Category Archives: Museum

Explore the great museums of the world.

El Badi Palace

Originally planned for our first full day in the city, we got a little sidetracked from our chaotic first day and had to plan El Badi Palace for day two. These ruins within the kasbah of Marrakech were one of the top places I wanted to see.

Early Morning in the Medina

We set off early morning for El Badi, carefully tracing our steps out through the medina. We did not want a repeat of our previous day getting utterly lost. Slowly, we made our way out towards Jemaa el-Fna as local shopkeepers prepared for the day.

As we entered Jemaa, we made a point to steer clear of the Henna ladies, who had bothered Briana the day before. At the entry to the square from the main street, we proceeded to the left along the large main street that lead towards the entrance to Bazaar.

I Got Us a Little Sidetracked

The Kasbah

Our plan was to follow Briana’s plan exactly, but I lead us off track on accident because I saw a tall tower that I thought was part of the palace. Unfortunately, it wasn’t right. What we did find was the Moulay El Yazid Mosque. While a picturesque spot, it was not what we were looking for.

Moulay Al Yazid

Just before we left, to retrace our steps and get back on track, we did see a sign for the Tomb of the Saadians. It wasn’t clearly marked, so we weren’t sure just how close we actually were to them, and decided to just keep to our schedule, despite it being later in our schedule. This would ultimately be a good decision, because we were then be able to give El Badi and La Bahia enough time later in the day.

Wandering the Kasbah

We returned out to the large street and kept going down it, until we found a roundabout in the road. At this point we turned back into the Kasbah. Here, a square lined with cafes and restaurants opened up, with an arch at the rear. Proceeding through the arch brought us to the entrance of El Badi.

Proceeding Towards El Badi

Entering The Incomparable Palace

The entrance to El Badi was modest, and not well marked. The dilapidated palace however still lives up to it’s name – “The Incomparable”.

Inconspicuous Entrance

We made our way to the ticket booth and paid the 10 MAD ($1 USD) entrance fee to enter. For an additional fee, you can enter the mosque, though we declined this. It should be noted that, as far as I am aware, this is the only mosque in Marrakech that you can enter – so if that is something you want to do, you should opt to see it.

The Green Pavilion

The first court we entered was rather empty. A long hall, with rising walls of red clay gave perch to storks nesting on top of the walls. A plaque informed us that this was the Green Pavilion. At one time, it contained fountains and sculptures.

Storks Nest at the Entrance
Near the Entrance

Another plaque spoke to the origins of the Palace. Construction began in 1578 by the Saadian Sultan, Ahmed Al Mansour Addahbi. Construction took twenty years. Inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, the palace served state occasions and for festivals.

A friendly kitty decided to make itself at home in Briana’s lap while in the Green Pavilion.

Sweet Kitty

A Little Backstory

The palace would not see long-term use however. Moulay Ismail ordered the destruction of the palace in 1677, less than a hundred years after its construction, to use its resources for the construction of new palaces in Meknes. From this point, the palace fell to ruin until 1953 when excavations began and plans for restoration were made. Today, the palace is still mostly ruins, but excavation and restoration efforts are well underway.

The Apartments and Forecourt

A staircase in the Green Pavilion descends underground, and gives way to guest apartments. These apartments once served as guest houses for visiting heads of state, important figures, and nobles. Today, these rooms now serve as a mini museum, with the walls lined with photographs, artifacts, and information.

Apartment Courtyard

These plaques were all in French or Arabic. So, if you want to make sense of them, you will need to brush up on your foreign languages or get a guide. For us, we were able to understand the French well enough to make sense of it all – though we certainly missed out on nuanced details. With that being said, some of the plaques throughout the palace were in English as well.

The apartments open up into a forecourt, which has been restored in recent years to showcase intricate mosaic tiles on the floor. From here, a stair case brought us back around to the Green Pavilion, inviting us on into the central courtyard.

Restored Apartment Courtyard

The Grand Central Courtyard

The central courtyard is huge. It contains (drained) pools, the ruins of the throne pavilion, ruins of a hammam, and large orchards of citrus which have been restored. We spent a fair amount of time just wandering around the grounds here, admiring the colosal work of the walls.

The gardens of El Badi
Hammam Ruins

A terrace above the walls provides for an excellent view of the entire courtyard.

El Badi Throne
Central Courtyard of El Badi

As well as providing great views of the kasbah and even the Koutoubia in the distance.

View of Koutoubia Mosque from El Badi

The central courtyard also gives way to a small museum which houses recovered mosaics, colonnades, and other artifacts.

