morocco - part II: essaouira
Rochefort, Orval, and the Belgian countryside

morocco - part I: marrakesh - colorful vibrant fun


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Up until this trip, all of our flights have been uneventful.  Not this one.  As we were ready to land in Marrakesh, a big storm system moved in.  We circled at a very low altitude for 40 minutes as well as the pilot tried to land the plane twice.  By this time I had motion sickness and was crying in my seat.  The three "aviation experts" I was traveling with thought it was fun {sigh}.

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The pilot had to divert the plane to Casablanca where, after three hours in the airport, and a chewy sandwich, we boarded a bus for a three-hour road trip to Marrakesh.  This is where our adventure began.

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The taxi dropped us off on a side street at midnight where a handsome young man {Ismail} dressed in traditional Moroccan-wear met us to lead us to our B&B, Riad Zolah.  We walked through dark alleyways, twisting and turning for quite a distance, passing eerie dark figures.  But strangely, enough we were not frightened.

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We finally came upon a very plain door.  You would never had know it was the Riad had Ismail not escorted us there.  Once the door was opened we entered into a absolutely magical place.  There were candles burning everywhere even in our room and rose petals sprinkled on our beds - how romantic.

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After a good nights sleep and a delicious breakfast at the Riad we ventured out into the twisted maze of a city on our own.  I immediately fell in love with all the colors and vibrant life in the streets.

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Marrakesh is in the southeast part of Morocco, in Africa, and dates back to 1070.  It is known as the red city due to the walls that surround the old fortified city known as the Medina.

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Marrakesh has the largest traditional Souk (market) in Morocco.

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It runs for miles and is made up of endless alleys that twist and turn making it very easy to get lost.  


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The outer streets of the medina are run predominately for tourists, but once you get deeper into the maze, you will experience where the locals live and shop.

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They say that the souk is pretty much unchanged since the early days.  The stalls are the size of a cupboard and sell just about everything from carpets to fabrics to jewelry to copperware to beads to leather to slippers...


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to tassels....


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 to lizards....

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to small carved toys created by young boys with their feet and a bow....  All the sellers cry out, "Hey my friend, for you I give a special price!".  Most will ask you where are you from.  When you tell them you are American - they all say, "We love Obama!  We love America"


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Negotiation is an art and a game in Marrakesh.  Part of the game is to build a relationship/friendship with the shop owner.  We all thoroughly enjoyed talking to the owner of this particular shop. 

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He was very well educated and told us about the King, Mohammad VI, whom the people love.  One thing the King is well known for is helping all citizens' own homes.  He is a fairly young King at 47 years old with a three-year-old son.  The shop owner was born on the same day as the king so his family was given special gifts as well as money every year.



D2 did a pretty good job negotiating and A walked out with the backpack she wanted.  We were in there so long I walked out with a purse  :  ) 

D got orange slippers!

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There were mainly two modes of transportation - mopeds and donkeys!

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It was amazing to see how much they stacked on the mopeds and then drove with them like this!  We were often jumping out of the way to miss being run over by a moped.  The donkeys moved a bit slower.

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There were also lots of bicycles.   Look closely at the what is in the basket....

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There were pull-carts waiting everywhere to help the locals deliver goods.  They sold fruit and other items from the back of the carts.

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They have beggars, but most try to sell you small items, such as cookies instead of just asking for money.  They love to give you directions for a small fee.  And yes, many are young children.


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I thought one of our most interesting and fun meals we ate was in the souk at Chez Abdela.  One young man who we purchased goods from showed us where it was.  He was alone in his stand so he had to hurry.   He raced through the zigzagged maze with us running behind him.   We thought he was going to take us around the corner...instead he took us 10 streets away - winding around the souk.

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The tangine pots (sitting in front of the blue-checked grill) were cooking for hours at a very low heat, which makes the meat tender.  Tangine is a traditional Moroccan dish named after the special clay pot it is cooked in.

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We ordered a tangine and grilled meats, another specialty of the area.  All the food was delicious and very authentic.


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The most popular drink is sweet mint tea. AND I MEAN SWEET.  Here are the drinks lined up at a stall with the sugar cubes and mint.  Look at the size of those sugar cubes!


