Tomb of Muhammad V

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We visited Morocco for 6 days on the guided part of our 2011 holiday in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Do not shortchange yourself with the one day tour of that amazing, welcoming country.

Rabat is the capital. King Muhammad VI is, like his grandfather Muhammad V was, a much loved and wise ruler. They are part of a dynasty that has reigned since 1631 – the Alaouite Dynasty, founded by Moulay (Saint) Ali Cherif, a descendant of the prophet Muhammad via the prophet’s daughter, Fatima and his cousin, Ali. The Alouites are Sunni Muslims.

Morocco was the first country to recognize the fledgling United States and has had a treaty of friendship with the US that is the longest standing T of F in existence.

Under then “Sultan” Muhammad V, Morocco was an ally during WW II. Sultans reigned in Morocco but at that time it was a colony ruled in bits by France and Spain. Promises of self-rule were made in return for help during the war, but these were not kept. Movements grew here as they did around the world, in support of workers and autonomy. Muhammad V cautiously supported the independence movement. The French rewarded him with exile to Madagascar in 1953. This caused such trouble with the people that he was back within two years. Shortly thereafter Morocco became an independent kingdom, with the popular Sultan now the King.

His son, Hassan II, became king when papa died in 1961. Hassan was not a nice King and more than one attempt was made on his life. Malika Oufkir, daughter of a general implicated in a failed assasination, was imprisoned by Hassan, an ordeal that lasted 20 years and spawned a wonderful book, Stolen Lives, that Anita and I enjoyed reading in our Morocco research before taking the trip. Oufkir and her close family members eventually escaped from their isolated desert prison.

Hassan II died in 1999 and Muhammad VI, his son, replaced him. While some, again cautious, reforms have taken place, Muhammad VI is not without his problems, one of which is an outdated Islamic penal code that resulted in the suicide of a rape victim faced with the decidedly unpleasant ruling forcing her to marry her rapist.

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Looking away from Muhammad V’s tomb are the impressive remains of an interrupted (by his death in 1199) attempt by Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour to build a massive mosque (look at those columns!) and the largest, tallest minaret in the world. The red sandstone “Hassan Tower” was inspired by the beautiful Koutoubia mosque in Marrakech, also constructed under the reign of Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour. At the time the strict Almohad Caliphate controlled Morocco, a good chunk of coastal North Africa and southern Spain. By this time the Golden Age of Islamic Andalusia, which spread much culture, including Greek philosophy, throughout Europe had been taken over by this harsh way of interpreting Islam.

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The gate was protected by two of these colourful guards. Green is the colour of Islam.

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Above: The top of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech.

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Marrakech

Jemaa el Fna at mid-day
Jemaa el Fna at mid-day

Marrakech was a fascinating place. We visited Jemaa el Fna Square twice. Independently, with friends Tom and Ellen we revisited two bars in Tom’s favorite, and famous, hotel, La Mamounia, for cocktails: 15 euro gin and tonics.

The first time in the square was in the evening, when all the food, juggling, dancing, story-telling and snake charming is taking place – every evening. There’s no place like it. I didn’t get many photos because we were warned not to photograph the people or we would be bombarded with people asking for 10 dirhams – roughly a dollar. So I did stealth video for 18 minutes as our group walked around the square – just holding the camcorder closed at waist level. I got great shots of asses, elbows, backs and shoulders of our group members as well as a flavour for the sounds of the place. Few clips snipped from the 18 minutes lasted longer that 15 seconds.

Video Clips: Only if you’re keen; the quality isn’t good and they’re very short, but they convey an atmosphere:

           Carriage Ride to Jemaa el-Fna         

           Snake Charmer         

         Dancers       

         Food Stalls For The Brave       

         Call to Prayer – Koutoubia Mosque       

         Bell Ringer       

Jemaa el-Fna at Night

           Candle lady at restaurant         

Belly Dancer 1

A Berber Home

This mum's on maternity leave
This mum’s on maternity leave

We traveled from Marrakech towards the Atlas Mountains, stopping in a Berber home in a village near Marrakech. The lady of the house made tea for us with a dramatic tea pouring technique that is used to aerate the tea and improve its flavour. The family lived on the upper floor of the home that appeared to be built from adobe.

We walked by small stalls in which they kept livestock and then up the stairs to the living area. Outside the living area was a Berber hamam – similarto, but simpler than a four-room Turkish bath. Both involve water and scented hamam soap. Here’s a website if you are curious about it. Their large sitting room easily housed our group of about 20 thirsty tourists. I took some photos from their patio. The money the family made from visits like ours was probably helping to put a daughter through university.

This event was followed by the standard two minute camel ride, which we declined on. Camels do make photogenic subjects, however.