Sunday, 19 November 2017

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKESH - OLD MEDINA AND THE SOUKS

Hi everyone,

Last week I shared with our stay in Casablanca (you can read it here, if you missed it).  Today I would like to tell you about our visit to Marrakesh.

The first thing that we noticed as we got into the car at the airport, is the total domination of red.  Each structure that we passed, whether it was a building or a wall was either built with red bricks or rendered in red.  It was in total contrast with Casablanca which is all white, hence the name.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
We chose to stay in a small luxury boutique hotel called AL Fassia Aguedal "renowned nationally and internationally for its hospitality and service as well as for exquisite refined Moroccan restaurants offering the finest Moroccan cuisine".
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Its name came up in the search with excellent reviews and a high rating and when we checked the website and scrolled through the images, we liked it even more.

The one distinctive feature of  this is that it is owned and run by two sisters, a rare phenomenon in the male dominated society that is the Middle East. We mostly dealt with Myra, the hotel owner and manager, who together with her well trained and friendly team went out of their way to make our stay most enjoyable.

We loved this place the moment we stepped through the thick heavy front doors and found ourselves in the beautifully appointed reception area where we were offered cold towels and refreshments.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Its style and architecture reflects the principles of  a riad with the traditional indoor square shaped roofless garden with a splashing fountain in its centre that gives the whole place a sense of tranquillity and peace and provides a most desired respite from the heat.  The rooms are situated along the perimeter of the garden, ours was on the second floor overlooking the Moorish shaped pool filled with emerald green water and the city behind the thick red walls of the compound.  The suite was absolutely lovely, big and comfortable, with a thick carpet over the tiled floor and big cushions scattered everywhere should anyone choose to take a rest on the carpet.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Breakfast was served around the pool and with in accordance with local taste included items such as home baked traditional bread, pancakes drizzled with local honey and yogurt, delicious house made orange and carrot jam, eggs baked in spiced tomato sauce (later on I would like to share with you my take on this dish), all washed down with freshly brewed mint tea.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Our first point of interest was, naturally, was to visit the souks, of which I had seen and heard a lot and I have been fascinated by them for years.  After a short ride, a taxi dropped us at the front gates of the Medina (old city) and we found found ourselves in the middle of the busy big square called Jemaa el Fna that for centuries has been the cultural symbol of Marrakesh and a showcase of traditional Morocco and has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
It is a hub and the heart of all activity of the Medina.  A large market is held here every morning where stallholders are selling medical plants, freshly squeezed orange juice as well as all kinds of nuts and confectionery.  Whatever free space is left, is occupied by snake charmers, dancing monkeys, donkeys tied to the poles patiently waiting for their owners to return and hundreds of people, tourists and locals alike.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
At sunset the square becomes a gigantic, multifaceted open-air show.  It is a perfect place to watch the sunset from one of the many cafes surrounding the square and people from all walks of life are drawn to the square to watch the street performers, dancers, musicians, story tellers and showmen.  The air is filled with the aroma of grilled meet, fish and spices and for those with the exotic taste, cooked snails.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Behind this throbbing activity lie the souks.  They are arranged according to the type of goods on offer:  fabrics, brass goods, leather goods including babouche slippers, Berber carpets, jewellery, clay tagines, ceramics and much much more, some of them looking like an Aladdin's Cave.  The store owners are men only, dressed in djellabas (long hooded robes).  The street of the souks are narrow and wind and go on for miles.  You can spend days wandering up and down them not knowing what wonder is awaiting for you around the corner.

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1 

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
We emerged back to the square many hours later toying with the idea of staying there till the sunset but in the end, totally exhausted and a little bit overwhelmed we decided to save it for another day and we caught a taxi back to the hotel where we had booked our dinner at the hugely popular restaurant called Al Fassia Aguedal.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
When, refreshed, we came down to the restaurant, the hostess escorted to us to the rose garden where the tables were laid under the dark blue skies and the waitress handed us leather-bound menu offering the wide array of traditional Moroccan and North-African dishes and local wines.

After dinner we said goodnight to our host and retired to our quarters as the next day we had an early start but that is the story for another post.

As promised earlier, here is my version on how to cook the eggs in the spicy tomato sauce.  This dish has many incarnations, in the West it is called Eggs in Purgatory, while in the Middle East it is know as Eggs Shakshuka.  You can find this recipe and many others in MY COSMOPOLITAN KITCHEN recipe book.

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Enjoy!!!

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