As we walked between sites in Meknes, my eye was caught by this colorful flag:
Our guide told us it is the flag of the Berbers, the indigenous people of North Africa. The red symbol in the center is the Berber letter yaz, and symbolizes "the free man." The blue represents the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Oceans, the green is the coastal farmlands and mountains, and the yellow is the Sahara Desert. The flag was created in the 1970s by Berber activists. All together the flag shows man living in harmony with the land. We saw this flag fairly often. The Berbers are the dominant group here, the men being easily identified by their hooded robes. Our guide Hassan was a Berber and grew up in the Middle Atlas region.
The actual Moroccan flag is quite simple--a green star on a red background:
I kept thinking it was a Christmas decoration, but then remembered that Muslims don't celebrate Christmas. The five-pointed star is the seal of Solomon, and green is the color of Islam. Red symbolizes courage and strength.
Anyway, when we walked over to look at the Berber flag, we happened upon this metalworks shop:
I absolutely love this regal lion. Good thing it wouldn't fit in our luggage. It probably costs as much as our car:
We watched an artist at work for a few minutes. He carved fine lines into the black form, then lightly tapped silver wire into the groove to make the designs.Areas that look like solid silver on the lion above are actually rows of silver thread packed tightly together. Everything was being done freehand.
The level of artisanship in Morocco is mind boggling. Work like this must take years to learn and perfect. I think Moroccans must be the most artistic people we have ever run across.
|Photo borrowed from here|
Next we visited the Royal Granary. Moulay Ismail--or one of his engineers--devised an ingenious way of keeping the granary cool. It is a series of stone rooms connected by curved hallways that force the cooling breeze into the side rooms. We could feel the air moving through the portals as we walked through. In addition, water was forced through underground channels to help keep things cool. Genius.
Yes, 12,000. He needed a lot of storage space for that much feed.
On the far side of the granary is the Royal Stable. It takes a pretty big stable to care for 12,000 horses. (Did I mention he had a lot of horses?)
We happened to be the only tourists at the stables at the end of the day. The light was magical, casting a glow over the stone that made the colors appear to be super-saturated.
Standing in the center of the stables was like standing in an orchard, except where there are trees planted in fixed horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines in an orchard, there are doors in the stable, and everywhere we looked was perfectly lined up.