Monday, December 6, 2010

Marrakech, Morocco!

To take a break from the cold these past few days, Christina, Andrea and I took a trip to the city of Marrakech in Morocco, Africa. Everything seemed so different, colorful, and at times very overwhelming, but always exciting. It took a while but as soon as we got our bearings we jumped right in and began exploring. Three full days was definitely not long enough but we packed in as much as we could, first hitting the main square, the market, and then getting out of town to go hiking.

The main square in Marrakech is absolutely chaotic. Hundreds of stores with beautiful colors hanging around their entrances circle the center square which is full of carts selling freshly squeezed orange juice and nuts, fruit, women doing henna, monkeys, snakes, donkeys, scooters, bikes, and thousands of locals and tourists. First things first: we stopped for lunch. There were so many places to choose from, we ended up eating at this amazing restaurant right on the edge of the square. We sat in the sun up on the terrace that overlooked everything below and had a great view of the mosque. We ordered vegetarian couscous, roasted chicken with olives, and tajine lamb with apples all for less than 200 dirhams (~ 20 euro) and it was incredible. After lunch we journeyed into the square to get henna tattoos and that was quite an experience. As soon as you look interested in something you’re attacked from all directions with offers and prices and in this case they had their henna pens out and were drawing designs on our arms before we realized what was even happening. Negotiating a price afterwards was another experience altogether, everything is marked up about 90% and you have to do some serious bargaining.

With our freshly inked arms we headed into the market to do some shopping. Everywhere you look there is something new and interesting to see: beautiful scarves, daggers, colorful pillows and blankets, rugs, delicious smelling spices, and intricate metal and glass lamps. Once we had adjusted to the scenery and smells it was so much fun walking through and looking at everything, talking and bargaining with the locals. Luckily we’ve had some practice in the Mercato San Lorenzo in Florence, otherwise we would have been entirely overwhelmed. After the market we headed back into the square to get some fresh orange juice from the vendors. It was without a doubt the best orange juice I’ve ever had and we went back several times throughout our stay for more.

Our second day in Morocco was spent traveling to the valley town of Ourika (and stopping along the way to pet camels), where we hiked up the mountain to see a huge beautiful waterfall. In fact, it was more mountain climbing than hiking, and converse and jeans were not the most appropriate attire, but it was well worth it. All along the trail were clusters of small houses and shops selling handmade pottery and carved stones, and even restaurants set up right on the mountain. Considering the climb I have no idea how they were able to get everything that far up. Back in Ourika we ate lunch right on the river and then back to Marrakech for dinner in the square! It felt like we were nonstop eating delicious food, and that’s the best kind of trip. By the time we got back to Marrakech, the square had transformed from a huge open area to a maze of tents selling all sorts of foods: snails, soups, fish, tajine, couscous, and skewers of grilled meat were only some of the things we passed. Eventually we decided on fried fish and chips, and were given delicious bread and salsa at this one stand that everyone seemed to be enjoying. I can’t wait to get home and try to recreate all the dishes I’ve tasted while abroad! While walking around and taking pictures, we tried these amazing cookies being sold by little kids, and couldn’t help but go back for more before calling it a night.

On our last day in Marrakech we took a walk down the road to the huge mosque and spent some time walking around it and admiring the architecture. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed in, but the grounds and outside were beautiful and we hung out there for a while before going back for more Moroccan food and market shopping. Walking back to the hotel that night we learned about spices, herbs, and natural soaps, talked to some of the locals, and I now have a facebook friend in Morocco to keep in touch with! 6 a.m. and our taxi to the airport came way too quickly, and we were on our way back to Florence. Only 2 more days now and then… Paris! More posts and pictures soon!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your great work and… this Blog is a really pleasant surprise! Keep up the good work!

    Pet Taxi

    ReplyDelete