Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Marrakesh (Morocco) IV. Travel Destinations

Medinas and Markets
Summer 1967 sunny 40 °C

If a visitor bestirs himself from the mesmerizing spectacles of Djemaa El Fna, he can stroll around the Plaza in the labyrinth of Zocos (Souks). Most popular is The Semnarin, with its colors, aromas, variety of cloth and carpets on display. Or you can visit the casbah of Télouet (outside the city and 170kms) which is a very impressive Kasbah, albeit in ruins but attractive anyway and go further to visit the casbah of Ait Benhaddou, which has been perfectly conserved and is worth a visit.

Marrakesh is famous for the tombs of its kings, as is The Bedi Palace which is entirely constructed in Marble. Against the backdrop of snowy Blue Atlas Mountains are the waterfalls at Vuzoud, about 160kms from the city. And if you like the ethnic handicrafts, then a visit to Chichaova Coop Society is worth the trouble. There you will see the making of carpets with typical Berber designs and basic colours of red. The carpets are called Chichaova, which has given the name to the society of artisans.

My favorite museum is Dar si Saíd, which is housed in a beautiful building of 19th Century, and has an important collection of Moroccan art, a colorful display of female attire, ceramics, carpets, Berber jewelry and articles of adornment. Its carved wooden doors with beautiful Ablutions of 10th century, etched in Spain on one single slab of marble. There are more than 200 Mesquites (Masques) with the beautiful designs and ceramics and etchings of typical Arab artisan work, all worth seeing. Moors conquered Spain in 9th century and their cultural heritage, Art, their buildings have left an everlasting impression in many regions of Spain, specially in Andalusia (Al-Andalus).

My favorite place in the evenings, whenever I visited Marrakesh, was the Casino at La Mamounia. I knew the Director of that time and went there almost every evening, together with some Indian business men, to drink whiskey and soda and gamble. Black Jack, Open Poker and English Roulette (One Zero).were popular games and every evening you saw rich and famous local dignitaries and Europeans playing there.

Moroccans are friendly people and once you knew them well, their hospitality knows no bounds. I made many influential friends in Tangier, Casablanca and Marrakesh where late in the night, whether we won or lost on the gaming tables, when we had a good amount of whiskey and had deliciously satisfying food, we would head towards a Cabaret. As I remember, La Mamounia also had a Cabaret, but now, after a lapse of so many years, I can not remember well.

That evening while playing Roulette, I made the acquaintance of yet another Italian business man, who was living in Paris but had come down to Marrakesh to play the tables. He usually went to Nice to play roulette because only there you could play American Roulette (with two zeros) which was lucky for him. Two zeros were lucky for me too, so we made a promise to sometime visit Nice together. I had been lucky at roulette, once in Gibraltar, at the newly opened Rock Hotel Casino, I had won, at one sitting, Five Hundred sterling Pounds. Quiet a sum in those heady days of 1960s.

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