by Alison Bing· Aug 20 2010
This is an excerpt from the architecture section of Lonely Planet's Morocco guide.
Towering minarets not only aid the acoustics of the call to prayer, but provide a visible reminder of God and community that puts everything else – spats, dirty dishes, office politics – back in perspective. Muslim visitors claim that no Moroccan architecture surpasses buildings built for the glory of God, especially mosques in the ancient Islamic spiritual centre of Fez. With walls and ablutions fountains covered in lustrous green and white Fassi zellij (ceramic-tile mosaic) and a mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca) elaborately outlined in stucco and marble, Fez mosques are purpose-built for spiritual uplift.
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At the centre of the medina (old city), you’ll find labyrinthine souqs (covered market streets) beneath lofty minarets, twin symbols of the ruling
power’s worldly ambitions and higher aspirations. In these ancient medinas you can still see how souqs were divided into zones by trade, so that medieval shoppers would know exactly where to head for pickles or camel saddles. In Morocco. souqs are often covered with palm fronds for shade and shelter, and criss-crossed with smaller streets. Unlike souqs, these smaller streets often do not have names, and are collectively known as qissaria. Most qissariat are through streets, so when (not if) you get lost in them, keep heading onward until you intersect the next souq or buy a carpet, whichever happens first.
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Image of the souq in Marrakesh by seier+seier
Dramatic form follows defensive function in many of Morocco’s trading posts and ports. The Almoravids took no chances with their trading capital, and wrapped Marrakesh in 16km of pink pis