Our last day! Emily, Laura, Rachel, Lucy and I decided to spend our last day in the souks and stalls near our Riad spending the last of our money.
I was so sad to leave and definitely want to return and visit the pink city again. There’s so much to do and explore. I really did love the hustle and bustle of the city and how busy it was all the time! Cardiff really is going to feel quiet on our return.
The areas which most inspired me in Marrakesh are the:
Tiles – the patterns, repeats, geometrics, simplicity yet detailed.
Stucco – pattern & texture
Colour – Majorelle blue, terracotta from buildings, primary colours used everywhere – red, yellow, blue – simplistic colours.
Hand-made – Everything was handmade! Inpsiring, try not to use machines as much in my own work?
These elements are things I would like to combine in my own samples when I get back to Cardiff to produce a body of work which I feel fully encompass what I feel Marrakech is. The designs I create will be a mixture of simple designs and more complex textured samples to show the two sides of the city which I have experienced.
Mountain Day! Today we had a group trip to the Ourika Valley in the Atlas Mountains. We had a coach and a tour guide, they had planned us a few stop before we headed up the mountains.
We first stopped off at a market in a traditional Berber village – the majority of what was on sale was fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. Everything was very fresh!
We then got back on the bus to visit a traditional Berber house. We were shown around the family’s home and it shocked me how little they had. Though they had electric their lights didn’t work. It puts everything into perspective when you see how little some people live and how much we take for granted back at home. They washed their plates and cutlery in water from the stream and didn’t have what we would call a ‘proper’ toilet.. (it was a hole in the floor) But they were so happy! And wanted to share what they had with us, they made us homemade bread with oil, butter and honey and also mint tea – my new found favourite! The grandmother showed us the traditional way of making and serving the drink. And the little girl, who must’ve been about six came around to everyone offering more when we had all finished. Their house had a beautiful view across the mountains and Berber villages hidden in trees in the distance.
Once we had said our goodbyes to the family, we got back onto the coach for our next stop which was a women’s shelter kind of place where divorced or widowed women could come to work. The women made handmade argan oil and products created from this oil such as soaps and also edible produce such as honey.
Divorced women are seen as the lowest of the low in their culture which is why they are basically banished from their society. It was horrible to think this; I can’t believe their culture is so masculine orientated. It really does make me feel so lucky to be living in the UK where as much as other disagree women are much more equal to men. I really wanted to purchase something from their shop to help the women but unfortunately it was all quite expensive and I’d already purchased some argan oil on my first day.
We then began our trek up the mountains towards the waterfalls. The guide told us it would be a nice ’40 minute walk’ – HE LIED! It was more like rock climbing and mountaineering at most points! It was an amazing experience and I’m so proud I actually did it, I’m not great with heights so I did not enjoy the journey back down at all – especially since I fell over L. If I had known how high and strenuous a hike it was I’m not sure I would’ve gone but I’m so glad I did! Do one thing a day that scares you and all that. On the way back to the Riad we were meant to go camel riding but everyone was tired and it was later than we thought it was going to be.
We briefly stopped off at a shop selling handmade textiles. We were tired and not that enthusiastic which was a shame.
In the evening we went to dinner as a big group for our last night and meal together. We enjoyed a three course meal starting with Moroccan salad dishes, I had a kefta and egg tagine for main and we shared a pastry dish and cakes/biscuits for dessert. We listened to some traditional Moroccan musicians and also watched and participated in some belly dancing! All washed down with some lovely glasses of red wine. We reflected on what an amazing trip it had been – both inspirational for our work but also socially, getting to know everyone so much better and making new friends from different subjects too.
Today we had tutorials in the morning. I thought it was helpful in that I needed to focus on my work and which areas I wanted to home in on to base my project on when I returned to Cardiff. However, the tutorials did take up a lot of the day which was a shame as we still had a lot we wanted to do! After our tutorials Laura, Lucy, Rachel, Emily and I felt a little downbeat and stressed so decided to chill out at KosyBar for a while – a really cool bar, you can sit right at the top and see all over Marrakech. Rachel and Lucy had cocktails which I should’ve done too as they looked lush!!
After this, we went to the El Badii Palace to do some drawings, however, it wasn’t what we expected at all. It was more ruins than a palace and though I’m glad we visited it I really wanted to do some drawing after the tutorial. I’d decided to focus on the patterns which can be found in the tiles and there was none to draw from here! In the Palais el Badii, the Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual arts was temporarily held there. A new building for the museum is currently being built. Although I am not overly interested in photography I thought it was amazing to see how old some of the images were and I liked comparing what has and hasn’t changed through time.
