Here we are again, in Marrakech. If you're a long-time reader of this mish-mash which I refer to as my Blog, then you'll have read about our previous adventures here (including the 30 odd year delay!). But this experience is a little different.
This time, we aren't staying in a small riad; the Palais Sebban (for that's what it's called) is a large riad which is an actual hotel, with 25 rooms. It is exquisite! If you're looking for somewhere with architecture of the genuine Islamic style, look no further. From the antiquated and primitive door locking mechanisms to the intricate, hand cut, zellige tilework, via the astonishing accuracy of the repeating, hand-painted, patterns on the cornice and beamed ceiling, here we have the elements which were imported into Spain, and with astounding effect at the fabulous Al Hambra. Simply marvellous!
I (again) apologise for not having the camera on the correct setting, but you know I'm not very good with it anyway!
The last picture shows the intricacy of the paintwork on the ceiling.
Remember, if you click on a picture, you can have a better look. In our wanderings in the souks, we came across an artist who actually does this sort of stuff for a living. For the examples he had on display at his workshop, he charges 80 Euros per metre.
Again, our lodgings weren't situated far from the buzzing and exciting Djemaa El Fna, where everything happens! Using a small map kindly provided by the hotel, we navigated our way onto the nearest main artery of the souk, and within a few minutes were chatting with one of the traders whom we had met on our first visit. (I don't care who you are, it's always nice to know that you made enough of an impression on someone that they remember you years later!) After another few minutes we were in the "Square". It was nice to be warm, and to see clear blue sky!
Our first actual stop was the 7 Saints cafe, where we had so enjoyed tea and cakes etc on previous visits. We'd enjoyed there so much that I'd put a glowing review on TripAdvisor, as I remember. Again we were remembered by the staff, and welcomed back with open arms, metaphorically speaking, of course, but (horror of horrors!) there were no cakes! "Finished" was the answer to our query. Never mind, we shared a chicken panini instead. The outside seating area had had a thorough makeover, with a uPVC framework supporting an ingenious retracting blind system overhead, to shield diners from the sun. A new Islamic pattern profile-burner-cut fence with fancy posts and freestanding glass on top to shield us from any wind. (I say profile burner, but I'm not up to date with modern technology, so it was probably laser cut or something similar.) Anyway, although the old arrangement had been fine, this was very very good indeed, and made the place look a lot cleaner, newer and more professional, in my (not so) humble opinion.
Our first proper meal was at the tagine cafe which we'd also used previously, although I cannot remember what it's called, offhand. Here, we weren't welcomed as old friends, rather new friends! One chicken tagine and one vegetable tagine were duly ordered and consumed with great gusto. They came with bread, olives and a bottle of water, but we eventually realised that these were not included in the menu price, and were charged separately. We didn't make that mistake twice!! I imagined that it had changed hands, as we didn't recognise anyone there, and it just seemed a bit different somehow. Never mind, when we went back there again, we were welcomed, and this time with open arms, by the old man who had been there on the previous holidays, he was obviously delighted to have us back. He even went to the trouble of finding some dates to put in my tagine after I'd noticed that they weren't on the menu.
We like to think we're a bit on the adventurous side, but we're not, really! We do like familiarity, and that's why we keep on going back to the same, or similar, places. Last years jaunt to Granada was slightly adventurous, in that we hadn't been to Spain for 40 years, and even then nowhere near the Islamic bit. But that was what interested us; the Islamic architecture. We feel reasonably comfortable among Muslims who are used to interacting with foreign tourists, and (thankfully) we haven't been swayed by the ridiculous scaremongering of the British national press and TV stations into imagining that every Muslim is out to kill us!
Get off your high-horse Edward!
Back in the Djemaa El Fna (keeping well clear of the "touchy-feely" snake who charms the slithery types! See http://ourluxorflat.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=snake+charmer half way down the page.) there are still loads of black African youths peddling stuff; Apple phones, carved wood, hooky watches and perfumes, pastel drawings and paintings on small animal skins. They must get sick of being knocked back, but still they persevere; and apparently to some good effect, judging by their stylish and expensive looking clothing and footwear. (But how far are they removed from home, family and the familiar things of life?)
A new feature was a large number of families, or part families, on the streets begging with official-looking laminated signs explaining that they were Syrian refugees! It was heartbreaking to think that, maybe, these young women with children in tow were, until quite recently possibly, living reasonably comfortable lives, nearby their parents and friends, enjoying the normal things of family life. And now, here they are, reduced to begging in the streets of a foreign country. Given different circumstances, it could have easily been my daughters and grandchildren! It certainly hit me quite hard, and still does when it comes to my mind! How can we turn our backs to this suffering, even in the face of the savagery of the current wave of terrorism? It's all beyond me, I'm afraid.
Several sights strongly reminded me of our home in Egypt:
If they had had the forethought to do this in Alexandria, maybe that 13 storey building could have been saved, eh?
I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to write this (4 weeks!) my blogging mojo hasn't been working! Never mind, "Better late than never" as they say. (I know, I know; it does go on to say "but better never late!".) I'll finish off with some random pictures of the hotel, I hope you like them and that you get a better idea of just how nice it was.
Tata for now, next blog will be about our visit to Cordoba, another feast of Andalusian Islamic architecture, I hope.