After a 1 hour flight to London Gatwick, a 3 hour stop-over and another 4 hour flight we landed in our first destination: the buzzing and super lively city of Marrakesh. This was the first ever airport where our bags got scanned on the way out of the terminal and luckily we didn’t have any drones in our luggage. Our first challenge was to find the bus stand without any signs. We found it to the left on the other side of the car park after asking for directions, (and buying the most expensive bag of nuts ever) and fighting our way through the taxi rank. The bus to the center cost a modest 30 Dirham and dropped us about 300m from the big central square (Jamaa al Fna).
We had booked a small but very nice riad through British Airways. It is called Riad el Farah and located near Badi palace and the Bab agnou. We were very warmly welcomed by the owner Mohammed with fresh peppermint tea. We spent some time talking and he shared his dinner (home cooked tagine with bread) with us. Our first dip into the local cuisine was very yummy and we learnt the delights that await at the bottom of the tagine.
On our first day we explored the stalls of Jamaa al Fna and the adjacent medina. The medina is a labyrinth of derbs (alleyways), backyards and cut-throughs stuffed with souks (shops). You can buy literally everything there apart from cars and houses. It is very easy to get lost in the medina, marvelling at the exotic products and great craftsmanship. Just be aware that shopkeepers or their friends try to get you into their shop as soon as you turn your head to look or start pointing at things. Half of them call out at you before that point anyway so we started training the art of looking-but-not-looking. The shops that impressed us the most were selling very intricate metal lanterns or all sorts of leather products. There was also a lot of beautiful pottery for sale. It was pity we are restricted by our luggage as we could have easily filled a suitcase (we might have to buy one at some point; the temptation is strong 😉
We had to escape the medina tested our navigation skills by trying to find our way back to the riad which we found straightaway. Emboldened by the success, we went to see the grand badi palace.
This impressive building complex was built in the 16th century by sultan Ahmed al-Mansour. Sadly it didn’t last very long and was looted only 75 years after it’s completion. Today the walls are inhabited by storks and only few parts are still covered by a roof. Entrance is 10dh per adult (3dh for a child) and there are plenty of information plaques in english, french and arabic.
We highly recommend spending an extra 10dh to see the Koutoubia minbar. This is the prayer pulpit from which the imam delivers the sermon. This particular example represents the pinacle of Cordobian wood carvery and craftsmanship.
The other thing one has to get used to in Morocco is the traffic. Millions of cyclists, scooters, motorbike-come-lorry, porters, cars and horse carriages share the streets and walkways. The handling skills of the drivers are impressive: they race down narrow derbs avoiding pedestrians, cyclists and stalls all while phoning or holding on to everything from a child to half a cupboard or 100 eggs. As a pedestrian this requires constant vigilance. The same has to be said about crossing roads.
As we both love Moroccan cuisine one thing we had our heart set on was learning how the locals cook and do a cooking course. We joined the cooking school at café Clock. Apart from us there was one American couple tapping into the knowledge of the head of cuisine Mohammed. After discussing the options, we decided on our dishes and went shopping. We ended up buying some spices for ourselves (chef quality at local price) as the opportunity was just too good. Back in the cafe we got our fingers dirty by making Moroccan breakfast bread and sampled it together with fresh fruit and delicious spiced coffee.
Under the watchful eye of our highly experienced and very nice teacher we prepared zalouk (smokey roasted aubergine), harira soup, tagine b t’mer w l’berlok (lamb tagine with prunes and apricots) and ghriba d l’sel (honey fassi macaroons). We really enjoyed the class and had a lot of fun and the resulting three course meal was scrumptious and well worth the time and effort.
So far we recommend a trip to this amazing and exciting city in which we will spend a few more days before heading to the atlas mountains.
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