Journey to Brittany 2024, France

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Journey to Brittany

The Sufis are true connoisseurs of life.
The healing power of knowledge and love: returning to our true nature.

A women's spiritual journey to Marrakesh, the heart of Morocco

We will spend a seven-day cycle in the red city of Marrakesh, in a traditional house located in the heart of the Medina (old city) where thoughts find rest and the heart comes to shine.

Our days will be filled with dancing, meditations, talks about the culture, the beliefs and traditions of this country and the hidden meaning of the outside world. While our eyes and palate will feast on delicious Morroccan meals, the rituals accompanied by local bands and groups are meant to open the doors of joy and trust, and offer us the opportunity to deal with things to which we often pay little attention in our daily life. Last but not least, we will make several trips to the souks and enjoy a very special day dedicated to body care.

A women's journey full of joy, sensuality and spirituality on the path to ourself.

Marrakesh

Marrakesh has been described as a pearl thrown over the Atlas mountains. More than any other city, it reflects all the complex features of Morrocco. It carries the opposites which make up this country, its quietness and its turbulent history as well as its rich and rebellious imagination. Marrakesh is like an open book written by the changes of time and the diversity of space, and read by different voices. Marrakesh is said to be a lioness combining all the facets of gentleness and wildness.

Jama' El-Fna'

Marrakesh is the heart of Morocco and, in turn, Jāma' El-Fnā'  (lit. 'square of annihilation'), the large square in front of the old city, is the heart and cultural space of Marrakesh. It does not qualify for World Heritage status through its architecture, but through the people themselves who keep their oral tradition alive and develop it further on its soil. The square was founded in 1070-1071 and its picturesque figures make it resemble a colourful open-air circus.
Jāma' El-Fnā' offers a direct view onto the landmark of the city: the minaret of the time-honoured Kutubiya Mosque, named after the neighbouring souk al-Kutubiyin, the booksellers' bazaar which goes back to the 12th Century.

The souk

Next to Jāma' El-Fnā', the souk stretches out with its lanes and tiny squares where craftsmen make countless pots, lamps, trays, teapots, vases, candleholders and more... The bazaars are filled to the brim with the most varied, colourful goods. Here you see piles of tempting pastries, filled croissants, date tartlets, there rows of men busy with sewing machines. Here mounds of soft wool, there someone greeted with a glass of hot peppermint tea. The grocers' souk will fill your nose with the fragrances of oriental spices and preserves and the dyers' wools charm your eyes with their bright colours. Spits and honey-breads will make you feel hungry, while the murmuring crowds and muffled noises of various tools penetrate your ears. You can truly lose yourself in this maze of alleys, stairs, pathways, vaults and cul-de-sacs, and experience a fascinating world which is carefully looked after. This is more or less what happens when you stroll through the countless souks. Haggling is used to stimulate awareness and it is a reflection of Unity. In countries where fixed prices rule, buying something does not require the slightest skill. But in the souks, the initial price is always a riddle, the amazement of two worlds, a tasting of possibilities and the final realisation that there are as many different prices as people in this world. Haggling is a fine art and a way of life.

The Medina (old city)

The old city contains still more jewels – the riyads ('garden' in Arabic), traditional Arabic houses which accommodate three, sometimes even four generations. Traditional Moroccan houses are built around a courtyard which brings light into the rooms. Often there is no window in the outer walls, six to eight metres high, pierced by a single, heavy wooden door, which means the inside of the house remains a mystery to the passers-by. And in the Middle East, whenever you enter this mystery, you say, "Cover me with Your Divine veil". 

It is the passage from outside to inside. And inside manifests the wealth which was modestly withheld from the outside, an architecture whose beauty is mirrored in the ornaments, the forms, the play of shadows and light, and in the garden. This is the space of the feminine.

The riyad's courtyard is traditionally divided into four beds, often planted with roses and hibiscuses. Cypresses, lemon, orange and fig trees provide a pleasant shade while a refreshing spring splashes in the middle. The four small gardens symbolise paradise on earth to the Muslims, offering the inhabitants a place of quiet and coolness in the middle of the dusty, noisy and pulsating Medina.

