Palace Museums of Marrakech

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
Trip End Jan 05, 2008

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Unlike most of the other places I would visit in my nearly four months in West Africa, Marrakech has numerous museums showcasing Moroccan art and handicrafts and regional history, and several very different palaces that are major tourist draws.  Among those I visited on my two days in Marrakech are the Maison Tiskiwin, the museum home of a Dutch art historian; Dar Si Said, a former palace that now houses the Museum of Moroccan Arts; and the Musee de Marrakech, the city's historical museum housed in a well-restored old riad (inn). 
The Palais El-Badi is still an impressive sight even if it is now an ancient-looking ruin with storks nesting picturesquely on what remains of its thick stone walls.  The palace was built in the late 1500s and was reputed to be one of the largest and most beautiful palaces in the world at the time.  It's certainly massive. 
The other big palace museum draw is the Palais de la Bahia, the late 19th-century built house of the Grand Vizier of Marrakech and another great showcase of Islamic residential architecture and art.  Palais de la Bahia is firmly on the tour group trail, though, and clearly demonstrates some of the problems of mass tourism I also saw in a number of other places in Morocco.  With he din of tour guides screaming in various languages and crowds of tour groupies trying to listen to them or jostling for some space to take the best photos, popular places like Marrakech and the Palais de la Bahia ned not fewer tourists but better management of tour groups so as not to spoil the experience for all.  One of those is audiophones and ear pieces I've scene in a few places, which enable a tour guide to be heard by all group members but to speak softly enough not to create a great deal of noise for others.  Second is better management so that tour groups visit at different times of day; all tours seem to follow the same circuit around the sights which are packed for a relatively short part of the day and then deserted for the rest of it.  A small amount of such coordination could greatly enhance the enjoyment of all, including those on the tours.  It seems I timed my visit to Palais de Bahia exactly wrong and nearly got crushed in the crowd, an experience similar to what I recall from when I was leading trips in Egypt where a similar phenomenon took place, greatly detracting from travelers' enjoyment of the sights.
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