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Sounds, aromas, images from Morocco (part 1 of 3)

29 January, 2011 (17:19) | Living in Europe | By: admin


Call to Prayer

The first sound I recorded, from our bedroom, was the call to prayer which I have shortened for easier listening.

Fna 5 Edit
Sounds of Fna Djeema

Sounds of the Fna Djeema

Yes, we are having a blast here in Marrakesh, which is so very much more cosmopolitan that we had expected. Unlike Fes, which feels like stepping back into medieval times, Marrakesh is a wonderful mixture of medieval lifestyle, architecture, costume and modern french architecture, women dressed in modern looking, colorful and even sexy jalabas (kaftans with hoods) as well as the more conservative and secretive black robed ones roam the medina. I will have to buy myself one of those colorful jalabas while I’m here. They look comfortable.

Snake charmers reign at Le Square Djeema, but it is a cacophony of Berber drummers, storytellers, people walking past…

Marrakesh is interesting, much cleaner and more modern than Fes, yet very traditional as well. I think of my Dad as I read how in Morocco Islam and its interpretation is much more modern and open than in other countries in Africa, but I suspect this is only on the surface. I am reading up on Islam in Morocco and the Rough Guide says there is a big national holiday celebrating “Aid el Kebir”, the the occasion of the sacrifice Abraham was ready to offer of his son Isaac to the God Allah – same story as in the Catholic bible, only in Islam this is cause for celebration. For me its one of the specific stories of in the Catholic bible that has always turned me off. Its interesting that they would celebrate a man’s willingness to sacrifice the life of his own son to prove his devotion to God, or Allah…Could it be an insight into the mind set of the suicide bombers?…

Well, I’ll leave that train of thought for now and concentrate on the fun to had…

1) Mysterious muslim woman in tunnel – I see this image depicted in many paintings here. 2) Typical elaborate door knocker – who knows what mysteries lie within…This is the beginning of my “Islamic door knocker” series.


Although self conscious while snapping photos, I feel invisible when I record sounds. This next sound byte contains all the cacophony and bustle of a typical afternoon at Djeema Fna:


Djeema sounds – banjo, drums, passing vehicles, Berbers clapping, bells, snake charmers, storytellers… all of them vying for an easy buck from passing tourists… I find it is much easier to record sounds at the Djeema Fna than it is to take photos or videos.

We are staying at a tranquil riad on the edge of the funky, well traveled Medina. Other than the strains of snake charmer sounds that are vaguely audible from our riad hotel, it is mostly birds we hear from our room and private balcony:

Birds 2

Happy, well fed birds serenade us while we chill at our riad.

Although the Medina is chaotic, our riad is a tranquil oasis of comfort and relaxation.

1) Mark relaxing on our private balcony 2) A few of the more tame birds at our riad.

1) View from our bedroom of the iconic Koutoubia Minaret 2) Breakfast and dining room at our riad.

Constant movement of Djema Fna

The most famous square in Marrakesh is the Djeema Fna. Anyone who has been to Morocco knows about this lively center of vendors, carnies, snake charmers, poor people trying to sell everything from the poor pigeons they must have trapped and brought there to sell to false teeth to more legitimate wares like incense and spice. The Djeema Fna or “Le Square” as it is commonly referred to in Marrakesh, is the heartbeat of the medina. It is a place in constant motion. Mark and I go there again and again, both solo and together to record the sounds and images of this remarkable experience.

A place in constant motion. I only count 3 or 4 people simply standing.

Donkeys, horses, bicycles, cyclos, all sorts modes of transport that do not rely on gasoline are the trend in Morocco, as evidenced by this poor working donkey I photographed from an upstairs kefta restaurant where we sat by the window overlooking a busy street. The resigned donkey started out with an empty cart – I only photographed him because he was there and we were waiting for our lunch to be brought to us. When our meal came, we watched his master load up his cart with at least 11 to 13 carpets while we ate, (that’s how many I counted, but it could have been more) before the patiently resigned donkey was asked to transport them, probably to a carpet shop in the medina…

Hard working donkey, typical in Morocco.

I eventually hit the souks on a quest for a simple door knocker to bring home to Barcelona, as well as a snake charmers instrument and a Berber horn. I love haggling with Arabs, some of my most memorable and gratifying moments were spent getting great deals on slippers, jalabas, incense, spices, musical instruments and I even haggled a horse taxi down to less than 1/2 of what he originally asked for (he wanted 25 euros but I was only willing to spend 10, and indeed we succeeded in paying 10, and not a penny more.)

Riding a horse taxi to the Marrakesh Museum and Madras.

At this point I will cadence with some thumbnail photos which you can click on to view a larger image, of my Islamic door knocker series, before I move on to my next Morocco blog, which will document a day trip to the coastal village of Essouira.

Some of the many door knockers I photographed while exploring. Eventually I found a souk that sells them.

Although the sound quality is not great, I share this iPhone recording of the call to prayer from the garden at our riad because the cantor (is that what they’re called?) is giving such a virtuoso performance that I had to record it, even though my NAGRA recorder was in our room. I love the birds and ambience as much as the singer – too bad I was only equipped with my iPhone.

Virtuoso Prayer

iPhone audio recording of virtuoso call to prayer with birds and ambient sounds.

1) A humble man observes call to prayer in a back alley 2) A traditionally clad woman who takes up more space than 3 normal persons would, as she glides through the Medina, apparently oblivious to passing vehicles and tourists.

I have so many gorgeous photos, too many to share. My parting images are of how modern times and medieval times seem to have merged into one.

1) if you look closely you start to notice all the satellite dishes in the Old Medina. 2) A conservatively clad Muslim man texting someone. These two images feel like an oxymoron: no matter how much Islamic countries such as Morocco preach against Western ways and encourage their people to keep a good wall between Allah and the Almighty Dollar, in practice Islamic people mostly want the same things as us: comfort, money and internet/cable hook-ups.

Memo 6 1

Postscript: I may revisit this blog and add more images later. But for now I’m ready to move on to “Sounds, aromas, images from Morocco, Part 2 (of 3)”