MOROCCO

dimitrastasinopoulou

From the Saharan dunes and the peaks of the High

Atlas,totheancientImperialcitiesandthecoastlines,

Morocco is the gateway to Africa and a country of

immense diversity that offers simple, breathtaking

beautyandwarmhospitality.Onlowerground,there

areruggedcoastlines,waterfallsandcavesinforested

hills, and the mighty desert. Morocco's cities, many

under UNESCO World Heritage list, are some of the

most exciting on the continent. In the rocky deserts

medinas are protected by Kasbahs, on the coast by

thickseawalls.

PLACESVISITED

MARRAKESH

Marrakesh, which gave its name to the Moroccan

empire,isanexampleofamajorIslamiccapitalofthe

westernMediterranean.Foundedin1070-1072bythe

Almoravids (1056-1147), capital of the Almohads

(1147-1269), Marrakesh was, a major political,

economic and cultural center of the western Muslim

world, reigning in North Africa and Andalusia. Vast

monuments dating back to that period: Koutoubia

Mosque, with the matchless minaret of 77m, an

essentialmonumentofMuslimarchitecture,isoneof

theimportantlandmarksoftheurbanlandscapeand

thesymboloftheCity,theKasbah,monumentalgates

andgardens.Later,thetownwelcomedothermarvels,

suchastheBadiâPalace,theBenYoussefmedersa,les

Saâdians tombs, Bahia Palace and large residences.

Jamaâ El Fna Square is a true open-air theatre that

alwaysamazesvisitors.

Known for its leather goods, Marrakech is home to a

few tanneries where local families have been

employed for generations. In fact, the tanneries have

existed since the medina was founded over a

thousandyearsago.

ESSAOUIRA

Essaouirahaslongbeenconsideredasoneofthebest

anchorages of the Moroccan coast. The Carthaginian

navigatorvisitedinthe5 th centuryBCandestablished

thetradingpostofArambys.

Around the end of the 1 st century BCE or early 1 st

century CE, the Berber king Juba II established a

Tyrian purple factory, processing the murex and

purpura shells found in the intertidal rocks at

Essaouira and the Iles Purpuraires. This dye colored

thepurplestripeinthetogaswornbytheSenatorsof

Imperial Rome. The bay at Essaouira is partially

sheltered by the island of Mogador, making it a

peaceful harbor protected against strong marine

winds.

FEZ

The Medina of Fez is considered as one of the most

extensive and best conserved historic towns of the

Arab-Muslim world. It not only represents an

outstanding architectural, archaeological and urban

heritage, but also transmits a life style, skills and a

culture that persist and are renewed despite the

diverse effects of the evolving modern societies.

Founded in the 9 th century and home to the oldest

university in the world, Fez reached its height in the

13 th century under the Marinids, when it replaced

Marrakeshasthecapitalofthekingdom.Aroundthat

time time, those of Jewish decent were given

protection under the new sultan Abu Yacoub. Being

able to sell their wares and goods to those travelers

passing by, they thrived under the sultan’s protection

andmanyfamiliescontinuedtomoveintothemellah,

or Jewish quarter. And, while Marrakesh still thrived

as one of the south’s greatest cities, Fez remained

equallyimportantinthenorth.Theurbanfabricand

the principal monuments in the medina – madrasas,

fondouks,palaces,residences,mosquesandfountains

-datefromthisperiod.Althoughthepoliticalcapital

ofMoroccowastransferredtoRabatin1912,Fezhas

retained its status as the country's cultural and

spiritualcenter.

The Medina of Fez preserves, in an ancient part

comprising numerous monumental buildings, the

memoryofthecapitalfoundedbytheIdrisiddynasty

between789and808A.D.UndertheMerinids(13 th to

15 th c.),anewtown(FezJedid)wasfounded(in1276)

tothewestoftheancientone(FezEl-Bali).Itcontains

theroyalpalace,thearmyheadquarters,fortifications

andresidentialareas.Atthattime,thetwoentitiesof

theMedinaofFezevolveinsymbiosisformingoneof

the largest Islamic metropolis representing a great

variety of architectural forms and urban landscapes.

