Posts Tagged ‘Islamic Architecture’

Must See, Top Rated Palaces in Marrakech, Your Morocco Private Tour Guide

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Must See, Top Rated Places and Palace in Marrakech offers the perfect Insiders Guide to travelers who are visiting Morocco on a Private Tour. Don’t miss out on some of Marrakech’s Best places that range for Palaces to ancient Mosques. Known for it’s magnificent palaces and old world decor designed by the Moors with Andalusian flavor, Marrakech is a must on every travelers bucketlist.

Marrakech is home to several magnificent, must see Palaces located in the historic district, also referred to as the medina. When visiting Marrakech on a Private Tour to Morocco these Top Rated Palaces are historically significant and offer a window into the former lives of royalty who built and managed these century old lavish homes. The palaces of Marrakech are essentially riads (courtyard homes) based upon the concept of Roman villas with lush interior courtyards, ornate architecture, hand crafted cedar wood and painted ceilings and succulent gardens. Marrakech’s palaces are typically surrounded by walls given this was a tradition of protection and to prevent those passing by from seeing inside. Many of the Marrakech palaces and riads have been been transformed into boutique hotels and guest houses.

Several of the palaces such as the Bahia Palace, El Badi Palace, Dar Si Said Palace, are historic landmarks, that have remained open to the public as to visit on a Guided tour of Marrakech. These palaces are also used by art organizations such as the Marrakech Bienalle and the Marrakech International Film Festival for both public and private events.

Bahia Palace, Marrakech

Bahia Palace, Marrakech












Bahia Palace

The Bahia Palace was built at the end of 19th century by Si Moussa, grand vizier to the sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abderahmane 1859 -1873, as his personal residence. The work on the palace was continued by his son Ba Ahmed who was grand vizier to Sultan Moulay Hassan and the powerful regent to the young sultan, Abdel Aziz. They brought craftsmen from Fes who created carved and painted and guided wooden ceilings and reception rooms and numerous courtyards. The haphazard warren of rooms is partly due the growing number of official wives and concubines with their children. The most imposing feature is the vast courtyard used for official occasions and decorated with a central basin. It leads onto to gardens and palm trees. When Ba Ahmed died all his possessions were seized by the sultan and the palace is completely empty of fixtures and fittings. The Bahia has an imposing entrance through the main gate, which is just up from the Jewish Mellah. It was the headquarters of the French military during the French Protectorate and the American novelist Edith Wharton stayed there as a guest of Marshal Lyautey in 1917. The Royal family still uses the Bahia palace for official occasions.

Ben Youssef Medersa, Marrakech

Ben Youssef Medersa, Marrakech













Ben Youssef Medersa

Visit the Ben Youssef Madrasa, an Islamic college in Marrakech, Morocco, named after the Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106–1142), who expanded the city and its influence considerably. It is the largest Medrasa in all of Morocco.The college was founded during the period of the Marinid (14th century) by the Marinid sultan Abu al-Hassan and allied to the neighbouring Ben Youssef Mosque. The building of the madrasa was re-constructed by the Saadian Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib (1557–1574). In 1565 the works ordered by Abdallah al-Ghalib were finished, as confirmed by the inscription in the prayer room. Closed down in 1960, the building was refurbished and reopened to the public as a historical site in 1982.

El Badi Palace, Marrakech

El Badi Palace, Marrakech










El Badi Palace

The El Badi Palace was built in the 16th century by the Saadian Sultan Ahmad al-Mansour following his victory over the Portuguese at the battle of the three Kings in 1578. This epoch making event changed the course of history as King Sebastian of Portugal and his allies were defeated and Portugal never again held sway in Morocco apart from a few costal outlets like El Jadida, Essaouira and Azemmour. The Sultanate of Morocco was at the pinnacle of its power. Portuguese ransoms and captured booty as well as Sub Saharan African gold and the sugar trade paid for the construction of the palace.
Sultan Ahmad al-Mansour died shortly after the El Badi’s completion in 1603. He had asked his court jester what he thought of his palace and the jester replied that it would make a fine ruin. By 1690 this came to pass, as Sultan Moulay Ismail stripped the El Badi completely to adorn his palace in Meknes. What you see today is a mere shell but it does give a sense of the massive proportions involved along with sunken gardens and dungeons. As so often in Moroccan history buildings were destroyed by conquerors or successors building their own stately palaces. There are fine views from the towers of the Medina and the Atlas mountains. Storks nest on the ramparts as they do along the high walls of the Royal Palace adjoining it. The Marrakech Folklore Festival Son et Lumiere with Berber dances and music takes place in July in the grounds of the El Badi and its huge ramparts and walls provide an imposing historical venue. The El Badi Palace has a museum and exhibits of which includes and a 12th-century minbar that once stood inside the Marrakech Koutoubia Mosque.

