2018 was an especially good year for travel. I was fortunate to be able to travel somewhere fun almost every month, both in the US and overseas.
Many of the locations that I visited were new to me, including a new continent-Africa. I also revisited some of my favorite cities-London, Istanbul and Washington D.C. I have written about my experiences for many of these destinations-but some are still sitting in my draft que, waiting to be finished (one of the resolutions for 2019 before I start traveling again).
If you have only one day in Marrakesh, I highly recommend a visit to the Majorelle Garden. This is one of the most visited tourist sites in the city – and for good reason. Amid the calm green oasis, pops of color provide a jolt to the senses. Yet the shades of yellow, teal and royal blue all harmonize with the hundreds of shades of green in such a way that you can’t imagine one without the other.
The Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh was created by French artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920’s. The garden’s is famous today though because it was purchased and restored by Yves Saint-Laurent in the 1980’s. Regardless of of its high profile owner, the garden is a visual treat. Cobalt blue accents are a punctuation of color amid the green and silver foliage. That particular shade of blue was developed and patented by Jacques Maorelle and is named after him – Majorelle blue.
The El Badi Palace in Marrakesh, Morocco was built in the late 16th century by Sultan Ahmad Al-Mansur and was supposedly built and decorated with the most expensive materials of its time. The complex is believed to have had as many as 360 rooms built around a large central courtyard that contained a large pool. Subsequent rulers from other dynasties later stripped the palace of all its grandeur, so that today it sits as a romantic looking ruin that is home to storks and tourists.
An unexpected sight in Marrakesh, Morocco are the resident storks that nest on the high walls of the ruins of Badi Palace. They seemed completely unperturbed by the many tourists milling about below them.
Throughout my wanderings in Marrakesh, I saw the characteristic Zellij tile decoration. Whether it was a museum, an old restored historic building or in the narrow lanes of the Medina, this typical Moroccan mosaic tile work in shades of blue, tan and green was prevalent. The combination of small hand chiseled tiles laid in intricate geometric patterns seemed infinite. I definitely got a few ideas for a quilt or two.
I found the Menara Gardens in Marrakesh to be a lovely place to get away from the tourist crowd and stroll through the gardens with the locals. The garden is centered around a large reflecting pool that is especially scenic at sunset when the distant Atlas Mountains are reflected in the still waters.
In 1492 Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus sailed off in search of a better route to India and in the process discovered the new continent of America instead. That same year, Spain expelled all of its Jewish population, many of who sailed across the narrow strait of Gibraltar to nearby Marrakesh, Morocco where they were welcomed by the Sultan. The Sultan set aside an area in the city for the Jewish community of about 35,000 Jews and also established a cemetery in 1537. Though no longer actively used, the cemetery is being maintained and refreshed with contributions from visitors. One of the saddest aspects are the many small white tombs that mark the burial of over 7000 children that died of Typhus.
Besides motorcycles and mopeds, the other mode of wheeled transportation in the old Medina area in Marrakesh is the donkey pulled cart. The lanes and alleyways are narrow and large motorized vehicles can’t fit. So if you have to haul a large quantity of stuff through these passages, a donkey and cart will do the work, just like they did in the 11th century when Marrakesh was built. In this case, the load is leather hides that have been processed the old fashioned way by men thigh deep in water treated with pigeon poop .
For me, this photo summarizes my Marrakesh experiences in the Medina – the old, historic district of the city. Colorful carpets for sale hanging on the ocher colored walls that are characteristic of all the buildings in Marrakesh. The Zellij tiles that decorated so many of the Moroccan buildings. And the ubiquitous mopeds that I had to constantly dodge and avoid as I wandered the old lanes of the Medina. Marrakesh was a colorful and noisy assault on all my senses.