Downtown Mogadishu, circa 1991, amidst scenes depicting what appears to be the Somali Civil War, has temporarily been relocated to Essaouira. It is the location for a movie being made, so I am advised, by a South Korean film company.
By the large murals on the sides of houses the movie appears to be about the rule of Somalian dictator Siad Barre who came to power in 1969 following a coup. Subsequent to introducing radical change and instigating human rights abuses he was removed from power in the 1991 Civil War and died in exile in 1995.
It is ironic though that a south Korean film company is producing the film when Barre had such strong links with the north Korean government, sharing the ideals of a ‘one party Marxist-Lenninist state’.
More of his life can be read here and here
The Gnaoua have long sacrificed the absolute sacredality of its music and have evolved public performances which they called xxxxxx. Traditionally a form of healing music where the Mallem ( master musician ) supported by several other musicians and a clairvoyant, negotiated with jinn ( spirits ), fusion with other forms of music brought abouxxxxxxx. Early forms of this fusion was with American jazz players and some rock and blues musicians. The latter included Robert Plant and Jimmy Page who developed a special interest in north African music, attending concerts and festivals.
Famously members of British rock band Led Zeppelin, Page and Plant played with Gnaouia musicians in and around Marrakech in 1993.
The zaouia/koubba of Sidi Ishaq is located beautifully on the Atlantic coast. It is a short caleche ride along sandy tracks from the small town of Sidi Ishaq some 3 miles inland. The caleche park is situated in the centre of the town just off the R301 which dramatically follows the coast as far north as Safi.
The final stage of the journey, when the koubba can first be seen against the surf and the track drops down to the small sandy delta of the dried up river, is spectacular.
I can find no information about Sidi Ishaq, other than the shrine is a part of the Regraga annual pilgrimage throughout the Chiadme region.
A gaggle of older men in djellabas were sitting outside of the main entrance into the zaouia of Moulay Abdel Hussein, the grandfather of Moulay Brahim who’s tomb and zaouia resides a little further south in the foothills of the Atlas mountains. Both grandfather and grandson and their zaouias, play significant roles in a ritual which forms part of the living history of the Sidna Bilal Gnaoua brotherhood; a history which is primarily contained in the very music and rituals it performs.
The legend and associated moussem ( festival ) is documented in a former blog post here . (more…)
Disparate images from the vicinity of the harbour in Essaouira
Dar Soltane ( the Sultan’s House built in the late 18th century ) is an impressive ruin in the sand dunes south of Essaouira. It was once the home of the sultan of Morocco, Sidi Mohamed III Ben Abdallah al Qatib.
I initially considered including some of the photographs below in a recent blog post ( here ) regarding the legend of Jimi Hendrix. Legend incorrectly suggests he was inspired by Dar Soltane to write his song Castles Made of Sand . However because of the interesting history of the palace in its own right I decided to document the photographs in a separate posting.
The ruins are very easily reached by taking a bus from Essaouira to Diabat, then walking along the sandy road which leads directly to them. I approached by walking along the beach from Essaouira, past the horses and camel rides, over dunes and a small lagoon and as far as a little lighthouse looking out over the ocean. Then I cut inland to the ruins which had been visible for a considerable time.
First impressions, as the great walls struggle out of the suffocating sand and thickets of bushes and trees, are that the ruins are extremely evocative and must have been magnificent when first constructed. I have managed to find something of a history online which I have translated and reproduced below together with some photographs.