The Royal Palace, whose high walls and gates follow on from the El Badi, is also known as Dar el-Makhzen, is part of the imperial grandeur of Marrakech. It was built on the site of the Almohad Kasbah, by the Almohads in the 12th century and underwent changes by the Saadians in the 16th century and the Alaouites in the 17th century. It was one of the palaces owned by the Moroccan king, and the palace employed the most accomplished craftsmen in the city. The rooms are large, with unusually high ceilings for Marrakech, with zellij and cedar painted ceilings. At the entrance is an ancient pulley fastened to the ceiling.

Dar Si Said Palace & Museum of Arts, Marrakech

Dar Si Said Palace & Museum of Arts, Marrakech









Dar Si Said Palace & Museum of Moroccan Arts

Dar Si Said, also known as the Museum of Moroccan Arts, is located to the north of the Bahia Palace, right from the Rue Riad Ziroun el-Jedid. It was formerly the house of the brother of Bou-Ahmed, Sisi Said. The collection of the museum is considered to be one of the finest in Morocco, with jewelry from the High Atlas, the Anti Atlas and the extreme south; carpets from the Haouz and the High Atlas; oil lamps from Taroudant; blue pottery from Safi and green pottery from Tamgroute and leatherwork from Marrakesh. There is also a fine small garden laid out in classic Moroccan style but the glory of Dar Said is the carved and painted ceilings on the top floor which are the finest example of painted ceilings in Marrakech. Some of the wooden screens and frames were recovered from the El Badi palace. Today in the Middle East, Moroccan craftsmen are sought after as creators of Moroccan carved and painted ceilings in palaces and corporate headquarters. Their craftsmanship was displayed in the New York Metropolitan Museum exhibition “The Moroccan Court” in New York in 2011 and in the following year at the Shangri-La residence in Honolulu as part of a promotion for Moroccan business and cultural exchange between Morocco and Honolulu.

Dar Menebhi Palace, Marrakech

Dar Menebhi Palace, Marrakech









Dar Menebhi Palace

The Dar Menebhi Palace close to the Medersa Ben Youssef was built at the end of the 19th century by Mehdi Menebhi. The palace was carefully restored by the Omar Benjelloun Foundation and converted into a museum in 1997. The house itself represents an example of classical Andalusian architecture, with fountains in the central courtyard, traditional seating areas, a hammam and intricate zellij tile work and carvings. The museum’s large atrium (originally a courtyard, now covered in glass and fabric) contains a very large centrally hung chandelier consisting of metal plates decorated with fine geometric and epigraphic cuttings. Several features of the original courtyard, including the floor-set basins and mosaics have been retained. The museum holds exhibits of both modern and traditional Moroccan art together with fine examples of pottery and ceramics from Fes and Moroccan Jewish, Berber and Arab cultures.
Dar El Bacha

The Dar El Bacha on the Rue Bab Doukala was the palace of the Pacha of Marrakech, Thami El Glaoui, who was Pacha from 1912-1956. He entertained the cream of western high society with parties at Dar El Bacha with Winston Churchill, Colette, Maurice Ravel, Charlie Chaplin and many others. As he collaborated with the French protectorate and contrived to remove Sultan Mohamed V into exile in Madagascar, he was and remains, unpopular to this day. Although Sultan and later King Mohamed V forgave him on his return from exile, all Thami’s properties were confiscated after his death in 1956. The Dar El Bacha is now a Royal Palace and a trade union federation occupies part of its imposing edifice. It was rumored that a museum was to open there but nothing has transpired. Many would like to visit this palace but it remains closed.

For more information about Marrakech’s Palaces on a Guided Tour

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Travel Exploration Morocco donates 5% of our proceeds to Berber Villages through our charity organization called Project Feed. We are an ASTA approved travel agency and has won several accolades for our travel expertise.

Casablanca Port Tours, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca









When traveling to Morocco on a cruise ship there are many escorted, port tour excursion options. Casablanca has much to offer does its sister city Rabat. The best Casablanca port tours are those that include an English, Multilingual Speaking driver who is an expert on Casablanca and can serve as your guide for the day. Cruise ships that dock in Casablanca offer a full day at leisure for travelers who want to sightsee with others on board the ship or arrange for a private, escorted tour of Casablanca on their own.

