We arrived at the pick up location in good time. There was another couple from Germany and single young woman from Italy and of course our tour guide. His English was perfect and any other nationality had to grin and bear it. It seems that the only real benefit of being English nowadays is that it's increasingly becoming the common language. A little humbling as most other countries seem too make the effort to speak at least one other language.
The tour took us through the medina both ancient.
The medina is a world heritage site and UNESCO and the World Bank are investing heavily to ensure it survives.
. It's the largest car free urban area in the world.
. Its passage's stretch for well over 1 mile in length.
. Its built as labrynth for defence, stop the wind,and keep it cool.
. It's home to 150,000. people.
. It's the oldest city in Africa.
. It has a shrine that's second only to Mecca.
. It houses one of the king's palaces.
We visited a madassa an Islamic school.
The carvings were incredibly intricate and covered every wall. The building is perfectly symmetrical. And is designed around he 5 pillars of Islam
Upstairs was the rooms for students from outside the city. This was before the university was established and every educated person was a scholar of the Koran and Islam.
We were shown a house a of a wealthy family. There are no windows on the outside and the houses are built around a central well which is open to the sky. This helps to keep the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
From here we were taken to the tanneries the oldest and only hand operated ones left in the world. It's a family business and handed down from father to son.
The smell was impressive as the first stage is soaking the leather in urine and pigeon shit.
There are few wild pigeons as they are caged and of course eaten!
The white ones are the first stage the brown ones are where the colour is added. They change the colours every 2 weeks..
We were supplied with bunches of mint so we could sniff them rather than endure the stench emanating from the pits.
The craftsmanship has blown both of us away in every aspect. The leather shoes ,bags and clothing were incredible.
From there we were handed over to a apothecary and we're sold creams and argan oils.
Then lunch on a roof terrace before being whisked off to a ceramic factory. The skills on display were beyond words. Each tiny mosaic is band crafted. The table tops are then constructed face down with the guy doing it able to remember and set the pattern. You can design anything and they will be able to make it.
The pottery is still fired in a kiln using olive pips as fuel.
Some of the mosaic tops they made and designed.
Everything is hand painted and designed in house.
As well as this we were shown hand operated looms making exquisite clothing and fabrics. Incredible hand made copper and silver ware.
We were told that due to government regulations these skills are becoming rarer as now all children have to go to school which means that the trades are not being taught the way they used to be. Whilst it's how the world is changing it would be a shame if this craftsmanship is lost.
We ended the tour at the Royal Palace which is next to the Jewish Quarter. Apperntly the Jews were given protection by the king of Morocco when the Jews were being persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition. They have since left for Israel when it was founded. Apparently there are over 2 million Moroccan Jews in Israel.
We were told that this neighbourhood is unique as they have there windows on the outside.
This is the kings palace and you can only take pictures from here due to security concerns.
If anyone is thinking of visiting an Arab country I would highly recommend that you take a tour. This orintates you and allows a bit of space to breathe. Today was the first day that we were able too walk slowly and look at things without feeling overwhelmed by high pressure sales.
Really glad we took it and if we could change anything it would be to do it on the first day.
We catch the train to Maraquesh tomorrow.6.5 hours and we have treated ourselves to first class. This means we get allocated seats and for £10 extra it's got to be done!
We have 5 days In Maraquesh so will have a chance to look around and plan the next stage of the trip
Oh and the reason I've titled this post Ali Baba is that every where I go people are shouting it at me. I think it's something to do with the beard 🤷♀️. It's all very good natured and seems to amuse them do all good.
As I write this the call to prayer is rolling across the city it looks,sound,smells and feels like another world. Which I guess it is?
That's the view from the hotel rooftop across the medina and all it holds.
There are community ovens. How it works is you take your dough pay the charge and come back later to pick it up when done. Bread in the morning when the ovens hot and cakes and sweets in the afternoon when it's cooler. Simple environmentally sound and brilliant 🤩!