Images from Marrakesh, Morocco – Or Why I Would Return

doorway, Arabic, Moorish, design, architecture, architectural detail, design element, Morocco, Marrakesh

On my recent trip to Morocco, I spent two overnights in Marrakesh on either end of my visit to the country.  It certainly was not the right amount of time to spend there, especially given that I loved its architecture and would have enjoyed seeing more of it.  However, it was a good amount of time to sample the city.  So, I thought I’d share some of the images that stuck with me so you can get a sense for the town.  Of course, I witnessed beautiful sunsets in Marrakesh but I will share those separately from these!

Airport

The airport in Marrakesh has a good number of international flights.  It must be very new and it is very modern indeed.  I loved getting off the plane after an overnight flight from the U.S. to Amsterdam and a 3-hour layover before heading to Marrakesh.

Marrakesh, Morocco, airport, photo, travel

The airport terminal as I deplane

Marrakesh, Morocco, airport, photo, travel

The departures area on the day I left Marrakesh – pleasing to the eye.

Our riad

A typical place to stay while visiting Morocco is the “riad.”  A riad is a home with a small inner courtyard or garden that offers quite a few benefits for its residents such as privacy and an outdoor space with little to no direct sunlight which helps deal with the high heat of this type of locations.  Riads remind me of the centuries-old houses in places like Old San Juan, which also had inner courtyards.

Marrakesh, Morocco, riad, hotel, courtyard, photo, travel, Olympus

View down towards the ground level at Mon Riad

Well, riads nowawadays offer a great design for small places of lodging and so it was with the one where we stayed in Marrakesh:  Mon Riad.

Marrakesh, Morocco, riad, hotel, courtyard, photo, travel, Olympus

Mon Riad

With a small courtyard with a small pool in which one could dip one’s feet, it certainly was a nice place to get to after a long trans-Atlantic trip!  I immediately dropped my bags, started meeting my future fellow trekkers (more on my trek along the Camino de Santiago soon!), enjoy a welcoming cup of hot tea (yes, that is actually the best thing in hot weather!), and taking my shoes off so I could refresh my tired legs in the small pool!  The staff and accommodations (great A/C in the rooms!) were phenomenal.

Marrakesh, Morocco, riad, hotel, courtyard, photo, travel

My welcome hot tea – nice touch!

I enjoyed the rooftop terrace where we had dinner one night and where I got to watch some very nice sunsets and sunrise!

Marrakesh, Morocco, Mon Riad, view, medina

View from Mon Riad’s terrace

Marrakesh, Morocco, riad, hotel, courtyard, photo, travel, Olympus

Perfectly set up for dinner up in the Mon Riad’s rooftop terrace!

Marrakesh, Morocco, Mon Riad, alley, medina

The alley where Mon Riad is located – quiet and clean!

Red everywhere

Most structures in central Marrakesh are red or pinkish-red.  The same red is visible in the pottery typical of the area.  It is a neat color especially in contrast to the beautiful blue skies, the sparse but present green of the palm trees, and the color of the desert that kisses the city.

Marrakesh, Morocco, medina, photo, travel, Olympus

Driving in towards the medina from the airport

Marrakesh, Morocco, minaret, Koutoubia mosque, travel, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Minaret of the Koutoubia mosque

Marrakesh, Morocco, Palace Gate, medina, architecture, travel, photo, Bab Agnaou, Olympus

Right before entering the medina, we passed this beautiful gate: the Palace Gate (or Bab Agnaou).

Marrakesh, Morocco, medina, photo, travel, Olympus, red walls

Going around the medina, looking for the entrance!

Marrakesh, Morocco, medina, photo, travel, Olympus, red walls

The outer walls of Marrakesh’s medina.  Red on the walls, red on the stop sign, and red on the curb!

Marrakesh, clay pot, pottery, handicrafts, souvenir, market, Morocco, Olympus, travel

Presumably the same clay that is used for walls is used for these clay pots – more red!

Decorations and architectural details

The best images I take away from Marrakesh (sunsets aside) are these.  I have always found Arabic architecture (if that is the right term) beautiful since the first time I saw Moorish Spain’s legacy to the current architecture of places like Granada and Cordoba.  In Marrakesh, everywhere I turned there was an interesting architectural or decorative element.

Marrakesh, Morocco, tile, colorful, Smasung Galaxy, photo

Though worn by time and feet, this tilework is still beautiful.

