Made it to Marrakech – May 13, 2017
Through the very windy (not with wind, but curves) road in the Atlas Mountains, we stopped at a women’s cooperative to see the many Argan oil products and how they are made. There were many lotions, potions, shampoos, sunscreen, and even edible items. We resisted buying anything. Next door was a shop selling Berber jewelry and leather handbags. Both are my weakness, but again, I resisted. Whew!
As we arrived in Marrakech, the landscape and wealth was evident. There was a beautiful golf course, huge homes and lovely gardens. Coming into the central area, there were resorts, a large mall and a downtown with buildings of no more than six stories, the limit in height. Everything is about the same color, a light terra cotta, also as required by law.
We arrived at our hotel to drop off our bags and then went to lunch. This time, no tagine or couscous, but a salad and ravioli. After, we went to the Medina, which is the walled area filled with former residential parts and now, almost all commercial. We wandered through the alleyways to see spice shops, clothing, rugs and more. After a visit to the Palace Bahia of a prime minister from the 1800’s, where he lived with his five wives, we went to the Jewish Quarter. Our local guide took us to a necropolis, or burial area or cemetery. Inside, there were plots with mosaic designs. The ones with the highest elevation, were of higher class and status. Almost all were facing east, toward Mecca. Those that did not, were the plots of non-Muslims, generally Jewish graves.
Jews have lived in Morocco for 2,000 years and they mixed with the Berbers and Muslims very well. Not so much for the Christians being accepted. Once the Arabs came to Morocco, things changed, though. And, as mentioned before, right after WWII, almost all Jews left Morocco. At one time, there were 40,000, but now there are a mere 2,000, mostly in Casablanca. The 400 or so in Marrakech have three synagogues in the Jewish Quarter and one more in a suburb of town.
We sat in a cafe on one of the squares, watching the snake charmers, monkey wranglers and hawkers, bombarding you to buy, touch the snakes or monkeys and trying to make you crazy. We went back to the markets and found a couple of fun things. You have to be careful, though, because the alleys are full of very fast moving motor scooters, the only method of getting around quickly. More Marrakech later.
By the way, we didn’t ride camels, but Dromedaries, with one hump. Camels are in Africa, with two humps. Dromedaries are in Morocco.