Theyincludeaconsiderablenumberofreligious,civil

andmilitarymonumentsthatbroughtaboutamulticultural

society. This architecture is characterized by

construction techniques and decoration developed

over a period of more than ten centuries, and where

local knowledge and skills are interwoven with

diverseoutsideinspiration,Andalusian,Orientaland

African.

OUARZAZATEANDTHESAHARADESERT

Morocco's own special home of film, Ouarzazate lies

inavalleyatthefootoftheAtlasMountains.Mostof

its visitors are tourists who are making their way to

the Sahara Desert. They stop here to stock up on

provisions before making their way out to one of the

greatestdessertsintheworld.

KSAROFAIT-BEN-HADDOU

Theksar,agroupofearthenbuildingssurroundedby

high walls, is a traditional pre-Saharan habitat - an

ighrem-fortifiedvillageinEnglish-alongtheformer

caravanroutebetweentheSaharaandMarrakech.Itis

a striking example of the architecture of southern

Morocco.

Located in the foothills on the southern slopes of the

High Atlas in the Province of Ouarzazate, it is the

most famous ksar in the Ounila valley. Inside the

defensive walls which are reinforced by angle towers

andpiercedwithabafflegate,housescrowdtogether,

buttherearealsobuildingsandcommunityareas.The

site was also one of the many trading posts on the

commercialroutelinkingancientSudantoMarrakesh

by the Dra Valley and the Tizi-n'Telouet Pass.

Architecturally, the living quarters form a compact

grouping, closed and suspended. The community

areas of the ksar include a mosque, a public square,

grain threshing areas outside the ramparts, a

fortification and a loft at the top of the village, an

caravanserai,twocemeteries(MuslimandJewish)and

theSanctuaryoftheSaintSidiAliorAmer.

CHEFCHAOUEN

Chefchaouen Morocco’s blue city, is a beautiful town

with blue walls and majestic mountains overlooking

the town that is as rich in history as it is in beauty.


Establishedin1471whenMoorishandJewishpeople

fled here to escape the Reconquista of Spain, it is

locatedinNorthernMoroccoandthecity’ssignature

colorisavarietyofcalmingshadesofblue.

Inthe1930s,asizeablepopulationofJewishrefugees

arrivedinChefchaouen,fleeingNazipersecutionand

the growing threat of war. The blue is meant to

represent peace, safety and the power of heaven. In

this version of the story, blue walls rapidly spread

outward from the city’s Jewish quarter, until the

entire city was aglow. They’ll say the tradition of

painting walls blue is Jewish, certainly, but goes back

to the time of the city’s founding, in the 15 th c., when

it was built around a fortress used to defend

inhabitantsagainstPortugueseinvaders.Atthistime,

local Moroccans lived alongside Jews and Moriscos

(former Muslims who had converted to Christianity)

foracenturyormore.

The narrow streets of Chefchaouen (or Chaouen, as

thelocalscallit)makenoattempttosoftentheimpact

of the hillside the city is built on. The mountains

abovethecitygivetheappearanceoftwohorns–and

it’sbelievedthatthisiswherethenameChefchaouen

comesfrom(literallymeaning“watchthehorns”ina

localdialect).

MEKNES

Meknesisrenownedforitsvasthistoricalsignificance

andisoneoftheImperialcitiesinMorocco.Itisbest

knownforitscloselinkstoSultanMoulayIsmail,son

of the founder of the Alaouite dynasty who turned

Meknes into an impressive city in Spanish-Moorish

style, surrounded by high walls with great doors,

where the harmonious blending of the Islamic and

European styles of the 17 th c. One of the grandest

features of Meknes is the gate of El-Mansour,

beautifully decorated with Almohad patterns and

zellijmosaics.