The scene below is typical - men drinking tea in the streets.....waiting with their cart for someone to come hire them to move goods.

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Located in the Medina is the main square in Marrakesh, the Djamaa El Fna.  The square bustles with hustlers waiting to prey on tourists; musicians, storytellers.....

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snake charmers...

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......and monkeys.  If you take ANY photos you must tip them.  They become very nasty if you do not tip.  Even though it looks like she reached for the monkey....A did NOT ask for him to put it on her, so I felt it was fair game for me to take a photo......nope.  Does not work that way.  The young man started yelling and demanding money.  We did not pay him any - but mainly because we did not have any small change. 

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At night, rows of dazzling food stalls open in the square turning it into a huge open-air restaurant.  With servers yelling out for you to come eat at their stall which, is as good as Jamie Oliver or they say they have air conditioning.  It is as much of a performance as is it a meal.

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We started off our meal with the traditional harira soup made from chickpeas and lentils.  The food wasn't necessarily the best we've eaten but it was fun.

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The chef usually sits in the center where they cook and the diners sit around the edge. 


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Some stalls were so smoky from the cooking; we were not sure how people ate.

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One of the traditional dishes served at the stalls were sheep-heads.


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Here is a closer look.  No, none of us tried it.  We mainly ate grilled meats, salads, and fish.

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My very favorite dish of the trip was the sweet & savory chicken pastilla - a phyllo pastry filled with chicken spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc with almonds.


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We tried this dessert.  I am not even sure how to describe it other than a mountain of dense cinnamon that sucked all the moisture out of your mouth.

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We were smiling for the photo, NOT for the love of the dessert!


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The next day we ventured into the non-tourist area of the souk where we had a celebrity sighting - Andre Leon TalleyTo read more about this post visit my art blog  - ma vie trouvee.


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This area was captivating, so local and real.  Fresh meat for sale, hanging out next to the barber.

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And live chickens...

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Might be a little too fresh for me.

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Many of the older people wore robes like the one below. 


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This gentleman was not happy I was taking his photo - see him shaking his finger at me?


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We had another fun lunch in the Medina.  D loves to eat as local as possible and he managed to find us this sandwich joint where he paid $5 for 4 very large sandwiches and drinks.  Nope, none of us got sick!

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Look at this yummy sandwich!

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Time for a sweet mint tea break in a little cafe.



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You would have thought we were drinking alcohol....even the young woman who ran the shop was laughing at us.....why?


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For some reason we got into taking photos of people/mopeds/carts going by.  They were actually very cool - creating a ghost-like image.

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Then, my "always-thinking" husband decided it would be even cooler if he was in the photo.  So he stood on the opposite side, waiting for a moped to go by.  He would then RUN from the other side into view.  He did this 10 times or so.....this is what had us all laughing hysterically.  Look quickly to see him run by!

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We took a walk to the Gueliz, the part of town outside of the Medina.  It primarily has locals who shop here.  Bananas seemed to be the fruit of the season.


Cart (1)

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Interestingly, the donkeys and the hand-pushed carts drove on the main roads.  I am pretty sure this cart would have been pulled over in the US for a mulititude of reasons!

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We purchased a bag of the coconut cookies sold on the street.  They were yummy.  D2 would not eat them.  We laughed and wondered what the kitchen looked like where they were baked.  This one is for you mom!

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Back in the souk D & D2 try to negotiate for pomegranates - which by the way were inexpensive, huge, and delicious.  I am pretty sure they negotiated up instead of down on this transaction!  They bought a pomegranate that weighed 1/2 kilo, plus one spark plug.

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That night we went back to the open square for dinner. 

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And we finally had ice cream! Highly rated by D2 and me, the ice cream connoisseurs!  We went back the next night to verify our findings.

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We ended the evening with a cup of mint tea at our Riad.  Here is the owner,  Aziz, giving us a traditional pour!

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We all loved visiting Marrakesh - such an amazing array of colors, sights, tastes, and sounds.  We highly recommend a visit if you have the chance. 

Please continue to the next post, part two of our Morrocan trip as we tour Essaouira, a very colorful town on the water. 

Hop over to my art blog, ma vi trouvee,  for a blast of color.

And if that still is not enough, click on the slide show below.



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