We then decided to go to the Tiskiwin Museum as we hadn’t had the chance to go the other day when we originally planned to. We were greeted by a very friendly man who told us the museum was set out as an adventure and experience all about the Berber people and their crafts, the museum was full of interesting and patterned artefacts and lots of textiles! It was interesting to see how different Berber and Moroccan crafts and patterns were. Berber crafts include drawings of animals and people yet in the Moroccan culture they do not allow this, they focus only on geometrics, florals and Arabic patterns.
Later on that evening we went to Café Clock to see the grand opening of Mylo’s collaborative piece with a Moroccan artist. The piece was a huge mural which covered a whole wall in the café. It was amazing and I thought it was incredible that Mylo had organised this collaboration before we arrived. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay long and missed the storyteller which tells stories in both Arabic and English.
We ate dinner at the Earth Café, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant – delicious!
Today we had a very full day planned! Today has been the only day we’ve actually been able to keep to our itinerary! Firstly we trekked to find the dyer’s souk – hard to find than we thought as there are basically no road signs anywhere in Marrakech! When we finally found the dyers souk which was located the other side of the old city. This area wasn’t as nice as previous places we’d been. People tried to send us in wrong directions and were very rude. We were quite hesitant as we were sure we were going to be asked for money when we finally got there. The man who showed us where his workshop was explained how they dye the yarn, he showed us their dye baths and also showed us the different pigments they use in the baths – some changed colour when put onto fabric. He discussed how some of the natural dyes were created, the yellow pigment was made out of saffron, black out of kohl and red out of rose. He explained that the baths had to be boiling hot and each bath could dye only a specific amount of yarn at one time. He told us that specific dyes would be suitable in England as some of them run when they get wet yet other dyes do not.
After he explained the dyes, he showed us to their scarf stall. They had beautiful scarves and draped. He showed us all the different traditional ways of wearing a head scarfs and also how to wear the scarves as a kaftan or even a pair of trousers. We had our picture taken with our new headscarves a few of the girls bought a scarf and we left with no hassle. Though we all agreed that if they had asked for some, we would’ve been happy to give some as everything he told us was very interesting!
We paid for a combo ticket which meant we had entry to both The Ben Youssef Medersa and also the Musee de Marrakech. The Ben Youssef is an old school built in the 14 Century It was amazing! We sat and drew in the sunshine for hours and took lots of photos and rubbings from the stucco and tiles.
I was sat drawing some of the Arabic patterns which were engraved on the walls when a man came over and told me that my drawings were really good, I spoke to him about the patterns and he explained to me that the engravings weren’t just Arabic writing but engravings of the Qur’an – and one of the parts I had copied meant Allah (God) I had hoped this wasn’t offensive to them but he said It was fine. I hadn’t realised it was the Qur’an – to a tourist it just looked like patterns but to these people, the writing is very meaningful. I asked him if he would mind writing my name in Arabic, he wrote my name in three different ways, Arabic, calligraphy and Arabic calligraphy – each style is completely different and all three are beautiful. I said it was a shame that in England we aren’t taught how to write in a certain style. Another cultural difference, I feel their language and writing is seen as an art unlike in England.
After this we visited the Musee de Marrakech, which again was amazing – the architecture and decoration of all the buildings here are amazing, from the outside everything looks the same and you don’t know what to expect! Every building has hidden beauties inside.
It was interesting to see an art gallery in an old hammam – the lighting wasn’t great and the pictures weren’t hung up straight – very quirky!
After this we did a little bit of walking around the area, we were going to visit La Maison de le Photographie and the Tanneries but we decided not to in the end – the tanneries stank!! By this point we were all quite tired, hungry and fed up of cat calls so decided to call it a day and head back to the Riad before going out for an early dinner. Rachel. Lucy, Emily, Laura and I decided to go to the Henna Café for dinner after hearing great reviews from the other girls who had been already. We each ordered some food and also had henna done on our hands, we were all thrilled with the designs and thought the woman was very talented! Everyone in Marrakech seems to have an artistic skill.
When we got back to the Riad we all had another film night, this time we watched ‘Midnight Express’ – a film set in turkey about a man who was arrested for trying to smuggle hashish back into the country. Were they trying to tell us something when the tutors chose this film.. Hmmm..
