jeudi 9 juin 2011

The Zaouia of Sidi Bel Abbes

Rue Amesfah runs for around 150m north of the intersection with Rue Baroudienne before reaching the junction of Rue Assouel (to the east) and Rue Bab Taghzout (to the west). Following Rue Bab Taghzout, you pass another fondouk, opposite a small recessed fountain known as Chrob ou Chouf ("drink and admire"), and around 500m further down, the old city gate of Bab Taghzout. This marked the limits of the original Almoravid Medina, and continued to do so into the eighteenth century, when Sultan Mohammed Abdallah extended the walls to enclose the quarter and the Zaouia of Sidi Bel Abbes.
Sidi Bel Abbes was born in Ceuta in 1130. As a marabout and a prolific performer of miracles, particularly giving sight to the blind, he is the most important of Marrakesh's seven saints, and his zaouia, a kind of monastic cult centre, has traditionally wielded very great influence and power, often at odds with that of the sultan and providing a refuge for political dissidents.
The present buildings, entry to which is strictly forbidden to non-Muslims, date largely from a reconstruction by Moulay Ismail, an act that was probably inspired more by political motivation than piety. you can see something of the complex and its activities from outside the official boundary - do not, however, try to pass through the long central corridor. The zaouia has prospered over the centuries; in 1875, it was said to possess property to the value of £200,000 and serves as a great almshouse and asylum.
It still owns much of the quarter to the north and continues its educational and charitable work, distributing food each evening to the blind.
The tomb of Sidi Bel Abbes is in the nearby Sidi Marouk cemetery and can, for a small fee, be visited by non-Muslims; look for the white koubba with the light green dome. A couple of blocks to the southwest, there is a smaller, though again significant zaouia dedicated to Sidi Mohammed ben Slimane, a Saadian marabout and another of Marrakesh's seven saints.

West to Bab Doukkala : Dar El Glaoui
A third alternative from Ben Youssef is to head west towards Bab Doukkala. This route, once you've found your way down through Souk Haddadine to Rue Bab Doukkala, is a sizeable thoroughfare and very straightforward to follow. Midway, you pass the Dar El Glaoui, the old place of the Pasha of Marrakesh and a place of legendary exoticism throughout the first half of this century . Part of it is nowadays occupied by the Ministry of Culture; visitors are allowed in at the discretion of the caretaker, but there's little to see. The main section of the place remains private.

3 commentaires:

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