Wednesday, 7 September 2011

That's Proper Foreign!

......was the phrase heard as we gazed down from the plane over the vast expanse of scrub desert that is Morrocco. For the past few years we have got cold and wet holidaying in England and France - and France doesn't really count as 'abroad' because we know the language, we know the culture, we know the way it all works and we know how cold the rain can be! So it was decided that to celebrate our Silver Wedding anniversary, we would have a family holiday somewhere different; hot, dry and 'proper foreign' for a change .... and Marrakech was certainly all those things!
So make yourself a cup of mint tea (or 'Morroccan Whisky' as the locals call it!), sit yourself down and join me in a whirlwind tour of Marrakech.

The hot dry air that slapped us in our faces as we left the plane at 7 o'clock at night was just the first of many suprises:
The traffic wasn't heavy, but it was interesting in its make up.....

Cars can't get down the narrow streets and alleyways of the Medina - the old town within the walls, so a man with a handcart trundled our bags to our guest house.

Some of the children that we talked with every day on our way in and out from our riad

We stayed in the wonderful Riad HadikaMaria, an 8 roomed guest house 10 minutes walk from the main Jemma El Fna square (or 3 hours and, eventually, the hire of one small boy as a guide to get you back on your first day!)

The courtyard gardens were beautiful.

The plunge pool was a joy when the temperature topped 40 degrees!

Our room...but, sadly, I never got serenaded by anyone under my balcony!

The rooftop terrace - the view was prettier at night as you couldn't see all the breezeblocks and satellite dishes!

The souk.

A tangle of narrow alleyways where you can buy anything and everything - for a price!

It's easy to get to get lost at first, but it's also easy to get the hang of the layout of the alleys once you dive in and get on with it. As most people are a bit wussy and tend to lurk round the main street, the further in you go, the quieter it gets and the chances of haggling down to a cheaper price are greater. A wonderful place!

We found possibly the world's largest padlock

Tassles - they just love tassles!I've never seen so many tassles, they were everywhere!

"Looking is free today!"

The best compliment that the shop keepers can give you is "You like Berber - strong! Bargain hard!"

Meet Nutty Gnome, Berber woman!

First-Born and Last-Born are also natural born Berber women! :D

"You want nice lamp? I sell you nice lamp - democratic price"?!

Never did find out what a democratic price was.

Last-Born the jewellery maker checking out the quality of the beads in her bead heaven.

*whispers* "You want spices? I sell you spices - I take you to my/my brother's/my sister's spice price...come, come!"

First-Born caught cumin-sniffing!

or you can go to the Dyers Market, a specific area within the souk, to see the yarn and fabrics being dyed - in vast vats of boiling water over roaring fires. How the men coped with the temperatures is beyond me!

....where we bought huge scarves at ridiculously cheap prices - mine was one of the blue ones you can see hanging up...and he showed us how to make it into a toureg turban - not quite sure I could do it again now though!

or check out the fresh produce.....

a bit like this kitten did!

Inside or outside everyone has something to sell

A little further away from the main square and souk the veg stalls were a bit more basic


Nightime in the Jemma El Fna.

A vast almost empty square during the day, a busy, bustling, endlessly entertaining source of food and snake charmers at night.

All the stalls are the same price and serve pretty much the same food - tagines, couscous, kebabs, salads, chips(!), almost too much to choose from. You sit on benches at tressle tables with your 'Morrocan serviettes' (squares of paper!) and order your food from the multilingual staff. It's quick, it's cheap, it's generally hot from being cooked immediately and it's good!

It's worth running the gauntlet of the stalls just to hear the comments they come out with to entice you to their particular stall - hillarious!

"Come, come - cheaper than Tesco"," my stall not just any stall M&S food", "lovely jubbly food", "Jamie Oliver eat here", "better than Asda price", " 'ave a butchers at what we got!", "bluuuuddy luuurvley food!" - how could we resist?

I'm guessing they watch British TV for all the food-related adverts then?!

So there you go. A brief tour of the heart of Marrakech - and I haven't even started on the mosaics, the carvings, the Majorelle Gardens, the Ozoud Cascades........! :)


Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Ah I remember it well. We were there in 2002. We managed to get a ridiculously cheap room in hotel 'La Mamounia'. Everything you describe is exactly how it is. Did you ever get to a carpet shop? They're amazing places but it's almost impossible to leave without buying a carpet!

We used to buy a box of little Moroccan pastries from a shop on the edge of the D'jema el Fna, sneak them back to the room and scoff them on the balcony listening to the call to prayers from the Kotoubia mosque, all washed down with moroccan whisky.

If you fancy a good moroccan cookbook, grab a copy of Paula Wolfert's 'Couscous and other good food from Morocco' It's brilliant, she lived in Tangiers for over twenty years.

joey said...

Often in my mind, so anxious to see these! Awesome photos and tutorial, dear Liz .. keep them coming!

Pondside said...

