Thursday, June 15, 2017

Marrakech

Just a few short days (or long days if you consider how much we pack in each day) after arriving in England we left our two little cherubs back home with G&G and headed off to Morocco for a get away!! We decided to go somewhere new that neither of us had been and somewhere a little different than the usual Europe destinations. We made a great choice!
Marrakech is only about a 4 hour flight and you are very decidedly in a whole different world. We stayed in a Riad in the heart of the city inside the old city walls. We walked everywhere despite the 90+ degree weather. The gorgeous riad had a center courtyard three stories high.
Our room was very traditional but modern and had all the luxuries but still felt much like you were staying in the home of a local, a wealthy local perhaps.
Our first evening after arriving close to evening we rested and relaxed with cool ginger lemonade and mint tea in the courtyard. Then we had  dinner at the Riad with a lovely preserved lemon tagine. 
The food in Morocco was absolutely wonderful. It was tagines, couscous and lots of fresh vegetable salads. Our room came with breakfast every morning on the roof top. Home made yogurt and jams, and of course the local orange juice which they are known for. 
We spent our days wandering the maze of the city streets. They are sometimes only wide enough for two people to squeeze by yet somehow a cart of watermelon pulled by a donkey will manage through and you better get over! 
Scooters and motorcycles zip through the alley ways so you're always on alert. They sell all manner of things from leather goods to iron lanterns. You better like to bargain because they are smooth talkers and aggressive salesmen. Neither Alex nor I are very fond of high pressure sales pitches so we didn't do a whole lot of purchasing.
We did tour the Madrasa Ben Youssef which used to be an islamic college. It is now a historical sight and quite popular for tourists to photograph. The architecture was stunning and every turn seemed to be a set up for a photo shoot. We did see one couple staging quite the runway show which was humorous.
We did our fair share of posing.
Despite the heat we tried to respect the local religion and customs and wear long pants and dress. Many tourists did not really appear to respect this but you feel very much the outsider in this country and don't need to call more attention to yourself than we already do.


I had great plans to have Alex on the other side of the courtyard sticking his head out of that opposite window but it was getting hot and we couldn't be bothered.
You could really imagine what this place might be like as a bustling school filled with people.

Ah, don't worry, there is a little head peeping out of the doorway.
By mid day we really needed something cool and relaxing. After leaving the Madrasa we followed our map to try to find the photography museum. If there's one thing to know about Marrakech it is the winding streets go on and on with turns every few steps. It is ridiculously easy to get lost here, it is sort of a right of passage. You just know a few landmarks and which way is north and go from there.

We had a pretty good idea how to get to the museum but at every turn we had local men in broken English telling us to turn around, wrong way, can't go there, no tourist allowed etc. After several attempts and several "helpful" locals steering us in circles or blatantly making us turn around we finally allowed one man to show us the way. He kindly led us to the door of the museum (that we had been heading correctly for on our own) and then refused to leave until we paid him for the assistance. 
The museum was lovely none the less and really the big draw was the rooftop cafe with orange juice and mint tea.
After a good relax we felt ready to brave the streets again. There are definitely neighborhoods you shouldn't wander into on your own but for the most part it is widely accessible and tourist friendly. They do love you to shop and spend after all. 
The market stays open into dusk and sells all manner of food.
We were on a kitty hunt throughout the city. The strays just sort of live wherever they can get the best scraps. They don't look too well off but we knew Lily would have just loved all the strays amongst the shops.
We did get an interesting chat from one of the spice sellers they had something for everything in that shop. He was quite the salesman and once you start a conversation they are not going to let you walk away without buying something. 
After enough of the city streets we rested back at the Riad with our favorite ginger lemonade. We have made many attempts to recreate this back at home.
We had dinner at a local restaurant roof top that evening. It was ramadan during our visit so all the local people were fasting from sun up until sun down. Our hosts at the Riad warned us this made for some cranky locals during this time of year. Once 7:45pm hit you could not find a local in sight anywhere. They had all run for the kitchen to eat and drink. By 8pm it was back to business as usual. The restaurant had a guitar -Oud- player. He was very good and set an authentic mood. The food was delicious as well.
The next day we covered more ground on the city streets until we could not take the heat a minute longer. This day we got a really authentic mint tea with perhaps an entire mint plant in each glass. 

This is what our lunch salad looked like. There are many many small dishes with fantastic spiced salads some cool some hot. It is definitely inspiring to go home and try to recreate some. With my local spices of course.
Step aside...here comes the donkey cart!! We ended up going for Lebanese food the last night which was truly amazing. We took in as much of the sights and sounds of the city without getting lost, well mostly.
Now it was time to head back to England to spend the rest of the trip with the family!


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