Our first stop today was Kasbah Taourirt. It belonged to the Pasha of Marrakesh at some stage, and was probably built in the mid 18th century.
It is a fortified house with corner towers (Castle) built from mud and straw. Originally built by nomads to provide more protection than their tents against the weather and enemies. It was the building of royalty, but in times of need the entire village would be able to go in and see out the invaders.
Part of the building has collapsed, but there is a large section that has been rebuilt, or repaired.
It was 20DH a person to get in, and we were wondering if it was worth a whole 5 dollars. Turns out it was. We skipped on the guide (and overhearing part of his spiel later on, quite glad we did) and headed in. The first thing you see is a central courtyard. The walls stretching up around you.
There are some decorations carved into the plaster work. Mainly geometric patterns. It looks like the caravan way. From the courtyard, you walk past a 150 year old german cannon, in through the main doors. Here it turns into a bit of a maze. We went up to the first floor, and out onto the balcony overlooking the yard. Here there are many different ways around. Like the streets, most turn out to be dead ends, leaving only one pathway, as long as you can find it. The rooms themselves are all different shapes and sizes. Small broom closets, and grand hallways. At first there was no decoration. Just shuttered windows to let in light and air. Some were small ventilation slips, like in Jordan, and others large carved windows. Sometimes right beside each other! There were good views out over the city, and river from the upper levels.
On the second floor, the decorations start to appear. You can tell the rooms used by nobility and servants now. Alcoves dot the sides, and small doors lead off to smaller rooms. There is a large central light well that allows light from the roof down three floors, so it would be well lit on the bottom. There are also mosaics on the walls. It looks like these have been created with coloured plaster. There are fantastic detailed patterns, and even the beams of the roof have been painted in places. In the different rooms are different motifs. The reed roofs have been dyed and crosshatched to give an interesting texture and pattern, and in other sections painted boards have been laid above the supporting beams. It was well worth the visit, and we took a long time investigating every nook and cranny. The place must have been massive, as at least half if not a lot more is now inaccessible. Some parts have collapsed, and others look lived in.
From the Kasbah, we wandered into the Old Medina. This is not that big, and when we first got there, we had someone wanting to show us the old synagogue. This sounded like fun. Apparently there are no Jewish people left here, and the synagogue has been converted into a . . . carpet shop. Well, not really. We were corrected quite quickly. It is a blanket shop. The women make carpets, the men make blankets.
Here we were treated to a demonstration of a loom in action. It was good to see, however this one is only for the tourists. They make the carpets, sorry, blankets in the villages. We got to see camel (dromedary) hair blankets, Sheeps wool, combinations of the two, and then the really fine ones came out. Spun from the fibers of cactuses. It is as fine as silk,and the colours reflect the desert environment. They were very tempting, and the price was the best we had seen.
Another person then took us under his wing, and across to his jewelry shop for tea. Proper Berber tea. While there, we got the stories behind the compass, and different styles of jewelry. The compass is used by the Berber and Touareg people in the Sahara. You line the point up with the southern star (We do not know which star this is yet) and it will guide you through the desert. Apparently it can also be used to find water. Not sure if this is divining or not. It could just be that there is a map engraved on some. The Touareg ones are inlaid with wood and silver, while the Berber ones are more solid. What is mens and womens, different tribes, rank within the tribe etc. There were some good pieces here, and some that are positively home made. They had character. We were also given a bit of an insight into his life. Ouarzazate is becoming known for its film studios. Our friend was known as Will Smith, as he could have been a stunt double (from a bit of a distance) and had been an actor in a few movies. Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven being the bigger ones. His father had also been in the movies, and was in the original Lawrence of Arabia.
A few cups of tea, and we were handed to a guide. We drew the line at this, and made our way further into the old town. This is a maze of dead ends, but luckily for us, not too big. After a few false starts we came to the Mosque. Apparently the one other thing to see here. There were a couple of young boys here. Trying to talk to us in French, but basically asking for money. When we refused the english came out, and even I learnt a few choice words and gestures. One of the boys was very hard to shake off, and followed us for some time, before a woman shoed him away.
We followed the curve of the buildings, and made our way down to the river. It was a good view from here, but the trees covered the Kasbah. The fields here are still being worked, but between crops at the moment.
Having enough of this, as it was quite a hot day, we started to make our way back to the city centre. The streets here are a lot cleaner than in the smaller towns we have been in (all two of them!) and apart from the fumes from 50 year old cars, not too bad.
As we meandered through town we found the souvenirs we wanted. We just had to work out how much it would cost us, and how to get it home. Wooden doors. They were beautiful. Fine decorations, and layers of wood with intricate carvings. This shop must have plundered a few palaces, as these rivaled or bettered the ones in the Kasbah. It would be great to tuck one in our luggage to take home. Or wrap it up and post it! I think one of them would look good on Mum & Dad’s garage, until we buy a mansion that will fit it…