Of Tea and Henna : A Nice Welcome

Of Tea and Henna : A Nice Welcome

For the first time whilst visiting shrines in the Chiadme region I had come across stalls selling items either as souvenirs or for consumption at the shrine as part of a ritual.  The shrine was in a small village called Sidi Abdeljalil some 3 kilometres from Talmest where the bus had dropped me.  I then travelled to Sidi Abdeljalil by calèche,  where the driver of the horse drawn cart allowed me to take the reins whilst he smoked a pipe of kiff.

The road was bumpy and twisty and the horse had a mind of its own.  The minimal instructions I had received were woefully inadequate and I was relieved to pass the reins back following his smoke.

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Sidi Magdoul,  the Scottish Saint of Essaouira

Sidi Magdoul, the Scottish Saint of Essaouira

At the furthest southern edge of Essaouira a large marabout tomb is becoming increasingly suffocated by creeping modernity. Once isolated it is now hemmed in by a sewage works, a complex of roads, industrial buildings and several large modern houses. This cacophony of progress diminishes much of the visual sanctity of the shrine.

I have visited previously on several occasions, walking firstly alongside Essaouira’s modern concrete beach promenade towards the small lighthouse before cutting a little inland where the shrine is found. Its green dome and grey crenellated walls, suggestive of a fortress rather than a shrine, manage to still be seen within the urban chaos around it. On the two occasions I have visited previously I had not managed to gain entry to the building from the family living at the site; this time I resolved to be a little more assertive.

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Sidi Kaouki : A Marabout Shrine on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco

Sidi Kaouki : A Marabout Shrine on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco

Sidi Kaouki is a small town on the windswept Atlantic coast of west Morocco.  Some 25 miles south of Essaouira, its long golden sands and dashing surf make it a favourite for surfers and windsurfers.  There is a collection of stylish hotels, surfing and windsurfing schools,  and lines of drying wetsuits around its environs, which attest to this interest.

Standing at the top of the beach,  close to the coterie of cafes and shops,  is a marabout shrine.  Here the white building  rises from the sandy beach as the largest structure close to the shoreline.  This particular type of building is known as a Koubba,  or Koubbeh,  which is Arabic for dome or cupola.  It specifically refers to a monument erected on the grave of a revered figure,  or in a place where he ( or she ) stayed or lived.

These monuments occur mainly in North Africa and consist of a spherical dome built on a square, cubist building which forms a room,  often decorated, which houses the tomb of a saint.  They are normally quite small buildings,  their size rarely exceeding 4 meters square.

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Of Marabouts, Jinns and Foqahas

Of Marabouts, Jinns and Foqahas

Late on my final afternoon in Meknes in early June 2019 I decided to investigate an interesting religious building I had seen whilst travelling to the holy pilgrimage town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun by bus several days earlier. This building was situated next to a cemetery on the main ring road which surrounds Meknes close to Bab Berdaine.

I walked under Bab Berdaine and out of the Medina.  From the ring road the view was uninterrupted across countryside as far as the range of hills in the distance where, on the invisible side and out of sight, Moulay Idriss’ mausoleum nestled within a valley.  The landscape was burnished by the early June sun.  Beside me, as I walked, cars,  motor cycles and buses slowly filed by,  their noise destroying an otherwise peaceful afternoon.

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