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Medinas of Morocco by Judi Phillips

By: Judi Phillips

The medinas in Morocco and, in other cities I’ve visited in North Africa, are the oldest part of a city, built in medieval times with a high wall encircling the perimeter as a defense against invaders.  The streets were intentionally narrow to prevent the entrance of chariots. And doorways were low to keep out men astride horseback.

These are the dry facts. They don’t begin to convey the magic and excitement of being there. There are shops of all kinds, shoes, traditional clothing, poufs (we would call them hassocks), antiques and souvenirs. Each medina has a different feel.

Originally named Mogador, Essaouira was first a Phoenician trading settlement, followed by Cretan, Greek and Roman settlements. The present medina is relatively new, having been built in the 18thcentury. Parts are covered over with narrow passageways. Other streets are open and wider. In this picture, you can see the wall on the right. There are several restaurants, cafes and coffee bars as well as many small shops.

The medina in Fez is much older, having been established in the 6th century. Pedestrians, motorbikes and donkey carts share the narrow maze of streets. [picture of medina-fez] Shops filled with colorful wares line the streets. Fez is famous for the leather tanneries with large, open vats of colorful dyes.

As I mentioned last week, Rabat was founded in the 3rd century. I always go to the medina with my son. He knows it very well and I know I would get lost in the winding streets. We usually enter the gate on the ocean side. The first picture above is taken just before that entrance. People still live inside the medina. There are hidden courtyards [hidden courtyard picture] and delightful restaurants. One of my son’s favorites is in a Ryad (residence), Dinarjet. This picture doesn’t begin to show the elegance of these homes.

Across the Bou Regreg River from Rabat is Salé. Originally a Phoenician colony it is more famously known as the Barbary Coast, a haven for pirates during the 16th and 17th centuries. Here’s me standing in front of the Barbary Coast.

As before, as a thank you for visiting Morocco with me, one lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to receive ahandcrafted bookmark, made of embossed metal with a fancy tassel attached, that I brought at the medina in Marrakech.

I hope you enjoyed a personal look into the country of Morocco and why I love it there. You’re always welcome to visit me at my website,

Jane - January 22, 2012 - 1:41 am

I remember watching Bizarre Foods and Andrew was in Morocco and he visited a tannery. He also described the smell.

Mary Preston - January 22, 2012 - 2:42 am

I believe it would be magic. So much history. I’m quite envious.

Marilyn Baron - January 22, 2012 - 7:42 am

Thank you again for bringing this “new” world alive for us. I loved the pictures. I’ve always heard of the Barbary Coast and never knew where it was. A fascinating glimpse into a place I’ve never visited. Thanks.

Blythe Gifford - January 22, 2012 - 8:10 am

I’ve recently been reading TRAVELS, by Paul Bowles. It’s a collection of his travel writings, many of which are about Morocco. Your piece was a nice addition. Thanks!

Marilyn Baron - January 22, 2012 - 9:11 am


I know this is our travel day, but if you don’t mind answering a writing question for me, I’d really appreciate it. Someone just asked me if I put one or two spaces after a period in writing. I’ve always put two. Someone told that person that using two spaces after a period was outdated. Do you know what the general rule is as far as acceptable formatting for a manuscipt? Thanks.

Janel - January 22, 2012 - 1:11 pm

How fascinating it must be to have so much history surrounding you! It must be so much fun exploring, especially with your son to help with navigation. :)

Tami Brothers - January 22, 2012 - 2:05 pm

Beautiful, beautiful pictures and your description makes me feel like I’m there. Thanks so much for sharing “your” Morocco with us.

Judi - January 22, 2012 - 3:30 pm

Hi everyone. First off, I apologize for responding late. I was lunching with my critique partners, and, of course, we got to talking . . .

Yes, Jane, the smell is not a pleasant one. The leather, however, is wonderful. On most trips, I’ve brought back something leather, either shoes, a “camel saddle” or pouffs, which we know as ottomans or hassocks.

Judi - January 22, 2012 - 3:31 pm

Hi, Mary. Thanks for stopping by. It’s a wonderful country and I am so lucky to have been able to visit and look forward to spending more time there.