Today we walked to the Bahia Palace, we had originally planned to visit the palace and then the Tiskiwin Museum but unfortunately we were having too much fun and a nice time drawing in the sunshine. Bahia Palace was beautiful, I love how tranquil these places are, they’re like little relaxation escapes from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life. The noises stop completely. I love the comparison of these two environments. From the palace I gained inspiration from the colours, tiles and stucco, things which keep jumping out at me.
In the afternoon we had planned to meet Yacine – a masters student who took us around some galleries in Marrakech and also talk to us about his own work. We were originally going to walk to the new area of the city where we were meeting Yacine but unfortunately we ran out of time after enjoying a lunch break on a panoramic rooftop too much – whoops!
The first gallery Yacine took us to was the Matisse Gallery, we then went to Gallerie Noir sur Blanc, then Art Café Kechmara. Kechmara was intriguing that it was a café, people were sat eating when 20 students piled in. The art was mostly retro looking movie posters. We then walked to Gallery 127 but unfortunately it was closed. David Block Gallery was the next place we visited, this was my favourite one. There was a piece which instantly got my attention, it was a painted canvas with a pattern stitched into it – I like the idea of mixed media, it’s something I would quite like to experiment with.
I spoke to Yacine about his work, he explained his pieces are made up of Arabic writing and colours portray the emotions he is feeling at the time. He showed me a pink piece and a black and white piece, he stated the coloured piece was when he was happy yet the black and white was when he was feeling depressed or low. I love the idea that colours can represent your own emotions, it makes a piece more personal.
We stopped for a drink and a break in a nearby shopping centre and I was shocked at how westernised it was! It didn’t feel like we were in Marrakech at all – more like Cardiff with ‘Wok to Walk’ behind us.
We then walked to Galerie Tindouf but unfortunately this was also closed. This was a shame as it was the main gallery I was looking forward to as it had a current exhibition on about mosaics and tiles – since this is the area I’m basing this project on I really wanted to visit the exhibition.
Finally we went to the BCK gallery, it’s main exhibition was of figures. I discussed the pieces with Felicity – a fine art student who said the pieces seemed very lonely and full of emotion. I hadn’t thought of this before. It proves it’s good to talk to others and to see different viewpoints as it made me consider other sides and meanings of the art.
We then made it back to the square by bus, it was later than we thought it was going to be so we stayed in square to have dinner in an amazing panoramic restaurant. I had a beef, prune and almond tagine and shared a chocolate gateau for dessert – YUM! I’m going to miss Moroccan food when we leave!
Today we ventured into the souks on our own. There were so many stalls I wanted to look in and I was excited to haggle some prices down!
I’d seen a few things I wanted to buy yesterday including a mirror, a tagine and some lanterns. Walking through, we managed not to get lost but found ourselves walking back through some back streets to the Jemaa-El Fna thanks to some signs!
On our way we found a few artisan stalls, one of which was a metal workshop where we all bought some handmade lanterns, the people in the workshop were so friendly and the prices didn’t really need bartering, they were already so cheap! We paid just 45Dh which works out at just over £3.
I can’t get over how cheap everything is, I bought so many souvenirs and spent the equivalent of about £20. What a bargain!
And everything was so inspirational and well made. I’m really amazed that most of the things on sale are handcrafted by the people who sell then.
In the afternoon we visited a school for the blind. The journey was slightly dramatic in that we were in a car accident .. or more of a slow colldie, but hey, that’s the Marrakech way!! At the school, unfortunately no one was available to show us around when we first arrived and all the children were on half term. After a while. The director of the school arrived and also four of the boys who go to school there. At first, I felt quite awkward, I can speak French (not fluent in any stretch of the imagination) But I was nervous to be put on the spot to translate in front of the whole group.
We were able to explore the sensory garden which was created by the students who came on this trip last year. We were also given a demonstration of how brail was created for the students at the school and also how to read brail. A few of us wrote a message and the boys read and translated it from English – most of them could only speak a little English but managed to understand the letter.
A few of us were introduced to the four students, I began speaking to one boy who couldn’t speak any English – definitely put my French to the test, explaining what textiles is is a lot harder than you think when you forget how to say material in French! Rachel helped one of the boys draw a flower and at the end when we said our goodbyes he gave it to me – it was a very sweet gesture.
I thought it was a great experience and I felt silly for being so nervous. We had a group photo taken and left the school.
Lucy, Elisabeth, Rachel, Emily, Gabby and I walked back from the school using just a compass and a map – Duke of Edinburgh did come in handy after all! By the time we got back we were all quite hungry and tired so decided to eat pizzas at the Riad. We all had a movie night together, watching ‘Hideous Kinky’ – a film set in Marrakech in the 70s.
