all that fascination

The summertime adventures of a grad student in morocco

Rotary Marrakech Menara

Yesterday I had the honor and pleasure of meeting the Rotary Club of Marrakech Menara. They are one of four Rotary clubs in the Marrakech area. I was able to attend the meeting to gain an understanding of their activities, which include humanitarian and social efforts for schools for blind children, providing desks for primary schools around Marrakech, combating Polio, and creating reforestation in areas by planting trees (among many other activities). I was very lucky to have been able to attend this meeting, and was introduced to many important and influential members in Marrakech. In particular, the current President of the association, Jalal Zemmama, also extended this hospitality and provided information for my research. He also took myself and Ann Marie (Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and my dear friend) out to enjoy some true Marrakechi music. I was told that this club is particularly active and hospitable, and was not disappointed! I can’t wait to visit the city again and was very happy for the opportunity to meet this wonderful group.

Bahia Palace

The Bahia Palace is a palace and a set of gardens built in the late 19th century, intended to be the greatest palace of its time. The name means “brilliance”. As in other buildings of the period in other countries, it was intended to capture the essence of the Islamic Moroccan style. There is a 2 acre garden with rooms opening onto courtyards.

Set up at the end of 19th century by Si Moussa, grand vizier of the sultan, for his personal use, this palace would bear the name of one of his wives. Here, the harem, which includes a vast court decorated with a central basin and surrounded by rooms intended for the concubines. As the black slave Abu Ahmed rose to power and wealth towards the end of the 19th century, he had the Bahia palace built by bringing in craftsmen from Fez. It is one of the only historical structures in Morocco being actively historically preserved. There are many other historical sites, palaces and kasbahs in Morocco that have unfortunately fallen into ruin due to the lack of policy concerning historical preservation. However, Bahia Palace is indeed brilliant!

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Marrakech

Marrakesh is Morocco’s fourth largest city, near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas mountains. It is the most important of the former imperial cities in the history of Morocco. Inhabited by Berber farmers from Neolithic times, the city was founded in 1062.The red walls of the city and various buildings constructed have given the city the nickname of the “Red City” or “Ochre City” because of the red sandstone used. Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading centre for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa.

Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh comprises both an old fortified city packed with many people working on stalls (the medina) and modern neighborhoods. Today it is one of the busiest cities in Africa, a major economic centre and tourist destination. Tourism is strongly advocated by the reigning Moroccan monarch, King Mohamed VI, with the goal of doubling the number of tourists visiting Morocco to 20 million by 2020. Marrakesh has the largest traditional Berber market in Morocco.Crafts employ a significant percentage of the population who sell their wares to tourists in the souks. Jemaa el Fna is the busiest square in Africa and is a UNESCO world heritage site. I was lucky enough to be staying near the Jmaa Fna! Here are some photos :)image

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Sindi Sud, the little ornate hide-away where we stayed in Marrakech. It was walking distance to the Medina!

The Medina of Essaouira… everything is beautiful!

Do not correct with a strike that which can be taught with a kiss.
― Moroccan proverb

Do not correct with a strike that which can be taught with a kiss.

― Moroccan proverb

(via sufiness)

Essaouira

Essaouira is a Moroccan city on the Atlantic coast known to have been occupied since prehistoric times. Since the 16th century, the city has also been known by its Portuguese name of Mogadore. The Berber name means the wall, a reference to the fortress walls that originally enclosed the city. In 1506, the king of Portugal, Manuel I, ordered a fortress to be built there named Castelo Real de Mogador. It still stands today; I was lucky enough to visit! (Check out the pics below). Essa is also known for it’s unique style of music, gnaoua, and has a festival in the summer every year that draws people from around the world. It is a very friendly, laid back city, filled with white-washed buildings and sleeping cats. I will be posting more pictures later… for now, please enjoy these! :)

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Dar Talia

Yesterday I met up with MBrook (Assistant Mayor) at the local cafe to have some coffee and talk shop on Moroccan NGO’s. He helps to run a local boarding school, that he says is really actually called the “Boarding Association.” We went on a tour of the school with his permission. There are 117 students housed here. There are 46 girls and the remainder are boys. Dar Talia requires applications for admission, because the school is not only selective, it provides a great opportunity for learning to those rural or very poor students who would not otherwise have access to high-school education. They receive hundreds of applications, and from those choose the students who are in the greatest financial need. The students themselves help with upkeep of the the school, by gardening and cleaning. Donations come from large corporations as well as private donors.They are all really sweet and amazing kids. Here are some pictures of the school and it’s grounds. The murals were painted by the Ouau Red Cross, to help encourage kids not to litter or do drugs. Also pictured is the library, kitchen, and dormitories. CCDM hopes to work with the boarding school even further to teach information technology and computer skills. Right now we are in the process of acquiring computers to help the kids learn! Check it out: www.ccdmorocco.com

My First Tagine

A  tagine is a historically Berber dish from that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. The traditional tagine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides (like a dish) and a large cone shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. It is the national dish of Morocco!

I had my first tagine dinner party on Wednesday night for my organization, CCDM (Creativity and Community Development: Morocco, Inc.) In attendance were our board members, some of their family, and the local Peace Corps Volunteer. I made mint tea, served melon, and I think I did a pretty good job on the tagine! I used chicken, potatoes, peas, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices that were all purchased at the souq earlier that day for a whopping $5 total. The souq is great, and Ouaouizerth is known for having some of the cheapest veggie prices in the country, but it only comes once a week… in the meantime if you want a snack, there are several patisseries  and candy stores but no local supermarket, so the very poor are often unable to properly nourish themselves. Ouau is lacking in many basic infrastructures, like access to fresh foods, that would allow the alleviation of poverty in the community and surrounding douars. More to come about this topic in my research paper.

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