There are many websites that offer valuable information for those interested in taking a private, Casablanca Tour or Casablanca Jewish Heritage Tour such as Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic.

The Best Casablanca Port Tours are those that offer the highlights of the city along with options to visit the Grand White Hassan II Mosque, the Museum of Moroccan Judaism along with the Marche Centrale, the Medina, Corniche and Markets.

Casablanca Port Tours and Shore Excursions are the perfect opportunity to begin an exploration of Morocco. Our Casablanca Port Guide can offer ideas for how to spend your day on a Private Tour of Casablanca.

Hassan II Mosque Interior

Hassan II Mosque Interior











Casablanca Port Guide: Site seeing Recommendations on a Private Casablanca Tour

Visit the Port of Casablanca – a surprise for travelers along with the Corniche. Casablanca’s cornice is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and people watching at one of its charming, street side cafes.

Take a Private, Guided Tour of the Hassan II Mosque, the third largest in the world. The Hassan II Mosque sites on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the leading architectural splendors of Morocco. Renowned for it’s magnificent interior and roof that allows an open-air view of the sky, Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque is an architecture landmark designed by the architect Michel Pinseau. The mosque is situated on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic which can be seen through a gigantic glass floor. The Hassan II Mosque can accommodate 25,000 worshipers on the interior and an additional 80,000 on the courtyard’s exterior facing the front of the mosque.

Visit the Notre Dame de Lourdes, a Roman Catholic cathedral and one of a kind in Casablanca. It was built in 1956 and has significant European influences. There are over 20,000 Catholics who are said to worship at the Notre Dame de Lourdes.

Casablanca Jewish Heritage, Temple Beth El

Casablanca Jewish Heritage, Temple Beth El









Explore the Museum of Moroccan Judaism of history and ethnography, created by the Jewish Community of Casablanca in 1997 with the support of the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage. The Jewish Museum in Casablanca is tucked into a residential neighborhood and holds a treasure trove with it being the Arab region’s only Jewish Museum. It uses world-class standards of conservation for its national and international collections. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism presents religious, ethnographic and artistic objects that demonstrate the history, religion, traditions and daily life of Jews in the context of Moroccan civilization. The Jewish Museum in Casablanca covers an area of 700 square meters and is the only Jewish Museum in the Muslim world.

Shop in Casablanca’s medina, at the souvenir market or explore the Habous Quarter with its attractive Islamic architecture. Discover Berber carpets, quality leather goods, crafts and ornately designed pottery, silver jewelry, and metal wares.

There is also an Exposition Nationale d’Artisanat located in the city center of Casablanca that offers excellent prefixed prices on carpets and other goods such as embroidered clothing and leather.

Rick's Cafe, Casablanca

Rick’s Cafe, Casablanca









Casablanca is also known for it’s popular restaurants that offer Moroccan and International cuisine for all budgets. La Squala is perfect for those looking to dine on light fare in a traditional Moroccan setting with a garden and courtyard. This charming restaurant while touristic is located in an old fort within the city center. For those who are fans of the film, Casablanca, Rick’s Café is perfect fit  and designed by Bill Willis, a renowned Interior with a penchant for Moroccan architecture and 10001 Arabian Nights themes. For those looking for something charming and upscale with a sea view try La Mer or Cabistan on the Cornice.

For more information about Casablanca Shore Excursions or Casablanca One-day Tours 

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Islamic Architecture in Morocco, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Saadian Tombs, Marrakech

Morocco has the richest Islamic architectural heritage in North Africa. Key to this was the influence of Muslim Andalusia, as Muslims were expelled from Spain as a result of the Christian Reconquista led by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. This Andalusian style, which was a rich fusion of European and Arab creativity had a far greater architectural influence, than the Middle East.

Morocco was at the centre of the Hispano-Moorish architectural movement for almost six centuries (11-17th Century). Algeria and Tunisia came under the Ottoman empire but Morocco maintained its independence and withstood the Ottomans. Morocco’s early Islamic architectural heritage was  enriched by  the Arab conquest in the seventh century and the indigenous Berber culture which continues to thrive today.

Due to Islam’s forbidding of all human representation, most decorative art was based on geometric patterns, arabesques and floral motifs. Cursive or Kufic script also features prominently.

Such motifs can be found in stone, brick or wood, but Hispano-Moorish art particularly favored two materials. The first, stucco, was applied in plaster form to surfaces covered in nails and sculpted while still damp, often into stalactite forms. The second, zellij tiling on panels, is a Moroccan decorative feature.

