Robin's Adventures

Morocco, Spain, & Portugal
A Picturesque Adventure

Saadian Tombs

The Saadian tombs, which are located adjacent to the Kasbah Mosque, is the final resting place for about sixty members of the Saadian dynasty. The tomb, which was built in the late 16th century, is made up of three rooms that have beautifully carved plaster walls, zellige tiles, and carved cedar ceilings.

There are 66 tombs of people important in the Saadian dynasty located in the mausoleum. The courtyard outside contains the graves of just over 100 royal wives, advisors to the sultan, and other important dignitaries of the era.

More Saadian Tombs

When a new ruling family took power in the early 17th century, the tombs were sealed off and forgotten. They were not rediscovered until 1917.

Bahia Palace

The Bahia Palace, which was constructed between 1866 and 1867, was built by the highest-ranking political advisor to the sultan and later embellished by his son, Bou Ahmed.

The palace, which has about 150 rooms, had separate quarters for Bou Ahmed, each of his four wives, and an additional 12 rooms for his 24 concubines. There is also an administrative hall and a school room that was used not only to educate the children, but also served as a mosque 5 times each day. The palace also has several beautiful courtyards and garden areas.

Carved Plaster and Zellige Tiles

Carved plaster is a traditional artform throughout Morocco. It begins with tadelakt plaster, which is a combination of lime plaster and black soap (made from olive oil) and is also waterproof. This plaster is applied to the wall or ceiling as a soft paste so it can easily be shaped. Once the plaster begins to set, elaborate designs are marked using stencils and then a craftsman will use a long narrow chisel to cut out the design. The plaster can then be colored by pouncing darker cement over the design. The last step is painting the outside face of the design.

Zellige tilework is another artform that is very prominent in Moroccan architecture. Elaborate geometric patterns used to ornament buildings, fountains and pools, and sometimes tables, are made by creating a pattern out of hand chiseled ceramic tile pieces and setting it in a plaster base.

The process begins with clay from Fez that has a high concentration of the mineral kaolinite. It is hand molded into squares that are sun dried and then baked in a kiln. The squares are then hand painted and baked a second time.

Master craftsmen then use special tools to shape and chip different geometric shapes from the squares. These small pieces are then laid out to create the bigger design.

Zouak Painted Cedar Ceilings

Zouak Painted Cedar Ceilings are hand painted with many layers of egg-based tempera paints. The pigments in the paint are created by adding natural ingredients such as saffron, mint, or poppy.

Two Synagogues

Although the Jewish population in Marrakech is small, there are still two synagogues in the city. The Lazama Synagogue, which is located in the old Jewish Quarter of the medina, is built in the style of the traditional Moroccan riad. It has a central courtyard with a fountain and buildings that surround the courtyard. The courtyard had some beautiful zellige tilework and the geometric design creates a pattern with the Star of David.

Temple Beth-El, which is located outside the medina in the newer section of Marrakech, is a larger more modern synagogue.

Menara Gardens

Menara Gardens, which were first established in the 12th century, consists of a basin, groves of olive orchards, and a small pavilion. The pavilion was added in the 16th century. The function of the basin, which gets its water, through a hydraulic system from the nearby Atlas Mountains, is to provide water to the gardens and orchards through a system of underground channels.

Yves Saint Laurent Museum and Majorelle Garden

Majorelle Garden, which was created over a period of 40 years starting in 1923, was designed by the French artist Jacques Majorelle. He and his wife lived in a home on the two and a half acre property until the late 1950s.

The property was purchased by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, in the 1980s. The building was used as a residence when Saint Laurent was in Morocco and he made great efforts to restore the badly neglected gardens.

The gardens are now open to the public and the house has been converted into a museum of Berber and Islamic arts. The Yves Saint Laurent Museum, which is adjacent to the gardens, is devoted to the work of the designer and displays many of his sketches and designs.

Antique Treasures

We made a short visit to an antique store in Marrakech that had museum quality items on display. We enjoyed seeing the craftsmanship of these items up close.

Day Trip to a Berber Village

It took about an hour and a half by car from Marrakech to reach a small Berber settlement in the Atlas Mountains. The village was perched on the side of the mountain and there were narrow twisting walking paths through the village.