posted in: Marrakesh, Morocco | 9

We arrived Marrakesh this past Saturday after a 2-hour flight from Madrid and I actually cheered out loud when we touched down. I have wanted to come to Morocco since I studied in Spain nearly 20 years ago but I’ve never made it, until now. I find it fascinating. Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country and its first language is Arabic. Most people also speak French, and many of the street signs, products, menus etc are in both languages. A large part of the country’s population is Berber, the indigenous people of north Africa, and they have their own languages, three in this country to be exact, none similar to each other nor to Arabic. All of that plus the Spanish flavor in the north (it’s a quick ferry ride from the south of Spain) and the sub-Saharan influence across the country… and just color me super excited. Our riad, Hotel du Tresor, picked us up from the airport and dropped us off outside of the souk, as no cars are allowed inside — the passageways are too small – and from there we followed a man to our home for the next few days. It’s perfectly located inside the medina. The medina is simply the old part of a north African town, usually walled, like this one is, with narrow maze-like streets inside. Within the walls and on those streets are hundreds of souks, or marketplaces, made up of market stalls and squares selling everything from carpets to tagine ceramics to leather bags and shoes, with snake charmers and pet monkeys who will pose with you for a few dirham (it’s 10 dirham to $1 btw). The man led us thru a labyrinth of cobblestone alleys and shops, where people were yelling at us to buy their wares, mopeds and motorcycles were whizzing past us and we were completely lost and without any sense of direction. It was kind of like Choose Your Own Adventure and you might end up with a backgammon board or cooked snails. We finally reached our place and it was an oasis from the madness outside. Balconies and orange trees surrounded the courtyard, which is the signature of most riads, as well as a small pool in the center, and our room had the shutters open and was Moroccan-d out. Mona Lisa even had a veil over her face. We dropped our bags, gave a Salam wa aleikum to the great young guys running the place (I know four things in arabic — hello, goodbye and thank you are the first three) and ventured out into the madness. It was great to stay right in the medina —  the place is insane. Jamaa El Fna is the most famous square and a 3-minute walk from our place, and I’ve never seen anything like it. Picture the biggest, craziest bazaar you can imagine, add in drums and story-tellers and dancers and an entire section of food stalls that come out every evening, and then just multiply it to infinity. The souks off of the square just keep going, the streets keep winding and the merchandise keeps coming. We were surrounded by Arabic and French of course, but also the shop owners trying to make a sale were proficient in English: “my friend, just come have a look my friend,” and, “Where you from? Italy? Spain? Pakistan? India? Maybe Morocco?” I’ll let you guess who constantly got the latter three. They would ask where I’m from and I would say MISSOURI. Then where I’m born and I’d reply KANSAS. They always looked confused after that. They would break out into whatever language they assumed you spoke and many of them knew several. These are determined people ready to hustle and deal. As for locals, many women were covered head-to-toe, some with their face showing and some covering everything but their eyes. Men wear robes too, and I was dying to ask someone what the hell is underneath. Call to prayer is five times a day, except for Fridays which have more, and wherever you are you can hear it loud and clear. It comes out of loud speakers in the mosques, and the mosques are on nearly every corner. I think it’s beautiful — I stop and take it in every time even though I don’t understand the words, because a call to pray is a call to pray, regardless of religion or language or country. I admit at first I felt like I was in an episode of Homeland, with the call to prayer going off in the background of a busy marketplace and Claire Danes whining to Saul that she doesn’t understand while Brody is on a prayer rug in his garage. Then I snapped out of it and went shopping. Over the next couple of days we ate tagines, braved street meat (does seafood count?), had the best lamb couscous ever, so good I had it three times (Toubka restaurant, in Jemaa el Fna), bought dried apricots and fresh-squeezed OJ/grapefruit/lemon juice mix and had a lot of Moroccan soup and salad. And mint tea. Everything is mint tea. After lunch. After dinner. At night when we return to the riad. For the most part there is no alcohol in Morocco. We found a place one night with a bar, but that was the one and only since then. I completely forgot one day when we were watching the sunset from a rooftop cafe. I asked the waiter for a glass of wine and I swear he not-so-discreetly rolled his eyes. Not that I blame him. He said, “No. Tea or orange juice or soda or water. No wine. Or beer.” I almost asked about a shot of tequila then figured he may not find that funny. We went to a hammam in the medina instead and got scrubbed and steamed and showered within an inch of our lives. I felt like a chicken in a Chinese restaurant. We had to go in separately, as there are different sides for men and women, and I thought Anthony was going to lose his mind when he heard that part. He was already freaked out because he had no idea what to expect, so as he was led away I told him not to worry, he’ll just have to get naked while an older man scrubs him til his skin is like a newborn baby’s and then gives him a rubdown. For my part I loved it. The masseuse was aggressive and looked at me like Crazy Eyes after Piper pissed her off in season one, but her aggression worked because that massage was solid. Then I got a mani-pedi (I needed a me day) and decided they should really just stick to the scrub and rub. We got lost in the souk again and again and found the leather tanneries and boutiques and I went a little crazy. Then we went away to the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert for three days (post on that tomorrow) and came back to Marrakesh tonight for one more sleep. Tomorrow we head north to Fez, to explore more of this amazing country, inshallah (see what I did there?)


Where we stayed in Marrakesh:

Hotel du Tresor, near Place Jemaa el Fna


Restaurant we liked:

Toubka restaurant, in Place Jemaa el Fna



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9 Responses

  1. Is there a Marrakesh Express? :)

  2. Amazing! Morocco is so interesting. Love the Mona Lisa with the veil, lol.

  3. Marie Sears

    Love the experience! Thanks for sharing.

  4. robtoscano

    Even Mona Lisa, what a lovely orange hue to it all, ‘went a little crazy’, shopping or just exhausted crazy.

  5. Gina Artese

    You are so funny when you write Denise, i can’t stand it! And isn’t Morocco incredible?! I’m dying to go to Marrakesh. I’ve been to Casablanca & Agadir & it was unbelievable! Enjoy Fez & can’t wait to hear more about your adventures. Miss you mama! xoxo

  6. Love it all, D! I want to eat all the figs, dates, apricots till I cannot eat anymore.

  7. so beautiful, bright & vivid colors everywhere, love your pics, be safe-judy serrone

  8. LOVED Morocco! Glad you enjoyed it! I remember how strange it was for the men to be so aggressive about where you’re from. I kept getting asked if I’m from Sweden, Holland and Denmark and did the same thing by replying Missouri!

  9. I really enjoy the blog post.Thanks Again. Really Great.

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