Today we had breakfast at the Riad before beginning our day tour as a group. We began the day at the Jardin Majorelle or YSL Gardens, the tour guide explained a brief history of Marrakech on the bus journey to the gardens. He told us the city is divided into the new and old city which is separated by a wall – the Jardin Majorelle is located in the new part of the city.
The Jardin Majorelle is a 12-acre botanical garden, it was created and designed by the French artist Jacques Majorelle. The garden is home to many exotic plants, none of which originate in Morocco.
The main colours in the gardens are red (to symbolise the terracotta colour of the buildings in the city), green (to symbolise the plants and nature) and the infamous vibrant cobalt blue – this blue has now been named Majorelle Blue after Jacques.
When J.Majorelle passed away, the gardens were left un-kept and ignored. Until fond visitor Yves Saint Laurent decided to buy the garden from the Majorelle family. They were restored and well-kept from this point on. When Yves Saint Laurent died, a memorial was put in the gardens and his ashes were scattered there.
We then went into the Berber museum which was inside the gardens. The museum was full of a large collection of textiles, jewellery and ceramics.
After the visit to the gardens and museum we walked through the “cyber park” – a free garden with wifi and internet access where the public can use it whenever they want. We walked through to get to the Koutoubia Minaret – the main mosque in Marrakech.
Unfortunately in Morocco you are not allowed to visit the inside of the Mosques if you are non-muslim, some places allow it but even then women are not allowed inside – I understand that if you do not follow their religion you shouldn’t be allowed in due to respect. I understood this but it was a shame, as I really would’ve liked to have gone inside.
After this we visited the Saadian Tombs which compromise of about 60 members of the Saadi Dunasty. The tombs are split into 3 different areas – for kings, women and children. The tombs were decorated with cedar wood, engravings, mosaic and marble. The kings tomb had also been decorated with gold. The decorations were beautiful and the pictures definitely do not do it justice! I would’ve loved to have had more time here and done some drawings – perhaps we will be able to revisit during the week.
Around the corner from the tombs, we visited an ‘alternative medecine’ herboristerie – a pharmacy full of herbs and spices used for their health benefits. The pharmacist spoke to us about the range of herbs and spices they use and prescribe and their health advantages. We were given a range of products to try including Argan Oil which has a number of health benefits including reducing stretch marks and cancer fighting properties. Also inhaling nigella seeds which have decongestant properties. We also tried some mint tea mixed with saffron.
We were then given the chance to buy some of the products. I bought loads! Some Rass al Hanout – a mixture of spices used for meat, veg, couscous and tagine dishes, a 4 spice mix used to marinate meat and some really hot chilli powder. Also some argan oil for the skins and got a free body scrub thing to use in the shower! All of this did not cost a lot at all. It was really interesting to hear about alternative medicines – I’d quite like to try out some of what we learnt!
Finally! Lunch time! We went to a hidden treasure, a small courtyard in the sunshine full of tiles, mosaics and other exquisite decorations. They had traditional music playing too – it was just gorgeous. We had a three course meal starting with the most amazing salad dishes and bread, the salads included lentils, beetroot, spinach – YUM! Then a delicious chicken tagine and finally a rather strange dessert, which kind of tasted like corn flakes.. The atmosphere of the restaurant was amazing, I hope all the food we have this week is as good as this! It’s a foodies paradise. Unfortunately, on the way to lunch we managed to lose Gareth!
We then visited the Dar Si Said Museum which had a range of artefacts including textiles, ceramics and mosaics. The museum didn’t have much to look at but the upstairs of the museum was amazing, the whole room was decorated in tiles – I’m definitely inspired by all the patterns that can be found in these and feel its something I’d like to focus on in this project.
After this we went to the Souks! I was very excited to go! As we were in such a big group we were told not to buy anything and to stick together. We walked through an artisan area where people were actually making the items they were selling. The artists were creating things out of metal and wood. I found it amazing that they were working from tiny little shed like areas and hand making these products – they are all clearly very skilled. It was very busy and the souk was huge! You could easily spend all day there and definitely get lost! I am going back to England with a much heavier suitcase that’s for sure.
This was the end of our tour. When back at our Riad after the long day Emily, Lucy, Laura, Rachel and I discussed our plans for the rest of the week including visiting the school for the blind tomorrow.
We ventured back into the square for dinner and ate at the Tajj’in Darna which overlooked the whole square from above, the view was incredible. We had TAGINES! Two in one day, I wonder if this will be a trend this week?