Marrakesh, Morocco, design, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Great patterns

doorway, Arabic, Moorish, design, architecture, architectural detail, design element, Morocco, Marrakesh

Incredible detail above a doorway – exquisite

mosaic, engraved doors, Arab design, Marrakesh, medina, Morocco, Olympus, photo, travel

Entrance to a building in the medina. Great mosaic and metal work

As I said earlier, I wish I had had more time to explore this exotic town but hope these images begin to convey the beauty to be found in the town.

Jewels of Istanbul: Its Mosques

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, minaret, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

During my 5-day visit to Istanbul, I had ample time to walk around, often aimlessly, to get to know the city.  While some sights were on the must-see list (like the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace), I also “discovered” places not on my list.  I quickly developed an interest in entering the many mosques I encountered (and there are plenty!).  For a non-Muslim like me, they are worth exploring for their architecture / construction for sure but also for their interiors.  The interior of mosques in Istanbul were different than the ones I had seen in Egypt (which were the only mosques I had ever entered at that point).  What made the interiors different was their use of ceramic tile typical of Turkey (more on this further down…).

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, minaret, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

The skyline of “old” Istanbul is accentuated by many mosques

While I don’t remember all the names and locations of the mosques I visited (though I was writing about travel at the time, it was only in emails to friends and family), I will at least share some of what I saw so you get an idea of what I mean.  But there is one that is a must-see for sure:  the “Blue” Mosque.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, aka the Blue Mosque

Almost across from the Hagia Sophia resides the most imposing mosque I saw in Istanbul:  the Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, minaret, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

Looking up to the domes with an ablution fountain in the courtyard

The Blue Mosque was built in the early 17th century so it is a “baby”, really, by Istanbul standards but, nevertheless, monumental inside and out.  It boasts 6 minarets, one main dome, and many secondary domes.  It has a courtyard as large as the mosque itself surrounded by arcades (apologies to architects if I am not using the proper term) with the fountains for the ablutions located in that space.

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, minaret, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

The arcade around the courtyard

As is the case with mosques, its interior is a vast open space (unlike Christian places of worship with benches and chairs throughout) since the prayers are done by sitting and prostrating on the floor which, of course, is covered in rugs/carpets.

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, interior, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

Not the best photo of the interior but you can see the faithful praying (I wanted to not be close to them while taking the pic) and some details of the interior (chandelier, carpets, etc.)

Can you believe that at the time Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI visited the mosque in 2006, it was only the second time a Pope had visited a Muslim place of worship?  Not only shocked for ecumenical reasons but also thinking the beauty they missed seeing!

Ceramic tile

As I mentioned, what appeals to me about mosques in Istanbul is the use of ceramic tiles in many different styles and geometrical patterns and using a lot of blue (could it be the influence of the close-by Aegean Sea blue??).  The writing in Arabic script that you see is actually verses from the Koran.  I don’t read Arabic so all I can do is say that they add to the beauty of the place.

mosque, Istanbul, ceramic tule, interior, Turkey, art, architecture, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, blue

Side walls of a mosque in the city; notice how blue plays a prominent role in the tiles’ color

mosque, Istanbul, ceramic tule, interior, Turkey, art, architecture, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, blue

Dome of the same mosque

Parting tips…

If you have never been to a mosque, it is good to know that you need to be properly dressed (no shorts, etc.) and that you will have to remove your shoes before you enter – please do not miss observing these rules!!  Some mosques I have been to require you leave the shoes outside (not placing them inside your bag).  A fellow traveler decided not to leave his shoes in the area that some attendant watches it because he didn’t want to pay (at the mosque close to the Golden Horn and the Grand Bazzar).  When we came out, his shoes were gone.  BIG LESSON LEARNED:  don’t skimp.  Attendants are just earning a living though, certainly, this one was a thief.

Istanbul, Turkey, New Mosque, Grand Bazaar, history, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel

Mosque by the Grand Bazaar where the “shoe incident” happened: the New Mosque

Istanbul, Turkey, New Mosque, Golden Horn, Grand Bazaar, history, architecture, Canon EOS Rebel

Looking down onto the New Mosque, built in the 17th century right by the Golden Horn (Asian side of Istanbul in the background)

So discover Istanbul and its mosques if you visit!  I leave you with a parting shot of one of these beauties:  the Blue Mosque at sunset sporting a different color!

Istanbul, Turkey, Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmed, minaret, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, travel, history, architecture

At sunset

 

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