Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Museum and Madrasa: Marrakech day two

One thing I forgot to say when I talked about the convenience of staying in the centre of Marrakech was that by so doing, you *will* be within striking distance of a mosque and thus you *will* be woken up around 6 am by the call to prayer. It seems a common trope on travel shows and documentaries to start with a wide establishing shot of any Muslim city, accompanied by the quite musical sound of the call to prayer drifting on the breeze. Don't fall for this - at least in Marrakech, every one we heard was more like someone angrily shouting, magnified through a scratchy loudspeaker. Fair enough though, I suppose if anyone's going around filming snatches of a Catholic Mass for a bit of local colour, they'll go with a fabulous Gregorian chant rather than picking a priest doing the standard off-key drone.

Once we woke up properly (I had gone to bed around 9 pm the night before, due to the time difference, the fact that I'd gotten up before 4 am Brussels time to catch my plane, and a heavy cold, so pretty early), our first stop was the Ben Youssef Madrasa, a former Koran school hidden away in the souks. It dates back to the 14th century, and although there wasn't much in there in the way of explanatory materials, it was worth seeing the beautiful wall and ceiling carvings contrasted with the bare, cell-like dormitories where the students would have lived (until 1960!).

Near the Madrasa

Elaborately carved archway

The inner courtyard

Detail of the stonework

Amazing ceiling

Peeping into one of the bare students' cells

It cost around 4€ to visit the Madrasa, or for around 5€ you could go in both the Madrasa and the next-door Museum of Marrakech, so it is definitely worth doing both. I think we both wondered if it might be overkill doing one after another, but we found with everywhere we visited in Marrakech that it didn't really take very long to see all of a site. Often places would look large from the outside but have little on the inside, especially when it came to reading material explaining the exhibits, so it was actually pretty quick to go through each attraction. While the Museum of Marrakech does have some exhibits of decorative arts, musical instruments, jewellery, costumes etc., the main feature is really the building itself, the 19th-century Dar Menebhi Palace.

Beautiful inner courtyard featuring a massive Moroccan-lamp style chandelier. It's a shame it wasn't lit up

Looking up at the chandelier (stolen from Liz)

Corridor in the courtyard

Me in front of a tiled basin

You can see the average ratio of "exhibit" to "gorgeous backdrop"

Looking into the courtyard
It was still only mid-morning by the time we had finished looking around the museum, so we got a coffee and sat in the sunshine of the museum courtyard, which was nice and quiet compared to the city outside. It was nice to sit in the sun as well - like many hot countries, places are often geared towards providing shade rather than sun, which is probably welcome in the middle of August, but not so much for refugees from a northern European winter!

I think this is long enough for one post, so stay tuned and I'll fill you in on the rest of day two next time!


  1. Looking rather clean! Did you wash in that basin?

  2. Doesn't look like you had to battle hordes of tourists for a change.


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