|Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 29, 2021 at 5:50 AM||comments (228)|
A new golden era and the ideology of peace in Middle East region has the potential to blossom at last. This vision is shared by Dubai-based, Moroccan visual artist and activist Chama Mechtaly. Her focus has been to introduce the unique Jewish History of Morocco, North Africa through multimedia art and jewelry design. Originally from Casablanca, Chama Mechtaly, claims, “I am a romantic and I dwell on the romanticism of Andalusia.” Mechtaly is the Creative Director of the company, Moors and Saints, which makes handcrafted products in Dubai and is committed to interfaith dialogue and pluralism. In the wake of the Abraham Accords and the recent peace deal between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates along with improving relations between Israel and Morocco, these actions have increased importance and continued to inspire artists like Chama Mechtaly is working with the Jerusalem Biennale on the first Jerusalem-Dubai art residency and exhibition, which will foster co-creation and artistic development through Hebrew and Arabic calligraphy. “I can’t help but think of the golden era of Ibn Ezra and Judah Halevi, Solomon Ibn Gabirol and the giants of Hebrew poetry who developed in close contact and under the influence of Arabic poetry." says Mechtaly. This is a cultural renaissance that is being ignited in Dubai. Now the flames are being fanned and fed. Dubai and Jerusalem have many similarities, such as ‘Jerusalem of Gold’ and Dubai as a ‘City of Gold.’” Mechtaly grew up in Casablanca, Morocco and moved to Boston when she was awarded a scholarship to study at Brandeis University. Her interest to discover more about about her family's history and the origins of her last name inspired a new, artistic journey. Chama set out to dig through her identity in effort to decolonize her own Moroccan history. She discovered that her father did not share his family story being her grandfather had come from a Moroccan Jewish family and converted to marry a Muslim woman. Morocco's extensive Jewish Heritage and historic Jewish community are notable with thousands of Israeli Jews having roots in Morocco.
Mechtaly raised the question of what her family’s identity means to them however some of her relatives were sensitive and did not wish to discuss the topic at the time. Intern, she decided to express her feelings through art. “I had always painted since I was a kid and I took those questions [I had] to the canvas. I used to paint portraits of Amazigh [Berber] women who were Jewish. This is what is referred to intersectionality today; when you sit at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression and accumulate layers of invisibility.” With her mother, Mechtaly's objective was to better understand her past by removing the layers of complexity of North African Jewry and also those that exist particularly within the history of Moroccan Jews. Although many Jews emigrated to Morocco during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, the origination of their traditions and history run much deeper. Chama discovered another narrative that was shared by her mother, when researching Amazigh Jewry. Her mother shared how Jews were indigenous to Morocco for over 3,000 years, perhaps even more. She observed transformation where her work was exhibited given it attracted North African communities from the diaspora. People noticed the women featured in her works had similarities to their grandparents yet these women were Jewish. They began to process the resemblance of Jews and Muslims facial and bone structure within the context of North Africa. It helped to dismantle the idea of the "othering" of people that had gone on for decades.” This “othering” is present when Jews are seen as outsiders instead of part of Middle Eastern countries. That transformation is what pushed Chama to continue to use her art for social transformation.. She received messages from strangers, both Muslims and Jews, about how her work made them feel seen and repaired something within them. Mechtaly moved back to the UAE four and a half years ago. At the time the Abraham Accords were not even a dream. “I couldn’t even access Jewish websites for scholarship and research purposes at the time,” she recalls. I had studied conflict resolution and international relations at Brandeis, so I was interested in reconciliation work and activism for the inclusion of the history of minorities of the region in school curricula, especially because I don’t believe that peace can be sustainable without addressing historical grievances and narratives of trauma," she states.
