Thursday, February 27, 2014

36 hours in Morocco

We were greeted with a "flowery" welcome upon arrival at our riad. Riads are the
traditional "hotel" in Marrakech; basically old Jewish houses converted to B&Bs.
We had a nice breakfast of some Moroccan pastries with butter, jam, honey (maybe the best I've had), eggs,
fresh squeezed OJ, and coffee. And good coffee at that! It got us off on a good note for the big day ahead. 
Donkeys are a common form of transport and hauling in the streets of Marrakech, but we were on foot for the day.
The first place we visited was Palais Bahia. 
Nearly every room inside the palace was intricately decorated in this "Moorish" style. Typically it is very symmetrical in design. We learned that Muslim tradition was to have 4 wives, and each wife gets one of 4 rooms around a central square. I believe this was the room of the favorite wife, who was the mother of the first born son. By the way, this was a ceiling!
One of our first glimpses of the spice towers. No idea how they get the spices to stand like this, but it is awfully neat!
This particular spice/herb shop really caught our eyes with it's vibrant colors.
We visited a school in the area. It had a neat courtyard inside. Notice the "Moorish" symmetry and arches.

Here's a dorm room window. Evidently the prince and princess of Spain took this photo (together), so it is now famous. Unfortunately someone (Lisa) had to take the photo...
Here we go, about to venture into the famous central market: the "souks"
Even in Morocco they have Trek bicycles!
Check out these olives!
You don't suppose we did all this venturing alone do you?! Most definitely not! Here is our tour guide telling us about the design/writing on these marble pillars. We had a nice tour, but we never actually learned our guide's name! 
Eventually we got to stop for lunch. It was our first taste/experience of the Moroccan spices, as well as how they
use the tagines to cook. A tagine is essentially a clay dutch oven cooked over open fire/coals on low
heat for several hours. It results in some mighty tasty veggies and incredibly tender meats. 
We were treated to a "rug" presentation educating us on the rich history of rug making in Morocco. It was
ultimately a sales pitch, but we enjoyed the chance to just sit for a few minutes and enjoy some of
the delicious Moroccan mint tea that we were addicted to by the end of our short trip.
After our full day of trekking around Marrakech, it was time to treat ourselves to a Moroccan hammam. It began
with some of our favorite mint tea. The hammam included some sauna/steam room time, the traditional
"black soap" scrub, which is basically an exfoliating scrub/cleanse, and a finishing massage.
We also had mint tea after!
Despite our best efforts to stay out and experience the night life at the central market, we were so exhausted and over-stimulated from our busy day that we had to find a regular restaurant for dinner. It had beautiful design inside. You can also see the use of the tagine (the cone shaped dish) to serve nearly everything. At the far end of the room you can also see the Moroccan band that was providing us with some atmosphere. It was a nice evening.
The restaurant was also a little bit of a tourist place! They had some entertainment
dancers as the night progressed. Despite the touristic nature, it was still a good time.
The next morning we were off and into the chaos again! This time on our own.
That was of course if we could get through the road block...
We couldn't believe this van was driving down/through this narrow street!
One of our main shopping goals was to buy some spices. We never had the chance to stop/shop during our full-speed ahead tour the first day. We found some of the Moroccan mint tea, (which I happen to be partaking in at the moment this photo was taken), and obviously we had to buy a tagine to try! We bought the natural, earth clay tagine, so it has to be sealed prior to it's first use. We'll report back after we try it! Our final purchase was a colorful lantern decorated in the traditional Moorish design. You put a candle inside and it looks very nice on the table at night :)
And of course what would Morocco be without the snake charmers and other animals/birds of prey that have been
"charmed" for the public. I have to be honest and say that seeing a cobra up close, even at 10 meters, is a bit of
an intimidating experience. 
A look down on the plaza at the entrance to the central market. This is where the snake charmers were, along with
monkeys on chains wearing diapers. In all honesty, it was a little sad to see. At night, this plaza transformed to
hundreds of stands serving food and drinks. It was nuts!
And our final lunch in Marrakech with the view onto the central plaza. It was quick, but the trip was well worth it!


Cindy said...

Looks like an adventure I would like!

Ralph Marx said...

Fantastic pictures! What great colors and the places are so different from where I live.

Michael Bolster said...

Great Blog Matthew! Such great pictures of your various adventures. Enjoyable to read and see. Thank you for taking the time to document & share your travels. Bon Chance pour l'annee.