Storks and cats of Marrakesh

Uggla final“They even have a hospital for storks”, my friend said knowingly on our way there in a row about the extraordinary nature of the place and I didn’t believe a word of it. 

I quickly realized one of the most striking things of the medina, or old town, in Marrakesh, are the large nests on top of virtually all major historical buildings and along the city walls. Storks roam the skies of the city and tend, unchallenged, to their ever-present, bulky nests. There are even nests right on the iconic Bab Agnaou city gate.

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Storks seem holy to Marrakech. There are numerous stories around to explain their elevated and protected status. It is also said that they are widely revered within Islam since they migrate to Mecca annually, which resembles a pilgrimage.

In the medina there’s a house, the Dar Bellarj, or house of the stork, which is actually said to be a previous stork hospital. It is currently an art center.

Cats are ever-present in the city too, strolling the streets, palaces and parks in splendid dignity, while I didn’t see a single stray-dog during four days there.

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The cat is a revered animal in all of Islam for its cleanliness and, of course, for being appreciated by Prophet Muhammad himself, and this should explain why they are so popular and common. Cats may enter homes and even Mosques, which seems to give them higher status than tourists.

So, in the end, storks and cats, though both numerous, in high esteem and characteristic to the city, would presumably be natural enemies and one may wonder how they get along. Perhaps they just do and it wouldn’t be the oddest thing about Marrakesh.

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