Must see places in Andalusia, Spain

If you are a muslim traveller or an islamic architecture lover those are the 7 things you must see in Granada

Top 10 foods to try in Morocco

One of the great cuisines of the world, Moroccan cooking abounds with subtle spices and intriguing flavour combinations.

Top Five Must See Things in Cordoba, Spain

Cordoba قرطبة in the Andalucia province of southern Spain is a city with more than 2,500 years of developed history.

ChefChaouen, the blue city in Morocco

Located just a few hours by bus from Tangier and far enough off the beaten track to dissuade many tourists, Chefchaouen is quiet enough for those visitors overwhelmed by the busy medinas of Fez and Marrakech, and has just enough of what is quintessentially Moroccan to be of interest to other travelers looking for something a bit more authentic.

Fes, Morocco

The most mystical of Morocco's imperial cities, Fez. Capital and spiritual center of Morocco, this city is situated in a narrow valley against the backdrop of the Middle Atlas

viernes, 27 de febrero de 2015

Day Trips from Amsterdam, Holland, Netherlands

The Peace Palace in The Hague. © NBTC

Amsterdam is considered the Venice of Northern Europe thanks to its beautiful network of canals. The capital of The Netherlands is also a world-class cultural center with an openness and tolerance for alternative lifestyles and coffee shops sans espresso.
Amsterdam Centraal Station (CS) is at the heart of the city and can easily be reached from Schiphol airport within 15 minutes. Miss the train? Not to worry – they run every ten minutes. The Centraal Station’s impressive Neo-Renaissance building has a unique location. Situated on three man-made islands, themselves resting on over 8,000 wooden piles that have been driven deep into the sandy soil. Several canals that have recently been added to the UNESCO Heritage list surround the train station.

Amsterdam Highlights: Consider Amsterdam a life-sized dollhouse. The charming 17th century historical atmosphere makes the whole city seem intimate. Small-scale buildings, little gathering squares and narrow streets add to the Lilliputian allure.

Yet the city has the highest museum density in the world. Van Gogh is likely Holland’s most famous artistic son, and his eponymous museum here has many famed works from the tortured, earless artiste. The Rijksmuseum ranks as one of the worlds finest, and includes masterpieces from Rembrandt and Vermeer. The Holland Pass provides free entry into the Rijksmuseum.

There are a few ways to get around this city of tulips: Take a canal bus, which uses a hop-on/hop-off system similar to a tour bus. With 14 stops near top tourist attractions. If you want to travel more like a local, rent a bicycle and get lost in the city’s maze of culturally diverse neighborhoods.

Top Day Trips from Amsterdam


The East Gate of Delft. Photo © NBTC
The East Gate of Delft. Photo © NBTC

A city of blue, of orange, of light. All artistically represented in this charming and historic town. Delft has two train stations, one in the city center and Delft Zuid, about a 20-minute walk from downtown.

A home port of the Dutch East India Company, the town quickly developed in the Dutch Golden Age. This period spanned the 17th century, when the Dutch became the most acclaimed society in the world thanks to their prowess in trade, science and art.

You can still see this prowess on parade at the Delft Blue Porcelain Factory. This is the last remaining Delftware factory from the 17th century where the distinctive blue and white earthenware is still produced by skilled craftspeople. The building houses a museum, a factory, a garden and café where you can enjoy high tea served in original Delft cups and saucers. You can view the traditional production process plus paint your own Delft tile under the guidance of a master painter.

While wandering the streets and canals of Delft, you may be struck by the soft light and the interplay of color. Local artist Johannes Vermeer certainly was, and his city provided plenty of inspiration for the few canvases he created during his lifetime.  The Vermeer Centre offers a visual voyage of discovery through the artist’s life, work and city.

The Hague

The Peace Palace in The Hague. © NBTC
The Peace Palace in The Hague. Photo © NBTC

Compared to Amsterdam, which is known for its liberalism, The Hague is conservative and somewhat sedate. You’ll find lots of green space, great architecture, shopping and a unique location on the water. The old part of the city centers on governmental buildings such as the Binnenhof.

Next door you’ll find The Mauritshuis Museum, located in a 17th-century palace. One of the best art houses in The Netherlands, the building holds the city’s former Royal Picture Gallery, including a collection of paintings by the Dutch Old Masters.  Het Paleis, a former royal townhouse, was recently converted into a museum dedicated to the famous Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher.

Children and adults alike adore the miniature city of Madurodam. Featuring all the highlights of The Netherlands but on a 1:25 scale, the city is composed of typical Dutch buildings and landmarks around the country.

What can’t be duplicated is The Hague’s prime location on the North Sea. Travelers from all over Holland come to Scheveningen Beach to relax and play. The Pier, the largest in the Netherlands, has a 200-foot lookout tower, bungee jumping, a casino and restaurant.


Tulips in Holland at the Keukenhof
The Keukenhof (garden of Europe) in Lisse, The Netherlands. Best place to see tulips in Holland. Photo © NBTC

If you’re looking for tulips in Holland, this is where you’ll find them. The most popular attraction in Lisse is Keukenhof – the garden of Europe, open only during spring, when more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, are in bloom.