Original Mosaics
Colonnades at El Badi

The Sultan’s Private Residence

Entrance to the Sultan's Residence

Accessed via one of the corners, was the Sultan’s summer residence. Its primary use was, as the name implies, a summer residence. It is quite small, and harbored just a few rooms, as well as access to the mosque.

Cats Everywhere

Since we did not buy the extra tickets, we weren’t able to enter the mosque. However, Briana did manage to take a few pictures of the local cats lounging in the shade.

Kitten at El Badi

Prisons of El Badi

Entering the Prison

Our final venture within El Badi, was the prison cells. During this time in Moroccan history, prisons did not exist – rather private residences and sometimes dungeons were used. El Badi housed the prison used for Marrakech.

Chains and shackles were on display. They were used to hold captives in the small rooms for fifteen days. During these fifteen days, guilt would have to be proven, and then punishment given out. Punishment would be either branding with a hot iron, or the removal of both arms or one arm and one foot. In some cases simple chaining or whipping was all that was done for punishment. If found innocent, the prisoner was released.

Prisons of El Badi

The prisons was divided into three distinct sections for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The prison in El Badi was reserved for Muslims – while the Christian prison was noted for being much nicer, and the Jewish prison facing abuses from Christian spies.

Visit El Badi

El Badi Central Walkway

Visiting El Badi was a nice reprieve from the chaos of the medina. We took it at a leisurely pace, and spent just under two hours. This is ample time to spend, and you can easily see the palace at a quicker pace. However, we found going slower here to be quite enjoyable.

If you want to visit El Badi, you can find it at:

Ksibat Nhass, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco. It is located south of the medina, within the kasbah.

Hours: 9AM – 5PM M-F

Cost: 10 MAD ($1 USD)

El Badi

~K~

Chacmool at the National Anthropology Museum Mexico City

National Anthropology Museum Mexico City

The National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City is an excellent way to discover the human history of Mexico. From the dawn of the human species until the modern day, it covers everything. It was for this reason – that it would inform our travels – that I insisted the museum be one of the first places we visit during our trip to Cuidad de Mexico.

Getting to the Museo Nacional Antropología

Chapultepec Park

The National Anthropology Museum is in the Chapultepec Park district of Mexico City. It is on the north side of the park, above Lago de Chapultepec and Paseo de la Reforma. Its location makes it an opportune destination for entire day’s outing – we combined our day with Chapultepec Castle.

Statue of a Runner

Need to Know:

  • Address: Av Paseo de la Reforma & Calzada Gandhi S/N, Chapultepec Polanco, Miguel Hidalgo, 11560 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
  • Hours: 9 am – 7 pm (Closed Mondays)
  • Entrance Fee: $70.00 MX pesos. (~$3.70 USD)

Finding Your Way

The museum is very large and has a large avenue leading to it. There are also signs throughout Chapultepec Park that will direct you where to go. Opposite the museum, is a large pole and demonstration ground. Here we witnessed an indigenous ceremony where drum and flute players hang by their feet upside down while spinning to the ground.

Musicians Dangle While Playing

Upon entering the front building you have three options:

  • Left: Gift Shop
  • Right: Special Exhibition
  • Center: Permanent Exhibition

You cannot have backpacks, bags, etc – luckily, the museum provides a “coat storage” for you just behind the gift shop. After that, you can proceed towards the right side of the entrance building where you can purchase your tickets and receive a map.

Entry Building

The Museum

Designed in 1960, the museum is – to say the least – huge. With 23 rooms, each covering a distinct aspect of Mexican heritage, culture, and history, the establishment is the most visited museum in Mexico.

The museum began in 1790 and expanded and moved numerous times over the following centuries. For a while, the collection was housed in Chapultepec Castle, before settling at the current location.

The current design is that of a horseshoe around a large central pond. The buildings are two stories with a courtyard accessible from the bottom floor.

Anthropology Museum Courtyard

Inform the Rest of Your Travels

As I stated above, a big reason I wanted to do the museum, and to do it early, was to inform the rest of our time in Mexico. Our plan was to visit Teotihuacan the following day and Templo Mayor sometime soon after. These massive archaeological sites, I thought, would be better appreciated if we knew about them beforehand. I was right.

Teotihuacan Scale Model

When we entered, the ticket master handed us a map, and circled a few key exhibits. As it was a little bit later in the day, we would not have the time to see the whole museum. You will need at least a whole day to see everything – however, you can still get a great experience even if you only see half. If you have the time and interest, you could spend a second day there too!

We spent around 4 hours in the museum. All the exhibits were kept in top shape, and were highly informative and interesting. One aspect that we particularly enjoyed was how the bottom floor exhibits had their own outdoor exhibit portions as well. These gardens gave fresh air and a more authentic presentation of the artifacts.

