Running from the 15th January 2015 to the 10th February 2015 Marrakech’s world famous Jemaa el Fnaa square hosted a book exposition hosted by ‘Club Culturel Mohamed Abed Al Jabal Marrakech’.
The late Mohamed Abed Al-Jabri (1935-2010) is a popular Moroccan philosopher who specialised in considering the convergence of tradition and modernity in the contemporary Muslim world. It is fitting, then, that his legacy shall be cemented in celebrations of knowledge and the sharing of knowledge in events such as this Book Exposition. Similarly, it is also apt that such an event be held in the central square in Marrakech; the Jemaa el Fna square is historically a place of oral storytelling, an art still practiced today.
The ‘Club Culturel Mohamed Abed Al Jabal’ book exposition runs until the 10th February. However, if you are traveling to Marrakech after this date then fear not, you have not missed out. There is always so many unique things to do and interesting things to see in Marrakech and, as always, we highly recommend a visit to the world famous Jemaa el Fnaa square
The tight streets of the Mellah – traditionally the Jewish neighbourhood of Marrakech – are an atmospheric corner of the red city. It is here where once can find the 17th Century Miaara Jewish Cemetery.
Set east of the El Badi Palace and South of the Bahia Palace in the heart of the Mellah, tucked away behind a tall unremarkable wall, the Cemetery exists as a space of near-silent tranquillity. The Cemetery is not on the standard tourist trail and is often empty, save for a dog or two lazing peacefully in the shade. Set in stark contrast to the bustle of the Medina, the cemetery feels a like a remnant of a lost civilisation.
Although it is acceptable to wonder among the weather-worn tombstones and shrines, it is important to be respectful and remember that this is a religious place. Two friendly brothers act as caretakers to the ancient Jewish Cemetery and they will be more than happy to show you around and tell you about Jewish life in Marrakech.
Ultimately, although it is far from a tourist hotspot, the Miaara Jewish Cemetery is an interesting space of cultural significance, holding alternative, even untold stories of Marrakech’s rich and varied history.
Opened in the Spring of 2014, Café Clock is the baby of Englishman Mike Richardson. It is the sister of Mike’s well-respected Café Clock in the Medina of Fez, and the Marrakech café has already gained a cult following here in the red city.
Expect reasonably priced food and drinks in relaxed surroundings. Our menu highlights are the unique Camel burger and the delicious Almond milkshake, which, with no exaggeration, is perhaps the best milkshake we have ever tried.
The café describes itself as a ‘cross-cultural zone’ and rightly so. The café’s walls are covered with an ever-changing exhibition of local modern art – talent that is not always given a platform in Marrakech – and most evenings there are performances from bands, traditional musicians or storytellers. Café Clock is truly one of the highlights of the fashionable Kasbah district, a definite must-visit for the adventurous traveller.
Café Clock is open every day of the week. Breakfast is served daily from 10h00, last orders for dinner by 22h00.
A late night stroll through Marrakech’s central square, Jemaa al-Fnaa will lead you to encounter all kinds of the weird and the wonderful.
However particularly towards the Eastern side of Jemaa al-Fnaa you will discover many Marrakshi locals selling unusual trinkets.
Unlike the souvenirs you will find in the nearby postcard shops, for a few Dirhams you can have a craftsman fashion you a key-ring with a distinct purpose: to ward off the evil eye.
The evil eye is said to have the capability to affect anyone, however those of us who are deemed highly attractive need to take the most caution. As the risk of suffering from the ill-effects of the evil eye grow in proportion to ones beauty.
Sacred talismans such as those sold in the square of Jemaa al-Fnaa have been used by certain people in Moroccan culture for centuries to ward off the evil eye. And for a loved one back home a souvenir such as this makes for a gift that is absolutely unique to this corner of the world.
Jemaa al-Fnaa is an ancient space that is humming with interesting legends such as this one and is easily accessible via a 10 minute stroll from the luxury Riad Papillon.
The 7 Saints is a cosy Café-Restaurant in the southern reaches of the central square of Marrakech, Jemaa al-Fnaa.
At the 7 Saints you will be able to find traditional Moroccan cuisine as well as good variety of European dishes such as panini’s and pizzas.
It’s easy to glance over the name, ‘7 Saints’ and not think anything of it, however the restaurant takes it’s title from 7 holy men who came to live in the red city in times long gone past. Under the Berber Almoravid dynasty, Marrakech became the capital of an Empire that spread through North Africa and into Spain.