 The flower parade Bloemencorso Bollenstreek  is held through the streets of town and is a fragrant fiesta. In August, the fantasy festival Castlefest is held in the gardens of Castle Keukenhof. For a historical overview of the Dutch’s bulb boom, be sure to visit the Museum De Zwarte Tulp (Black Tulip Museum).


The polders of Holland. Haarlem, The Netherlands. © NBTC
The polders of Holland. Haarlem, The Netherlands. Photo © NBTC

Haarlem is Holland’s most Flemish city, and is easily seen by foot. As the town slowly expanded, so did the tulip fields. Today, rail travelers between Amsterdam and Haarlem will see blooming bulb fields in Spring. Since the 1630s, Haarlem has been a major trading center for tulips in Holland, and it was at the epicenter during “tulip mania.”

The Dutch Golden Age also made Haarlem into a center for the arts. You can see the city’s finest works on display at the Frans Hals Museum. With more than a dozen works by Hals himself, the museum also has art from the 15th century to the present.

Another of Holland’s lesser known museum gems, the Corrie ten Boom Museum is similar in theme to the Anne Frank house, but still furnished, making it easy to see what life was like for those that lived there during the war. Stand in the “hiding place” where Jews were hidden from the Nazis, and see the “all-clear” sign used to indicated when it was safe to come and go. Truly an eye-opening destination.


Rotterdam's unique Cubic Houses
Rotterdam’s unique Cubic Houses. Photo © NBTC

Rotterdam, until recently, was the world’s largest port. This seaside location helped to grow the city into largest economic center in The Netherlands at the turn of the twentieth century.

The thrust toward modernity is on display in the architecture around the city. The Kijk-Kubis – or Museum House, is a fully furnished showcase house among an unusual collection of cube-shaped homes. The Kunsthal Rotterdam is designed by famed avant-garde architect (and native son) Rem Koolhaas. The museum stages some 25 exhibitions a year in a wide range of disciplines: new art, design, photography, and frequently experiments with themes never seen before. Like lingerie.

For aural art, the annual North Sea Jazz Festival is held every second week of July. Founded by a wealthy businessman and jazz lover, the fest began in 1976 and has grown to 15 stages, 1,200 artists and nearly 25,000 visitors a day, and is known for the many musical styles it presents.

Just east of Rotterdam, the windmills of Kinderdijk are one of the most beloved and best-known Dutch attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Accessible by boat, you’ll learn more about their fascinating history while on board.


Utrecht, The Netherlands
Canal tour in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Photo © NBTC

Built around the Dom Tower, which you can see from nearly any vantage point in the city, it’s hard to get lost in this attractive, car-free city center. Wharf cellars house cafes and terraces by the beautiful canals, and magnificent monuments frame the scene in this centuries-old university town.
In between the city’s superb shopping that line the canals, you can visit myriad cultural attractions including the Dick Bruna Huis, the beloved creator of Miffy, the sweet little bunny cartoon.  

An unusual museum is the Speelklok, which presents and restores an internationally renowned array of self-playing mechanical musical instruments. Park Lepelenburg is a calming respite in town with its botanic gardens, as is the Wilhelminapark.


Shopping in Maastricht
Shopping in Maastricht. Photo © NBTC

A university city at its heart, you can hobnob with the erudite elite as well as fellow travelers at Vrijthof, the city’s main square. Maastricht is an easily walkable city – so put down that guidebook and just wander through the neighborhoods.

Or head below ground to the Casemates, an underground network of tunnels built as shelter for guns and cannons. For centuries, the famous Caves of St. Pieter were used to quarry marl, creating an underground labyrinth with over 20,000 passageways. These turned out to be very handy hiding places for residents during WWII sieges.

Back above ground, shop, eat and wander at the Inner City – Maastricht’s main shopping district. Winner of numerous design awards, the Entre Deux is a recenly-rebuilt center that includes a bookstore located inside a former 13th century church. The British newspaper The Guardian deemed it the world’s most beautiful bookshop.


Hoorn, The Netherlands photo courtesy of © Elisa Atene.
Hoorn, The Netherlands photo courtesy of © Elisa Atene.

Framed by a picturesque port, the town of Hoorn has an historic center paved with cobblestone streets and surrounded by charming antique houses. Hungry? Head to Hoofdtoren, a cozy restaurant in a 500-year-old defense tower. Popular with the locals and tourists alike, you can sample specialties like mussels, plus herring either raw or pickled.


Enkhuizen, The Netherlands photo courtesy of © die.tine.
Enkhuizen, The Netherlands photo courtesy of © die.tine.

For a slice of authentic 19th century sailor life, head to this town’s Zuiderzee Museum. Covering 15 acres, you’ll find authentic dwellings including a fish-curing shed, a mill, a cheese warehouse, a church and much more. Staff and volunteers demonstrate historical crafts from everyday life at the beginning of the previous century.

With a Eurail Benelux Pass, you can visit not just Amsterdam, but take numerous day trips and visit the top cities in The Netherlands. Think traditional towns filled with tulips and windmills, modern architectural wonders and historical monuments. This pass also covers Belgium and Luxembourg, both filled with bountiful charms. Three countries. One pass. Get on your wooden shoes and walk around the wonder.