Mechtaly’s concept of her company Moors and Saints sprung from her experience living in Dubai. Moors and Saints became more than a jewelry design startup. Its purpose is to connect global cultures in meaningful ways with the goal to reveal powerful examples of tolerance and coexistence throughout history. Her aim is to continue the mission she embarked on through painting in a “language of luxury goods and fine jewelry, Her concept for Moors and Saints involves blending Jewish and Islamic themes similar to how Magen David inspired by jewelry models on Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. “I knew that people were ready to embrace the shared history between Muslims and Jews in the region even if they didn’t necessarily express it in public. This could bring dialogue and reconciliation and highlight the shared history between Jews and Muslims in the region without threatening or offending anyone.” she adds. Mechtaly is a solid example of the hope of the Abraham Accords. Her life embodies this bridge between Jewish and Muslim history, the region and the mosaic of cultures from the Atlas Mountains to Jerusalem and the exquisite nightlife of Dubai. When she was studying at Brandeis, she exhibited in the Boston area and abroad. Chamaa spoke about Amazigh Jewry and the Berber Jews of North Africa. She had friends and colleagues who were baffled when she mentioned the Amazigh Jews... so many people were taken by surprise. The responses from Chama Mechtaly's works have been primarily positive however at times her work was considered political in North Africa and became the subject of censorship by government authorities. A work she created of the Moroccan Flag Revisited was originally censored yet five years later she was asked to exhibit in Morocco. Her work has been well-received since the news broke of diplomatic relations between Israel and Morocco. Now people are sharing the painting and displaying it as the profile picture of new WhatsApp groups, and talking about it on videos.
Ibn Khaldoun, a North African scholar of Islam, social scientist, philosopher and historian who has been described as the founder of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography claims the Amazigh Jewish community in Morocco was the result of many historic factors. The wave of Jewish migration after the destruction of the Second Temple Mount and settling elsewhere along with local conversions expanded Jewish communities. Some theories say that Jews settled in the Maghreb region even before. The Amazigh community was pagan prior to the arrival of Jews in the Maghreb therefore conversions or interactions with Judaism go back for at least 3,000 years. Chama supports the idea that there is a deep connection between Muslims and Jews, this strongly influenced artistry and craftsmanship. “There is a museum in the south of Morocco that shows how this visual syncretism takes place, with the Star of David in jewelry or on old flags and Hebrew scripture on a wooden guillotine.” she says.]
Mechtaly met many Jews in Dubai who came from Israel who were interested in Amazigh history. The mayor of Yeruham said her dream was to have a museum of Amazigh Jewry in Israel. When it comes to design, Mechtaly emphasizes how important it is to acknowledge the Andalusian and Sephardi history of the region. Without the influence and pairing of multiple religions, Moorish design and Andalusian architecture would not exist nor would the Golden Era of Islam or Golden Age of Hebrew poetry in Andalusia. Both were crucial to the creation of the golden moment in history referred to as Andalusia.
Examples of the synthesis of Moorish design can be found in the Dohány Synagogue in Budapest and the Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York . Both were influenced by Moorish design when Jews embraced their Moorish architecture in the 19th and early 20th centuries in architecture. These Moorish synagogue designs were influenced by the Alhambra and the Mezquita; the grand Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on April 16, 2017 at 1:35 PM||comments (744)|
With its grand boulevards and famed historic Art Deco Architecture, Casablanca is a popular city with a cornacopia of things to see and do. Whether you are a Morocco traveler, an expat living abroad or a local looking for discovery and adventure, Casablanca's breath of musuems, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, boutiques, pop-up shops and art galleries gurantee fun and fullfillment for people of all ages. Casablanca is the largest spraweling city in the Maghreb and in Africa with a majestic palm lined corniche and a Coastal Port that rivals others in Africa. Casablanca is also one of the most liberal and progressive cities in Morocco. Travelers seeking a Casablanca One-Day Tour for site seeing can start out with our recommended Five Places to go in Casablanca.
Five Places to Go in Casablanca Museum of Moroccan Judaism
The Museum of Moroccan Judaism of Casablanca is a museum of history and ethnography, created by the Jewish Community of Casablanca in 1997 with the support of the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage. The Jewish Museum in Casablanca is tucked into a residential neighborhood and holds a treasure trove with it being the Arab region’s only Jewish Museum. It uses world-class standards of conservation for its national and international collections. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism presents religious, ethnographic and artistic objects that demonstrate the history, religion, traditions and daily life of Jews in the context of Moroccan civilization.
