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October 25, 2011

Morocco Pavilion - Part Two

Yesterday I presented you with an overview of the Morocco Pavilion and the ville nouvelle (new city). Today I'll discuss the Medina, or old city.

But before we venture through the Boujouloud Gate into the Medina, I'd like to point out that the Morocco Pavilion holds an interesting distinction among its World Showcase neighbors. It is the only pavilion to be entirely sponsored by a government rather than corporations. In order to insure accuracy in the pavilion, King Hassan II sent Moroccan craftsmen and artists to aid the Imagineers in creating the mosaics, tile work, and intricate carvings. Nine tons of handmade, hand-cut tiles were used to adorn the various structures within the pavilion. Islamic religion prohibits artistic depictions of live objects. So instead of portraying plants, animals, and people, decorations consist of detailed geometric patterns. So next time you visit the Morocco Pavilion, take some time to search out and find some of these fascinating designs. You won't have to look too far. They're everywhere.


Moroccan Art


In the ville nouvelle (new city), the plaza is broad and the buildings are laid out in an orderly fashion, but beyond Boujouloud Gate and into the Medina or old city, the streets become narrow and winding and the buildings' positioning somewhat chaotic. The Disney Imagineers have skillfully taken a very small space and filled it with so many twists and turns a person could almost get lost within this pavilion.


Medina Streets

Medina Streets

Medina Streets

Medina Streets

Medina Streets

Medina Streets


Moroccan Proverb: The first thing one should own is a home; and it is the last thing one should sell. For a home is one's castle this side of heaven.

Fez House is a recreation of a traditional Moroccan home built around a central courtyard. From the courtyard are a number of rooms which can be opened and closed depending on the need for privacy. Additional living space can be found behind the doors located on the second floor.


Fez House

Fez House

Fez House

Fez House

Fez House Musician


A second minaret can be found in the Medina. This tower is a replica of the minaret at Chellah, a historical site located near the city of Rabat, Morocco's capitol. Chellah was originally founded by the Romans as a maritime station. In the 14th century, Abu l-Hasan of the Merinid Dynasty, reconstructed the site to become a retreat and necropolis. Many of the structures were damaged by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Today, the site is a garden and tourist venue.


Chellah Minaret - Epcot

Chellah Minaret - Chellah


Much of the Medina is inhabited by shops. Everything from Persian rugs to fine leather goods can be found here. You'll even find some interesting food stuffs to take home so you can cook up an exotic meal for the family. For a truly unique gift for yourself or a friend, think about buying a belly dancer's scarf and headdress. Much of the merchandise is displayed in a cluttered fashion, just like you'd experience in a bustling Moroccan marketplace.


Medina Shops

Medina Shops

Medina Shops

Medina Shops

Medina Shops - Food Stuff

Medina Shops - Belly Dancer Headwear


In Marketplace in the Medina, the Imagineers have played a trick on the guests. In what seems to be an open-air bazaar, a close observer will notice that the area is actually enclosed to protect people and merchandise from the elements. Take a look at the ceiling. Rafters, logs, and twigs hide the skylight above. The effect is very convincing.

It's also in Marketplace in the Medina that you'll find the Kidcot Station.


Marketplace in the Medina

Marketplace in the Medina

Kidcot Station


Sight and touch aren't the only senses the Imagineers use to make you believe you're in a faraway land. Smell and hearing are also brought into the mix. The aroma of incense can be detected in many of the shops. The smells are intoxicating and soothing. And when you're out and about in the Morocco Pavilion, be sure to listen to the music being played in the background. Besides traditional Moroccan melodies, the sounds of chickens, goats, and other rural noises can be heard. It was the Imagineer's intention to subtly add sounds that one might hear while shopping in a real Moroccan marketplace.

Outside the shops you'll discover a number of potted plants. Citrus and olives trees, important crops in Morocco, are a common sight.


Citrus Tree

Olive Tree


At the back of the Medina in a courtyard, perched high above the street, is a reproduction of an ancient water clock found in Fez. The chimes on the original have long since disappeared, but have been recreated at the Morocco Pavilion. A water clock or clepsydra is a timepiece which measures the passage of time by the regulated flow of a liquid either into or out of a vessel which is then subsequently measured.


Water Clock - Epcot

Water Clock - Fez


In this same courtyard is a replica of the Nejjarine Fountain found in the old section of Fez. Once again, the very close approximation of the original is stunning.


Nejjarine Fountain - Epcot

Nejjarine Fountain - Fez


I'm sorry to say that Restaurant Marrakesh, located at the back of the Morocco Pavilion, is probably the least visited eatery at Epcot. This is a shame because this spot offers a wonderful selection of delicious options including, but not limited to, roast lamb, shish kebab, couscous and brochette of chicken, as well as a vegetarian selection and a kid-friendly menu. I have to suspect that most people are unfamiliar with Moroccan cuisine and thus afraid to try this restaurant. But you should get over your inhibitions and give this spot a chance. Unless you live in a big city, you probably don't have a Moroccan restaurant nearby so your opportunities to try this wonderful fare are most likely limited to your visits to Epcot. Even a picky eater can find several great dishes to try here.

Like the rest of the Morocco Pavilion, the interior of Restaurant Marrakesh is stunningly decorated. During the course of your meal, a two-piece combo plays appropriate music and a lovely belly dancer shows off her talents and encourages little ones to join her on the dance floor. You couldn't ask for a better photo opportunity.


Restaurant Marrakesh - Exterior

Restaurant Marrakesh - Interior

Belly Dancer


Although reservations are requested, they are rarely needed. In an effort to encourage guests to try this spot, a reservation podium and menu can be found on the promenade in front of the pavilion.


Prominade Podium


Please, on your next trip to Epcot, consider giving Restaurant Marrakesh a try. You'll be happy you did. I have never had a bad experience here and everyone who finally heeds my recommendation thanks me later.

The Morocco Pavilion possesses another interesting bit of Disney trivia, but you need to travel to the bridge leading to the Mexico Pavilion to discover this tidbit. When looking at the Morocco Pavilion from this spot, you can see the Tower of Terror (located at Disney's Hollywood Studios) directly behind the minaret and buildings. The Imagineers were well aware that differences in architectures could spoil the "lines" of Morocco. So they gave the top of the Tower of Terror some exotic flourishes that help it blend seamlessly with this African nation. The Tower of Terror was also painted a color complementary to the Morocco Pavilion - a color that probably would not be authentic with a pallet of 1930's-40's Hollywood.


Tower of Terror


I would now like to pose a question to my Muslim readers (or anyone truly knowledgeable about this religion).

Each night during Illuminations, nine of the eleven World Showcase countries are outlined with small lights as part of the pageantry. These lights were added to the pavilions BEFORE Morocco and Norway were added to Epcot. I have often read that because of religious beliefs, the buildings of Morocco cannot be illuminated in this manner. If this is the reason, then why hasn't Norway been retrofitted with these lights? Surely there are no religious or social restrictions in this Christian country. I have always suspected that Disney just didn't want to spend the money to add lights and reprogram the show to add Norway and Morocco. I have asked a Muslim friend of mine about this and she is not aware of any religious restrictions.

So what's the story folks? Can someone shed any substantiated light on this subject of lights? Cast member hearsay doesn't count. It's too unreliable.

That's it for my tour of the Morocco Pavilion. I realize that Morocco is a little less familiar to most of us than the other World Showcase nations, but that gives you all the more reason to slow down and smell the roses when visiting here. There is so much to learn and experience.

As always, I've created a video for your enjoyment.




October 24, 2011

Morocco Pavilion - Part One

Morocco Pavilion across World Showcase Lagoon


Of all the World Showcase nations, most Americans probably know the least about the real country of Morocco. Past episodes in history and immigration patterns have brought the other nations of Epcot a little closer to us than this Northern African country. Yet, Morocco does have a very interesting tie to the United States. In December 1777, sultan Muhammad III created a list of countries that were welcome to use Moroccan seaports. Included on this list was the United States. Thus, Morocco became the first country to have a head of state publicly recognized our new nation. In 1787, this recognition was formalized with the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship and was signed by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Muhammad III. Morocco holds the longest unbroken treaty with the United States. If you look closely at the last page of the treaty below, you can make out Adams' and Jefferson's signatures.


Treaty of Friendship


The United States also opened its first consulate in Tangier in 1797. The building was given to the U.S. by sultan Moulay Slimane and it is the oldest U.S diplomatic property in the world.

Morocco also played an interesting part in the history of WWII. From January 14 to 24, 1943, the Casablanca Conference was held in the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca. Here, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Charles de Gaulle planned the European strategy of the Allies. Joseph Stalin was also invited to this conference but he declined to attend due to the ongoing fighting in Stalingrad.


Franklin and Churchill in Casablanca


So you see, Morocco does hold an important place in the history of the United States.

The English name "Morocco" comes from either the Portuguese "Marrocos" or the Spanish "Marruecos." Both are derived from the Latin "Morroch" which refers to the name of the formal capital, Marrakesh. In Persian and Urdu, Morocco is still called "Marrakesh" which means Land of God.

The Morocco Pavilion was the first pavilion to be added to World Showcase after the initial opening of Epcot. It opened on September 7, 1984. Like the Germany Pavilion, Morocco has its own landing for the Friendship boats that ferry guests back and forth across World Showcase Lagoon.


Friendship Boat Landing at Morocco


The structures in the Morocco Pavilion were based on designs found in the cities of Casablanca, Marrakesh, Rabat, and Fez. In addition, the pavilion, like many Moroccan cities, is divided into two sections. Ville nouvelle (new city) occupies the outer portion of the pavilion while the Medina, or old city, can be found in the back half. The two sections of the pavilion are delineated by the Bab Boujouloud Gate. The Epcot version of this portal was inspired by a structure found in the city of Fez. The similarities between the two are striking.


Bab Boujouloud Gate - Epcot

Bab Boujouloud Gate - Fez


At water's edge you'll find an ancient waterwheel. Much of Morocco is arid, but it does have a number of rivers which are used for irrigation. Waterwheels like the one depicted here are still used today to draw water from the rivers and irrigate the fields. Morocco's chief crops are barley, wheat, olives, citrus fruits, and grapes.


Waterwheel


At the Morocco Pavilion, the water drawn by the waterwheel is directed into a Chahar Bagh (Persian for four gardens). The classic design of a Chahar Bagh has a fountain or holding trough at the center of the garden which flows into four channels at right angles to each other. The four channels are often associated with the four rivers of Paradise as described in the Koran. These waters flow to the four quarters of Heaven.


Chahar Bagh

Chahar Bagh


Next to the Chahar Bagh is a stage where the group Mo'Rockin performs each afternoon and evening. This group of five musicians uses traditional and modern instruments to create a unique spin on Middle Eastern, African, Spanish, and American music. Each performance lasts around twenty minutes. And if the music isn't enough to keep you entertained, a belly dancer is on hand to spice things up. There's no rockin' like MO'ROCKIN! Check your Times Guide for current performance times.


MO'ROCKIN

MO'ROCKIN


Here is a picture taken of this area in 1986, long before a stage was added and a permanent store erected.


Early Stage


Behind the stage guests can find a typical peddler's cart. Even today, street vendors are commonplace in many Moroccan cities. In fact, their proliferation has become epidemic and many avenues are impassible to automobiles due to the number of merchants selling their wares.


Peddler's Cart


Tucked away near the water's edge is a small merchant's shop. Here, a talented artist can apply a henna tattoo to your body. There are a number of designs to choose from and they can be previewed in a nearby catalog. The larger the application, the more the cost. A henna tattoo can be applied in a matter of minutes and typically last two to three weeks. This shop usually does not open until later in the afternoon.


The Art of Henna

The Art of Henna

The Art of Henna

The Art of Henna


Henna dye is created by crushing the leaves of the henna plant. The leaves are usually milled into a powdered form for easy transport. Then, some sort of mild acid, like lemon juice or strong tea, is added to create a paste and to activate the "dying" qualities.

Henna tattoos have a long tradition with Moroccan weddings. On the eve of the marriage, the women of the wedding party gather for a "Night of Henna." The older ladies paint the hands and feet of the bride while sharing wisdom about married life. According to tradition, the bride cannot work or perform tasks until the tattoos have completely faded.

Next to the henna vendor is the Souk-Al-Magreb shop. Here you'll find a large selection of Moroccan handicrafts. One of my favorites is a t-shirt sporting the front and back view of Habibi the camel.


Souk-Al-Magreb Shop

Souk-Al-Magreb Shop

Habibi the Camel


Based on a real-life camel and his owner, Betsy Lewin wrote a children's book titled "What's the Matter, Habibi?" Habibi (Arabic for "my darling") is a camel who usually seems to enjoy his work. But one day he lies down on the job and refuses to get up. Ahmed, Habibi's owner, asks "What's the matter?" But Habibi refuses to tell. However, a trip to the bazaar and several adventures seems to solve Habibi's problems and they all live happily ever after.


What's the Matter, Habibi? Book


To the right of the Souk-Al-Magreb shop is the Meet-&-Greet area for Aladdin and Jasmine. They appear several times each day and love to pose with enthusiastic visitors to their realm. A line materializes long before the couple appears on the scene so plan accordingly.


Aliddin and Jasmine


It is interesting to note, the original tales of Aladdin take place in Islamic sections of China such as Turkestan or the province of Xinjiang. But since these stories revolve around Muslim characters, Morocco was the obvious choice when deciding where Aladdin and Jasmine should reside in World Showcase.

Across the promenade from the Meet-&-Greet is a quick service kiosk. Here you can purchase bottled water, Coke products, Moroccan Mint Tea, Casa Beer, baklava, and an assortment of exotic alcoholic beverages with a Moroccan theme.


Quick Service Kiosk


On the left side of the pavilion is a sign that reads "Kingdom of Morocco."


Kingdom of Morocco Sign


Morocco is a constitutional parliamentary monarchy. The government has two chambers and is presided over by the Prime Minister. The PM is selected by the king from candidates within the winning party after each election. The king still retains considerable executive powers and he is both the secular political leader and the "Commander of the Faithful" as a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.

Located in the first building on the left as you enter the pavilion you'll find "Moroccan Style: The Art of Personal Adornment." This museum features clothing and jewelry from Morocco. Each display is accompanied by a short, easy-to-read explanation as to what you are looking at. Most people only give these exhibits a passing glance, but this is a shame. It really doesn't take more than 10 minutes to read all of the information plaques and you'll leave here knowing much more about this faraway land if you take the time to explore.


Moroccan Style: The Art of Personal Adornment - Exterior

Moroccan Style: The Art of Personal Adornment - Interior


The most prominent exhibit in the museum features an ornately costumed gentleman and his steed. At this display we learn about the Fantasia. A Fantasia is an equestrian event performed at cultural and religious festivals. At these events, riders don themselves and their horses in elaborate costumes. At the climax of the ceremony, they gallop toward each other at full speed before abruptly stopping to fire rifles into the air.


Fantasia


While in the museum, also pay attention to the ceiling and floor. The craftsmanship is outstanding.


Museum Ceiling

Museum Floor


Opposite the museum, in the facing building, is Tangierine Café.


Tangierine Café - Exterior

Tangierine Café - Interior


This counter service restaurant offers Morrocan Kefta Sandwiches, Mediterranean Wraps, Shawarma Platters, and a number of other "off the beaten path" meals. Yet nothing is so exotic as to send your running for a drinking fountain to drown out the tastes. Since much of the food is unfamiliar to Americans, displays have been created to let you know the offerings are quite appetizing. While ordering, be sure to notice the rotisseries behind the counter roasting lamb and chicken.


Food Samples

Roasting Lamp


Also in the Tangierine Café is a Coffee and Pastry Bar. Besides a wide variety of exotic caffeine-laden concoctions and sweet taste treats, a number of alcoholic beverages are available including Moroccan beer and wine.


Pastry Bar

Pastry Bar


There are a number of tables indoors and plenty of covered seating options outside the restaurant.


Tangierine Café Seating

Tangierine Café Seating

Tangierine Café Seating


In the early years of Epcot, the area now occupied by Tangierine Café, was home to "Center of Tourism." At this spot, guests could obtain literature useful in planning a vacation to Morocco. They could even book flights on Royal Air Maroc (commonly known as RAM), the official airline of Morocco.

Outside of Tangierine Café and in front of the restrooms you'll find a large date palm (Phoenix dactylifera). Dates have been a staple of the Middle East and Northern Africa for thousands of years and are an important crop in Morocco


Date Palm


The most prominent feature of the Morocco Pavilion is the Koutoubia Minaret, which is a replica of the Koutoubia Mosque Minaret found in the city of Marrakesh. The original was built in the 12th century and stands 204 feet in height.


Koutoubia Minaret - Epcot

Koutoubia Minaret - Marrakesh


The Prophet Mohammend once told a follower to call the faithful to prayer from the highest rooftop in the city. Thus began the Islamic tradition of building mosques with prayer towers, or minarets. To this day, Moroccan Muslims gather to hear the melodic chant of the Muezzin (prayer caller) as he praises Allah from the minaret.

That's it for Part One of the Morocco Pavilion. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



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