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viernes, 20 de febrero de 2015

10 Must See Things in Madrid, Spain I Halal Tourism

Visiting a city as big as Madrid and managing to see and do all it has to offer is no easy task. From sprawling museums to traditional restaurants and bars, every corner you turn uncovers a spot that draws in tourists and locals alike. To make the choices a bit easier and to make sure you experience as much as you can, we've picked 20 essential things to do when you're in Madrid. If you can't fit them all in, don't worry, you can always come back.

1. Walk along the Gran Vía

The city's main tourist artery runs the famous Metrópolis building to the Plaza de España. Shops, bars line this wide street that stretches for more than a kilometre. If you start walking at the Metrópolis building, with its stunning dome crowned by a bronze statue, the next landmark you'll come to is at Gran Vía 1, the address for Grassy jewellers since 1952. A bit further on, the Hotel de las Letras deserves a peek inside before you're wowed by the window display at the Loewe shop or stop to have a drink in the legendary Museo Chicote, which, despite its name, isn't a museum at all, though there is some art on the walls in the form of photos of celebrities who have passed through the swinging doors.

The impressive Telefónica building kicks off the next leg, where clothing shops compete with each other to grab the eye, and the euros, of a wide variety of clientele. Look carefully ­- some of the shops are inside old cinemas that have long had to close their doors. Still showing films on the big screen, however, are the Palacio de la Prensa, Capitol and Callao cinemas, in the square that divides this celebrated street. From here to Plaza de España theatres such as the Lope de Vega and the Compac update their programming every season with major works. Gran Vía comes to an end between the Torre de Madrid and the Edificio España, facing the monument to Miguel de Cervantes that's in the centre of the grand square.

2. Visit big museums and small galleries

 Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza are the three vertices that make up this traingle that is right on the Paseo del Prado, but they're not the only places where you can see art in the area: Madrid's CaixaForum and its vertical garden are also great places to contemplate beauty.

Exploring the area known as Madrid's Art Triangle is compulsory for any visitor to the city. The

But you don't have to walk the hallowed halls of the grandest museums and galleries to admire the all the art Madrid has to offer. Small galleries like Elena Ochoa's Ivorypress, urban art created at the hand of the likes of Suso33 and collectives such as BoaMistura, along with temporary exhibitions by young painters in bars and restaurants round out Madrid's cultural panorama.

3. Tour the city’s parks

You might not realise it, but Madrid has a lot of green spaces. The biggest one is the Casa de Campo, with 1,700 hectares (6.6 sq mi) - five times bigger than New York's Central Park. The interior features a large lake where you'll find small boats and where schools practice kayaking for competitions.

A bit smaller but more central is the Parque del Buen Retiro, also known simply as 'El Retiro', with a pond, tree-linded walks, fountains, monuments such as those to Alfonso XII and the statue of the Fallen Angel, and there's even a space for puppet shows.

You'll also find find a lot of the city's residents out for a jog, skating or walking their dogs along Madrid Río, the green promenade that's a happy result of the excavation of ring road M-30. The Jardines de Sabatini, near the Palacio Real, are a bit more off the beaten path, but definitely worth a visit.

4. Essential sights to see

Whether you're in town for three days or three weeks, you must visit at least three essential spots before you leave. The first is Plaza Mayor, where you can relax with an expensive cup of 'café con leche', study the equestrian statue of Felipe III is in the centre of the square and do some pretty good people watching around the Tourist information Centre.

With its own song and everything, the Puerta de Alcalá is another must on your list of sights to see. In Plaza de la Independencia, next to El Retiro park, this ancient neoclassical-style gateway to Madrid is at its best at dusk, when lights shine on its arches. You'll also want to have a look at the Royal Palace, next to the Catedral de la Almudena, the official residence of the Spanish royal family, although they now live in the Zarzuela Palace. Die-hard football fans will want to check out the Plaza de Cibeles, where Real Madrid fans celebrate their team's wins, or Plaza de Neptune, territory of Atlético Madrid followers.

5. Puerta del Sol

The "Puerta del Sol" is one of the busiest squares in Madrid. The name comes from a former 15th century city gate that was decorated with a symbolic sun. According to ancient tradition, Madrilenes gather around the clocktower of Puerta del Sol on New Year`s Eve and eat a grape at each toll of the 12 p.m., which is supposed to bring good luck for the new year.

Other features of the Puerta del Sol is the statue of "Oso y el Madroño" ("the bear and the strawberry tree", after a spanish folk tale), the monument of King Charles III. and the 0 km-marker for the six main trans-spanish roads that start here.

6. Puerta de Alcalá

The Puerta de Alcalá ("Alcalá Gate") is a Neo-classical monument in the Plaza de la Independencia ("Independence Square") in Madrid, Spain. It stands near the city center and several meters away from the main entrance to the Parque del Buen Retiro.

The square is bisected by Alcalá Street, although the street does not cross through the monument, and it is the origin of the Alfonso XII, Serrano and Olózaga streets. Its name originates from the old path from Madrid to the nearby town of Alcalá de Henares.

