Marrakech express – part 1

The tour carries on from Fes to Marrakech, via a return trip to the coast and Casablanca. I’m still transfixed by landscapes that remind me of coastal cities and farmlands of my own country. Morocco isn’t what I expected. But then again, I say that about a lot of places. Maybe I should give up my preconceived ideas of what a place will look like.

But by the time we arrive in Marrakech Morocco has morphed into a new version of itself, one more like my fantasy palm-tree-ringed oasis on a sand-colored plain.

After settling into our hotel, a group of nine of us hire three taxis to take us down to the “Square”, Jemaa El Fna.

My friends are on a mission to shop, and I’m up for a walk in a new city and getting the chance to get my bearings. I’m dreading seeing the snake charmers almost as much as Sharon, but maybe for a different reason. I’ve been told that the famous tourist attraction where men seem to hypnotize cobras and other venomous snakes has an even darker side than what you see on the plaza. It’s said that in order to tame the snakes, the handlers have injured them and most snakes are dying which makes them easier to handle. I’m not a fan of being up close to a snake, but I would never want one hurt. I’m sick at the thought of it and I hope it isn’t true.

Thankfully, our taxis don’t take us to the square, but instead deliver us to the gate of the old walls of the Medina closest to the “government store” where we can shop for all things Moroccan – rugs, leather goods, lanterns, jewelry, etc.

Our group of nine dissolves into three smaller groups very quickly as we cull the fast shoppers from the slower, more methodical ones. My girls pace themselves though, and decide to wander closer to the square and shop along the way, gathering intel on pricing and quality before they intend to actually buy tomorrow.

We walk through the narrow streets of the Medina toward the souk nearest the main square. Heather stops to shop for a Moroccan wedding blanket and some embroidered shoes. I people watch and window shop (although everything is open air and there are no windows). The sun is getting low.

Well after dark we make our way back to the square and stop at one of the many tents for a dinner of grilled meat kebabs and salad.

In the morning our tour takes us on a half-day run through the highlights of the city that ends where else? Back at Jemaa El Fna, of course, so we can pick up the shopping portion of the tour. Morocco is a heaven for shoppers.

But first…

We head back to the center of the city near the Kasbah Mosque in Méchouan Kasbah.

Not far from the mosque and Jemaa El Fna is the peaceful garden setting of the Tomb of the Saadians, a mausoleum for sixty members of a former dynasty of a sultan.

Our tour continues just around a corner or two at an apothecary. Morocco is known for its argan oil which is used for skin and hair. Although it is sold on the streets, it is said the best place to buy it is from a pharmacy, which of course provides many other products for you to buy too.

Our group wanders through the Kasbah toward our next stop, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the markets along the way. Some stalls sell fragrant spices which are displayed in colorful mounds along the edges of the street. Others sell leather goods or pottery. Mixed among them are butchers and grocers selling fresh produce. The combination of smells is at once delicious and slightly off. Today is a holiday, which means there is no trash collection, adding an unpleasant undertone to the aroma of our walk. Marrakech – It’s certainly a feast for all the senses.

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1 comment

  1. Different culture for sure! What amazes me is the colors, not only in the architecture but in foods and products sold at the marketplace. As I read your blog my mind was searching for the words to the song “Marrakech Express” or something like that. It is a place that I would have never thought of visiting but your blog certainly has brought it to my attention.
    I also assume you are well connected to the internet in many of the larger cities by the number of photos uploaded to your blog. That is a big plus!

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