I’m back from Marrakech with an obnoxious cold due to the temperature difference (23 there and -2 here) and a serious case of wanderlust. Being my first time out of Europe, I was fascinated and overwhelmed. Imagine yourself thrown back in time a hundred years at least, donkeys wandering the streets, men with carts shouting about their merchandise, bicycles and scooters driving past you with a speed that renders you dizzy, lamb legs hanging from hooks, sheep heads rigorously lined up waiting for their customer, people trying to point you into their direction all the time, bright colors shimmering from everywhere, too much to take in at once for your senses.
You gotta love Marrakech! If you’re anything like me, this surreal mixture of opulence and poverty, the architecture, the smell of amber and hamam, the mosques, the secret gardens will render you speechless and humbled. I even teared up waiting for my chicken tagine with preserved lemon and olives on this dreamlike terrace where I could hear the call to prayer from the minaret and see the sun setting on the medina.
On a daily basis, though, walking around the old town is tiresome- we walked between 9-14 km every day on the meandering streets and had difficulties finding our way since it’s all such a labyrinth. Besides, you have to watch your step so you don’t get run over by scooters, look stern so you don’t seem an easy target for the ones who expect tips for pointing you in the wrong direction, bargain when you purchase something in the souks and give your school French a real brush-up. It’s when you enter “Le jardin secret” or “Le jardin Majorelle” and let your eyes linger on the trees, rejoice in the beauty, sipping from a glass on fresh mint tea, that you can feel the sting of happiness- you’re alive, there’s so much beauty in the world and you’re so f* privileged to see it! And somehow all the 1001 night bed-time stories you read as a child come alive and you expect something extraordinary to happen and then you realize this trip is pretty extraordinary in itself.
We stayed away from street food, both because we didn’t feel like standing up when eating and because we weren’t keen on risking the runs. But we did buy grilled corn, grilled salty almonds, donuts, bread and pomegranate juice from street vendors and they were amazing!
Marrakech was a live exhibition of thousands of cats and since I’m an animal lover, I had to take a picture of most of them, to F’s exasperation. 😉 This one was tiny and very sweet and I saw it there several days in a row, so the shop keeper probably fed it.
This one was sleeping on top of the vendor’s merchandise, silky shawls and all and the vendor smiled at me when I took a picture of the kitten. This natural way of treating animals is so appealing to me! I hate the rigid rules in Norway, people so over-crazed by bacteria that they end up with all kinds of allergies I never even heard of back home. These aspects made Morocco much more resemblant to Romania, although I grew up hearing I shouldn’t pet cats there, too, but I never cared about this advice. 😉
The rugs are everywhere and they’re so pretty you’d wish you had a castle to fit them all in it! We bought a tiny one from a cooperative and we probably paid more than others, but hey, I did manage to bargain it to almost half of its original price, so I was pretty impressed with myself. They called me “the berber woman” everywhere, because I’d start at half the price they suggested. I still think they were happy with the deal, as I probably gave up earlier than they’d expected. 😉 haha!
We stayed at a riad in the medina and we’d recommend everybody else to do the same, as it’s the only true Moroccan experience we wouldn’t be without. Originally I dreamt of something very fancy, but we were a bit slow to book and the most sumptuous places were gone by then. Besides, since it was winter in Marrakech and the temperatures were supposed to be between 15-19 degrees C, we figured we wouldn’t get the chance to use the pool anyways. So we ended up at Le riad de Madina, where Wafa cooked us an authentic breakfast of Moroccan pancakes, eggs with harissa and freshly squeezed orange juice. It was a lovely place, clean and peaceful, it smelled of amber all day long, two lovely birds chirping from morning until evening, we wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!
More details in another entry, this is just an introduction to Marrakech, which has been a lifelong dream come true for me. It was so beautiful and so different, so chaotic and so peaceful, so loaded with fragrance and yet so smelly, so courteous and yet so cheeky, just like a young girl from the country side.
There were lots of nice things to purchase, luckily I’m very particular, so I didn’t feel like buying everything, otherwise there wouldn’t have been time for anything else. I ended up with a cashmere caftan, a wool and silk blend shirt, a scarf, two pairs of shoes and a pair of ear-rings, too. Most of the things I bought in “high-end” Moroccan design shops at Northern-European prices, but Moroccan artisans boasted of pretty amazing stuff wherever you went.
The babouches (leather slippers) were popular with both locals and tourists, I brought back a pink pair for my niece, Diana, but didn’t notice the stench of goat until I came home. I’m not sure if the smell “wears off”, but they’re damn cute to look at anyways, so she can always give them to her dolls. 😉
I’ll be back with more pictures, tips on where to eat, where to go to the hamam, where to have a drink, where to shop, as well as regular dos and donts. 😉