Anfa & La Corniche Founded by Berber fisherman in the 10th Century Anfa is the former name of Casablanca which underwent a change when the Portugese destroyed and rebuilt it, later calling the city Casa Branca. Today Anfa and the Cornice is a neighborood located on the Atlantic Ocean, West of the Hassan II Mosque. The palm lined corniche is perfect for travelers who want to have a coffee at a local cafe, people watch or stroll along the beachfront. In summer the Corniche is packed with local Moroccan family's who are there for a fresh water swim or want to picnic with friends.
Habous Quarter The Habous Quarter is often referred to as the "new medina and was built in 1930's by the French. For travelers looking to shop for handicrafts made in Morocco or to experience a local Olive Souk this is the place to do it on a one-day tour in Casablanca.
Villa Des Arts Built in 1934, Villa Des Arts in Casablanca is part of the ONA Foundation created to promote the contemporary arts. It's also one of the cities leading Art Deco historic buildings. Located near Parc De La Ligue Arabe this non profit museum features a wide array of contemporary Moroccan Artists.
Cocktails at Sky 28, The Kenzi Hotel Sky Bar The Kenzi Tower Hotel is home to one of Casablanca's best views at sunset. Their Sky 28 Bar boasts panoramic views of the Hassan II Mosque, the Corniche, Ana and the city center. Coctaials, Wine, Beer and horderves are available along with a gastronomic, French menu for those who are interested in dinner with a magnficent view of Casa at night.
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We offer Private Tours to Morocco for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Imperial Cities, the Great North to the Sahara Desert Region Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on October 24, 2015 at 12:10 AM||comments (1)|
When traveling to Morocco on a cruise ship there are many escorted, port tour excursion options. Casablanca has much to offer does its sister city Rabat. The best Casablanca port tours are those that include an English, Multilingual Speaking driver who is an expert on Casablanca and can serve as your guide for the day. Cruise ships that dock in Casablanca offer a full day at leisure for travelers who want to sightsee with others on board the ship or arrange for a private, escorted tour of Casablanca on their own. There are many websites that offer valuable information for those interested in taking a private, Casablanca Tour or Casablanca Jewish Heritage Tour such as Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic. The Best Casablanca Port Tours are those that offer the highlights of the city along with options to visit the Grand White Hassan II Mosque, the Museum of Moroccan Judaism along with the Marche Centrale, the Medina, Corniche and Markets. Casablanca Port Tours and Shore Excursions are the perfect opportunity to begin an exploration of Morocco. Our Casablanca Port Guide can offer ideas for how to spend your day on a Private Tour of Casablanca.
Casablanca Port Guide: Site seeing Recommendations on a Private Casablanca Tour Visit the Port of Casablanca - a surprise for travelers along with the Corniche. Casablanca’s cornice is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and people watching at one of its charming, street side cafes. Take a Private, Guided Tour of the Hassan II Mosque, the third largest in the world. The Hassan II Mosque sites on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the leading architectural splendors of Morocco. Renowned for it’s magnificent interior and roof that allows an open-air view of the sky, Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque is an architecture landmark designed by the architect Michel Pinseau. The mosque is situated on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic which can be seen through a gigantic glass floor. The Hassan II Mosque can accommodate 25,000 worshipers on the interior and an additional 80,000 on the courtyard's exterior facing the front of the mosque. Visit the Notre Dame de Lourdes, a Roman Catholic cathedral and one of a kind in Casablanca. It was built in 1956 and has significant European influences. There are over 20,000 Catholics who are said to worship at the Notre Dame de Lourdes.