Oooh I'd love to visit there. More photos and stories, please,as these were great!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Rob - how on earth did you get a ridiculously cheap room in 'La Mamounia'?! Since they did it up a couple of years ago, they won't even let non-residents wander in the gardens now :(
Aaah Morrocan pastries - we saw one stallholder drizzling an entire colander full of honey over his pastries one morning - bit too sweet for me!!
We wanted to buy a carpet, but didn't see one we liked in the colours we wanted - but it was very hard to resist the carpetsellers and not just buy one anyway!
We were near a mosque too and, as it was Ramadam whilst we were there, there was some lovely singing at night time as well as the usual call to prayer.
I'll have a look for that cookbook Rob. Thanks for the tip ...but I'm not going to be eating couscous for a week or two yet!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Joey luv, glad you liked the photos - there are plenty more where they came from...I took around 1000 over the 12 days!
I will be doing a post on the Majorelle Gardens - fabulous place! a couple of other places that we visited may well slip in too :)

Hi Pondside - thanks :) Marrakech is a great place to visit - the people are wonderful and there's so much to take in.
It was very hot whilst we were there, but it also meant that it wasn't as busy as during the 'cooler' months, which suited us as we tend not to like huge crowds. I was glad we stayed in the Medina rather than in the fairly bland hotels in the new town area outside the walls - you could be anywhere in the world out there but there's no disguising where you are in the Medina!

Woody Wilbury said...

Ey-up Nutty. That sounds brilliant & you look "in your element". Hope you had a really great time.

I'm currently in Slovenia on Chaps Walking Week, up some stonking great mountains. We always end by thinking about where we might go next (it only happens every other year). Funnily enough Morocco and the Atlas Mntns came up. We'll see!


The Idiot Gardener said...

It was bloody freezing when we went! I went to the Souk to get a jumper! I also left my camera in a taxi, and I thought I'd seen the last of it, but the driver came back (he'd dropped us at a secret drinking establishment, so he knew where we were) and returned it!

Casa Mariposa said...

I have always wanted to go to Morrocco!!! The souk reminds me of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I also love to make jewelry and would have spent all day in the bead stall. Lucky lucky you!!!

Nutty Gnome said...

Ey up Woody. It was a great holiday thanks - really enjoyed it. It was a bit too hot for Himself and Last-born had severe culture shock for a few days as her last overseas trip was to the west coast of America!!!
Yon Atlas mountains are good - but it's flamin' hot in August and they're a lot more barren than the Slovenian mountains...but the food is good!

Hi TIG. It doesn't suprise me that you got your camera back - we had nothing but kindness from the Morrocan people. A secret drinking establishment eh? Pity we didn't know about it ...12 days in Marrakech in Ramadan meant that we got through an awful lot of water!!

Hi Casa Mariposa. You're dead right - the souk is very similar to Istanbul's Grand Bazaar - but the actual buildings in the Grand Bazaar are much finer. There wasn't much in the way of grand decor in the souk and the roof was very basic...just wooden slats or corregated iron, but it was still a fantastic place to visit. Sounds like you and Last-Born would get on a treat! :)

Liz said...

Hi Liz,

I hope you had a good time on your jolly hollies! It certainly looks like you had an excellent time; and lucky you, returning just in time for potential hurricane type winds... haha.
Hopefully we'll miss out on the worst as we're outside the 'red zone' on the met office website... Oooh I've just jynxed us!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Liz - sorry about the delay in responding but I caught a stonking cold from Andy which laid me low all week ...still haven't got my voice properly back! :(

It was a great holiday - and a cheap place to visit too! Really enjoyed it despite the heat. Glad we missed out on the worst of the winds - it always sounds much more alarming here because of all our trees, but nothing blew down this time!

Andrea said...

Hi Liz, belated Happy Anniversary. It is obvious you had a wonderful bonding and celebration. You had very informative beautiful photos and humorous descriptions, you maintained your usual sense of humor and i am indeed laughing, especially with the kitten tagging on a big slab of meat. I haven't been to a very big wholesale market like that except maybe in Cambodia and Vietnam or China, but they are more Asian than that. I love the wholesale display of goods too. But most especially, i love how you wrote the way they pronounce their words, (big laugh).

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Andrea and thank you - it was indeed a lovely celebration.
We certainly had a fun time in Marrakech, with a lot of laughing!

The markets weren't the wholesale markets, they were just the ordinary ones - the butchers sliced off chunks of meat for the customers, the vegetable stall holders picked out the fruit and veg and so on - it was fascinating to watch and to be a small part of it all! :)

Kathryn said...

How utterly marvelous, Liz! What a gift to get a peek into your memorable Silver Anniversary trip! It looks fantastic! So glad you treated yourself to this special journey with your beautiful family! Hugs! Kathryn xoxo

Ashley Pomeroy said...

Coo, I stumbled on this from Google - I went back in 2009 and the people seemed to think I was Russian, for some reason. I remember lots of people coming up to me and trying to direct me to their shops etc, and also wishing I'd bought a hat (because of the sun). The souk looked like paradise for women, with all the beads and trinkets and things.