Cave Paintings

We put our focus on the Mayans, Olmecs, Aztecs, and Teotihuacan, as well as on the Oaxaca region. Though, we did still manage to see the majority of the museum. It does not disappoint at all.

Exhibition

Human Sacrifices With Jawbone Necklaces

These human sacrifices were found at Templo Mayor. Their hands were bound behind their backs, and were wearing necklaces made of human jawbones.


Temple Reconstruction

A reconstruction of an Aztec temple in one of the many outside exhibits. This is a part of the Tenochtitlan exhibit.

Statue of a God

A stone carving of an Aztec God.

Aztec Sun Calendar

Arguably one of the most recognizable artifacts from the Aztecs – the great stone sun calendar is a huge monolithic carving.

Scale Model of Templo Mayor

A scale model replica of the Templo Mayor complex. The ruins of the complex can be seen in Centro Historico.

Jaguar Statue

The Jaguar is an important animal in the mythologies of the Aztecs.

Stone carving

The Mesoamericans were highly skilled stone workers.

Textiles

Second-floor exhibits display more modern items. Here, we viewed the traditional dress and textiles of the region.

Skeletons

Death was a very important part of the cultures of Mexico and Central America.

Do Visit The National Anthropology Museum

Olmec Stone Head

I really don’t think I can emphasize enough, just how impressive the museum is. It’s excellently curated and should keep you occupied the entire time you are there. The displays are in Spanish, English, and Nahuatl – so don’t worry about understanding if you don’t speak Spanish.

Kyle and Bri
~K~

Mexico City Tenochtitlan Mask Wall

Templo Mayor – Tenochtitlan Ruins – Mexico City

In the heart of Mexico City’s Centro Historico district, the ancient Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan, lies the ruins of Templo Mayor. Today, what remains is only ruins, but the site was once one of the most important temples in the Aztec Empire. It is now a great look into Aztec and Mesoamerican culture and history in the center of the now bustling Mexico City.

Templo Mayor Ruins and Metropolitan Cathedral

Getting In

Our path to visiting Templo Mayor was part of a much longer and bigger day. Because of the way that we went, it seemed to be far more complicated to get into the archaeological site than it actually is.

We had approached from the west, on the north side of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Zocalo Square. There is an elevated walkway that goes around the north side of the site and offers decent views of the ruins – but it didn’t seem to offer any actual entrances.

We walked the entire outer boundary of the ruins, but with no luck. At one point, we thought we found the entrance, but it actually turned out to be the exit. The exit is surprisingly more elaborate and conspicuous than the entrance. Most likely, it served as the entrance at one time.

Not the entrance to Templo Mayor

Regardless, the actual entrance to Templo Mayor is on the south side of the compound, and can easily be accessed via the east side of the Metropolitan Cathedral.

We were wearing shawls and hoods, not because it was cold – but because of pretty bad sunburns we received the previous day at Teotihuacan.

Kyle at Templo Mayor
Briana at Templo Mayor

Need To Know

  • Address: Seminario 8, Centro Histórico, Cuauhtémoc, 06060 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
  • Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 09:00 – 17:00 / Closed Mondays
  • Cost: $70 Pesos (~ $4 USD) for adults. Free for children under 13, Mexican students and educators, and seniors.
  • No food, water, or umbrellas are allowed – free stowage is provided at entrance.
  • Photography is allowed.

Entering the Ruins

Templo Mayor archaeological site

Once you exit the entry building, you arrive to the ruins of Templo Mayor itself. We broke this up into two different viewing times: once before, and once after visiting the Templo Mayor Museum. This may not seem intuitive at first, but it actually does serve a purpose.

We entered a small, elevated walkway and explored the ruins some. There are plaques, but upon initial viewing, you don’t walk away with much understanding. But this is okay! It piques your interest for the monster to come that is the Templo Mayor Museum.

Kyle and Briana at Templo Mayor

History of Templo Mayor

Legend says that the Aztecs were in search of a location to build their city. In a vision, the king was told to found their city when they found an eagle perched on a cactus with a snake. The next day, that is what they saw. The city of Tenochtitlan was founded sometime around 1325 CE with the main temple built at the site the eagle was seen.

Rediscovery

The site is a very large and robust archaeological site, still undergoing excavation today. On some days, you may even see archaeologists hard at work to recover more artifacts. Much of the site is buried beneath the Metropolitan Cathedral, Zocalo Square, the Palace, and other colonial buildings.