Explore the Museum of Moroccan Judaism of history and ethnography, created by the Jewish Community of Casablanca in 1997 with the support of the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage. The Jewish Museum in Casablanca is tucked into a residential neighborhood and holds a treasure trove with it being the Arab region’s only Jewish Museum. It uses world-class standards of conservation for its national and international collections. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism presents religious, ethnographic and artistic objects that demonstrate the history, religion, traditions and daily life of Jews in the context of Moroccan civilization. The Jewish Museum in Casablanca covers an area of 700 square meters and is the only Jewish Museum in the Muslim world. Shop in Casablanca’s medina, at the souvenir market or explore the Habous Quarter with its attractive Islamic architecture. Discover Berber carpets, quality leather goods, crafts and ornately designed pottery, silver jewelry, and metal wares. There is also an Exposition Nationale d’Artisanat located in the city center of Casablanca that offers excellent prefixed prices on carpets and other goods such as embroidered clothing and leather.
Casablanca is also known for it’s popular restaurants that offer Moroccan and International cuisine for all budgets. La Squala is perfect for those looking to dine on light fare in a traditional Moroccan setting with a garden and courtyard. This charming restaurant while touristic is located in an old fort within the city center. For those who are fans of the film, Casablanca, Rick’s Café is perfect fit and designed by Bill Willis, a renowned Interior with a penchant for Moroccan architecture and 10001 Arabian Nights themes. For those looking for something charming and upscale with a sea view try La Mer or Cabistan on the Cornice. For more information about Casablanca Shore Excursions or Casablanca One-day Tours
Casablanca Port Tours, Your Morocco Tour Guide
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 12, 2015 at 6:50 PM||comments (28)|
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 January 30, 2015 at 8:05 AM||comments (1)|
Unlike many of its allies and neighbors, Morocco has remained quietly out of the political spotlight during recent years, having largely escaped the political unrest and revolution of the Arab Spring. Last year, however, the Kingdom was afforded the cultural limelight in Paris, France, in a series of events called A Moroccan Autumn in Paris. Despite France's long-standing relations with many North African and Arab nations, it is unprecedented for one country to receive the concerted attention that Morocco has been enjoying these past few months.
In two simultaneous exhibitions, on Modern and Medieval Morocco, have highlighted and celebrated Morocco's artistic contribution in the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) and the Louvre Museum, respectively. Medieval Morocco: An Empire from Africa to Spain, features works from the 11th to the 15th centuries CE/AD. In contrast, the institute’s Contemporary Morocco showcased work by 80 living artists. The great news for culture enthusiasts, historians and visitors to Morocco is that the Medieval Morocco Exhibition will travel to Rabat in 2015! The exhibition will take place from March 2nd – June 1st.
The medieval era in Morocco was one of great conquering dynasties - the Idrisid, Almoravid, Almohad and Marinid sultans ruled great swathes of modern day North African (Algeria, Tunisia and Libya), Mauretania, Mali and into the Iberian Peninsula. Additionally, it was a period of great artistic, cultural, religious and scientific endeavor. The 300 pieces on display have never been assembled in one place before - many of them have never travelled - and have been brought together from Morocco, Spain, Mali, Mauritania and Tunisia. The collection has been curated by French and Moroccan experts to bring this little-known period of Arab, European and African history to a wider audience. The artifacts span disciplines as diverse as architecture, engineering, Islamic ornamentation, textiles, pottery and Arabic calligraphy. They are arranged chronologically to enable a sense of historical and geographical context, tracing the rise and fall of successive dynasties, their seats of power and the breadth of their realms.
One of the most significant artifacts on display is a chandelier from the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fez, the oldest university in the world. The polished copper chandelier was created in the 13th century once held 520 oil lamps. It was a challenge to extract it from the labyrinthine Fez medina (old city) and on exhibit it is lit as it would be in the mosque. Other exhibits, such as a minbar (a podium from which an imam preaches) from the same mosque were too delicate to transport.
To see this exhibition in Paris is special, but to see it in Rabat would make a perfect backdrop to your tour of Morocco, providing a great impression of the magnificence of the erstwhile Islamic empires and a sense of the origins of much of the cultural, artistic and architectural practices you will see on your trip. Medieval Morocco:
An Empire from Africa to Spain, is on at the Mohammed VI Museum in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, from March 2 to June 1, 2015.
Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Angle Avenue Moulay El Hassan et Avenue Allal Ben Abdallah, Quartier Hassan, Rabat, Morocco, Phone: 21 25 37 76 90 47
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.
http://www.travel-exploration.com/mpage.cfm/Moroccan_Music_Artists" target="_blank">For more information about the Medieval Morocco Exhibition in Rabat or a Rabat Tour
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on December 26, 2013 at 7:45 AM||comments (1)|
Morocco is one of the ancient intersections of civilization. Boldly situated on the far northwestern corner of Africa, Morocco's expansive shoreline stretches from the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Mediterranean. The cultural diversity of contemporary Morocco reflects its historic vantage point as a gateway to Europe and the world.
Morocco’s heritage offers visitors an encounter with an exotic society and its customs, an incomparable cuisine, and a shopper’s paradise of magnificent markets. Morocco Jewish Heritage Tours offer a unique combination of Jewish History, Culture, Architecture & Gardens for the sophisticated traveler. In the northern reaches of Africa, the 2,500 year old Moroccan Jewish community has a magnificent and little-known history and culture rooted in Africa and the Muslim world. A moderate, pro-western country, Morocco offers millennia-old lessons in peaceful co-existence.
Travel Exploration has a wide range of Jewish Heritage Tours to Morocco with varied itinerary offerings from Imperial Cities Jewish Heritage Tours to those that venture to Morocco's great South. Jewish Heritage Tours to Morocco are all inclusive of historic synagogues, cemeteries, architectural sites, and natural surroundings of each region along with options to attend a Jewish service or have dinner at a Rabbi's home. Also offered are Casablanca Jewish Heritage Tours. The Journey through the Maghreb’s most private Jewish and public heritage places is a must for American Jewish travelers. Jewish Heritage Tours of Morocco are an ideal way to discover sacred sites that have left an indelible mark on Moroccan Jewry. Expert licensed Historical guides on Morocco’s Jewish Heritage will impart history and information in great detail that tells a story of Moroccan Jewish culture and heritage.
A Snapshot of 10 Jewish Heritage Sites Visited on the Jewels of Jewish Heritage Imperial Cities Tour:
1. Jewish Mellah, Marrakech & Marrakech, Cemetery
2. Jewish Synagogue, Marrakech
3. Ibn Danon Synagogue, Fes
4. Jewish Mellah, Fes
5. Jewish Cemetery
6. Tomb of Solica, Fes
7. Maimonides, Fes
8. Old City of Jewish Seffrou, Fes Region
9. Beth- El Synagogue, Casablanca
10. Jewish Musuem, Casablanca
For More Information about Morocco Jewish Heritage Tours 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 November 7, 2013 at 12:25 PM||comments (0)|
Two older well known films featuring Morocco are Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much which features James Stewart and Doris Day and was made in 1956. It has all the tense drama of a Hitchcock thriller and has a scene on the Jemma El Fna square where Hitchcock makes a cameo appearance looking at acrobats on the Place in a cafe as a man is stabbed nearby. The French built fortress like police station on the square features prominently in the film. It was made in the same year as Morocco gained independence and captures some of the excitement of the period. The film Casablanca in 1942 starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid and features Claude Rains as the French police officer, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Dooley Wilson. All the scenes were shot in a Hollywood studio but the Moroccan street scenes are not too bad and the romantic drama won 3 Academy awards. The hero Humphrey Bogart has to choose between the woman he loves played by Ingrid Bergman and helping her husband in the Czech resistance escape the pro Hitler Vichy forces in Morocco. The picture accurately portrays the war time drama and the plight of refugees in Morocco during the Second World War and was rushed out to coincide with the Allied landings during operation Torch in North Africa in 1942. It is one of the great romantic films with some of the greatest cinema actors of all time. Casablanca still basks in the glory and today’s Rick’s Bar is well worth a visit, you can watch the film as well.
Josef Von Sternberg’s production of Morocco in 1930 with Marlene Dietrich and a very young Gary Cooper who is serving in the French Foreign Legion. The film opens with a legionnaire column marching into Mogador . The column stops in the souk and waits as the call to prayer rings out and the people pray, the scenes are very well observed. The shots of life as a legionnaire give an idea of what the period under the French Protectorate was like. This is the film where the young Marelene Dietrich caused a sensation by singing in the local nightclub in top hat and tails and kissing a woman who gave her a white rose after her performance. Both the heroine and hero have a troubled past and a are trying to found a new life in Morocco. It again explores the theme of Morocco as a land of eastern mystery where the characters can find themselves. In the end she follows the legionnaire column into the desert to be with her true love despite the wealth and security offered by another suitor. The film Hideous Kinky came out in 1998 starring Kate Winslet and Said Taghamoui. In 1972 Jane’s two daughters Bea and Lucy move to Marrakech to escape the boring routines of London. The film captures the hippy period in Morocco. Both Kate Winslet ‘s character and her two daughter’s also go through a voyage of discovery aided by Said Taghamouti’s character who helps them to return to London.
The American novelist Paul Bowles narrates Bernado Bertolucci’s version of his great novel The Sheltering Sky starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich and Campbell Scott. As often happens the novelist did not like the film, the novel was perhaps too stark for a Hollywood extravaganza. There are great desert scenes and Paul Bowles appears in a cameo part as well as narrating the film. He spent 52 years living in Tangier writing and thinking about Morocco during his own personal journey of discovery. He was the best known American expatriate in Morocco of the period and introduced many writers of the period to the country. If you search on Youtube you will find films of old Morocco in 1920,1930,and 1950’s and vivid street scenes and it is thrilling to see places as they were then and are now in modern Morocco. You can also find historic pictures of Mohammed V, Churchill and De Gaulle reviewing French troops in Marrakech during World War II as well as the historic Casablanca conference with President Roosevelt. Morocco is a very photogenic country because of its string scenery and great films such as David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, Orson Welles’s Othello shot in Essaouira, Martin Scorsese’s, Kundun and also the Temptation of Christ. Many international films continue to be made in Morocco and Morocco has its own burgeoning film industry and film stars.
For More Information on Films to Read before visiting Morocco or a Morocco 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 May 29, 2013 at 1:30 PM||comments (2)|
Casablanca is changing. It has always been the business capital and is Morocco’s largest city providing 48 per cent of the urban jobs in Morocco. It had the reputation of being run down and polluted but things are changing. The newest addition is Casablanca’s new tramway system a radical change in urban transport policy which links the centre with some of the suburbs . It was inaugurated by King Mohammed VI with French Prime Minister Jean- Marc Ayrault.
There is now an alternative to Casablanca’s red petit taxis and the traffic jams in the city centre. The city was always the driving commercial force during the French Protectorate from 1912-1956 with its port which is still one of the largest in Africa. It has superb architectural heritage of Art Deco and Mauresque (Moorish architecture) developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s which has been sadly neglected but now restoration efforts are gathering force and there is an annual conference dedicated to preserving Casablanca’s heritage. Like Tunis and Cairo, Casablanca reflects the energy and aspirations of the early 20th century colonial period and many architectural gems survive in the city, though not always in good condition. Place Mohammed V was the centre of the French colonial era period development. Impressive facades and colonial buildings line Rue Indriss Lahrizi, Rue Tahar Sebti and the south side of Boulevard Mohammed V.
Place 16 Novembre is home to an array of Art Deco buildings. There are also many interesting façades with decorative doorways and ironwork on the pedestrian walk way Rue Prince Moulay Abdellah (there are good quality shirts and shoes on offer here.) Hotel Guynemer, (named after the First World War French air ace) with its Art Deco panelling, is worth checking out, as is the beautifully-restored Hotel Transatlantique.