Madrid in the late 18th century, still remained a somewhat drab villa in appearance, surrounded by medieval walls. Around the year 1774, king Charles III commissioned Francesco Sabatini to construct a monumental gate in the city wall through which an expanded road to the city of Alcalá was to pass, replacing an older, smaller, gate which stood nearby. It was inaugurated in 1778.

7. Cibeles

The Plaza de Cibeles is probably the most iconic place in Madrid: you probably know it from TV reports where spanish soccer supporters celebrate the victories of their local or national teams while bathing in the fountain. The Plaza is dominated by the Cibeles Fountain.

The legend is that these lions are the lovers Hippomenes and Atalanta, who had been brought together by Aphrodite. Apparently, they upset Cybele, presumably 'going a bit too far' in her Temple, so she had them changed into lions and made to pull her chariot. Aphrodite had engineered this, as she was slighted by the lovers ingratitude to her!

Created by Ventura Rodriguez between 1777 and 1782. The Plaza Cibeles is surrounded by four remarkable buildings: The Bank of Spain, the Palacio de Buenavista, the Palacio de Linares and the Palacio de Cibeles (formely: Palacio de Communicacion). 

The Plaza is where Real Madrid fans celebrate their teams big wins, (Athletico Madrid fans head to the nearby Neptune fountain for their big celebrations) also a site for political demos.

8.The Temple of Debod

The Temple of Debod (Spanish: Templo de Debod) is an ancient Egyptian temple which was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid, Spain.

The temple was built originally 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of Aswan in southern Egypt very close to the first cataract of the Nile and to the great religious center dedicated to the goddess Isis, in Philae. In the early 2nd century BC, Adikhalamani (Tabriqo), the Kushite king of Meroë, started its construction by building a small single room chapel dedicated to the god Amun.

It was built and decorated on a similar design to the later Meroitic chapel on which the Temple of Dakka is based. Later, during the reigns of Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII and Ptolemy XII of the Ptolemaic dynasty, it was extended on all four sides to form a small temple, 12 by 15 metres (39 ft × 49 ft), which was dedicated to Isis of Philae. The Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius completed its decorations.

From the quay there is a long processional way leading to the stone-built enclosure wall, through three stone pylon gateways and finally to the temple itself. The pronaos, which had four columns with composite capitals collapsed in 1868, and is now lost. Behind it lay the original sanctuary of Amun, the offering table room and a later sanctuary with several side-rooms and stairs to the roof.

In 1960, due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the consequent threat posed by its reservoir to numerous monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy. As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the temples of Abu Simbel, the Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968.

The temple was rebuilt in one of Madrid's parks, the Parque del Oeste, near the Royal Palace of Madrid, and opened to the public in 1972. The reassembled gateways appear to have been placed in a different order than when originally erected. Compared to a photo of the original site, the gateway topped by a serpent flanked sun appears not to have been the closest gateway to the temple proper.

It constitutes one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture which can be seen outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain.

9. Visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium the home of Real Madrid and its Museum

10. M-30 Mosque

The Centro Cultural Islámico (Islamic Cultural Center) in Madrid, popularly known as the Mezquita M.30 ("M-30 mosque") because it stands beside the motorway, is the largest mosque in Europe.

The mosque complex was designed by three Polish architects and financed by Saudi Arabia. King Juan Carlos I and Prince Salman ben Abdelaziz attended the opening ceremony in 1992.
What to See at M-30 Mosque

The mosque is mostly modern in design, but with traditional elements such as a minaret with balcony. Made of fine white marble, it includes a college, ritual bath house, gymnasium, cafe and an Arabian restaurant called Zahara.

martes, 17 de febrero de 2015

What to do and see in Toledo طليطلة I Halal Tourism

World Heritage City Toledo was once the capital city of Spain, and it still retains the atmosphere and aura which are characteristic of so many European capital cities. Toledo is a magic place, probably one of the most spectacular cities in the world.

The buildings and winding streets contained within the old city walls hold hundreds of years of history, and the River Tajo which runs alongside the city walls adds to its charm and beauty. A day trip to Toledo is included in the itinerary of most holidaymakers in Madrid, so inevitably the streets and monuments are often packed with national and international tourists. If you want to avoid the crowds, try visiting Toledo mid-week during the low-season months.

The city has a long tradition of catering for tourists and has an ample selection of hotels and restaurants, as well as the inevitable gift and souvineer shops spilling out onto the streets.

The province of Toledo offers the visitor a wide choice of possibilities. Very cold in the Winter months and very hot in the Summer, the local economy mainly relies on tourism, wine-making and farming. Some areas of Toledo province are famous for producing high-quality pottery and others still make high-quality furniture. Other characteristic Toledan products include swords and other weapons and lace and embroidered materials.

The City of Toledo

During the 13th century Toledo became one of the few places in Spain where Moors, Christians and Jews managed to live together and tolerate eachother more or less peacefully (although not as idyllicly as some history accounts would have us believe), and the singular combination of styles and cultures which resulted from this period in Toeldo's history is one of the city's unique characteristics.

