On Sunday we got a little further afield from Marrakech proper. We headed outside the walls where our first stop was the Marrakech oasis. This oasis was planted in the 11th century. There are thousands of date palms which are watered by an elaborate underground irrigation system. Unfortunately, according to Mustapha, too much water lowers the quality of the dates. Now, he says, some of the best dates come from California. It was at the oasis that we saw our first fairly large groups of camels. [We don’t have camels in Morocco; these are dromedaries. You can call them camels.] Mustapha said that the camels were for use by tourists but were still also used as pack animals hired from here. We saw one group of about 15 tourists riding a string of bored-looking camels. They were swaying back and forth and just watching them made Patricia a little queasy.
After the oasis we headed around another edge of the city to get to the Royal Palace and the Royal Gardens. To get there we drove an a fairly small single lane road that lead past an area of very rich and very large villas. People like Nicholas Sarkozy own homes in this area and there was a large police presence. I am sure the narrow road was designed that way to keep out traffic. [Note: Mustapha says there is one policeman for every 374 Moroccans.] When we got to the Royal Palace (there are a lot of Royal Palaces) we drove through the outer walls and then followed the inner walls until we got to a dirt road. At the end of the dirt road are the Royal Gardens.
They are open for visiting on only Friday and Sunday. These too were created in the 11th century and the water for them comes from a large reservoir and what looked to me to be a primitive irrigation system. When you think “garden” you may be thinking of something on a modest scale but this garden covers a very large are. In its earliest days it supplied many of the vegetables for the city. [How handy was it that the king controlled the food supply?]
In the reservoir live many carp. Along the edge of the reservoir people sit and toss bread crumbs to the fish which swarm all over themselves. The little boys think this is hilarious.
Back into the city. We walked down a series of small streets to reach the Dar Is Said (“House of Sir Said”). This early 20th century building has been turned into a very nice museum that really shows off the beautiful walls and ceilings of that and earlier periods as well as an extensive collection of fabrics, jewelry, ancient flintlock rifles—one with a barrel longer than I am tall, ceramics and other Moroccan historical artifacts. We went from room to room looking at the magnificent art work that covered the walls and ceilings. The wealth it must have taken to build this dwelling must have been staggering. And as with so much of the beauty in Fes and Marrakech, you would never know it was there from the outside. The side trip to the caftan store is something Patricia can tell you about.
Both of us were feeling a bit puny so we cut the day short and returned to Riad Kniza for a restful afternoon. In a while we will start re-packing for the next leg of our trip to the High Atlas. While we were at the Royal Gardens we could just barely see the High Atlas through the haze. [There is no pollution in Morocco.]
The other night I posted a picture of the rose petal-strewn bed at the riad. We took more pictures today that I hope will give you an idea of how nice Riad Kniza is.