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MARRAKESH (Morocco)


Marakech The first feeling one bas when entering this particular imperial capital is of pure enchantment. We are bewitched-falling under the spell of the place and its people, folk artists to their very souls who have only one aim in view to make a stay in their city as entrancing an expérience as possible. With its world-famous square, Jamaâ El Fna, the beacon city of the Almoravids was founded in about 1070 with a view to controlling traffic from the nearby Atlas. It was from this rudimentary settlement that the earliest conquests were launched. Abou Bakr, head of the Almoravids, undertook the construction of a kasbah, nicknamed the "stone castle" only yards away from the present site of the Koutoubia.

Marrakesh became the capital of a vast empire in the reign of Youssef Ben Tachfine-an empire which, under the Almohads, reached as for as the frontiers of Libya.

The first Almohad sovereign, Abdelmoumen began the construction of the Koutoubia mosque, which his grandson Yacoub El Mansour adorned with a superb minaret, still standing today. His son Youssef had reservoirs dug and a spreading administrative district constructed-Marrakesh reached the height of its glory. Built in the same epoch as Seville's "la Giralda" and Rabat's "Tour Hassan", the Koutoubia, dating from the 11th century, is a truc masterpiece of hispano-moorish art. Its minaret rises to almost 70 metres.

The Badii Palace bas long been regarded as a wonder of the Muslim world. It was the sovereign Ahmed El Mansour Dahbi who undertook construction of the palace following his victory over the Portuguese in the year 986 of the hejira (1578), a victory well-known in the Western World under the name of the Battle of the Three Kings. The major construction work went on for sixteen years. Other marvels to be found in the Red City are the Dar Si Said museum, containing much quintessential Moroccan art and displaying the glittering array of gold and marble ornements collected by Ahmed El Mansour (1578-1603), greatest of Saadian rulers, the Medersa Ben Youssef, a koranic school founded in 1570 by Moulay Abdallah and a truc masterpiece of Merinid architecture, the Agdal gardens, laid out in the 12th century during the reign of Abdelmoumen and the Menara, a magnificent artificiel lake fringed with flowers ...

Framed by the snowy heights of the Atlas, with rose-coloured ramparts and a thousand year old palm grove, Marrakesh casts a magic spell. Sumptuous and exuberant, it radiates splendour and mysticism ; at the dye merchants, in the explosion of multicoloured wools ; at Festival time, in the rhythm of the music, in the emotion of the dancers ; in the idle talk of the merchants and in the skill of the jugglers. Enchantment, you feel in the shade of the blue gardens and in the overwhelming perfection of the Koutoubia.


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