can also ignite an interest in their parents, many of whom themselves are illiterate.
As well as reading, the children can come to the library to listen to stories read from books. Once a day in the week and twice daily at weekends, a volunteer reader brings the stories alive and continues a tradition of oral storytelling very familiar to the children. They sit quietly to listen and are eager to answer comprehension questions. The sessions encourage them to discover the stories contained in the books for themselves. The library is staffed by local volunteers. Hamza, 23, is studying for a degree in English. He got involved because "I live in the medina, I like reading and I like children." He and fellow librarian Safae supervise the kids in the library and faithfully record their attendance and the books they borrow. The Medina Children's Library is managed by the Fez Association for Children of the Medina. The association's members are volunteers committed to improving the lives of children in the Fez Medina and to bringing their own love of reading to the children of their local neighbourhood. They have great ambition to expand the library to new premises and add extras such as creative, sport and environmental activities to the library's remit. The library is open 10am - 7pm on weekdays and 10am - 6pm at weekends at 41 Zkak Rouah – Talaa Sghira in the Fez Medina. Further information on the library and how to contribute are available at: www.medinachildrenslibrary.org
Written by Lynn Sheppard Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.
For more information about the Fez Medina's Children's Library or a Tour of Fes Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 12, 2015 at 6:50 PM||comments (0)|
Prior to the establishment of the French Protectorate in Morocco (1912-1956), Dar al Bayda, as Casablanca was then known, was a modest port of a population of around 12,000. A few years into the Protectorate, this had increased 10-fold and has hardly stopped growing since. Today, Casablanca is Morocco's bustling economic hub, home to many international companies and Africa's biggest port and its largest shopping mall, Morocco Mall. For visitors to this metropolis, the big draw is the stunning Hassan II Mosque. However, the French left a significant architectural legacy. As you walk the streets, look up and around you beyond the crowds, the traffic and the hubbub of city life to discover Art Deco Architecture in Casablanca. The drive to develop and expand Casablanca provided the impetus for a large urban development program at the start of the Protectorate era. This included wide city avenues, open squares and public buildings from which the ruling power could organise its realm. Back in Paris, the swirling loops of Art Nouveau were being superseded by the more angular shapes of Art Deco, which melded perfectly with Morocco's indigenous geometry inspired by the Islamic edict against the depiction of the human form. A new architectural style was born: Mauresque blended traditional Moroccan designs and techniques of mosaic, plasterwork and wrought iron with influences from turn-of-the-century Europe, combining the straight lines of Art Deco with the sweeping curves of earlier styles.
Some of these buildings have been restored and are still in use. Others have suffered a less fortunate fate. Some of the best examples are around the large open expanse (now traversed by Casablanca's modern tramway) of Place Mohammed V. Around the square, you can see the main Post Office (1912 - 1956), the Palais de Justice (courthouse, 1925) and the Wilaya (administrative headquarters, built between 1927 and 1936). Pop into the Post Office to see all the original Art Deco fixtures and fittings still in tact. In the streets leading away from the square, look above the shop fronts and imagine the grandeur that these buildings represented in their heyday. The French planned this city as a showpiece, a statement of the potential of their African Empire and no effort was spared.
Several great examples of Art Deco Architecture in Casablanca are in an area to the east of the square, bordered by Boulevard Mohammed V to the north, Avenue Lalla Yacout to the south and stretching as far as Rue Ibn Batouta to the east. Admire the facades as you wander along Rue Idriss Lhrizi. Seek out the Hotel Guynemer on the parallel Rue Brahim Belloul and the Transatlantique on Rue Chaouia, or the Cinema Rialto on the corner of rue Mohammed el Qorri and rue Salah ben Bouchaib. The crumbling Hotel Lincoln, constantly the subject of a rumoured restoration program, sits opposite the Marché Central, at the intersection of of Boulevard Mohammed V and Rue Ibn Batouta; the Hotel Volubilis, on Rue Abdelkrim Diouri is thankfully the result of a successful one. If you have longer in Casablanca and a keen interest in Art Deco architecture, you can take a taxi or the new tram to the Mers Sultan neighbourhood, to the south of downtown Casablanca. Largely shunned by today's nouveau riche and not typically visited by the day trippers who crowd to the Hassan II mosque, this area is full of treasures ready for discovery. Some of the apartment blocks and villas echo the grandeur of Marseilles or Miami Beach. Here you will find the playground of the former French colonialists - the bars, cafes and cinemas, but their wealthy clientele are long gone. Hunt down the Café Champs Elyssée, built in the shape of a cruise liner; the Cinema Lynx and the Bar Atomic. For a luxury Art Deco have your Morocco travel agent book you into Le Doge Hotel & Spa, a boutique hotel located in a historic villa just 10 minutes from the corniche and 5 minutes from La Squala historic fortifications.
The Moroccan government is pouring money into the regeneration of Casablanca and one can only hope that some of these Art Deco buildings can be rescued and restored. Casablanca is a city of extremes - the wealthiest business moguls reside in new villa developments along the coast, while the poorest rural migrants scrape a living around its large shanty towns. It seems that modern Casablanca never stops moving. However, if you look carefully, slow your pace and look up above the grimy ground floors and beyond the botched renovations, you will discover the city's former glory of Art Deco Architecture: the brass, the parquet floors and the chandeliers just need a spit and a polish to shine once again.