Visitors can still admire the remains of churches, mosques and sinagogues built during this time.

Toledo became a fortified city under Roman occupation - its location and the River Tajo made it an ideal fortress, and from that moment on the city became one of Spain's most important political, economic and cultural centres.

The Visigods named Toledo their capital, and it retained its importance under Arab occupation. When the Spanish armies regained control of the city, it became the official residence to the Spanish Kings and Queens until the 16th Century.

What to do and see in the City of Toledo

The best way to start a visit to Toledo is to park outside the city walls (there are plenty of carparks), get a map in the tourist information center just opposite the Puerta de Bisagra, and enter the old city through this majestic stone gate.

It is possible to visit all the main attractions within the walled city on foot and even though you can't do them justice in such a short time, it is perfectly feasible to get round them all in one day.

If you have more than a day, use the first few hours to walk around, get a feeling of the place, enjoy the winding streets seeped in history and culture, and get familiar with the names of places and monuments before actually entering inside.

Historical Monuments in Toledo

  • Alcázar: This outstanding castle is one of Toledo's most emblematic monuments and was used as a fortress by Romans, Visigods, Arabs and Christians. King Alfonso VI built his residence here and some of Spain's most prestigious artists and architects intervened in the construction of the royal palace. It was destroyed in the 18th century during the War of Succession, reconstructed only to be badly damaged a few years later in a fire and rebuilt yet again. The last time the palace was destroyed was during the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War and it was repaired when the War ended.
  •  Cathedral of Toledo: Founded in the 1st Century by San Eugenio, the first Bishop of Toledo. It was changed into a mosque by the Arabs during Moorish occupation of Spain, and then converted back into a cathedral by Alfonso VI. In the 13th Century it was destroyed and the impressive Gothic building which can be seen today was built on the old cathedral's foundations.
  • Mezquita / Mosque del Cristo de la Luz, is the only surviving islamic building in Toledo built before the Christian Reconquista.  Constructed ib the 10th-century, its columns support arches inspired by the mosque at Córdoba. 
The Emirate was also responsible for the "hammams" (arab baths) on Calle del Angel.
  • Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes: 15th century monastery, Gothic style which was built on Royal demand during the reign of the Catholic King and Queen.
  • Monastery Cisterciense de Santo Domingo de Silos: 16th century monastery with paintings of El Greco who is buried here. The Spanish artist painted the church. The monks who still live in the monastery sell home-made sweets and pastries to visitors
  • Puerta Bisagra: The main entrance to the old City of Toledo. What appears to be one amazing stone gateway is infact two: the old gate which was built during the Moorish occupation of Toledo in the 6th and 7th centuries, and the new gate which extended the original and was built in the 16th century. This is the best way to start a visit to Toledo since there is ample car parking space on both sides of the Puerta and a very good Tourist Info just opposite on the other side of the main road.
  • Sinagogue El Tránsito: 13th century sinagogue with a museum inside which describes the history of the Jewish population in Toledo and the influence the Jews had on local culture and events.
  • Sinagogue of Saint María la Blanca: Today this former sinagogue is a crafts museum with interesting pottery and wooden exhibits.
  • Taller del Moro: Built in the 14th century by the Jews and, when they were expelled from Toledo, converted by a religous order into a church. The original Hebrew writings on the upper walls can still be seen today.

Museums in Toledo

  • Museum of El Greco: The famous Spanish painter El Greco lived in this house which today has an impressive exhibition of his paintings, awell as exhibits of other artists.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art: Set in la Casa de las Cadenas, an interesting 16th century building this art gallery has exhibitions of 20th century artists
  • Museum of Santa Cruz: 16th century building that used to be a hospital. Lovely patio and stairway. Exhibits works of art, tapestries and artefacts found in archeogical excavations. 
  • Museum of the Fundación Duque de Lerma: Also known as Hospital de Tavera because Cardinal Tavera ordered it to be built in the fifteen hundreds. There is a statue of Tavera under the dome of the church.
  • Museum de los Concilios y Cultura Visigoda: with exhibits from the Visigod period, set in the church San Román. 
  • Museum of Victorio Macho: What used to be the home of Macho, a famous sculptor, is now a museum containing some of his best known sculptures. 
  • Museum Parroquía de Santo Tomé: This museum is where El Greco's most famous painting, The Buriel of the Count of Orgaz (El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz) is exhibited

What to buy in Toledo 

 There are lots of souvenir shops in Toledo, and they all seem to have the same stock on offer: swords (for centuries Toledo has been renowned for the steel blades made for knives and swords), walking sticks, models of Don Quijote, painted tiles, copies of El Greco paintings, local wines and liquors and pieces of lace and embroidered cloths and other local crafts.

If you want to buy local produce, try Toledan marzipan, excellent local cheeses (different versions of the popular Manchego cheese are made throughout the Province of Toledo).

Toledo also has long been famed for its metalwork, particularly steel blades and other arms. Expert craftsmen produce these items in a style clearly reflecting Islamic origins. 

Jewelry and other articles of gold and black metal are called damasquinos. The term refers to the Syrian city of Damascus. The Umayyads came from Damascus to establish their rule in Iberia.