Some history of Marrakesh

Marrakesh is the hub of the imagination, the capital city of story-tellers, dreamers, seekers – and rhythm. She is the source and guardian of an ancient knowledge which dwells in us all.

Shortly before the Moroccans were granted independence in 1956, the French listed all the buildings located within the city walls. Some 26,500 houses, out of which 2,300 riyads, were numbered at the time and they have not changed substantially since.

The word 'Morocco' comes from Marrakesh. According to ancient Arabic chroniclers, Marrakesh was named Mraksh - the city. After several adaptations, it finally came to refer to the whole country.

With its 650,000 inhabitants, Marrakesh is Morocco's fourth largest city. It lies in the fertile Haouz plain, 450 m above sea level and is surrounded by date palms. The word haouz originally applied to the area around the capital city which belonged to the Sultan. Nowadays, it simply refers to the region surrounding the royal city of Marrakesh. In tifinagh, the Berber language, its name (mar-ur-kuch) means a neutral area between the lands of the various tribes.

Marrakesh was founded in 1062 as a military camp on a hitherto uninhabited area shortly after the Almoravids rose to power. Under Yusuf Ben Tachfin the quickly established settlement grew into the residence of the Almoravids. In 1086, at the end of several victorious and profitable campaigns against Alfonso VI of Castille, Tachfin was able to wrest the Spanish city of Toledo from him and a golden age for Marrakesh began. Countless mosques and palaces were built. In 1126-27, Yusuf's son and successor Ali Ben Yusuf had the city walls erected and the first palm groves planted before the city gates. The defensive walls can still be seen today.

Scarcely anything remains from the time the city of Marrakesh was founded. In 1147, the Almohads (in Arabic Al-Muwahidūn) stormed the city, destroyed most of the Almoravids' buildings and erected magnificent new buildings such as the Kutubiya Mosque.

The city was slow to recover from the devastating plague outbreak in 1176, but the reign of Yakub Al-Mansur which started in 1184 marked the beginning of its greatest economic and cultural heyday. Towards the end of the 13th Century, the city counted 150,000 inhabitants and could match the great Islamic centres like Baghdad and Cairo for splendour.

In the middle of the 13th Century, the Almohads were weakened by dynastic rivalries and the rise of the Merinid dynasty began. In 1269 Abu Yusuf Yakub conquered the Almohad capital and two years later moved his city of residence to Fez. By the beginning of the 16th Century, the population of the city of Marrakesh had dwindled to a mere 20,000 inhabitants. The city's fortunes would not improve until the Saadi dynasty occupied it in 1521 and made it the capital of their empire in 1554. In 1591 Sultan Ahmed Al-Mansur conquered the rich trading city of Timbuktu – and its gold. This marked a renaissance for the much decayed Pearl of the South which gained once more its status as a glittering metropolis. The Badi Palace was built and its ruins today still impress with their powerful dimensions.

At the end of the 17th Century, the rulers of the Alaouite dynasty once more preferred Fez as a capital. Mulay Ismail had the most important edifices from the time of the Saadi dynasty destroyed. Until the 20th Century, although Marrakesh still acted as a royal residence on various occasions, it remained overshadowed by its rival from the North. The French occupied the city in 1912 with the support of the Pasha of Marrakesh, El-Glaoui. The Lion of the Atlas, as El-Glaoui was also called, ruled wide areas of the South until Moroccan independence in 1956.

Today Marrakesh is a city of merchants and craftsmen. The Medina is home to more than 30,000 craftsmen and their myriad workshops. The old city is a booming market for handicrafts. The modern university in the North, important exhibitions, congresses and a film festival all contribute to the city's growing international importance.

Some places lend wings to our imagination and often the mere mention of their name is enough to awaken dreams and memories in us. Some places evoke images without us ever having visited them. For many, Marrakesh is just such a place.