NAME THAT COUNTRY

In the coastal city of El Jadida, about 1.5 hours from Casablanca, the old colonial city of Mazagan is well worth some leisurely wandering. The fortified city was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. It is full of period architecture, much of which is in need of restoration, but still lovely. Walk along the ramparts for views of the city, harbor and out to sea.

 

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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Ecomusée Berbere, Ourika Valley, Morocco

photo credit Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

photo credit: Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

Visitors to Marrakech often take a day to venture into the High Atlas Mountains, which dominate the eastern horizon, less than an hour’s drive away. Besides mountain air and gorgeous scenery, they find many villages of the indigenous Amazigh people. (The Amazighen are better known as the Berbers, a name which derives from the ancient Greek or Roman for barbarian.)  Tafza is one such village, about 37km from Marrakech, on the edge of the Ourika Valley. It’s a typical Atlas village, friendly and scenic, with at least one notable distinction – the Ecomusée Berbere (Berber Ecomuseum).

This exceptional little cultural museum is housed in the restored ksar of a former caïd (castle of the tribal chief). The collection is well curated and includes rugs, tools, musical instruments, pottery, jewelry and fascinating antique photographs of Atlas village life in the early decades of the last century. The local hosts are knowledgeable and amiable guides and proud representatives of their heritage.

photo credit Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

photo credit: Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

photo credit Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

photo credit: Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

With advance reservation, guests can have a meal on the ksar’s large terrace, with broad mountain-valley views. Also with advance notice, more extensive experiences are available, such as traditional pottery workshops and walking tours of the village and environs.

photo credit Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

photo credit: Ecomusee Berbere, museeberbere.com

The Ecomusée Berbere is partnered with another fine museum, Maison de la Photographie in Marrakech, which we wrote about here.

What is a Riad?

A riad is a particular type of boutique hotel housed in a renovated, grand, old house in Morocco, mainly Marrakech and Fez. I’ll speak in general terms; with riads opening almost weekly now, there will certainly be some exceptions to this description. For a couple of decades now it has been quite trendy for Europeans to buy old riads and renovate them as vacation homes or guest houses. Now there are hundreds in Marrakech alone.

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NAME THAT COUNTRY

Taroudant is an authentic Berber market town, smaller and more low-key than our mystery country’s more popular destinations, Marrakech and Fez. It’s located in the gorgeous Souss Valley in the south of the country, framed by the High Atlas Mountains to the north and the Anti Atlas to the south. Atlantic beaches are just an hour away.The walls around Taroudant are the most intact in the country. You will meet few tourists here, if any.

 

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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The Saadian Tombs, Marrakech, Morocco

In the Kasbah neighborhood of the Marrakech medina, tucked behind the Kasbah Mosque are the Saadian Tombs, burial grounds of the Saadi dynasty, which ruled Morocco in the 16th & 17th centuries. The mausoleum was built during the reign of sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, not the first Saadi ruler but definitely the most famous.
There are near 200 graves altogether, with the sultan and princes inside and women and officials in the garden. After the fall of the Saadis, the succeeding Alawites (still ruling Morocco today) walled up the Saadian tombs and they were lost to history until discovered in 1917.

Unless you’re seriously into Moroccan history, the main appeal of this place is the interior architecture and embellishments – Carrara marble, elaborately carved cedar and plaster, and colorful tiles, as well as the peaceful courtyard garden, which feels far removed from the busy medina.

The tombs are accessed by a path around the right side of the mosque (non-Muslims cannot enter the mosque). This is a popular tourist stop in Marrakech and can get quite busy, with long lines to enter, best to go early and with a guide.