Toledo features a quaint Medieval quality, with narrow cobblestone streets and a variety of handicrafts. It has a population of about 75,000 inhabitants. In 1986, UNESCO designated the city as a World Heritage Site for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage.

miércoles, 11 de febrero de 2015

MOSAIC a documentary about the tales of three reverted muslims in Granada

Every human being who becomes Muslim has a fascinating story to tell.

MOSAIC finds the tales of three people, who were looking for answers to their vital questions and found them in Islam.

NISAR, a sceptical philosopher, discovered the limits of reason and explored a deeper understanding of the heart.  FATIMA, an American publishing professional, went to Southern Spain to learn Flamenco dancing. The Moorish roots of this art led her directly to Islam.  JAIRUDDIN had a successful career as an actor until he was through with 'looking for recognition' and set out to seek a spiritual path.

MOSAIC from ISLAM HOY TV on Vimeo.

viernes, 6 de febrero de 2015

Top 14 Must See Things in مراكش Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakesh مراكش  is a city that sums up all of Morocco's exotic North African charm.

The city's name provided the root for the name of the country itself, spelling out this town's importance down the ages. Within the hustle of the city core you'll find old and new clashing and blending, which can make some tourists almost dizzy.

Snake charmers and smooth shop touts both compete for your attention amid a noisy, colourful bustle that encapsulates Morocco's vibrant soul.

For shoppers this city is famous as a frenzied hub for bargain hunting. For history lovers the many museums and monuments are some of the country's not to be missed star attractions. And for those who just want to dive into local culture, the Medina offers Moroccan life in all its hectic glory. Marrakesh is also the gateway to Morocco's High Atlas region where you can relish the scenic mountain beauty after your Marrakesh metropolis adventures.

You can visit this city in our tour Spain & Morocco of  10days / nights 

1 Medina Souks

For many visitors, Marrakesh's labyrinth Medina (Old City) district is the town's star attraction. The narrow alleyways are a kaleidoscope of colors, scents and sounds, and bound to be the sightseeing highlight of your trip.

As well as simply wandering (and getting lost) amid the bustling maze, there are myriad shopping opportunities where you can put your haggling hat on and barter to your heart's content. Shoppers shouldn't miss the Babouche (shoe) Souk, Chouari (carpenter's) Souk, El-Attarine (perfume and spice) Souk and the Cherratine (leather) Souk.

Just west of the main souk area, at the end of Rue Bab Debbagh, you'll find Marrakesh's tanneries where animal skins are still dyed the old fashioned way.


2 Djemma El Fna

This large square at the entry to the Medina is the centre of Marrakesh life. The Djemma El Fna (assembly place of the nobodies) is a vibrant hub of bric-a-brac stalls, musicians, storytellers, fortune-tellers and snake charmers that never seems to rest.

Here the entire spectrum of Moroccan life enfolds before you. If being down among the thrum becomes too much, it's also easy to escape to one of the many surrounding rooftop cafes and restaurants where you can survey the crazy scene from above.

3 Koutoubia Mosque

The Koutoubia Mosque is Marrakesh's most famous landmark with its striking, 70 m tall minaret visible for miles in every direction.

Local Marrakesh legend tells that when first built it, the muezzin (man who calls the faithful to pray) for this mosque had to be blind as the minaret was so tall that it overlooked the ruler's harem.

The mosque was built in 1162 and is one of the great achievements of Almohad architecture. Non-Muslims are not allowed into the prayer hall.


4 Madrasa Ben Youssef

 Built in 1565 by the Saadians, the Madrasa (madrassa - Islamic school of learning) of Ben Youssef is the largest theological college in Morocco.

The warrens of rooms (with student cells which once were home to 900 pupils) are clustered around small internal courtyards in typical Islamic architecture style.

The fine zellige tiling, stalactite ceilings and Kufic inscriptions used as decoration across much of the building interior are the highlights of a visit to this Medina attraction.



5 Saadian Tombs

This 16th century burial ground is home to 66 members of the Saadian dynasty, which ruled over Marrakesh between 1524 and 1668.

The tombs here include that of the ruler Al-Mansour, his successors and their closest family members. It's a rambling, atmospheric place with the mausoleums set amid a rather overgrown garden.

In particular, the main mausoleum (where Moulay Yazid is buried) has a fine surviving mihrab (prayer niche).



6 Bahia Palace

This magnificent peacock of a palace was built in the 19th century as the residence of the Grand Vizier Bou Ahmed, who served Sultan Moulay al-Hassan I.

The interior decoration is a dazzling display of zellige tiles, painted ceilings and ornate wrought-iron features showcasing the opulent lives of those high-up in the sultan's favour at that time.

The palace is surrounded by sumptuous flower and tree-filled gardens.

7 Dar Si Said Museum of Moroccan Arts and Crafts

This lovely old palace built by Vizier Si Said is home to a wonderful collection of Berber jewellery in finely worked silver, oil lamps from Taroudant, pottery artifacts, embroidered leather, and marble.

