Moroccan Pride, Bahia Palace, & Fish Tagine
If I were to sum up Morocco in one word, it would be, pride. Moroccans are extremely proud of their heritage, their culture, their food, their hospitality, their foreign relations; they’re even proud of their pride. It’s certainly not without good cause, either.
“Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.” Rumi
Morocco is not Turkey
Most shops and restaurants in the medina are not marked with signs to tell you where you are. We sought a decent ratio of tourists and locals at any given cafe: locals, to prove it wasn’t just a tourist trap; tourists, to prove that our sensitive stomachs would handle the menu. At one such cafe, we sat for a late breakfast, and I ordered a Moroccan coffee. As the waiter brought my coffee, my husband asks him if it’s anything like Turkish coffee. “NO! It’s nothing like Turkish coffee,” the waiter, clearly disgusted by the idea added, “it’s MOROCCAN coffee. Pure Morocco.” He walked away. The husband asked for a taste, which I granted. He takes a sip, stares me in the eye, and says, “it’s Turkish coffee.”
Later, we stop by the hammam in our hotel. The hammam attendant asks us if we’ve ever had Moroccan hammam (spa) before. The husband says he’s been to a hammam in Turkey but adds that it’s my first time. The attendant scoffs and asserts, “Moroccan hammam are much different!” I have nothing to compare it too, but my lovely husband assured me after it was done that it’s nearly the same.
The Bahia palace is breathtaking. Tickets are only 10 dirhams per person ($1 USD at the present exchange rate). The palace is worth every penny. Built in the late 19th century by a grand vizier of the sultan, the Bahia palace was intended to be the greatest palace of its time.
Immediately upon entering, you are greeted by a beautiful garden. Gardens are central to Islamic architecture: they represent heaven. Wander around and, if you’re lucky, get here early to get a few shots without the crowds. This palace is a popular tourist attraction for a good reason!
Most noteworthy of the palace is the intricate woodwork and mosaics. The intricacy of Moroccan architecture and design certainly reflects their pride.
Each room is unique
The palace does feel a bit like a maze, but they’ve tried to alleviate the feeling of being lost by posting signs to direct your movements. As you twist through rooms once reserved for the harems of the grand vizier, you’re left with the impression that each room reserved something special for the woman who occupied it. Where in one, you may see brilliant stained glass, another is decorated with beautiful Arabic verses from the Qur’an. After crossing over what appears to be a grand ballroom, you find yourself in a beautiful, stark courtyard.
Mind your manners!
The beauty of this palace cannot be adequately articulated. You simply have to see it for yourself to understand how grand it is. However, despite its beauty, I found its labyrinth a bit vexing by the time we found the courtyard; I’d suddenly worked up the need to pee. I passed by what appeared to be a men’s bathroom a few rooms back but had not unearthed the feminine counterpart yet. Finally, I decided I had to return to this men’s bathroom to settle the matter. Spotting it from a distance, I saw other women exiting the restroom and beelined to a stall. A woman mopping outside stopped to protest, but I was determined. Behind me, my husband apologized. Apparently, I had cut off a man waiting for the stall. When duty calls, right?
As I mentioned in my last post, our wandering in the Mellah had worked up quite an appetite by the time we returned to our hotel room. We walked over to the hotel restaurants, and each ordered a tagine and mint tea. The husband had a kefta and egg tagine, and I had the most fabulous fish tagine. The depth of the flavor was incredible, and I decided it would be my first dish to attempt to recreate when I got home.
For more travel pictures, from my husband’s perspective, please check out Thirteenth Knight Photography.