Morocco Part 1 – Marrakech
It wasn’t the warmest welcome to Morocco at a drizzly 15 degrees but at least it meant that my respectful ways of covered legs and shoulders didn’t mean I was melting underneath, and we kept positive that the next 5 days would improve (which they did!). We arrived early morning into the vibrant and bustling city of Marrakech with our first mission under way – finding our Riad (Hotel) without a map, a guide or an internet connection. Impossible? You might think? But luckily we did have some sort of GPS that acted more like a game of hot or cold which eventually got us through the intricate maze known as the Medina to our accommodation.
The hotel owner greeted us with fresh mint tea and sweet Moroccan cakes while we gathered our thoughts and prepared to head back out into the madness that were the souks. Finding a coffee place was first on our agenda and we found a local little place that sat on a corner of a busy pedestrian intersection. This proved to be a great little spot to people watch and soak in the atmosphere without being hassled by shop assistants or young boys trying to “show us the right way”. We watched as carts of strawberries, lanterns, dried fruit and herbs pedalled by. We witnessed what seems to be the new craze of women’s fashion – onesie meets patterned fleece Momo and delighted in seeing the more traditional men’s robes with pointy hoods.
Straight after lunch we got pulled into a spice shop where the owner described all the different herbs and spices, their different uses from remedies to recipes. My favourite was the 35 spice mix which with one whiff conjured up ideas of tasty lamb and chicken curries and stews. He explained what made good quality saffron and argon oil and somehow convinced me to buy 300 grams of spices?
From there we wandered through the souks and I drooled over the silver jewellery and oohh and ahhed over the leather patchwork bags. I would have bought more, but the sales process was a bargaining war which I didn’t always have the energy or patience for.
That evening we decided to eat in the main square markets… we didn’t quite realise at the time that getting to the main square would be so hard in the dark. We took one wrong turn and turned what should have been 10 minutes into a 2 hour ordeal of narrow dark streets, being ripped off by a cheeky local boy and meeting another lost English couple who thought that going outside the walls was a good idea….
Luckily they had more sense than us and had decided on a landmark to walk towards… finally we found the main square, Jemaa el Fnaa. This place was pretty manic, rows upon rows of tables serving pretty much the same thing, bbq meat, seafood, salads, Tagine dishes and all with a side of olives and bread… always with the olives. I avoided the tables with the rows of dead animal heads and hooves on them because I wasn’t quite in the mood for brains or whatever may have been dished up. We settled on place that had a few people sat round it and ordered a few bits and bobs to share. The man thought we wanted it all each so we ended up with a feast of skewed meats and stewed vegetables. Hey we weren’t complaining. We didn’t stay long as the atmosphere wasn’t the most relaxing with men yelling at each other and trying to pull in other customers every second.
We took the route home slow and steady and managed to get back perfectly, but of course not without groups of young guys telling us that we were going the wrong way “the main square is that way”, “That road is closed”, “you going to your Riad? I show you”, “No that way is not safe”… and so on. After a couple days in Marrakech we were well and truly ready to head to the coast and hit the sun and the sand. And that is exactly what we did…. But that my friends, is for my next post…Part two 😉