TANGIER

TangierislocatedontheMaghrebcoastatthewestern

entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, where the

Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, off

Cape Spartel. The town is the capital of the Tangier-

Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, as well as the Tangier-

AssilahprefectureofMorocco.Manycivilizationsand

cultures have influenced the history of Tangier,

starting from before the 10 th century BCE. Between

the period of being a strategic Berber town and then

a Phoenician trading center to the independence era

around the 1950s, Tangier was a nexus for many

cultures. In 1923, it was considered as having

internationalstatusbyforeigncolonialpowers.

ASILAH

Believed to have initially been constructed by the

Phoenicians as a trade post around 1500 B.C., and

serving as home to a procession of conquerors

thereafter,evenbeingahaventopiratesatonetimein

its history, the seaside resort of Assilah boasts well

preserved gates and ramparts as a reminder of its

colorfulpast.Alldevelopmentatthispopulartourist

destination has been carried out in such a way as to

blend-inwith,andcomplement,itsancientstructures

and visitors are assured of a warm welcome by the

friendlylocals.

VOLUBILIS

Volubilis is a partly excavated Berber city situated

nearthecityofMeknesandcommonlyconsideredas

the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Mauretania.

Built in a fertile agricultural area, it developed from

the 3 rd century BC onward as a Berber, then proto-

Carthaginian, settlement before being the capital of

the kingdom of Mauretania. It grew rapidly under

Roman rule from the 1 st century AD onward and

expanded to cover about 42 hectares with a 2.6km

circuit of walls. The city gained a number of major

public buildings in the 2nd century, including a

basilica, temple and triumphal arch. Its prosperity,

which was derived principally from olive growing,

promptedtheconstructionofmanyfinetown-houses

with large mosaic floors. The city fell to local tribes

around 285 and was never retaken by Rome because

of its remoteness and indefensibility on the southwesternborderoftheRomanEmpire.Itcontinuedto

be inhabited for at least another 700 years, first as a

Latinized Christian community, then as an early

Islamic settlement. By the 11 th century Volubilis had

beenabandonedaftertheseatofpowerwasrelocated

toFes.

The ruins remained substantially intact until they

were devastated by an earthquake in the mid-18 th

century and subsequently looted by Moroccan rulers

seeking stone for building Meknes. Today it is a

UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed for being "an

exceptionally well preserved example of a large

RomancolonialtownonthefringesoftheEmpire"

CASABLANCA

Casablanca almost universally referred to as 'Casa', is

the cosmopolitan, industrial and economic heart of

Moroccoanditslargestcity,aswellasperhapsoneof

thelessobviouslyendearingcitiesinthecountry,with

asmall,unassumingmedinaandabusyvillenouvelle.

Casablanca was established as a town in 1906 with a

population of 20,000. Later, in 1907 when the French

landed here, Fez was its commercial center, whilst

Tangier was set up as the city’s main harbor. The

French were soon ousted, however, and had to seek a

newportaltogetherandTangierremainedMoroccan.

Things have changed much since then. With a

population of over 3 million, Casablanca resembles a

SouthernEuropeancity.

RABAT–THECAPITAL

Located on the Atlantic coast in the north-west of

Morocco, the site is the product of a fertile exchange

between the Arab-Muslim past and Western

modernism. The inscribed city encompasses the new

town conceived and built under the French

Protectorate from 1912 to the 1930s, including royal

and administrative areas, residential and commercial

developments and the Jardins d’Essais botanical and

pleasure gardens. It also encompasses older parts of

the city dating back to the 12 th century. The new town

is one of the largest and most ambitious modern

urbanprojectsbuiltinAfricainthe20thcenturyand

probably the most complete. The older parts include

Hassan Mosque (begun in 1184) and the Almohad

ramparts and gates, the only surviving parts of the

project for a great capital city of the Almohad

caliphate as well as remains from the Moorish, or

Andalusian,principalityofthe17 th century.


MOROCCO

February,2018

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