It was the smell that first got my attention as we walked towards Jamaa el Fna square, in the heart of Marrakesh’s medina quarter (old city). A strong fusion of spices, barbecuing meats and smoking incense.
As the sun was setting we took refuge at the top of a café bar overlooking the square, sipping contently on our peppermint tea. There was so much to watch from here, old men sat around telling stories, and large crowds gathering to gamble on 2 young boys bare knuckle fighting. The bells from the nearest mosque started to ring followed by the call to prayer.
The food markets at the other end of the square were coming to life as dusk fell almost unnoticed amidst our curiosity of square life. We headed down into the square and I ordered Lamb Tagine with unleavened bread.
My companions were not so adventurous and decided not to eat from the markets to my dismay. The food, which was delicious and ridiculously cheap, was also being enjoyed by many locals sat around us. This is always a sign that the food is good.
After I’d finished the rest of my meal, we walked through the uncovered parts of the souk markets, which were really bustling by this time. Whilst ignoring the odd comments from local men shouting the names of famous ‘western women’, I enjoyed the buzz of the place. Some of the others did feel a little intimidated in the markets, which is understandable for those who haven’t travelled outside of ‘Westernised’ Europe before.
A wide range of products were on offer in the markets from traditional night candles, to pottery, clothing, rugs and spices. Haggling is mandatory here and it was good fun doing so!
I spotted a stall which sold a type of sweet and savory doughnut style bread. Even though I still felt satisfyingly full from dinner I had to try some. I bought a bag of the sweet variety and offered to the others, most of whom accepted them this time, after a little persuasion from myself. They were still warm and had a strong flavour of cinnamon with dried fruits inside. They were tasty but very filling.
The following day, two of us from the group headed back to the Souks to venture further in and to purposely get ourselves lost. The Souks really are like a maze, but are vibrant with locals carrying on their daily business swapping and selling goods. The odd donkey and cart went past us carrying an assortment of produce.
Stopping at a Spice stall I excitedly bought some Saffron which was so cheap compared to UK prices, at around £1 for a 50g bag.
After a few hours of simply wondering we found the Museum de Marrakech hidden away at the side of the souks. The building and rooms within were beautiful and contained decorative Moroccan objects including jewellery, ceramics, coins and contemporary art. Next door was a mosque which was subtly hidden with the wall however we were forbidden to enter.
After a pit stop at a café, where we had some nicely spiced Moroccan tea, we headed back into the Souks and this time we did get lost. Local boys though are usually around to help guide lost tourists out of the Souks. Be sure to agree a price up front though to avoid being over charged.
I really enjoyed my few days in Marrakesh, taking in the different cultures and cuisines. I would like to go back to Morocco and visit different parts of the country such as Agadir, Casablanca and the Atlas Mountains.
(Marrakesh Trip, June 2012)