The basic layout of the mosque has not changed since the beginning. It always faces Mecca, the direction of which is shown by the mihrab, an alcove in the middle of the qibla wall. Next to it is a minbar , a platform or pulpit, made out of wood or marble, on which the spiritual leader stands to deliver his sermon. In Morocco, the minaret is a square-shaped tower, topped with a battlemented platform where the muezzin stands to call the faithful to prayer five times a day.

Ben Youssef Medersa, Marrakech

A madrasah is a college of theology. The building’s specific function gave birth to an equally specific architectural style. An elaborately decorated door with awning, opened onto a narrow central courtyard surrounded by classrooms and a prayer room. The masters and students lived in cells on an upper gallery overlooking the central courtyard. The courtyard contains the madrasah’s sophisticated decorative features: central fountain, zellij floors, intricately carved stucco fanlights, carved cedar wood corbels and cornices. The Ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakech was the largest theological college in North Africa. It was founded during the Merinid dynasty (14th century) by Sultan Abu al-Hassan and allied to the neighboring Ben Youssef Mosque. The building of the madrasah was re-constructed by the Saadian Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib (1557–1574).

A koubba, better known as a marabout, is a mausoleum built for pious Muslims who had achieved something approaching sainthood on their deaths. Their distinctive white domed roofs – koubba originally meant dome – and little cubic buildings are a familiar sight throughout the Moroccan countryside and they are the object of pilgrimages.

Very little remains architecturally of the first two or three centuries of Islam in Morocco, of the 8-10 centuries. The excavations of the ancient city of Sijimassa and the former royal city of Aghmat near Marrakech by a team was led by Professor Ron Messier, from Vanderbilt University USA and Professor Abdallah Fili faculte des letters Universite d’El Jadida. They found that the mosques in both locations were extensive with a mobile minbar, which could be moved on rails. When these locations began to decline because of factors like loss of water and population change. Their buildings were dismantled to create new structures nearby in time honored Moroccan fashion and as communities changed buildings also changed their functions. The hammam at Aghmat became a pottery.

The two most important mosques of Fès, the Qarawiyin and the Andalusian Mosque were both founded in the mid 9th century, were the work of immigrants from Andalusia.

The  Almoravid dynasty  (1070-1147).

Desert nomads, the Almoravids clearly had no architectural traditions and naturally enough adopted those of Andalusia, which they had just conquered; hence the term “Hispano-Moorish” given to this art symbolized by semicircular Moorish arches and a decorative style.

The Almohads’ hatred of the Almoravids led them to destroy all Almoravid works, which were considered too frivolous; consequently, almost nothing remains of the Almoravid edifices in Morocco itself: exceptions being some parts of the Qarawiyin Mosque in Fès, extended in 1130 and the Koubba Ba’Adiyn rediscovered in 1950 in Marrakech.

The Almohad dynasty was influenced by Andalusia, like the Almoravids and was responsible for one of the greatest artistic movements of Morocco’s history. The scale of design and the sobriety of the decoration, the handsome proportions and pure lines characterize Almohad architecture.

The fortifications and Great mosque at Taza, together with the superb funereal mosque at Tin Mel, recently restored, date from this period.

Almohad mosques have grand proportions and impressive minarets. A typical Almohad minaret is somewhat squat and square-shaped: its height is equal to five times its base, and it is constructed from freestone. The Kotoubia mosque in Marrakech was completed in the 1190’s during the reign of the Almohad Sultan Yusuf El Mansour. (1184 to 1199). Its minaret, which is 253 feet high, inspired the Giralda at Seville and the Hassan Tower at Rabat. This iconic minaret is the greatest testament to Almohad religious architecture. Moroccan square minarets continue to be built today and are unique to Morocco.

The golden age of the Marinades (1278-1358)

The Merinids’ reign, up until the mid-14C, was one of the most fertile periods of Moroccan architecture. Ornamentation became more important, even in edifices such as fortifications. The main door of the wall around Chellah (Rabat) built in 1339 is a fine example.  Abu el-Hassan and Abu Inan, the two main Merinid sultans and patrons of architecture built many mosques and madrasas. Merinid madrasahs include the Bou Inania, Attarine and Sahrij at Fès, Abu el-Hassan at Salé and Bou Inania at Meknès are among the best known.

A continuing tradition of Hispano-Moorish art persisted under the Saadians and the Alawites (16th -present). In the 20th century, the last manifestation of Hispano-Moorish art to be built was the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca.

For more information about an Imperial Cities Tour and the architecture of Morocco

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.