Written by Lynn Sheppard
Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 7, 2015 at 8:30 AM||comments (0)|
Essaouira owes much of its past, present and future to its situation on a bay sheltered from the fierce trade winds of the Atlantic Ocean by an archipelago of small, rocky islands. Towards the end of the 18th century, Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah (Mohammed III) created a strategic role for Essaouira in his new trade policy oriented towards the Atlantic. He instructed the construction of the Kasbah (King's Quarters) and the Skala fortifications which became the basis for the medina (old city) we see today. He ordered the closure of Agadir harbor, further south, and effectively routed a large amount of trade between Europe and West and Central Africa through his new port. The Sultan was the first Head of State to recognize US Independence in 1776, thereby creating a strategic linkage in support of his trade objectives in Morocco.
In order to ensure the success of his strategy, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah invited 10 prominent Jewish families from the key commercial centers of Morocco to settle in what was known then as Mogador and manage the trade. These families were largely the descendents of those expelled from Andalusia at the end of the 15th century and had gained a strong reputation for their skills as merchants. They became the "Tujjar as-Sultan", the Sultan's traders. These families - and many foreign consuls and negociants - settled in the newly-built houses of the Kasbah, which featured typical Swiri architecture of rooms set around a colonnaded interior patio, the latter often large enough to accommodate merchandise. Such buildings can be seen in the area near Bab el Minzeh and Bab Sbaa and along Rue Laalouj, where the French Institute and Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah Museum are excellent examples.
By the start of the 19th century, the population of Essaouira was majority Jewish. There were as many as 40 synagogues. Some, like the Simon Attia synagogue were the private synagogues of a large family, while others, such as the Slat Lkahal, were community centers of worship. As the affluence of the city grew, it attracted many migrants from the rural areas, seeking economic opportunities. The Mellah, a typical feature of a Moroccan city and a principally Jewish neighborhood, was built to house these families. Essaouira also had a Mellah Kdim, the "old Mellah", which was an extension of the Kasbah and housed the Jewish middle classes. Mogador was unique in Morocco in that Jews, Muslims and Christians - those of Jewish, Berber, African, European and Arabic descent - lived side-by-side. There was a fruitful exchange at all levels of society, from artisans like silversmiths passing on their trade, to the interchange of intellectual and musical influences such as seen in the Andalusian music which continued to be taught and performed in Mogador long after the flight of Jews and Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula.
Today, there are a number of Jewish sites which can be visited and/or are under renovation in Essaouira. Essaouira's two Jewish cemeteries are open to visitors by calling the number of the guardian posted on the door. The older of the two is only separated from the sea by a wall and is regularly inundated. It features the mausoleum of Rabbi Haim Pinto (1748–1845), which is the subject of a hilloula (pilgrimage) every Fall. The graves are often laid on top of each other and the inscriptions are no longer legible. All that remains are circular or triangular symbols indicating whether the occupant was male or female. The 'new' Jewish cemetery, across the street, was opened in the 18th century to accommodate the growing population. It is the final resting place of a number of rabbis, intellectuals and musicians as well as many of the 'ordinary' residents of Essaouira-Mogador. The cemetery tells the stories of many great families of Mogador such as the Corcos, the most famous of the original ‘Sultan’s merchants’ and the Yuly and Levy families – some of whom are certainly ancestors of the first Jewish US senator, David Levy Yulee. The guardian of the cemeteries can also grant access to the Haim Pinto synagogue, just back inside the medina at Bab Doukkala, in the Mellah. The neighborhood is part of an urban clearance program and the synagogue, although thoroughly renovated inside, sits in a precarious position surrounded by crumbling and decaying buildings, the former homes of Jewish families.
Just a few doors along, back towards the central medina, is Slat Lkahal, a community synagogue currently under painstaking renovation by Haim Bitton, helped by the generous donations of members of former Mogador Jews. Those who are lucky to meet him there will learn of the intricate connections between Jewish communities in Manchester, London, Italy and Mogador. So far, he has managed to rescue key elements of the original synagogue from demolition and is carefully restoring them using local artisans. He hopes to turn rooms on the upper floor into exhibition and meeting spaces. Back in the Kasbah, the Simon Attia synagogue is the subject of an ambitious restoration program. Once also the Rabbinical Court of Mogador, the aim is to restore the space used for worship on the ground floor and create a library of documents related to Moroccan Judaism alongside accommodation for students of these works upstairs. Most of Essaouira's synagogues are long gone. Few have actually been demolished, but most have passed into alternative uses and only the older members of the Mogador Jewish diaspora recall their location. There are still plenty of clues to the size of the former Jewish population of Essaouira, however. A wander around the labyrinthine alleyways of the Mellah or Kasbah will reveal several doorways with the Star of David on the lintel and a conversation with any of Essaouira's older residents will reveal the proximity and goodwill of the Muslim and Jewish communities in times gone by.
Written by Lynn Sheppard Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.
For more information about Essaouira Jewish Heritage Sites or an Essaouira Jewish Heritage Tour Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate