In the morning we were met by a nice lady guide for a tour of Marrakesh.
Koutoubia Mosque, or Mosque of the Booksellers, was begun under the Berber dynasty of the Almoravids in 1120, but was substantially rebuilt from 1162 Almohad caliph under Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur, and became one of the most characteristic buildings this style. Its name comes from the fact that it was in the souk manuscripts merchants.
We walked to the Saadian Tombs. These tombs were sealed up for centuries until their rediscovery in 1917. Occupying a quiet enclosure at the Kasbah, the tombs are magnificently decorated with colorful tiles, Arabic script and elaborate carvings.
The enclosure consists of two main mausoleums, with 66 tombs laid out within them and over 100 more outside in the gardens
She asked us if we had seen Fez and confirmed that since we had then we had seen all the craft people, so this was nicely cut out of the tour. We saw the palace and Jewish quarter and other such things. Not nearly as extraordinary as Fez, but pretty interesting. Before noon, we were met by our trusty driver and guide, taken to the synagogue, but since it was Shabbat we weren’t let in. Then on to the Majorelle Gardens, where we had a most pleasant lunch and then walked around the gardens, which were lovely but quite small and a bit of a rip-off at $7/person.
It took French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) forty years of passion and dedication to create this enchanting garden in the heart of the “Ochre City”.
After a quick lunch in the garden’s restaurant we headed back to our hotel area.
We were driven back to our riad, where everyone relaxed during this time, with Eitan also getting a haircut, this time his haircut was way better than the one in India.
We all went shopping and then to a restaurant with a view of the square, which was, for Morocco, pricey ($10-15 entrees) and we feared touristy, but in fact it was good and also air conditioned. During the meal, we discussed Portugal and it was determined we should go to Porto, which wasn’t in our itinerary.
We walked back through the market streets while Dan went back to the hotel to work a little bit.
Sarah and Elly bought matching earrings!
The next morning we walked to the Lazama Synagogue, where a group from Israel with Marrakesh roots were having a rather joyous service. Very spirited.
The synagogue and courtyard felt like they got used and weren’t just a museum. Inside the austere worship area, you can see the zellij tilework’s Star of David motif. The courtyard’s surrounding ground-floor rooms have exhibits of Moroccan Jewish life.
Some photos on the walls of Moroccan Jews from the ‘20s and ‘30s were quite evocative. Even Eitan said some positive things.
The Jewish Cemetery in Marrakech is located adjacent to the Mellah quarter inside the medina (walled city). Like many places in the medina, there is no hint that behind the fairly anonymous entrance and perimeter walls lies such a vast space and one of such significance. The Jewish heritage of this place truly is not made up.
Fascinating and incredibly well preserved, the cemetery is the largest Jewish cemetery in Morocco and is characterized by white-washed tombs and sandy graves. Despite being the largest cemetery, the graves have three burial layers in order to make the limited space go further. The cemetery is very important in the Jewish world as many famous and respected Tsadikkims are buried here.
Morocco had been pretty fantastic at every level. A completely different travel experience, Third World but comfortable and not challenging in any serious way, but a thorough alien experience.
We arrived at the Sky Hotel, a wonderfully nondescript modern hotel near the airport, just what we were ready for after all the“roughing it” in the Third World. We gave the guys their tips and said the last bittersweet goodbye. We showered and refreshed, then had dinner outdoors, which to our surprise Hassan told us was included. It was French and only so-so, but relaxing.
The next day, we will be flying to the beautiful Portugal!
Bonus Pic Of The Day: Red with a green pentacle known as Sulayman’s (Solomon’s) seal in the center of the flag; red and green are traditional colors in Arab flags, although the use of red is more commonly associated with the Arab states of the Persian gulf; the pentacle represents the five pillars of Islam and signifies the association between God and the nation: