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Notes on the Geography of Morocco: Marrakech Environs

Phonetically, the name is better spelled Marrakesh. More slippery, the city was known to the English speaking world of the 19th century not as Marrakesh (or as Maraksh, which approximates the Arabic name still more closely) but as Morocco, from which the entire country got its English name. In Arabic, the country has always been Maghrib al Aqsa, "the farthest west." Now that we're completely confused, we can proceed with proper humility.

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Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 1

The city occupies a small part of the Houaz, a plain rimming the northern side of the High Atlas, shown here with January snows.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 2

The city's water supply has famously been derived, at least in part, from underground channels, the tunnels known by various names (qanat, karez, foggara, etc.), across the dry zone of North Africa and Asia. Here they are called khettara. Those of the Houaz have apparently been abandoned since the 1970s, and there are reports that those serving Marrakech itself were in disrepair long before then, but perfectly ordinary surface ditches survive.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 3

Fields are protected by thorns at least as good as barbed wire.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 4

The premier crop: olives.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 5

You aren't going to snitch any of these.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 6

Live-thorn (acacia?) fencing.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 7

Not much chance of wandering off the road.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 8

A Berber village below the snows.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 9

Higher in the mountains.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 10

Higher still. For several days after this picture was taken, it was impossible to drive across to the other side.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 11

Back down on the Houaz, isolated villas hint at the presence of the city.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 12

Walling them is the norm.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 13

Gardeners train those plants to hug the inside of those walls by tying them up with strings held taut by rocks on the other side.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 14

Despite the love of gardens, roadside trees are pruned barbarously.

Morocco: Marrakech Environs picture 15

Here's where some of the wood winds up: firewood trucked to the old city, here next to the kasba mosque.


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