Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Morocco: A wandering day in Marrakech

Part 1: Marrakech

After flying from Copenhagen to Stansted airport in London, then transferring to a different London airport at 1 am and spending the night there (the joys of budget traveling), I arrived in the morning a bit tired, but ready to tackle Morocco solo!

Door to my room in my riad at stayed in.

Riads are traditional houses in Morocco. Staying in one gives you a glimpse into Moroccan culture. It literally means 'courtyard'.

Typical smaller street in the medina, the old walled-in part of the city.

Encountering locals on a stroll.

My first order of business was food of course, but I got distracted along the way by...
a monkey in a red dress!
At the Famous Djemma el-Fna, a UNESCO street theater.

I was both amused and appalled. He had a friend in a purple dress. I would never fathom putting my Rudy or Astro in dress.

Freshly squeezed OJ carts.

I got side-tracked again with a glass which cost 3 Dirhams (less than 50 cents). So delicious and sweet! These saved me.

Lunch at last!
Tagines: typical dish of stew baked in a clay pot.

My tagine for lunch with meat and an egg. You eat it by dipping bread.
Found it at a hole-in-the-wall, my favorite type of places.

The food was sooooo delicious! Dishes were filled with fragrant spices. Meat was cooked to tender perfection and the combination of fresh ingredients made for several scrumptuous meals. And best of all, meals could be acquired from 5 Dh on the cheap end to 60 Dh on the expensive end (50 cents to $8). Typical meal like the one above was about $3.

Meandering ...

Most of the joy of Marrakech is just wandering aimlessly. Even with my good sense of direction, I definitely got lost more than once. Straight streets and street names are non-existent. And I can't look lost or ask for directions since men or boys will try to charge me money to take me somewhere. That's part of the excitement. You never know what you are going to find, but it's also one of the difficulties.

But, there are few designated sights to see. After much searching, I found ...

Ali ben Yousseff Medersa

Beautiful tiled building where students studied Islam beginning in the 14th century. Now it is no longer in use. 99% of Moroccans today are Muslim.

I loved the tile-work.
It reminded me of the medersas in Uzbekistan.

The Souks: These are the famous markets in the medina.
Getting lost in the souks.
All the men sit out front.

Silver products are pretty known in Marrekech.

Leather shoes!
Moroccan leather is pretty nice. I opted for cute red flats for work instead of the traditional yellow pointy slippers you see above.

They sell everything here from tourist-y goods to leather to spices to cleaning products. My favorite was wandering around the tiny side streets where I found random things like livestock stalls and bird cage making. I definitely got lost in the maze, but thankfully did not have to pay any little kid to get me out.

Dinner with the local men.

My meal strategy is to find a crowded place with locals. After sitting at such a food stall, I scan the table more closely ... sheep heads, tongues (OK...) but then... sheep brains! Sorry, when dissection specimen are on the dinner table, that is NOT OK. I eat staring at my plate. The locals, who in turn are staring at me, ask "good?". To be fair, they gave me tasty 'normal' meat, but my top-down brain tried to say otherwise. I stopped when I found a "friend" in my dish. Regardless, this meal was entertaining for all. Local meals have always been great opportunities to peek into local culture. At the end, they were so amused by me that THEY asked to take the picture above.
Djemma el-Fma comes to life at night.

Story-tellers, henna artists (it's amazing I remained unpainted), our monkey friends, snake charmers, fortune tellers, acrobats, food stalls and many more abound. Just as the city was waking up, I said good night to Marrakech and all its eye-candy.


janek said...

Your Morocco pictures are amazing!! I'm definitely adding it to my list of places to go. The camel pictures were hilarious though I'm not sure I agree w/camels over horses. When I went on my camel trek, my friend fell off his camel and almost smooshed our poor guides. Hmm, maybe I'm the common factor. I was there when the horse freaked out on you too!

Angela said...

I think it is YOU! I will take note of that on our next set of travels. No animal treks with Jane. Though I recall our elephant behaving, or did he?