It is open to the public see pp26— Hotel Mamounia A grande dame among hotels worldwide, the Mamounia has been providing hospitality to the visiting rich and famous for almost a century see pp28— Although nothing as gruesome is on view today, the square is still populated with some extraordinary sights such as snake charmers, monkey trainers and colourfully-costumed water sellers.
In spite of government efforts to sanitize Jemaa El Fna with neat paving and ornamental barrows, the place remains endearingly chaotic.
They work in brightly painted iron barrows fringing the square. Top 10 Features Dried fruit and nuts stall It is worth paying repeated visits at different times of the day, but in summer months the square goes uncharacteristically quiet during the hottest part of the afternoon.
These stand as testimony to the Moroccan belief in natural remedies. Compounds of ground roots, dried herbs and even desiccated animal parts are used for everything, from curing head colds to warding off the evil eye. An Unplanned Masterpiece Sellers Water Known by the locals Tellers Fortune Throughout the day, impossibly wrinkled, elderly women squat beneath umbrellas with packs of Tarot cards to hold forth on the fortunes of the people who drop by for a reading. The brass cups are meant exclusively for the Muslims while the white-metal cups are for the thirsty people from all other religions.
This is an international list that includes pieces of intangible culture such as song cycles, theatrical traditions and sacred spaces. For dining and shopping options in this area, see pp64—5. Serving areas are erected and tables and benches are put out to create one vast alfresco eatery. Beneath a hanging cloud of smoke from the crackling charcoal grills, locals and visitors alike tuck into a vast array of Moroccan cuisine. Nearly every stall has its own speciality, from snails in spicy broth and chunks of lamb stuffed into sandwiches to humble hard-boiled eggs. Top 10 Features A dry-fruit stall Although Marrakech has a very low crime rate, the crowds milling around Jemaa El Fna at night are perfect cover for pickpockets.
Be careful with handbags and wallets. This is where the Moroccan belief in everyday magic is on full display.
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Prices are usually posted and everything is inexpensive. For more information on Moroccan cuisine, see pp50— Sessions end on a cliffhanger — the outcome is revealed only on the following night. It is basically Moroccangrown marijuana eaten in a jam- or cake-like form and is best avoided. The best time to visit is as the sun sets. The Gnawa came to Morocco as slaves from sub-Saharan Africa. Over the centuries they have kept alive their culture through oral traditions and, particularly, music.
Played on simple string instruments known as gimbri, their music is looping and repetitive, intended to produce an almost trance-like state in the dancers and vocalists who sometimes accompany the musicians. Gnawa music has made a great impact on the global world music scene.
The designer of the Koutoubia minaret went on to create Tour Hassan in the Moroccan capital, Rabat and the tower of the Giralda in Seville. Unfortunately, as with nearly all mosques and shrines in Morocco, non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the Koutoubia.
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Top 10 Features The Prayer Hall entrance Although access is denied to nonMuslims, one of the doors on the east wall is often open and you can peer through for a view of the impressive main prayer hall and its seemingly endless arcades of horseshoe arches. Pizzeria Venezia see p65 , which is just across the road from the Koutoubia, has a rooftop terrace that offers excellent views of the mosque and minaret. Mosque Booksellers The Koutoubia was built in Its name means the Mosque of the Booksellers, which is a reference to a small market that once existed in the neighbourhood, where worshippers could buy copies of religious tracts.
For more information on Islam and the regulations for visiting mosques, see p The mosque plan Originally the whole minaret was encased in tiles and carved stucco, but now only two shallow bands of blue ceramics remain. The most important prayers of the week are those at noon on Friday. They were revealed during excavations by Moroccan archaeologists. The relatively plain main east entrance leads to a vast prayer hall with its eight bays and horseshoe arches.
North of the prayer hall is a courtyard with fountains and trees. It was destroyed when the Almohads captured the city see p Koutoubia Gardens South of the mosque is a garden with a mix of palms and deciduous trees, topiary hedges and colourful roses centre. The ruling holds good even today.
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Only Muslims may enjoy the great view from the top of the building. For more information on the elements of Moroccan architecture, see pp36—7. Luxuries like gold and ivory came from the south, while leather, metalwork and ceramics were sent north. A trip to the souks is part history lesson, part endurance test — to see how long you can keep your purse in your bag or your wallet in your pocket. Top 10 Features Metalwork on display You will get lost in the souks.
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Alleys are narrow, winding and constantly branching, while landmarks are few. Locals are friendly and will point out the way. Rue The main route into the souks is via an arch just north of Jemaa El Fna and along this perpetually busy, sun-dappled alley. Shop owners along Semarine attempt to entice with a miscellany of robes, kaftans, carpets and antiques. Every shop and stall here sells nothing but brightlycoloured, soft-leather, pointy-toed slippers known as babouches.
For more places to shop in and around the souks, see p Most are now gritty workshops. El Bab Souk Salaam This covered market serves the nearby mellah quarter with everything from food and spices to caged birds. Kedima Rahba This open square is home to sellers of dried scorpions, leeches and other bizarre substances and objects for use in sihacen, or black magic. For more on fondouks, see p The guide issue A guide to the souks is really not necessary.
Babouches Babouches are Moroccan slippers, handmade from local leather, although increasingly the babouches found in the souks are made of a synthetic plastic that only looks like leather. In their most basic form they are pointy-toed and come in a variety of colours — canary yellow being the most common — but are otherwise plain. Increasingly however, boutiques and shops are customizing their babouches with silk trim, or even carving the leather with exquisite designs.
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Each tribe has its own patterns. Some carpets are very old and made of genuine cactus silk but these are rare. Part of its Morocco produces its mystique can be credited to the own distinctive pottery. Ceramics The oil is sold all over the souks from the Akkal factory would not look out of place in a cutting edge design shop. Or visit the big pottery souk outside Bab Ghemat which is to the southeast of the medina. Fashion Marrakech may have for its leather.
It is made inspired countless by treating animal hides by foreign couturiers from hand in the tanneries see Yves Saint-Laurent to Tom p68 in the east of the Ford. There are some young leather goods from purses to Moroccan designers producing handbags to book bindings. Look for them in the northern part of the souk or down at the Place des Ferblantiers. They are sold in all shapes, colours and sizes in the souk, and some of the designs can be highly inventive.
Some of the best are made by a small company called Amira www. However, a number of artisans in Marrakech, Pile of carpets in the Souk des Tapis Share your travel recommendations on traveldk. The walls he had built were up to 9 m 30 ft high and formed a circuit of 10 km 6 miles , punctuated by some towers and 20 gates. Despite changes made in the 20th century to accommodate motor vehicles, the walls remain largely unchanged. The distinctive pinkish-red hue of the walls below is a result of pigments in the local earth.
The cavernous interior rooms lend themselves for use as a sometime event space.
For instance, a wall separated the royal kasbah quarter from the city; Bab Berrima was one of the gates between these two distinct zones. Outside the gate is a pretty little marabout or shrine. This giant ensemble is in homage to the seven saints of Marrakech see p Dar El Haoura West of the Agdal Gardens, this curious free-standing fortress used to be a garrison for cavalry and its horse ramp is intact to this day.
Take a complete circuit for the equivalent of a few dollars. In the last century, this was threatened by new building materials such as concrete. Therefore the ruling French decreed that all new buildings be painted pink. This rule continues to be in force even today, with pleasing results.
The complex may be modest in size but it is beautifully decorated in the Alhambran style with plenty of carved cedar, stucco and polychromic tiling.