Marrakech! So far, this has been the most exotic place we have visited (compared to the others). We took the bus from the airport. It was pretty easy and dropped us off near the main square. On the way from the airport, a car got too close to the bus making it impossible for the bus driver to turn. The driver got out and yelled at the guy, it was hilarious. It also made me happy to not be driving myself at the moment. Traffic was a little crazy in town. I feel like I could have kept up with them though.
We found our riad pretty easily from the square, but I can see how it can be confusing.
The room and riad looked okay. (The next morning we didn’t have hot water and that made for a very quick shower!)
Our host, Mohammed, prepared mint tea for us on our arrival. So good! There was also a little cat running around the riad. They kept calling him something that sounded like “mosquito.”
That evening we walked around the main square (Jemaa El Fnaa) where all of the pop up restaurants were located. All were very aggressive at trying to get you to eat at their stall. One guy came up to Andrew saying, “Oh you came back. I recognize you…” This was our first walk through so that was not possible haha. The food was fairly good, but I think eating here is more for the experience and not necessarily for quality (we’ve only been to one place though so take this with a grain of salt). We tried a pastilla with dinner – that was nice! Click video 1 and video 2 to watch a bit of the square.
After dinner we got lost in the streets and stopped into one of the bakeries and bought 4 little pastries.
On our walk back to the riad a guy offered Andrew directions and he started to follow him. I stopped us from following him. The guy might have been okay, but it was late and you never know. We found our way back to the riad by ourselves just fine.
Breakfast next morning was simple, yet good. We had orange juice, coffee/tea, yogurt, pressed pain au chocolat, and Moroccan bread with butter, jams, honey, and olives. The kitty joined us again while we dined. During breakfast, we noticed that they were working on the hot water heater – fingers crossed!
Later that morning we had a cooking class at the riad with Abdullah and Samati (I may have botched the spelling of their names…hoping that I have them right in the first place). We first went with them to a market to pick up supplies.
They taught us some Arabic words so that we could ask for the veggies.
There are live animals at the marketplace! Chickens, rabbits, and pigeons! We got some chicken for our tagine, but it wasn’t one that was alive. Part of me had wanted to see that process, oh well.
We also were able to pick up some spices for us to take home. Abdullah bartered on our behalf and the guy threw in a bunch of other things. They gave us some mint tea with some eucalyptus too.
Walking back from the marketplace to the riad.
Abdullah showed us how to make mint tea. We ended up buying our very own little tea set to take home. Technically one of the guys at the riad bought it for us – they said that we may have ended up paying double. I was happy for them to do it for us.
We played with kitty a bit before, during, and after the cooking process. In the second photo, he is contemplating to steal one of our pens. He succeeds and the pen is never seen again.
The cooking class was great! We made a chicken tagine, a vegetable tagine, and a salad. It made for a nice relaxing afternoon. There also ended up being a bit of food left over, so we were able to have that for dinner.
We also shared a bowl of couscous with everyone. I think someone from another house had made and brought it over. One bowl and many spoons (spoons added later)! This was a cool experience to share with a bunch of the locals.
After the cooking class, we headed to Hammam de la Rose for our Imperial Moroccan Hammam. This was our first “hammam” experience. Andrew and I were in the same room together and both were just wearing the disposable underwear that they provided us. Yes, you got it. That means that I was topless (I had already experienced a gyno appointment completely naked in Paris so this didn’t faze me too much). In the first room, they splash water all over your body and then leave you in a sauna for a few minutes. Afterwards they perform a thorough scrubbing of your body and they washed my hair! I really enjoyed this experience. Plus they give you water, mint tea, and cookies at the end!
Once we were done relaxing, we headed back towards Jemaa El Fnaa.
Standing in front of the Koutoubia Minaret. This is the largest mosque in Marrakech.
We headed into the souks and ended up trying msemen at one of the fast food stands. I had the one with cheese and Andrew had the spicy fried dough. Msemen is a traditional form of a Berber pancake. Loved this!
We also had to pick up some more pastries to try. I beginning to see where we are gaining some of our kilos…
On Saturday morning, we headed out for a full day of exploring! But first stopped to try harcha. This is a Moroccan pan-fried bread made from semolina flour. It was similar in taste and texture to cornbread. Very good!
These are the Saadian Tombs (Tombeaux saadiens in French). They date back from the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur. The details are so beautiful!
Making our way from the tombs to El Badi Palace (Palais El Badiî).