Judi - January 22, 2012 - 3:35 pm

Hi, Marilyn. Thanks for your comment. Ah, the Barbary Coast. The romance of pirates–although in real life, they weren’t romantic ;-)

I believe one of my ancestors has a personal connection with Morocco. My great-great grandfather was a sea captain on the China Run and most of those ships berthed in Morocco. Actually, my WIP has my g-g-f as a ghost in a very short story set in Maine. You never know where inspiration comes from.

Judi - January 22, 2012 - 3:36 pm

Hi, Blythe. Thanks for the nice comment. I love writing about my travels.

Judi - January 22, 2012 - 3:40 pm

Hi again, Marilyn. About your two-spaces-after-periods question. Yes, I believe you are right. However, all of my typing career has been in the legal profession as a legal secretary/paranormal, and we all know how quick they are to change So, by habit and profession, I keep to the two spaces. Also, when reading, I find the one-space-after period difficult to read. Not enough space to signal the end of the sentence. So, for me, I use two. I let my editors ask to make the change and I can do a global find&replace to fix it.

Judi - January 22, 2012 - 3:42 pm

Hi, Janel. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, my son who really loves history, is a great guide. My final installment next week, is a visit to the “old stuff” I’ve visited. Very interesting–at least to me ;-)

Marilyn Baron - January 22, 2012 - 4:25 pm

Thanks so much for the answer, Judi. That is so cool that your great great grandfather was a sea captain.

Sandra Elzie - January 22, 2012 - 4:32 pm

Hi Judi,
Thanks for being w/ us again today. You make it sound so very interesting over there. It makes me want to see more of the world.

Love the pictures and hope you continue to have a great time there.

Judi - January 22, 2012 - 4:33 pm

Hi, Marilyn. Yes, it’s a nice piece of synchronicity that he was there and now my son is. My mother remembered him (her grandfather) bringing back exotic things, fabrics and the like. He must have been successful because he built houses for each of his daughters when they married. My mother grew up in one of them.

Judi - January 22, 2012 - 4:46 pm

Hi, Sandra. Thanks for dropping in. I’m a late-bloomer traveler. I didn’t leave the States until the Morocco boy spent his senior year in college in Egypt. Since then, most of my travel has been in North Africa, but I have spent time in Spain, Gibraltar and Paris. The Rock of Gibraltar is enormously big!! And Paris is a magical city. I’d go back there again in a heartbeat. And would love to visit the Scottish Highlands. And Jamaica. The list goes on and on ;-)

Michelle - January 22, 2012 - 5:18 pm

Judi meant legal secretary/paralegal, not paranormal. I’m one of her critique partners, so I can mention that. It should be one space after a period. The two is a hold over from typesetting. No need anymore. It’s a hard habit to break, but doable. I did it five years ago. Good luck.
Love to hear about your travels.
Did you see any pirates?


Maxine - January 22, 2012 - 8:36 pm

You sound so knowledgeable. It makes it so fascinating to read. This sounds like a beautiful place – where I would get lost – but I think it would be fun.

Susan - January 22, 2012 - 9:10 pm


Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventures in Morocco. I have so enjoyed it. I look forward to going there one day.

Sia Huff - January 23, 2012 - 1:21 am

Blythe Gifford is today’s winner of a hancrafted bookmark from Morocco.
Thnaks for commenting Blythe. Please send your mailing infomation to the address in the sidebar.

Judi - January 23, 2012 - 7:54 am

Hi, Michelle. I would be the paranormal legal secretary :oops: Thanks for catching that. I know I can relearn the one space, but it’s a trick this old dog doesn’t want to bother to learn :-?

Judi - January 23, 2012 - 7:57 am

Hi, Maxine. Thanks for your comment. Most of my knowledge comes from my son who’s lived there over 7 years. Plus, I find it a fascinating country so I enjoy learning something new each time I visit.

Judi - January 23, 2012 - 7:58 am

Hi, Susan. Thanks for visiting. I hope you can visit there, too. It’s a wonderful country. Lots of fun things to do.

Judi - January 23, 2012 - 8:01 am

Congrats to StacyD, last week’s winner and Blyth, this week’s winner. You can e-mail me at with your mailing addresses so I can send the bookmarks.

Next week, I’m offering an electronic version of Night of Turmoil, set during the revolution in Tunisia that started the Arab Spring.

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