Cee’s B&W Photo Challenge: Letters M or N

I will go for the letter M, for Cee’s challenge:

A lonely Man on the roof, looking down at the Market in Marrakesh, Morocco.

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CFFC: All About Cities (Skylines to Street Photography)

Marrakesh and street life go well together.

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A colourful combination.

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For more street photography and skylines, click here.

Djemaa el-Fna – ”assembly of the dead”

Everywhere you look in the Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakesh’s main square, you’ll discover theatre  in progress. The street theatre has a natural home here ever since this plaza was the site of public executions around AD 1050. Even if there are discussions on the origin of its name, Jemaa means ”congregation” in Arabic, probably referring to a destroyed Almoravid mosque. ”Fanâʼ” or ”finâ'” can mean ”death” or ”a courtyard, space in front of a building.” Thus, one meaning could be ”The assembly of death,” or‘assembly of the dead’.

 

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It is not just a tourist attraction since many locals also enjoy the activities that make Djemaa el- Fna come alive. During the day, the square has numerous stalls, most of which sell fresh fruit juice, water and fruit.

 

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By 10am, the daily performance is under way. Snake charmers with their hissing cobras and men with chained Barbary apes, despite the protected status of these species under Moroccan law; henna tattoo artists ( women with piping bags full of henna paste, ready to paint you with “tattoos” that will last up to three months – though beware of synthetic “black henna”, which contains a toxic chemical; only red henna is natural. The Henna Café guarantees to use only natural henna).

 

Water-sellers in fringed hats, with water-bags hanging and brass cups clanging. Medicine men display their cures, and tooth-pullers display trays of extracted molars to prove their skill. And if you wonder…fortune-tellers sit under umbrellas with packs of fortune-telling cards at the ready.

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At dusk people come out for an evening promenade, and the square gradually fills until it becomes a whole carnival of storytellers (telling their tales in Berber or Arabic, to an audience of locals), acrobats, musicians and entertainers.  If you want a respite, you can move over to the rooftop terraces, such as the Café du Grand Balcon, or Café Glacier, for a vista over the square and all the activities, and the crowds who come to see them. Very much recommended. We enjoyed a rather expensive bottle of juice and a less expensive mint tee – having a great view without being crowded.

 

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Arrive early in the evening to get a good seat. Applause and a few dirhams will encourage the performers. It’s a great show, but be prepared…taking photos immediately brings at least one man to your door…dirhams!

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In 2001, Djemaa el-Fna was recognized by  UNESCO  in the project Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity – the initiative coming from people concerned about the Djemaa el-Fna. Since long known for its concentration of traditional activities by storytellers, musicians and performers, but now threatened by economic development pressures. The residents wanted protection of their traditions, and called for action on an international level. In 2001, this ”cultural space” got its protection.

In Marrakesh, this meeting place is a must. Remember – this is far from only for tourists. Most people strolling here, enjoying themselves, are locals. This is, even today, a genuine piece of Arabian Nights…no ”assembly of the dead”.

 

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Thursday Thoughts – School Days

When I go abroad, I try to visit at least one school – if possible. I guess we all like to see how our own profession works in other parts of the world. In Morocco my visit was to an abandoned school – but still it was very interesting.

The Ben Youssef Madrasa was an Islamic college in Marrakesh, Morocco, named after the  sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106–1142), who expanded the city and its influence considerably. It is the largest Medrasa in Morocco, and lies totally embedded in the city. There was nothing to reveal its true looks from the outside.

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The college was founded in the 14th century, and its 130 student dormitory cells cluster around the courtyard, richly carved in cedar, marble and Moroccan style stucco.

The pool is the wash basin – elaborately decorated in marble tiles. I wonder how several hundred students were organized to perform this ceremony? Every day?

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As required by Islam, the carvings contain no representation of humans or animals, and consist entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns.

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This madrasa was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and may have housed as many as 900 students. Hard to understand from what we could see of the size.

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The students’ cells were all on the first floor, and richly decorated corridors led to each dorm.

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These beautiful doors opened up to the courtyard, and the student living here could see across the yard to the student on the other side. The cells were very small, maybe 9 square metres, and most of them had no windows at all.

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The college was still alive and working when I was born, but closed down in 1960. The madrasa was refurbished and reopened to the public as an historical site in 1982.

Those who lived and worked here were surrounded by beauty…but I wonder where all those students went when it closed down…? And, would I have loved to study here – inside this spectacular work of art? Would you?

Have a Taste of Magical Marrakesh

If I were to chose one picture, only, to represent my visit to Marrakesh and the Medina, it would be the one in the header. Colourful, hot and filled with scents. Then, there is of course the multitude of people…here we go!

I loved our little street. Behind the typical pink walls, we had to walk endless tiny streets and alleys to get to our Riad (Moroccan mansion) . But there was no stress, a calm and friendly atmosphere – and no ”special guides” trying to make money out of us.

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Just the everyday life going on…young and old, working or relaxing in the shadow.

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On our way to the Souks, the principal shopping attraction in the city, I felt a bit worried about how I would cope with it. I do not like haggling, so I had already decided not to buy anything. My husband has visited Marrakesh at least three times before, and had also warned me that we soon would be ”kidnapped” by ”local guides”. (And so we were…)

Marrakesh has the largest traditional Berber market in Morocco, and the souk area has been compared to a micro-medina in itself, where it is absolutely essential to get lost…

But once you’re inside though, the feeling of One Thousand and One Nights ( Arabian Nights), or Aladdin, immediately comes to mind…and if you take a closer look at my gallery photos  – I’m rather sure I was caught in the middle of …a treasure chest transport!

 

 

Historically the souks of Marrakesh were divided into retail areas for particular goods such as leather, carpets, metalwork and pottery. We could roughly see these divisions still, but rather overlaped. Many of the souks sell items like carpets and rugs, clothes, leather bags, and lanterns. Argan oil is popular everywhere.

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After a hectic day it is a blessing to come back to our quiet Riad for a delicious Tagine (A specialty of the city and the symbol of its cuisine. We had a local tajine prepared with beef meat, spices and ”smen” and slow-cooked in a traditional oven in hot ashes. )

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Then finishing the evening with a slow walk on the roof top. In silence…

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…before going to sleep.

Cee’s B&W Challenge: Hiding or Camouflaged

Hiding or being camouflaged – maybe this gentleman is doing both? Our eyes met under the souk ceiling in Marrakesh.

Click here for more inspiration.

 

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