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Marrakesh

Landscape of Marrakech

Marrakesh (Morocco). One of the things I loved most about Marrakesh: the contrast between the old buildings in the Medina, and the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque.

The firsts are decadent, without any sort of order, with parabolic antennas on the top which bring the observer to contemporary times (without them, I guess the Medina’s landscape is the same for very long times). The second one is fierce, elegant, massive: a reference point for everyone – believers or not, locals or tourists.

From one of the many terraces in the Medina, it’s possible to admire this landscape, sipping hot sweet mint tea and reading a book waiting for the wind to blow a bit. The perfect stop during the typical walk around Marrakesh: a city that requires long pauses for reflection to be lived and understood.


Marrakech (Marocco). Ona delle cose che ho amato di più di Marrakech: il contrasto tra i vecchi edifici della Medina e il minareto della Moschea Kutubiyya.

I primi sono decadenti, senza alcun tipo di ordine, e con antenne paraboliche sulla loro sommità che riportano l’osservatore al tempo attuale (senza di loro, secondo me il panorama della Medina sarebbe lo stesso da molto tempo). Il secondo è fiero, elegante, imponente: un punto di riferimento per ognuno – credente o no, turista o locale.

Da una delle tante terrazze nella Medina, è possibile ammirare questo panorama bevendo del dolcissimo tè caldo alla menta e leggendo un libro in attesa che il vento soffi un po’. Uno stop perfetto per una tipica passeggiata per Marrakech: una città che richiede lunghe soste di riflessione per essere capita e vissuta.

 

 

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Jemaa el-Fna Square in Marrakesh

Marrakesh (Morocco). A never-sleeping place, always crowded and swarming of snake-charmers, orange juice makers or fortune tellers: this is Jemaa el-Fnaa, one of the most vivid, chaotic, exciting, intriguing and enjoyable squares in the world, and the “place-to-be” of Marrakech, a true city’s landmark.

And when the sun goes down, Jemaa el-Fna is transformed into an open-air “multi-brand” restaurant, where stands run by families prepare what is commonly recognized as the best (and most authentic) Moroccan street food in town. But before starting this amazing culinary experience, I think there’s nothing better than climbing up the stairs to one of the many terraces on the top the buildings surrounding the square, and enjoying the sunset watching the people gathering around the stands. The skyline is dominated by the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, from where a flow of people comes to fill the square and make it the most crowded place in town.

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Storks at the El Badi Palace in Marrakesh

Marrakesh. The Dutch painter Adriaen Matham defined the seventeenth century El Badi Palace as “a wonder of the world”. It seems this place was not only majestic in terms of dimensions (there were pools and many other palaces inside it) but also incredibly sumptuous thanks to its decorations with gold, marble and mosaics. The name itself in Arabic means “The Incomparable”, just in order to show its ambitions.

However, visiting the El Badi Palace today, it’s a bit hard to imagine it as described above. There are just some courtyards remaining, so the main characteristic of this place is its perimeter walls hosting many storks. These animals are very respected by people in Marrakesh also thanks to the prayer-like prostration when at rest; Berbers themselves believed that storks are actually transformed humans, and according to the local law the offence of disturbing a stork can carry a three-month prison sentence.

Preparing this photo for my blog, I particularly remembered that when I visited the El Badi Palace, it was terribly hot, but after all Marrakesh at the end of June is not exactly a very easy place to walk around.


Marrakesh. Il secentesco Palazzo El Badi fu definito dal pittore olandese Adriaen Matham “una meraviglia del mondo”. Pare che fosse un luogo non solo imponente come dimensioni (con piscine e altri palazzi al suo interno) ma anche incredibilmente sfarzoso grazie alle sue decorazioni in oro, marmo e mosaici. Il nome stesso in Arabo significa Palazzo Incomparabile, così per dare un’idea delle sue ambizioni.

