Through Jade's Eyes

This blog is about the fictional character, Jade del Cameron (www.suzannearruda.com), and the historical time period in which she lives.

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Location: www.suzannearruda.com, United States

I'm the author of the Jade del Cameron historical mystery series set in 1920's Africa. Lots of action, intrigue, mystery and a dash of romance. Follow me at www.twitter.com/SuzanneArruda *The audio link (view complete profile) is an interview by Baron Ron Herron (9/17/2009, Santa Barbara {CA} News-Press Radio, KZSB, AM 1290

Monday, July 28, 2008

MARRAKECH: THE RIADS: PART 2

The old Moroccan townhouses, or riads, were built for coolness, privacy, and defense. A man’s wives and concubines were his alone and kept in a cloistered environment. Exterior windows were restricted to upper floors and even those were diminished in size and covered in an ornate screening. These mashrabiya blocked not only the sun’s heat, but prying eyes.

The house plans, as Jade discovered when entering an abandoned riad in her 1920 adventure, The Serpent’s Daughter, was basically the same for all houses. This is what enabled her to reconnoiter her mother’s prison before entering it.

Unlike European houses which open directly into a living room, the Moroccan houses opened into a chicane, a narrow hall that made frequent right-angle twists (above photo). This again afforded privacy, but more especially, protection from armed intruders. A twisting entryway is much easier to defend.

A central courtyard dominated the interior. Paved in ornate tiles, it held trickling fountains and perhaps even a small garden. The courtyard was lit from a glass clerestory, or in some cases by a roof opening. Long, narrow rooms surrounded this courtyard. Narrow stairs, often hidden behind doors, led to the upper stories. The women’s quarters, or harem, were on the upper floors.

Interior beauty was accomplished through colorful mosaic-tiled fountains, marble pillars, ornately chiseled plaster cornices, and beautiful doors strengthened by bronze-work. Rooms above the first floor also bordered these courtyards, with a balcony overlooking the beauty below. Most ancient houses were not designed with lower floors, because of old beliefs that jinni haunted the dark underground places, but a few houses did have sunken storage rooms.

NEXT WEEK: INTO THE ATLAS

NOTE: These blogs are meant to give some insight into the life and times of my fictional character, Jade del Cameron. Jade’s mystery adventures take place in post WWI Africa. To date they are: Mark of the Lion, Stalking Ivory, and The Serpent’s Daughter. The fourth book The Leopard’s Prey, will be available in hardcover January 2009. For more information, visit the website: www.suzannearruda.com

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MARRAKECH: THE RIADS: PART 1

A riad is a Moroccan townhouse. It’s built around an ornamental garden which provides light, fresh air, beauty, and cool quiet to the rooms around it. Remember that the beauty of a Moroccan house lies within, not without. Exterior ornamentation has little importance. And so the beautiful and palatial town houses might have ornamental doors or they might be hidden behind a very innocuous door.

Some of the most sumptuous riads in Marrakech were the Zitoun riads, situated to the south of the souks and the Jemaâ-el-Fna. It is through these narrow, rather plain looking streets that Jade passed in search of her mother in her 1920 adventure, The Serpent’s Daughter.


But what lay on the other side of the door were hidden secrets, which would not even be revealed when the door was first opened.




NEXT WEEK: INSIDE THE RIADS

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Monday, July 14, 2008

MARRAKECH: THE JEMAẬ-EL-FNA: PART 2


Come with me to the Square of the Dead inside old Marrakech.

Today the Jemaâ-el-Fna, attracts a large number of tourists and the right to be a vendor is licensed. To an extent, it’s like visiting an “old time” crafts festival where the performers work as they did long ago for the sake of the visitors. But while the henna painters and the snake charmers might attract the tourists, there are still story tellers speaking in Moroccan Arabic to a purely Moroccan audience. And the overlying music is enjoyed by all. After all, the riads, or townhouses, are not far away and many residents come out for the cool evening’s entertainment.

Little old ladies still sit on the square and sell their handiwork as they might have in 1920.

And others still gather and visit or to examine the latest supply of jewelry.

So click on the video below and enjoy a taste of the Jemaâ-el-Fna as filmed from a nearby café rooftop. Imagine that it is 1920 and you’re with Jade as she tries to make her appointment with her mother’s kidnappers (The Serpent’s Daughter) in the square.

video

NEXT WEEK: THE RIADS

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Monday, July 07, 2008

MARRAKECH: THE JEMAẬ-EL-FNA: PART 1

Marrakech has countless points of interest, but none is more colorful and lively than the Jemaâ-el-Fna, or “Square of the Dead,” or in some guidebooks, “dead man’s square.” Early in Marrakech’s history, there were public executions in this city plaza, which was possibly considered good entertainment by the residents. French occupation in the early 1900’s put a stop to that practice, which is in itself curious considering public beheadings were so much a part of French history.

By Jade’s visit in 1920 (The Serpent’s Daughter), the public plaza was free of salted and drying heads stuck up on posts, but it was still a lively place and the heart of the city. Part marketplace, part entertainment center, the square bustled all day, maintaining its liveliness even after the city gates closed for the night.

Storytellers held their audience captive with long tales of jinni and wild adventures. Snake charmers worked with asps and cobras, jugglers performed, and vendors hawked foods and goods. Edith Wharton visited the square in 1917 to see young Chleuh boys dance. These youths were members of a Berber tribe, famous in her time for their stately dancing.

NEXT WEEK: THE JEMAẬ-EL-FNA: PART 2 (and another video)

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