We return from the Agafay Desert and dive right in to exploring the Marrakech Medina. Erin is busy so we wander the Medina on our own. It’s exhilarating and terrifying to walk through the narrow streets crowded with vendors, hawkers, and tourists. There are so many sounds and smells. Everyone wants to sell us something – food, souvenirs, spices, pottery, juices, etc. And they’re aggressive. Some folks will follow you around!
Google Maps helps keep us from getting too lost. I don’t know how visitors did this before GPS!
Our next accomplishment was getting lunch. Using DQ’s limited French, hand gestures, and lots of good humor and patience, we managed to buy a lamb sandwich and not get swindled in the process. It’s almost silly how proud we are of ourselves in this moment. It made the sandwich taste even better!
Just as we were feeling pretty good about our traveling savvy, we got caught up in a tannery tour swindle. It was so classic. We were just standing to the side of the street when some guy spoke to us in English. He said hi and started making conversation. He told us it was a good time to be in Marrakech because the Berbers were in town to work on the tanneries and that we should head there to see it. As he was giving us directions, a guy he knew waked by and said he was waking in that direction and would escort us. After we walk through emptier and emptier streets, DQ starts getting suspicious but warily goes along. We arrive at the tanneries and are introduced to someone who gives us a tour. It’s all pretty interesting…and really, uh, pungent. They give us sprigs of mint to sniff as we walk around. We see the vats of pigeon droppings used to soften the hides, the dye vats, etc. And, finally, we are let to a big shop where we have tea with a salesman and a series of rugs are paraded in front of us. Then we see all the leather goods. We decide not to buy anything and as we walking away, we are stopped in the street by the tannery tour guide asking for a “donation” to the association – suggested 400 dirham per person ($80 total). DQT refuses and starts to walk away but MDT relents and gives them 50 dirham. He figures we did get a cool tannery tour out of it!
DQT navigates us back to the Medina because now no one is around to help us get back. In fact, we think a couple of guys tried to misdirect us or serve as guides for a fee. But, thank goodness for Google Maps! We meet up with Erin at a rooftop cafe for a late lunch – more tagine! a kefta (meatball) tagine this time – and are introduced to a pastille. It’s a phyllo crust with spiced chicken and almonds, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon on top. Sounds weird but was tasty!
Below, view of Marrakech from the rooftop cafe. We love looking out over the city and seeing minarets dotting the city skyline. Minarets are the towers at the mosques where the call to prayers emanate.
Bellies full, DQT and MDT head to a public hammam. These are heated bath houses, with separate entrances and areas for men and women. The hammam we visited has been in operation since 1562. The entrance fee is 10 dirham, but for 150 dirham you will get supplies and someone to give you a full body scrub/exfoliation/wash. It’s pretty basic but the scrub down is serious. The dead skin comes off of you in rolls. Ewwww….You feel pretty raw and crazy clean afterwards!
Marlene arrives tonight and we head to the airport to pick her up, guessing that border and customs will take a while. So we arrive 30 minutes after her flight lands only to see that Marlene is looking for us and talking to a guard. Oh no! We had promised to be there and waiting when she arrived! Somehow, she got her baggage and passed through customs in less than 20 minutes.
We head back to our gorgeous riad. Our housekeeper Fouzia, who has been patiently enduring DQT’s broken French, is overjoyed to meet Erin who can easily converse with her in both French and Arabic. Fouzia throws her arms up in joy!
The riad even came with a housecat, who always seemed to be napping in this chair no matter what time of day (except when she was eating).
Every morning, Fouzia made us breakfast served in the riad courtyard. Now, this is a vacation!
Marlene’s first meal in Marrakech was dinner after her long flight – tagine with chicken, lemon, and olives. With a side of fries and a various salad. The various salad is a particular Moroccan thing – lettuce, cucumbers, egg, onions, rice, zucchini, corn, beets, potatoes, olives, drizzled with white creamy dressing. The specific ingredients can vary depending on season or what is around but it usually includes lettuce, egg, rice, olives, potatoes, and the dressing. It was good – refreshing and cool compliment to the other dishes. Marlene really liked the chicken tagine and she LOVED the fries. It actually became a thing. We always ordered fries if it was on the menu (and it usually was). Marlene loved the fries in Marrakech – they were better than home!
After dinner, we walked around the Jemaa el-Fnaa square. It’s a big, busy square and one of the things Marrakech is known for. During the day there are snake charmers and monkeys and henna artists and juice carts. At night, the square is taken over by the meat grillers, storytellers, musicians, acrobats, though the juice guys and henna artists remain.
Of course we have dinner at the meat grillers one night. We just hopped from grill to grill, sampling what each place had – we even tried sheep brain! Unfortunately, it was a more interesting idea than a tasty dish.
Above, various animal heads on display. Below, brains!
We get juice from these guys Erin’s frequented in the past. We like them so much that we return every night and they start to greet us like old friends. Nightly juices becomes an addiction for MDT.
The square at sunset.