A guardarlo oggi, non si riesce a immaginarlo come descritto sopra. Rimangono giusto alcuni cortili, per cui la principale caratteristica sono i muri perimetrali che danno ospitalità a numerose cicogne. Questi animali sono tenuti in grande considerazione dalla popolazione di Marrakesh anche grazie alla posizione che assumono quando si riposano, molto simile a quella di un fedele in preghiera. Gli stessi Berberi credevano che le persone alla loro morte si trasformassero in cicogne e pare ci sia persino una legge che prevede fino a tre mesi di carcere per chi maltratta questi animali.

Mentre preparavo questa foto per il blog, mi sono ricordato che quando ho visitato il Palazzo El Badi era un caldo infernale, ma del resto Marrakesh a fine giugno non è esattamente un posto facile da girare.

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The Tree Goats (On The Way From Marrakesh to Essaouira)

Marrakesh (Morocco). “I will show you a tree of goats!” – this is what my guide told me, on our way from Marrakesh to Essaouira. “A tree of goats?” – was my question – “What’s a tree of goats?”. I thought it was another one of the typical jokes that guides normally do to their customers. But kilometer after kilometer, I was getting more and more curious… “A tree of goats? Simply ridiculous, it’s impossible!”.

Of course the photo demonstrates that yes, a “tree goats” exists, it’s real and it was not a joke – at all!

Along the road connecting Marrakesh and Essaouira (but apparently in many other places in the western part of Morocco) it is frequent to see Argan trees, on which goats love climbing and eating. Although this scene can be very funny and folklorist, someone says that goats represent a serious threat for Argan trees and for those economies based on products prepared with Argan fruits (such as oils, creams, soaps etc.), especially because tourism has increased this phenomenon. Goatherds probably raise much more money from tourists taking photos of their “funny goats” climbed on Argan trees, than from milk and cheese produced by the same goats on the ground (and it’s definitely less complicated and tiring). But I hope it will remain something limited to tourists driving from Marrakesh to Essaouira – and for the jokes of Moroccan touristic guide.

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Ouzoud Waterfalls

Marrakesh (Morocco). Not too far from the city of Marrakesh, there are the wonderful Ouzoud waterfalls. Tourists can even go close to the water falling from the top of the mountain, using one of the boats rowed by locals. However, it’s a place that deserves a visit contemplating the large amount of water and the contrast with the dryness of the region. And – as for every important waterfall – listening to the sound of water…

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The Blue of Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh

Marrakesh (Morocco). If someone one day will ask me “where was the bluest blue you have ever seen in your life?”, the answer can be only one: “It was in Marrakesh, at the Jardin Majorelle”.

Jardin Majorel is a popular attraction in Marrakesh: every day many people visit it and enjoy its quietness, finding here – among cactus and birds – the perfect refugee from the hot, overcrowded and dusty souk in the central city’s Medina.

However, what most probably captures people’s attention is the dominant ultramarine, cobalt blue used to color every structure in the garden: small buildings, railings, fountains etc. This large use of blue, in my opinion, contributes to give the above mentioned sense of calm and freshness and I found its intensity quite impressive. Let me say: it was an experience not only for my eyes, but also for my soul.

According to Ayurvedic Medicine, “Chromotherapy” (or “Color Therapy”) is believed to be able to use light in the form of color to balance “energy” lacking from a person’s body, whether it be on physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental levels; and the color “Blue” is known as able to give “physical and spiritual communication”. It could make sense…

However, you can believe or not to Ayurveda and its theories, it does not matter: Jardin Majorelle is a must-see in Marrakesh and it deserves a long, calm visit.

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Human Stupidity (Mural in the Medina of Marrakesh)

Marrakesh (Morocco).

Human Stupidity Has Limits

This is what this mural says. I found it one day I was walking and photographing around the Medina of Marrakesh, one of the most inspiring places I have ever seen in my life (and I visited it twice – quite unusual for me).

Photographing this nice example of street art, it came to my mind the popular quote commonly attributed to Albert Einstein:

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe.

It’s of course very ironic, but sometimes I think it’s not so distant from reality – especially when I watch the world and think about the way things are going on… Sorry for being a bit pessimist, but these are tough days – and I don’t think I need to explain why. However, I will try to use the sentence written on this wall to build a bit of confidence in the future: perhaps, even Albert Einstein had been wrong at least once in his life.

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