There is also a display of Moroccan carpets and an amazing collection of traditional Moroccan door and window frames, which highlight this country's local architecture styles. For anyone interested in the evolution of North African art and crafts, it's a lovely place to potter about for a couple of hours.

Near the Dar Si Said, the Maison Tiskiwine has a rather wonderful collection of costumes, jewellery, arms, musical instruments, textiles and furniture (focused on Saharan culture) put together by Dutch art historian Bert Flint. Another branch of the museum is located in Agadir.

8 Marrakesh Museum

The Marrakesh Museum has an eclectic collection, which ranges from contemporary art to Qur'anic inscriptions with local ceramic work, textiles and coins thrown in for good measure. For most visitors, the real highlight of a visit here is the building the museum is housed in.

The Dar Me'nebhi was built in the early 20th century and was once home to a minister in Morocco's government.

The architecture is a harmonious blend of local North African form with Portuguese elements, and features an extremely impressive central courtyard area complete with lavish chandelier.

9 Almoravid Koubba

Also known as the Koubba Ba'adiyn, the Almoravid Koubba is Marrakesh's oldest monument - built in the 12th century during Ali Ben Youssuf's reign.

Although its original use is unknown, some experts have suggested that it may have been the ablution house of a mosque that once sat next door.

Its simple exterior design (a squat, square building topped with a dome) belies an interesting interior, with a dome ceiling covered in Almoravid motifs.

The koubba was one of the few buildings to survive the destruction wrecked on the city by Almohad conquerors who destroyed much of the earlier Almoravid architectural legacy.

10 Majorelle Gardens

These lush tropical gardens, full of cacti, palms and ferns, are the work of painter Jacques Majorelle. Originally from the town of Nancy in France, Majorelle came to Marrakesh for health reasons and became well known for his paintings of local Moroccan life.

His most famous work though was this garden and the vibrant blue (the colour now known as Majorelle blue) painter's studio he lived in on the grounds. After Majorelle's death in 1962, French fashion designer Yves St Laurent bought the property and upon his death in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the gardens.

A small pavilion on site has a small but interesting collection of Islamic art.

11 Manara Gardens

This inner-city garden is a bubble of serenity hidden right in the heart of Marrakesh. It's a local-favorite spot for getting out of the hustle to enjoy some peace and quiet.

The large pool in the center of the garden has a fine pavilion, built on the water's edge in the late 19th century.

For many local Marrakesh families the Manara Gardens are picnicking central and on the weekend it can be a great place to witness local family life.



12 Tizi-n'Test Pass

Even in a country chock-a-block full of sublime road-trip scenery, the Tizi-n'Test Pass stands out.

This winding mountain road heads south out of Marrakesh down to Taroudant in a dizzying array of switchbacks that may give the wobbles to those who don't like heights.

The mountain scenery along the way is simply sumptuous. A road branching off the pass just past Taliouine is the start of the high pass into the Draa Valley.

13 Imlil

The charming mountain village of Imlil is the starting point for excursions into Toubkal National Park.

 It's a chilled out kind of place that provides respite if you've been amid the Marrakesh hustle for awhile and want some peace and quiet.

The village is also home to a rather impressively restored kasbah (fortress).

The structure is now one of the town's best hotels, and played a starring role in the Martin Scorsese film 'Kundun'. Location: 57 km south of Marrakesh

14 Toubkal National Park

This National Park is home to Morocco's (and North Africa's) highest mountain, Djebel Toubkal, as well as a number of fantastic walking opportunities. 

If you don't fancy bagging Toubkal's 4,167 m peak then you can opt for the lovely scenic village-to-village Aremd circuit, which has sumptuous views without the sweaty effort required for mountain climbing. 


martes, 3 de febrero de 2015

The Tower of the Captive in the Alhambra of Granada

The Tower of the Captive (Torre de la Cautiva) is located on the path along the ramparts in the Alhambra of Granada. During the 16th century it was called Tower of the Woman Thief (Torre de la Ladrona) and Tower of the Sultana (Torre de la Sultana).

The name of the tower was changed to Tower of the Captive because it was thought that Lady Isabel de Solís lived there. She converted to the Islam with the name of Zoraya and was Muley Hacén's favourite wife.

 It is possible to access the ground floor through a passageway that leads to a patio with galleries open by festooned arches on three of its sides, with imposts of mocarabes. This patio is connected to a square hall through a double arch of mocarabes.

This hall's coffered ceiling dates from the 19th century and the dressing rooms have balconies to the exterior. The inscriptions on the wall show its defensive importance for the whole complex and its character of beautiful palace-tower.

The Tower of the Captive (Torre de la Cautiva)  because of the conservation and the special nature, are normally closed to the public visit but during the month of February of 2015

Timetable: from 8:30 to 18:00 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday
Access: with the general ticket of the Alhambra
Capacity: maximum 30 people

lunes, 2 de febrero de 2015

12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Morocco

Morocco is a wondrous, eyes-open taste of the exotic, with snake charmers and conjurers, souks piled high with hordes of treasures and endless glasses of mint tea. It's also an adventure into some of North Africa's most stunning scenery with the desert on its doorstep and the craggy heights of the Atlas Mountains beyond.

