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Area 6 : News & Views


The longest journey starts with a single step .....................................................ancient Chinese proverb

Kathryn Watts reporting worldwide.

Article 5.

The Architecture and Souqs of Morocco

The largest and most magnificent mosque after Mecca is Hassan 2 which is situated in Casablanca. It was a magnificent piece of architecture much like the Buddhist Borobodur Temple in Java and the Cao Dai Great Temple in Vietnam, primarily entrenched in Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism with elements of Christianity, Mohammedanism and spirituality added.

The symbol is of a divine eye surrounded by a triangle. The Hassan 2 is one of the few mosques that do not forbid non-Muslims to visit. It took five years to complete with some 30,000 craftsmen working on it.

Before Muslim prayers and worship take place they must perform a washing ritual which is known as "ablution". This involves the washing of hands, feet, head and neck in water from the mosque's fountain or basin that is seen in the middle of the courtyard.

If no water is available they use clean sand to perform the ritual and if neither is available they go through the ritual in actions. The Prayer Hall within the mosque is called a "Haram" where Muslims participate in communal worship.

Within the gardens of the Palais de la Bahia were apartments situated around the courtyard which were reserved for the ladies of the house, in particular the King's many wives. These were particularly lavish places with beautiful decorations of geometrical zellij designs and stucco muqarna work.

The city of Marrakesh is surrounded by a wall. Other imperial cities also have walls, gates and citadels as a protection from local dynasties. The wall in Marrakesh is made of red pise, a clay that is naturally baked by the sun. It is 16 km in circumference and is defended by 200 gates. The one in Marrakesh that serves as a town's defence is one of the most important in Morocco.

The hub of activity in the souqs is an important part of Moroccan life both socially and economically, and commercially. It is the place where debts are settled, conflicts resolved, marriage contracts are drawn up and local gossip takes place. Narrow streets reside all around the streets and squares. These streets of the Medina serve a function that is to keep the sun's rays from the centre in the day and to draw in the cool dense evening air during the night. The souqs are made up in a particular order that can be seen repeating itself from North Africa to India.

The focal point of it lies with the mosque, which is situated at the centre. The shops around this are structured in a hierarchy, with the sellers of objects used for worship making up the first layer. Next come the sellers of leather goods and books, followed by general clothing and textile stalls. Further from the mosque or lower down the hierarchy come domestic goods, furnishings and utensils until just normal everyday things can be found. This continues until the city gates and walls are reached. Beyond this one is to find the tanneries and potters with their distinctive and noxious smells.

Before the 1930s it was considered a danger to travel in the isolated regions of the rugged terrain of the South. The buildings that can be seen to rise in the distant landscape are structures that resemble power and strength, once being defences to the Berber people. These buildings are recognised by their distinctive style quite unlike those of other traditions.

............................... Kathryn Watts

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