Volunteering in Morocco, exploring the souks with a Moroccan, Islamic culture, Koutoubia mosque, the cyber garden and the ''Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech'' market.
FOR MORE VISUAL
You'll notice that there aren't really any photos on this blog. Sorry in advance. I am a videographer. For everything visual, I invite you to watch a complete capsule on Morocco (26 minutes) by following this link: https://youtu.be/rtf9OUJ8f1c , the information you will find on Marrakech is not found on Youtube , so it’s a nice complementarity.
The real reason for the lack of photos in this blog is that the Wix site allows a limited number of photo uploads when using the cheaper version of their service payments. I'm practically full! As we decided to leave everything and travel, become nomads, as we gave ourselves the challenge of traveling around the world in 80 months and making 10 documentary films, you understand that we are on a calculated budget.
Also, if you really want photos I invite you to discover our interactive blog (free) at this address www.polarsteps.com/fodn , you will have the places in Morocco on a world map with lots of photos. And what's more, you'll know where we are in real time!
So on that note, if you have decided to continue reading and learn more about Marrakech, thank you for taking the time to read me, and here is our experience!
Volunteer in Morocco
We are new teachers of French and English in Berrechid, Morocco. We say teachers, but we are more like teacher assistants. We come at the end of classes to chat either in English or French with young people between 9 years old and 18 years old and also adults. They need to practice their listening comprehension and practice speaking the language and that’s what we’re here for. I really find the experience interesting culturally and humanly, because the topics we have to discuss vary from one time to the next. Sometimes we are almost speakers. As much as we can talk about typical food or public holidays in Morocco; what ways to reduce pollution or physical and psychological harassment!
Looking at our teaching schedule properly, we realize that since we mainly do French classes, our days off are a little poorly placed: Friday and Sunday. This doesn't leave us much time to explore Morocco. When speaking with the teachers and director, they informed us that we can take 3 days off every week, that is to say Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. There are French classes on Monday and Tuesday, but we were told that it was really optional for us to be there.
So last minute we decided to go to Marrakech again. In fact, we told ourselves that we wanted to return to almost all the places we visited on our little tour last week, since we spent very little time in the cities. So here we are again, wandering through the labyrinths of the souk, trying to find our Airbnb room. I find it really fascinating to think that people live here and recognize the streets, the shops, know how to get from one place to another, for our part, even with GPS, we had to turn back several times.
Gentle dive into Islamic culture in Morocco in Marrakech, a good idea
To learn more and as usual, we took the free Walking tour of Marrakech. We always learn interesting information about customs and culture, and in this particular case, also about religion. As I had understood a little during our trip to Turkey, the new Muslim generation wants a little more freedom and our guide tells us that traditional Islamic practice in Morocco is shared by almost 50% (I found that the figure was very high, I would have rather believed in 30% of non-practitioners, let's say). Some believe in it but no longer go to the mosque for example, but he explains to us that it is especially the aging generation who are conservative. However, we should not believe that Islam is about to abandon morals. By speaking with the students of the school and therefore the new generation, we understand that their belief in the teaching of Allah is unshakeable. If we have the misfortune of asking a question about their religion in a slightly clumsy way or saying the wrong word, we are put back on the right path with a little comment like: ''it's not a legend, it's not a legend. 'is reality', or 'there is only one God'. But they don't blame you, obviously. Most understand that you are a foreigner and therefore have little or no familiarity with their customs. In fact, I feel much more comfortable talking to children about this, without parents interrupting them. The expression applies in all cultures: the truth comes from the mouths of children, and, through the little comments we were able to hear, we then imagine how these young people are educated at home. With this new volunteer contract, Moroccan culture will be fully revealed to us without a tourist guide!
