Travel Report: Marrakesh Museum, Morocco.
October, 2008. I’ve seen a zillion art museums throughout my years travelling the world. However, I’m certainly no art connoisseur, not by a long shot. In fact, these days when I put together a city itinerary, it’s a fifty fifty crapshoot as to whether the big art museum makes the cut. I think I’ve gotten to the point where there has to be a unique selling point. If I look back over the most memorable art museums I’ve seen, there’d certainly be a top five place for Marrakesh Museum in Morocco.
Marrakesh Museum has a dramatic location within the former Mnebhi Palace. This was the 19th century residence of Mehdi Menebhi, Morocco’s Minister of Defence from 1900-1903. It’s a truly lavish building that shows off some stunning Moorish design, with stone pillars, arched doorways, marble fountains and mosaic patterns. The main courtyard is amazing, particularly its staggering chandelier of metal plates and epigraphic cuttings. Regarding the actual art, honestly it plays second fiddle to what is essentially an exercise in “Look at this guy’s mental crib!”
Menebhi eventually lost his grand Marrakesh home when Thami El Glaoui, the so-called Lord of The Atlas stole it from him during the overthrow of Sultan Mohammed V. El Glaoui had been conspiring with the French and for him the palace was a nice bonus!
It definitely helped to have this historical overview as we strolled around Marrakesh Museum. Furthermore, it was actually quite exciting to gaze down from the balconies thinking of how crazy it must have been when the treacherous El Glaoui stormed in alongside French troops.
In 1965 the palace fell into the hands of the state as a result of Morocco’s independence. Later on, it was turned into a girl’s school! Many of the galleries here are set in the building’s old classrooms and their connecting corridors.
It was cool unearthing the museum’s hidden pieces in their unlikely locations. The paintings here are in a tiny room at the end of a dank, one-way corridor down in the basement. It wasn’t the most inviting approach and consequently we were the only ones down here!
It wasn’t until 1997 that the old palace finally reinvented itself as Marrakech Museum. Today a visit here comes at a negligible cost of 30 Dirhams. It’s open daily from 09:00-18:30.
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