Morocco – Marrakech

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Marrakech is a major city in the northwest African nation of Morocco, with a population of 794,620. Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakech comprises both an old fortified city (the Medina) and modern neighbourhoods. The landmark separating these two parts is Jemaa el-Fnaa.

Jemaa el-Fnaa is one of the most famous squares in all of Africa and is the centre of city activity and trade. It has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985. The place remains the main square of Marrakech, used by locals and tourists. During the day it is predominantly occupied by orange juice stalls, men with chained monkeys, water sellers in colourful costumes with traditional leather water-bags and brass cups, and snake charmers who will pose for tourists.

As the day progresses, the entertainment on offer changes: the snake charmers depart, and late in the day the square becomes more crowded, with, story-tellers, magicians, and peddlers of traditional medicines. As darkness falls, the square fills with dozens of food-stalls all selling the same thing! The square is edged along one side by the Marrakech souk, a traditional North African market catering both for the common daily needs of the locals, and for the tourist trade. Narrow streets lead into the alleys of the medina to the old city.

We visited the Marrakech Museum, built at the end of the 19th century as a Palace was converted into a museum in 1997. The museum holds exhibits of both modern and traditional Moroccan, coins and pottery of Moroccan Jewish, Berber and Arab cultures. Ben Youssef Madrasa which was an Islamic College around 1100AD, and housed around 900 students. Badi Palace, The lavish palace, which took around a quarter of a century to build, was funded by compensation from the Portuguese and Black African gold and sugar cane revenue. The palace is now a ruin, where mainly the outer walls remain.

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