In this time of great prosperity and opulence, the red city became a cultural and religious magnet. Over time 7 Holy saints of Islam came to live and die within the ramparts of Marrakech. The significance of this is huge, if you were to ask Marrakshi locals which city they hail from in Darija Arabic, in passing some would reply, “from the 7 Saints” as opposed to Marrakech.
Intriguing local history aside, the 7 Saints is the ideal place to cool down and enjoy some refreshments after a day spent under the rays of the fierce Moroccan sun. Unlike many restaurants in the square the 7 Saints is equipped with mist sprays and excellent WiFi.
Ask a waiter for a café special, for only 10 Dirhams (£0.75) you will be presented with a rich, creamy and slightly sweet local coffee that makes the perfect partner to a Moroccan salad.
The 7 saints is a five minute stroll from the Riad Dar Habiba, a traditional Moroccan Riad converted into a luxury hotel, conveniently located directly in the heart of the Marrakech Medina.
Every Friday lunchtime a large ornate clay tagine dish arrives on the ground floor of the charity Henna Café, which is where many visiting guests and local Marrakshi and Marrakshia’s will come to get an education for free in a number of subjects.
Aside from the black flags flying aloft the many Mosques around the medina’s riads, this dish indicated that it is indeed a Friday. The tajine pot is filled with freshly made couscous from Tarique and his brother Hassan who run a small convenience store opposite. As the hardest of all Moroccan dishes to make correctly, couscous is saved each week for this special day of worship in the Islamic calendar.
After ten minutes Tarique arrives with two friends as he vacates his shop temporarily to walk the two meters to the Henna Café, and they commence with spoons to eat. As the meal continues, three others arrive as Tariques friend is departing and exchange a few courteous words between the group before finding a stool, spoon and a small section of couscous to eat. This process goes on for a further forty five minutes with around 15 men, including the host, coming and going after a few mouthfuls and a small but intimate catch-up.
Not seen however outside the medina walls of the old cities around Morocco, this national cultural custom is an example of the hospitality and brotherhood shared among those of the Muslim faith living and working inside these close knit and traditional parts of many Moroccan cities and a very good reason to visit Morocco.
An authentic traditional feeling of homeliness and unpretentious welcoming is what makes the riads of Marrakech-riad the warm and unforgettable experience that they are for so many, and what aid in making your visit to Marrakech exquisite.
Bread, or Khobz in Moroccan dialect Arabic, is a staple in Morocco and this is most evident its abundance in what seems like every other shops front while walking round the Medina. Baguettes are eaten for breakfast while a soft round alternative called Kesra accompanies plentiful tagine, salad or sardine lunches and evening meals.
Wasted food is not seen in Morocco and as a result you will find in kitchens and homes any post meal leftover bread is collected in a bag to be used again. As is so obvious by the Islamic hospitable mentality of Morocco, Muslim brother and sisterhood denotes that none should go hungry if food is plentiful.
Bread is distributed to those in need such as the rag and bone men who wander the Medina’s derbs calling out for peoples unwanted items, or the well respected, cherished and looked after beggars who are an active part of the Moroccan society. Anything else is collected (pictured) by good willing locals and given to the countries plentiful cats, donkeys or other animals.
As a representation of an ingrained recycling culture, the people of Morocco humbly value what they have but also what they can do for others. Another reason to visit the Riads of Marrakech enjoy the company of, value this culture and learn from these giving people in such a vibrant and warming city as Marrakech.
The Jewish community has a long history in Marrakech and Morocco at large, indeed the history of the community stretches back to antiquity under the Roman empire following the dissolution of the Jewish state in 70 AD with Jewish people arriving after the destruction of the Jewish state. The Jewish people received relatively kind treatment under the sultans due to their usage of the jiyza system whereby they were left alone as long as they paid their taxes. The community played a prominent role in Moroccan life until the formation of the state of Israel when large numbers left to emigrate to Israel. A very noticeable legacy has however been left by the community both physically and culturally, indeed although the Jewish quarter no longer contains any Jewish people it is still named as such, as an indicator of the areas legacy.
There is also a historic Jewish cemetery to be found in Marrakech, locally known as the Miara, which is an indicator of Jewish cultural heritage in the area. All of these things contribute to historical and cultural aspects of Marrakech that make it one of the most vibrant and interesting cities to visit in the world. A stay in one of our Riads puts you right in the heart of this in Marrakech’s historical Medina allowing you access to all the great culture and heritage Marrakech has to offer.