Morocco is also a journey into a timeless, tranquil world of cute coastal villages, colourful-painted towns that cling to hillsides and remote outposts defended by fairytale adobe forts. This fascinating country is a merging of the African and Arab worlds, and is steeped in age-old customs. It's no wonder Morocco has been feted by artists and writers for decades and continues to enchant all who visit.

1 Marrakesh Medina

The bustling and vibrant buzz of Marrakesh Medina sums up Morocco for many visitors. The old city is entered from the vast plaza of Djemma el-fna Square where, it seems, half of the city converges throughout the day and into the evening to hang out with the stall vendors, traditional musicians, snake charmers and random acrobats. Once inside the Medina itself, you enter a world of maze-like alleyways and shopkeeper hustle. It's an experience of full of colourful and noisy local life, and not to be missed on your Moroccan sightseeing trails.

2 Hassan II Mosque

Hassan II Mosque

Casablanca's landmark building, the Hassan II Mosque is a lavish symbol not only of the city, but also of Morocco itself. This modern mosque (finished in 1993) doesn't do things by halves. The decoration detail covering every centimetre of the mammoth 2 ha site took 10,000 artisans to complete. Intricately carved marble pieces, vibrant mosaics and zellige tile details pay tribute to traditional Islamic architecture, and yet still manage to feel contemporary.

· Casablanca, the Morocco’s commercial capital 

3 Oudaias Kasbah

Oudaias Kasbah

Rabat's Oudaias Kasbah neighbourhood is a peaceful and perfectly quaint district that feels miles away from the city, yet is right in the heart. Inside the walls of this old fortress are lanes of neat white-and-blue houses rimmed by colourful flowerpots and flapping washing. It's the prettiest corner of the capital.

4 Fes el Bali

Fes el Bali

Along with Marrakesh, Fes is Morocco's other big cultural destination. But unlike its sister Imperial City to the south, Fes hasn't been trussed up for the tourists. Fes el Bali (Old City) is an authentic muddle of a place where it's near impossible to not get lost. The back alleys here with their chipped plaster-work and gorgeous old doors will have you stopping for photos on every corner, while the stinking tanneries are one of Fes el Bali's most popular attractions for those who can handle the smell.

5 Tangier


The most European of all Morocco's cities, Tangier has a fascinating and slightly debauched role in 20th century literary history, and this past is what draws many tourists here. This is the city that inspired famous works such as Paul Bowles' "The Sheltering Sky" and William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch". Tangier may have been scrubbed up since their day with the bohemian cafes and louche bars long gone, but you can still catch a whiff of the decadent days gone by.

·Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in طنجةTangier, Morocco

6 Chefchaouen

In the beautiful Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a gorgeous labyrinth of blue-on-blue buildings that has an incredibly photogenic glow. There isn't much actual sightseeing to be done and that's one of the town's main attractions. It's simply about wandering the Medina alleys and lapping up all that colourful architecture. It's a peaceful, easygoing town and a great place to recharge if you've been amid the cities for a while.

· The blue city of Morocco, Chefchaouen

7 Volubilis


Morocco's number one Roman ruin is a feast for history-lovers with a clutch of remarkable mosaics still interred where they were unearthed. This site is also full of tumbled columns and temple remnants, standing as reminders that even the greatest empires eventually crumble. The hilltop location allows the ruins to lord over the surrounding countryside, adding to the romantic ambiance of lost glory. This tourist attraction can easily be visited as a day trip from either Meknes or Fes.

8 Bab al-Mansour

Bab al-Mansour

This mammoth gateway (which guards the entrance to Meknes' Imperial City district from the Medina) is noted for its stunning decoration. Meant as a monumental reminder of the sultan's might, the Bab al-Mansour is a magnificent relic of Meknes' glorious era as capital.

9 Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou

This golden adobe kasbah (fortress) thrusts dramatically out of the earth amid scenery that wows all who visit. It's a fairytale place, and the orange-hued turrets have become a favourite film location due to the surreal beauty. If you're heading out into Morocco's inland regions, it should definitely be on your must-visit list.

10 Dades Valley

Dades Valley

Hikers, trekkers and general nature-lovers shouldn't miss a journey into the raw landscapes of Morocco's Dades Valley. With the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas in the distance, the big-sky country here is the perfect antidote for those who have been getting frazzled nerves amid the souks of Marrakesh and Fes. There are dinky villages galore, exceptional bird spotting opportunities and lush fields stretching as far as you can see.

11 Essaouira


Morocco's most charming seaside village is laid-back Essaouira, an old hippie haunt of the 1970s that has lost none of its authenticity. The colourful fishing boats bobbing on the water, stately old shore-side fort and twisty lanes of the old town make Essa (as it's affectionately known by frequent visitors) a delight to discover.

12 Erg Chebbi

Erg Chebbi

Inland, in Morocco's eastern Sahara region, are the grand and rippling sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi, where would-be explorers and adventure-seekers head to get a dose of desert action. This is prime territory for dune-surfing, four-wheel-drive dune-bashing and the (much more authentic) camel trekking. For those with less of an active nature, just sitting amid the sand dune splendour is worthy enough of the long journey out here.

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