Sunday, February 3, 2008

Morroco's Medinas

View over the Medina in Casablanca with the Great Mosque Hassan II in the background

We made our way across northern Africa in the spring of 2001 ultimately stopping in Morroco. The Egypt Air flight from Cairo into Casablanca was packed with people returning home carrying all sorts of souvenirs and food items. I'm not sure what the agricultural restrictions are for bringing food into Morroco were, but it didn't seem to matter anyway since much of it was consumed before we ever landed.

On our arrival at the airport in Casablanca, we followed a woman through customs and immigration dressed fully in a burka with only her eyes exposed. The immigration officer took the woman's passport, glanced up quickly at her face, and stamped her on her way. Our US passports drew a bit more scrutiny; what's your business here?, what are you going to see?, and where is your ticket out of the country?.

Casablanca is a city with some three million inhabitants (10% of the country's total population). The people are not overly friendly towards tourists, unless they have something to sell to you, and even in our pre-9/11 visit, you could sense a bit of distaste towards westerners in general. None the less, most people are willing to lend you a blind eye as you wander through their city.

The Medina of Casablanca is a jumble of nondescript buildings with an array of shops selling very basic items. If you're here to shop, you'd fare better in the shopping areas outside the Medina or elsewhere in Morocco. Casablanca is not an overly impressive city.

The huge doors of the Great Mosque Hassan II. The Mosque can be seen from just about any elevated area in the city.

Southern entrance to the Medina in Fez

Lost in the Fez Medina

The view over the Medina of Fez

The Medina of Fez is undoubtedly the most fascinating of the Medinas we visited. It's a virtual maze of narrow paths which took us days to conquer. Divided into 187 quarters, each containing at least one bakery, hamman, fountain, and by law, a mosque, we were never without something interesting to see, and even more around each corner.

A mosque hidden in the maze of the Fez Medina.

The marketplace just outside the Medina in Marrakesh during the day.

The liveliest times on the square started around dusk each day. As people poured onto the square in the late afternoons, the place began it's transformation into a night market. Food stalls were being set up everywhere, many with an array of goat's heads lining the counters luring customers to grab a seat. Snake charmers set themselves up conveniently on walkways to stop tourists and locals alike.

Inside the Marrekesh Medina.

If you're looking for Rugs, this is probably the place to shop. We did meet a very enterprising man on the train platform when we left Fez for our trip to Marrekesh who "just happened to own a rug shop in the Marrekesh Medina". He eventually tracked us down in the Medina and we ended up looking at 200 or so rugs.

The sultan's palace and gardens at sunset.

Morroco time

**Memories: Getting lost in the Medina of Fez, being stepped on by a mule, tangine, and mint tea.

World Heritage (Fez)
World Heritage (Marrekesh)

**Visits: November 2001


Iamthebest said...
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Iamthebest said...

Hi every one, my name is Baksh, I am from India and working in Saudi, I just return from Morocco yesterday, it was my bad expiriance to visit Morocco, Fes is a worst city, no safty in Madina, I am fully agree with Herman and Alan’s comments. From Airport to Airport completely waste of time, I have been to many countries but I never see such worst country in my life.