The writer and novelist Tahir Shah who moved to Casablanca and wrote “The Caliph’s House” about restoring a former palace which is now his home, is an expert and enthusiast of the historic architectural street remains and daily life of Casablanca which he has chronicled on a number of You tube films and in many travel articles. A particular favourite is the Petit Poucet Restaurant on Boulevard Mohammed V where Saint-Exupéry, the French author and aviator, used to spend time between mail flights across the Sahara. His doodles and letters are hung on the walls. There are the magnificent administrative buildings of the current Place Mohammed V such as the Post Office built in 1918 by Adrien Laforgue, the consulate of France built in 1922 by Albert Laprade, the Palace of Justice completed in 1923 by Joseph Marrast and the Wilaya (Governate) constructed between 1928 and 1936 by Marius Boyer.
The imposing and vast Hassan II Mosque stretches over the sea and took 6,000 traditional Moroccan artisans, five years to build . It is one of the wonders of the Islamic world and non muslims can visit on conducted tours to some parts of the building. It has intricate mosaics, stone and marble floors and columns, sculpted plaster moldings, carved and painted wood ceilings. It's the largest mosque in the world, with room for more than 100,000 worshipers. A new shopping attraction is the huge Morocco Mall which opened last year and is the biggest shopping Mall on the African continent with the full range of designer brands, cinemas ,restaurants and an aquarium. A day out for the family.
Casablanca’s medina is also undergoing renovation and it is a place where shoppers can pick up bargains and move on to the more modern Habous market. The Marche Central for fruit and vegetables is also an enchanting period piece worth visiting. The beaches and clubs along the Corniche Ain Dab are great for relaxing by the sea and there are many swimming pools. Although Casablanca is a bustling metropolis with industrial areas it also has the Corniche for rest and relaxation.
Casablanca has a vibrant night life, unlike Morocco’s other main cities and the night clubs abound and restaurants such as A Ma Bretagne on the Corniche with superb fish dishes are matched in town with excellent restaurants including Rick's cafe modeled on Rick’s Café in the 1942 film “Casablanca.” Le Rouget de l’Isle also comes highly recommended. Infact, as with any international city the full range of cuisines is available and the city revels in its role as an international airport hub. The city has a thriving cultural life and it is well worth visiting the some of the 20 or so art galleries to experience modern contemporary Moroccan painting and sculpture which is thriving and internationally famous. The galleries include Villa des Arts de Casablanca , Galerie Venise Cardre and Galerie l’Atelier 21 amongst others. As with any international city Casablanca has its run down areas but it also has chic modern areas like Anfa and towering new office blocks and skyscrapers like the Twin Centre Towers .
It is an exciting vibrant city shaking off its old tired image with new developments and offering the tourist a new range of stimulating activities. The days when Casablanca was just a stop off point in Morocco to go elsewhere are over.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on December 23, 2012 at 8:00 PM||comments (2)|
The busy medinas of Morocco with their maze of zig-zagging streets reveal the daily life as it was for Morocco's jewish population who lived in the mellahs the walled-in old sections of the cities of Rabat, Fez, Marrakech and Casablanca. The daily haggling over food and handicrafts as the Muslim call to prayer echoed from the minarets was the reality for jews for hundreds of years. Jewish tourists come from all over the world to retrace the lives of their ancestors who played such a significant role in Morocco's history. Morocco was home to many great Rabbis and Kabbalists including R’Yitzchak Al-Fasi (Rif) (1013-108 , the Rambam (1160-1165), R’ Joseph Gikatila and the Ohr Ha’Chaim Ha’Kadosh (1698-1742). In the 1492 thousands of Jews were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition. Many came to Morocco bringing their skills and creativity honed by the Andalusian period in Spain which deeply influenced Moroccan art and culture.
A good place to start for reviewing this heritage is the Jewish Museum in Casablanca which covers an area of 700 square meters, is the first of its kind in the Arab world.It contains large multipurpose room, used for exhibitions of painting, photography and sculpture.There are three other rooms, with windows containing exhibits on religious and family life and exhibits on working life and two rooms displaying complete Moroccan synagogues. There are also libraries featuring documents,photgraphs and videos. A visit to Casablanca’s Jewish Cemetery in the mellah is open and quiet, with well-kept white stone markers in French, Hebrew and Spanish. Once a year, Casablancans celebrate a hiloula, or prayer festival, at the tomb of the Jewish saint, Eliahou.