El Badi Palace is a big tourist attraction. Inside were pieces of art outside and also a museum. You can also find the storks up on top of the walls in their nests! This place would have been amazing in its prime!
How about that door for an entrance?
We had lunch that day at Henna Art Café. The food was great and the bathroom was really cute.
After lunch, I got some henna at the café. They had a heater to speed up the drying process.
Our next destination was the tanneries. This is where the raw material for the leather goods is produced and treated. I guess that a lot of people get “scammed” into going here, but we actually wanted to see it. On our way we ended up getting introduced to this guy that took us straight to the tanneries while providing a bit of a history lesson along the way. I was walking a bit behind them, so Andrew got most of the information. The guy at the entrance of the tanneries gave us some mint to help with the smell (although it wasn’t too bad this time of year). There was a shop at the end of the tanneries selling some of the goods. We didn’t want to buy anything so we left. The old guy that had led us there and the guy that led us through the tanneries was nowhere to be found so we went on our way. I had started to feel bad for not tipping either of them because they did provide us with a bit of a tour, but then the old man popped out of nowhere! He told us that we should give some money for the tannery tour and then give him whatever we wanted. We paid him and went on our way.
We were wandering around trying to find Ben Youssef Madrasa (an Islamic college) and had gotten a bit turned around. I forgot to mention earlier that any street you go down you will have people telling you where the square is or asking you where you are headed. This is how we ended up getting a “guide” to the tanneries. Anyway, as we were trying to find the old college a boy asked us where we were going. I blurted out Ben Youssef and then he said this way and zipped down the street. We ended up following him and he led us straight to the college. It was about a minute away, but we had headed down the wrong street. Once we got there he said he would appreciate it if we gave him a little gift. Andrew handed him 10 dirham (pretty much equal to 1 euro) and he complained that it wasn’t enough. The people sitting outside the college also started to yell at us a bit saying that we should give him more money. We said sorry that’s all we are giving and went inside the college. No good deed goes unpaid ha ha. I can think of countless times where I have given people directions, advice, or help and never thought to expect compensation. The way of life is just different here and you have to be ready for it when you visit.
Ben Youssef Madrasa was a gorgeous place! This would have been an amazing place to go to college. The details in the design were remarkable.
On our walk towards Jardin Majorelle, my faith was restored in the Moroccan people when a man at a shop offered us a treat and wouldn’t take any money for payment. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was tasty.
Jardin Majorelle was nice to walk around. This was designed by the expatriate French artist Jacques Majorelle.
There was a bit of time between the garden and our dinner reservation so we stopped for some more tea and a cappuccino.
Dinner at Libzar was amazing!
Headed back to our riad.
On Sunday, we were headed to the Ourika Valley. We met our bus at this busy intersection.
The following pictures are of the road along our way to Ourika Valley.
At our first stop, we went into a building for a view of the valley. They also had a pottery workshop. One of the guys did a pottery demonstration – he whipped out four items in a matter of minutes! So many neat items to buy, but I have a lot of will power and a small backpack.
The next stop was at a place where they make argan oil, among other cosmetic/cooking items. Our guide demonstrated some of the products available and we were also treated to mint tea. Click here to watch a video of a woman working to make the argan oil.
We also sat and listened to a guy talk about the many different types of rugs that are made in the area. They offered us dates with rose water milk and mint tea. Mint tea is the go to beverage around here if you haven’t already realized that. I felt kind of bad for the guy because no one in our group wanted to buy any rugs….and he went back through each one (he had at least 20 on the ground) to see if anyone was interested. That took forever….I’m glad we were given snacks.
A great view of the snowy mountains!
You can dine in style right by the river ha ha…
We also got to tour a typical Berber House. The Berbers are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa. I could probably live somewhere like this, but it would definitely be an adjustment. Click here to watch a video of the water mill working.
We ended up dining “in style” right by the river.
As we were eating wild monkeys from the mountain came down looking for food.
Our journey up the mountain to the waterfall! There were interesting water cooling contraptions for beverages using water runoff…take a look.
Once we were back in Marrakech, we enjoyed some ice cream and also sampled some more pastries.
Since our flight was leaving early on Monday, our host arranged a taxi for us. I was worried that the bus may not get there early enough. The security line at the airport was really confusing. Apparently there was a line for men and women, but no signage to indicate otherwise. It took me forever to get through! We had been so pumped up for this trip, and I think I may have set my expectations too high. Even though it didn’t live up to my dreams, we still had a good time and would go back given the chance!