Archaeologists Working at Templo Mayor

However, in 1978, electric workers came across the massive stone monolith while digging. Work stopped, and a special study ensued from 1978 to 1982 to determine if the site was worth studying. At the end of the study, it was deemed a very well preserved and intact site, which lead to the demolition of 13 buildings. The ruins remain as found, with small artifacts housed in the adjoining Templo Mayor Museum.

Modern sewer pipe in the ruins of Templo Mayor

The coup-de-grace of Templo Mayor is the massive pyramid that once stood 200 feet tall. It went through seven different construction phases, each phase building a new pyramid atop the old.

Staircase ruins at Templo Mayor

Spanish Conquest

When the Spaniards arrived in 1519, lead by Hernan Cortes, they saw the seventh phase of the pyramid. It was topped with two temples: one to Huitzilopochtli – the god of war and sun; and one to Tlaloc – the god of water. They were impressed at the number and grandeur of the temples, but were revolted at the beliefs of the Aztecs and human sacrifice.

Ruins of Templo Mayor

In 1519, the Spaniards began a war against the Aztecs that would rage on in bloody conflict until Tenochtitlan fell in 1521. Cortes ordered the destruction of the city – and of the temple – and began the construction of a Mediterranean style city built in its place.

The site of Templo Mayor quickly fell to nothing more than memory as the Spanish and later Mexican governments continued to build atop the site. It would remain mostly forgotten until its rediscovery in 1978.

Templo Mayor Museum

Templo Mayor Museum Entrance

We entered the museum, not knowing what to expect. We had thought it would be rather small – but we were wrong. The museum is rather large, although compact, and is very well curated. You can easily dedicate 2 – 3 hours wandering it’s four floors and eight exhibition rooms. It even has a small gift shop.

Room 1: Historical Background

This room provides an overview of the history of the site and it’s discovery.

Tlaltecuhtuli monolith on display at Templo Mayor Museum
Model of Zocala Square and Templo Mayor

Room 2: War and Sacrifice

This room showcases artifacts relating to the violence of the Aztecs. Funerary offerings, skulls, and weapons adorn the room.

Skulls and Bones at Templo Mayor
Stone Carved Skulls at Templo Mayor Museum

The fired clay statue of Mictlantecuhtli shows the god of the underworld with his liver hanging out and skin removed.

Mictlantecuhtli statue recovered from the ruins of Templo Mayor

Room 3: Tribute and Trade

This room covers the important role of trade and commerce throughout the Aztec Empire. Merchants were extremely important in the Mexica culture. They would often serve as communication links between cities, and assault of a merchant was seen as an act of war.

Aztec ceremonial mask found at Templo Mayor

Room 4: Huitzilopochtli

This room is dedicated to the god Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and human sacrifice.

Huitzilopochtli statue recovered at Templo Mayor

Room 5: Tlaloc

This room is showcases the god Tlaloc, the god of water. It was believed that rain was the result of breaking pots in the heavens. The shattering of ceramic was believed to be the sound we know as thunder.

Room 6: Flora and Fauna

Animals and plants were an important part of Aztec and Mexica life. This room covers the different species of importance in the cultures of the regions including: jaguars, dogs, eagles, crocodiles, and hummingbirds.

XOLOITZCUINTLI taxidermy dog at Templo Mayor

Room 7: Agriculture

Part of the success of the Tenochtitlan was the innovative agricultural practices. The city was built on a lake, and food was grown on chinampas. Chinampas were floating platforms built of reed, wood, and filled with soil.

Important plants grown were:

  • Maize
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Chili
  • Tomato
  • Amaranth

Room 8: Historical Archeology

The final room documents the colonial times of city, and it’s transition from Aztec to Spanish to Mexican.

Each room had an interactive video display. However, most were not working when we went – much to the dismay of a security guard.

Interactive Templo Mayor Museum Display

Returning to the Ruins, with New Understandings

After completing our long run through the museum, we returned to the ruins outside. With a now far greater understanding of the site, we could now better appreciate what we were looking at.

Cat walk through Templo Mayor Ruins

Most of the ruins remain open to the elements. But a few sections have permanent roofs. These sections contain important relics or areas such as rooms.

The walkways in this area are far longer and more extensive than the initial ones. As well, they get lower, so you can start to get a better scale of what it was like to walk among the temples.

Chacmool at Templo Mayor Ruins
Covered Ruins of Red Room at Templo Mayor
Carved Snake Head and Eagle at Templo Mayor

After many hours, we made our way out of Templo Mayor. If you didn’t leave anything at the entrance then you can simply exit through the main exit – otherwise, just backtrack to the entrance to gather your things!

Carved Snake head at Templo Mayor
Templo Mayor Ruins with Metropolitan Cathedral in Background