Casablanca's 4,500 jewish community live outside the mellah in the European city, where they worship in over 30 synagogues, eat in kosher restaurants, entertain themselves in community centers, and attend Jewish schools and social service centers. Jewish Casablancans worship at Temple Beth El, the largest synagogue and an important community center, seating 500 persons. Some Jews visit the Muslim shrine of Sidi Belyouteach year, Casablanca’s patron saint. Many Jews of Casablanca celebrate the hiloula of the saint Yahia Lakhdar in Ben Ahmed, about an hour south of Casablanca near the town of Settat. Fez, the most complete medieval city in the world and home to the Rif (R’ Yitzchak Al-Fasi, 11th Century) and the Rambam (1160–1165).
Shopping in its Medieval souks is to dive straight into ancient Morocco's still living heritage which is also part of Morocco's Jewish heritage as well. The Em Ha'Banim and Ibn Danan Synagogues, t the very important large Jewish cemetery, opposite the Royal Palace (where “Solika the Righteous Woman,” the most famous woman in Jewish-Moroccan history, is buried) and the Nejjarine Fountain. We explore one of the most fascinating and famous Souks in the Moslem world with its narrow, medieval, maze-like streets and absorb the mystique of this remarkable eighth-century city, Fez is the most ancient of the Moroccan Imperial cities, founded in 790 by Moulay Idriss II. Meknes was once an imperial capital with impressive ramparts and had a large Jewish population and Morocco's modern capital Rabat and Sale have interesting reminders of Jewish culture. Marrakech, Morocco's other imperial city has a famous mellah in the medina with its own souk with the famous Slat La'azama Synagogue .The splendid sites of Marrakech; the Badii Palace,the Bahia Palace,the Saadian tombs, the Medersa Ben Youssef and the souks filled with handicrafts and artifacts many of which are directly descended from the work of the jewish craftsmenwho were part ofthe everyday life of the city. Outside Marrakech in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in the remote village of Timzerit for eight days during the holiday of Sukkot, Jews from around the world visit this site to honour the memory of one of Morocco’s most famous rabbis.
Ironically, Rabbi David U Moshe is, by legend, an Ashkenazi — an emissary from the city of Safed in the Holy Land who came to southern Morocco to raise money from local Jews. When he died suddenly , he was given a Amazigh (Berber) name — “U Moshe” means “son of Moses”. Also,20 minutes from Marrakech on the Ouarzazate road is the tomb of Moulay Ighi (“Master of Ighi” which is visited by jews and muslims alike.Other important shrines in the region are Rabbi Raphael HaCohen at Achbarou,Rabbi Shlomo Ben Lhans and Rabbi Shmuel( "Abu Hatzeira") in Erfoud cemetry. All are places are places of pilgrimagebymuslims and jews alike.
Two hours drive form Marrakech is Essaouira which was once the port of Mogador and became the main port for western imports during the reign of HassanI. This was the period of the cotton trade and Essaouira had a large population engaged in trade, a third of the city was jewish. It is now a vibrant tourist,art and culturalcentre receiving majorfestivals like the Ganoua Music festival each year. It has manymany galleries and craft shops, Essaouira is particularly noted for its wood carving.Its Medina is a UNESCO world heritage site and the synagogue of the venerated Rabbi Chaim Pinto is located in the Mellah. Ouarzazate has an important mellah close to the souk and superb kasbahs some of which were jewish in the Skoura Oasis 40 kms from Ouarzazate.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on October 21, 2012 at 8:15 AM||comments (1)|
Abderrahman Slaoui was a businessman who loved the arts. Newly opened this past May 2012 is Abderrahman Slaoui's Foundation Museum located in Casablanca. The Musee De La Fondation Abderrahman Sloaoui is set up in the home of a charming art deco building dating from the 1940's. Casablanca's Musee De La Fondation Abderrahman Sloaoui is dedicated to Moroccan jewelry and decor.