This is how we were awoken at 6:00 a.m., all was dark.
It's the Muslim call to prayer, heard five times per day. We didn't realize we were so close to the loudspeakers in the mosque's minaret. When you think of the intention, a call to prayer is a nice thing to be witnessing. It seemed to vary in length, one morning it was 15 minutes.
We hired a licensed guide for a day of walking. Nour was an intelligent gentle man who is fluent in eight languages and knows another, but not to his satisfaction. We found that to be a common trait, multilingualism. Even in a small town we later visited, we heard the Moroccan server conversing with the customers at the next table in Japanese.
If you are visiting for a short trip, hiring a guide in advance is a wise decision. Beware of unlicensed young men in particular, persistently offering their services. They are illegal guides and tend to use unscrupulous methods to target your money. A licensed guide must have a bachelor's degree or be educated in other languages, successfully complete a government training course and wear an official name tag.
Nour concentrated on history and culture, he educated us on shopping, but that is not his focus. We invited him to join us for lunch and had an interesting discussion on religion and life in Marrakech. The Islam practiced in Morocco is based on principles similar to other world religions. In fact one of the main tenets is to respect holy books including the Bible, the Torah and the Quar'an.
We walked through the souks, the medina's shopping areas, each specializing in specific items: leather, metal works, spices and dyes, garments... More on that in a later post. We past caravanserais, the central point for organizing caravans for travel across ancient trade routes, along with accommodation for the people and animals involved. This one has yet to be renovated:
He guided us to the Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret:
Minarets in this region are square rather than round. This mosque complex was originall built in th 12th century and was rebuilt when it was discovered the orientation to Mecca was off by five degrees. The new one is supposedly off by ten degrees. It's not an issue as those praying can adjust their position to be in correct alignment.
Next was the 16th century burial site of members of the Saadian dynasty. Servants and others were buried in the garden, the difference being that the non Muslim ones are not positioned to face east toward Mecca.
These buildings, nowhere near as old as the Roman ruins we visited in Spain (I believe the oldest building in Marakech was built in the 1100's), are in excellent condition with intricate detail made of carved plaster, marble and cedar, plus inlaid wood. said Hmad (1841-1900) .
Are you experiencing information overload? We felt that way at times, but I want to get it all down before it melts in our memory into a jumble of beautiful buildings, markets and squares. More tomorrow.