Gardens and Squares

July 3, 2007 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

Gardens are a big thing here.  Seems any available space has plants.  The roof patio of our lodging has plants so vigorous that we need to push away branches to get to our door.  We sat at lunch on a terrace overlooking the Saadi tomb complex and the storks that have made their homes on the walls, and saw cactus gardens on a neighboring roof.  The sun is very hot, the city is very dry, and the green seems to be everywhere, and everywhere welcome. 

Yesterday we walked all the way into the new city in the continuing search for Katie shoes.  Then we walked, and walked, and walked up Muhammad V Street, trying to find the Majorelle gardens.  Built by a French artist expatriot in the early twentieth century, we had read about these gardens, and they sounded better and better as we walked past the large (red) hotels, office buildings, and malls of the new city.  By the time she saw the gate, Katie said, she just hoped that’s where we were headed because she would have entered in any case.

Majorelle garden3Majorelle gardenMajorelle garden2

The garden was spectacular.  We have a fiddle-leaf ficus that pretends to be a climbing vine in the two-story front of our house.  This garden has one that must be a 60 foot tree with a huge trunk.  Turtles and large goldfish swam in the water-lily pool.  The cactus collection was amazing, situated in the center; the bamboo forest was around the edges.  The Museum of Islamic Arts attached to the garden had terrific examples of Moroccan doors, jewelry, carpets, and very old pottery.

We decided in the afternoon to try to find the Suq Cuisine [sic], but instead found a commercial area of the old city that had no other apparent foreigners.  I’ve always loved getting lost.  One man found us and led us to the most remarkable collection of herbs I’ve ever seen.  It was a wholesale place specializing in remedies, perfume ingredients, even incense. 

Back to Jama al Fna for dinner last night.  We ate our harira (soup almost as good as Sahar’s version) at long tables with many other people.  Then wandered looking at the various options for dinner.  (“Ali Baba!  Ali Baba!”)  We tried to figure out the nature of the various stalls, some were empty, others completely full.  The most popular was selling merguez sausages to Moroccans two lines deep.  Moroccans were also patronizing the shops with sheep heads and boiled egg sandwiches.  We chose the only one that had a woman cooking; they sold vegetables, grilled fish and kababs, all quite good.  Katie decided to try cinnamon tea and cinnamon cakes, which this young man was delighted to provide.  It was so strong I could barely sip it.

SquareCinammon tea

The crowds were even bigger last night.  The celebration on the square is clearly for the people of Marrakesh, and the biggest audience was for a story-teller accompanied by two stringed instruments and a drum.  Foreigners are warmly (sometimes too eagerly) welcomed, but the show is hardly for us.

Today it was the Saadian tombs and palace.  The palace was quite destroyed, but workers were putting up stands and a stage for the music festival to be held here next week.  The tombs are quite remarkable.  All the artistic elements I associate with Spain were, of course, present at the tombs and in the restored minbar housed inside the palace complex.  Muslim conquerors came in waves from Morocco to conquer Andalusia and put a stop to the decadent lifestyles of earlier Muslim rulers of Spain; as ibn Khaldun found, it took only a few generations for each to begin their own massive building and beautification projects, inviting another group with pious rigor to take over. 

A remarkable scam artist met us at the entrance to the old Jewish quarter.  He was trying to explain Jews to us.  You know, Jews pray at a synagogue on Saturdays (“Shabbat Shalom” he added), Muslims pray in a mosque on Fridays, Catholics pray on Sunday.  Where do the Catholics pray? I asked.  On Muhammad V, he answered.

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Marrakesh The South

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