Definitely an international must do: the Marrakech souk
Marrakech is the tourism capital of Morocco. Here, people are influenced by all kinds of culture, and therefore, much more open. To tell you the truth, you can feel it right away. Michaël's appearance is very well received and many people either compliment him on his style, or completely ignore it, as if it's normal. Whereas in Casablanca for example, we felt a little more “African stare”. Marrakech is a very old city (since 1062) and even if the population evolves, certain traditions remain. Imagine that the Medina is a maze with literally several hidden doors and passages. We follow our guide closely. He takes us to what we could call an industrial bakery with a wood-fired oven, in the heart of the alleys. We could never have found it. He explains to us that if, for example, a family does not have the time or does not have a wood-fired oven, they can bring their bread dough here to bake for a small fee. Each neighborhood has 3 or 4! A little later, he told us that it is also possible to cook his tanjia (a typical stew dish cooked in a clay pot) on the embers of the hammam fire (public baths heated with wood)! It takes us to an old caravanserai, the only Almoravid monument remaining in Marrakech (the Almoravids are a brotherhood of Saharan Berber warrior monks who reigned around the 1040s) and, the highlight of the guided tour in our opinion, the copper souk. We were in the aisles of tourist souvenirs, then suddenly, in an apocalyptic steampunk film. Welding sparks burst everywhere, semi-finished merchant orders hang up to the ceiling, we saw giant locks and keys, cacti and embroidered iron insects; we no longer know where to look and we have to be careful not to get stuck in the iron bars that litter the ground. A few zigzags later, we find ourselves in another universe, that of leather workers (I learn somewhat naively by the same fact that Morocco is named because of this profession). Tanned goat skins are stacked by the hundreds next to the shops and the shavings from the soles of shoes form small mountains in the alley. We can watch artisans working on shoes and handbags, among other things. The smell of dried leather rises to our nose, rather pleasant compared to certain places in the souk. Another turn later and poof! Here we are again on a main street, as if out of a dream!
A daily festival: Jemaa el fna square
You can visit Jemaa El Fna square during the day and be amazed by all the activity that takes place there. But the real change of scenery takes place in the evening, as soon as the sun has set. I felt like I was at a festival with hundreds of thousands of people, it must be a good approximation of the number of people who are there every night, it's amazing. During the day you will find snake charmers but be careful they will try to make a lot of money off you, so don't take photos unless you want to pay. They are not present at night, the place is rather for theater artists and musicians. Locals gather around these artists to dance or just enjoy the act. Obviously, you can also taste all kinds of food, from Moroccan pastries to paw stew, to fresh fruit juice to fast food called "tacos" (which is actually a burrito, but it's delicious all the same!) for really reasonable prices. All the restaurants around offer incredible views of the action in the plaza, but their menu is obviously a little more expensive.
The Koutoubia Mosque
Then we wanted to go explore the area of the largest mosque in Marrakech, Koutoubia. Unfortunately, the interior visit is reserved for the faithful, so we take shots outside. The blocks lined up perfectly next to the minaret immediately intrigue me. I learn that these are in fact remains of a first mosque which had been built in the same place. However, these constructions date back to the same period, that of the Almohads (Berber people who dethroned the Almoravids around 1120). So why replace the entire mosque to reorient it two degrees further south? All the minarets of mosques around the world point towards Mecca, the holiest place in Islam where the Prophet Muhammad founded the religion. This would probably be one of the reasons, the first minaret was not well aligned. For example, the great mosque of Hassan II in Casablanca is very modern and also very high (210 m), and, instead of these wooden blocks showing the direction towards Mecca, it is a laser which lights up at sunset and has a range of 30 km!
a cyber Garden
Afterwards we wanted to visit one of the famous gardens of Marrakech, but we didn't want to pay a fortune to see plants either. This time we opted for the cyber garden which is free right next to Koutoubia. It was a pleasant walk to discover the plants of the region and just before entering, there is even a telecommunications museum (because the project was paid for by Telecom Maroc), where we were able to observe the evolution of the telephone Through time. Completely free.
On the way back, we found a “posh” craft market (we actually dared to call it that). These were exactly the things we could find in the souks of Marrakech, only much better ordered, much more expensive, without the labyrinth experience, in a very European environment. I suppose, however, that for people with physical disabilities such as wheelchairs or crutches, getting around the souks is quite a challenge. The Ensemble Artisanal Marrakech is an alternative.
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