Marrakech Travel Guide

Culture

Museums

Marrakech Museum

The Marrakech Museum, housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace in the old city centre, was built at the end of the 19th century by Mehdi Menebhi. The palace was carefully restored by the Omar Benjelloun Foundation and converted into a museum in 1997. The house itself represents an example of classical Andalusian architecture, with fountains in the central courtyard, traditional seating areas, a hammam and intricate tilework and carvings. It has been cited as having "an orgy of stalactite stucco-work" which "drips from the ceiling and combines with a mind-boggling excess of zellij work." The museum holds exhibits of both modern and traditional Moroccan art together with fine examples of historical books, coins and pottery produced by Moroccan Jewish, Berber and Arab peoples.

Dar Si Said Museum

Dar Si Said Museum, also known as the Museum of Moroccan Arts is located to the north of the Bahia Palace. It was the townhouse of Sidi Said, brother to Grand Vizier Bow Ahmad, and was constructed at the same time as Ahmad's own Palace De La Bahia. The townhouse was the envy of reigning sultan Abdel Aziz, and after the Vizier’s death the sultan had this house ransacked. The collection of the museum is considered to be one of the finest in Morocco, with "jewellery from the High Atlas, the Anti Atlas and the extreme south; carpets from the Haouz and the High Atlas; oil lamps from Taroudannt; blue pottery from Safi and green pottery from Tamgroute; and leatherwork from Marrakesh."

Museum of Islamic Art

The Museum of Islamic Art (Musée d'Art Islamique) is a blue-coloured building located in the Marjorelle Gardens. The private museum was created by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in the home of Jacques Majorelle, who had his art studio there. Recently renovated, its small exhibition rooms have displays of Islamic artifacts and decorations including Irke pottery, polychrome plates, jewellery, and antique doors.

Music, theatre and dance

Two types of music are traditionally associated with Marrakesh. Berber music is influenced by Andalusian classical music and typified by its oud accompaniment. By contrast, Gnaoua music is loud and funky with a sound reminiscent of the Blues. It is performed on handmade instruments such as castanets, ribabs (three-stringed banjos) and deffs (handheld drums). Gnaoua music's rhythm and crescendo take the audience into a mood of trance; the style is said to have emerged in Marrakesh and Essaouira as a ritual of deliverance from slavery. More recently, several Marrakesh female music groups have also risen to popularity.

The Théâtre Royal de Marrakesh, the Institut Français and Dar Chérifa are major performing arts institutions in the city. The Théâtre Royal, built by Tunisian architect Charles Boccara, puts on theatrical performances of comedy, opera, and dance in French and Arabic. A greater number of theatrical troupes perform outdoors and entertain tourists on the main square and the streets, especially at night. Christopher Hudson of the Daily Mail noted that "men dressed as women performed bawdy street theatre, to the delight of a ring of onlookers of all ages."

Crafts

The arts and crafts of Marrakesh have had a wide and enduring impact on Moroccan handicrafts to the present day. Riad décor is widely used in carpets and textiles, ceramics, woodwork, metal work and zelij. Carpets and textiles are weaved, sewn or embroidered, sometimes used for upholstering. Moroccan women who practice craftsmanship are known as Maalems (expert craftspeople) and make such fine products as Berber carpets and shawls made of sabra (cactus silk). Ceramics are in monochrome Berber-style only, a limited tradition depicting bold forms and decorations.

Wood crafts are generally made of cedar, including the riad doors and palace ceilings. Orange wood is used for making ladles known as harira (lentil soup ladles). Thuya craft products are made of caramel coloured thuya, a conifer indigenous to Morocco. Since this species is almost extinct, these trees are being replanted and promoted by the artists' cooperative Femmes de Marrakech.

Metalwork made in Marrakesh includes brass lamps, iron lanterns, candle holders made from recycled sardine tins, and engraved brass teapots and tea trays used in the traditional serving of tea. Contemporary art includes sculpture and figurative paintings. Blue veiled Tuareg figurines and calligraphy paintings are also popular.

Festivals

Festivals, both national and Islamic, are celebrated in Marrakesh and throughout the country, and some of them are observed as national holidays. Cultural festivals of note held in Marrakesh include the National Folklore Festival, the Marrakech Festival of Popular Arts (in which a variety of famous Moroccan musicians and artists participate), and the Berber Festival. The International Film Festival of Marrakech, which aspires to be the North African version of the Cannes Film Festival, was established in 2001. The festival, which showcases over 100 films from around the world annually, has attracted Hollywood stars such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Irons, Roman Polanski and many European, Arabic and Indian film stars. The Marrakech Bienniale was established in 2004 by Vanessa Branson as a cultural festival in various disciplines, including visual arts, cinema, video, literature, performing arts, and architecture.

Cuisine

Surrounded by lemon, orange, and olive groves, the city's culinary characteristics are rich and heavily spiced but not hot, using various preparations of Ras el hanout (which means "Head of the shop"), a blend of dozens of spices which include ash berries, chilli, cinnamon, grains of paradise, monk’s pepper, nutmeg, and turmeric. A specialty of the city and the symbol of its cuisine is tanjia marrakshia a local tajine prepared with beef meat, spices and "smen" and slow-cooked in a traditional oven in hot ashes. Tajines can be prepared with chicken, lamb, beef or fish, adding fruits, olives and preserved lemon, vegetables and spices, including cumin, peppers, saffron, turmeric, and ras el hanout. The meal is prepared in a tajine pot and slow-cooked with steam. Another version of tajine includes vegetables and chickpeas seasoned with flower petals. Tajines may also be basted with "smen" moroccan ghee that has a flavour similar to blue cheese.

Shrimp, chicken and lemon-filled briouats are another traditional specialty of Marrakesh. Rice is cooked with saffron, raisins, spices, and almonds, while couscous may have added vegetables. A pastilla is a filo-wrapped pie stuffed with minced chicken or pigeon that has been prepared with almonds, cinnamon, spices and sugar. Harira soup in Marrakesh typically includes lamb with a blend of chickpeas, lentils, vermicelli, and tomato paste, seasoned with coriander, spices and parsley. Kefta (mince meat), liver in crépinette, merguez and tripe stew are commonly sold at the stalls of Jemaa el-Fnaa.

The desserts of Marrakesh include chebakia (sesame spice cookies usually prepared and served during Ramadan), tartlets of filo dough with dried fruit, or cheesecake with dates.

The Moroccan tea culture is practiced in Marrakesh; green tea with mint is served with sugar from a curved teapot spout into small glasses. Another popular non-alcoholic drink is orange juice. Under the Almoravids, alcohol consumption was common; historically, hundreds of Jews produced and sold alcohol in the city. In the present day, alcohol is sold in some hotel bars and restaurants.

source: Wikipedia

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