Everyone wonders where inspiration comes from, and I would say it is the little things. Little things spark a tiny idea that compounds into bigger ones and often turns out in a masterpiece in the end. I would like to share the inspiration for my recent trip to Morocco: I was in Paris spending one night there before I was to begin my job in France and since the place I wanted to eat was not accepting anyone without a reservation I was searching the streets for a place to dine. I was outside of a restaurant looking at their menu when a man came out and told me it was great food and I should go in. Having already looked at over a dozen places and none of them standing out I decided to go for it. I was pretty much the only person in the entire Moroccan restaurant but I was served traditional sweet mint tea and a tagine with chicken, prunes, and almonds, this, mixed with good hospitality was good enough to sell me on the idea of going to morocco. From there it was just a series of circumstances and good prices till I ended up there.
MOROCCO FACT FILE:
WEATHER: Very Hot 35-45 Degrees C in summer
PRICE: Very cheap both for air fare and products. (Not as cheap as South East Asia)
ACCOMIDATION: Inexpensive, between 15-40 Dollars a night for private Riad rooms.
AVERAGE MEAL: 25-80 Dirhams (8 Dirhams= 1 Dollar)
FOOD: Known for cous cous, tagines, pastilles, brochettes, and escargots to name a few.
SHOPPING: -Not a lot of modern clothes outside of the European malls.
-Traditional Berber clothes and jewelry.
-Tea Pots, cups, tagines, and other kitchen wears.
-Natural pharmacies and spice markets
-Carpets and scarves.
-Cheap knock offs of major brands of clothes and accessories.
ATTRACTIONS: -Mosques, palaces, and other traditional architecture, tanneries, hammams (Moroccan bath house), Souks (the markets for shopping), Camel rides, Desserts, Atlas Mountains, and Atlantic coastal cities
PEOPLE: The people are very friendly and hospitable but keep up your guard and trust your gut.
NOTES: Nothing is for free! Directions or pictures included (of people at least)
A great place to start your adventures is in the main square of the Medina (Old City). In Marrakech that is exactly where we stayed and where we began our adventures upon arriving in the city. Djemaa El-fna is busy all day but really comes into its own at night. The square is full of music, dancers, henna tattoo artists, snake charmers; you name it and its there. Every sort of weird human side show and performances you could think of can be found, and still some that make you scratch your head in passing as you see two men with a few pogo sticks and a variety of planks.
The square is home to dozens of numbered food stands all serving up their Moroccan specialties. The food is safe and delicious but you need to make sure you check that you get what you order and that anything they give you extra is not free. “You pay for what you eat” is what a particularly snotty salesman told us even after we got our order corrected once, running our bill to nearly double what we ordered. Be firm and don’t feel like you need to be nice.
Traditional foods are available; the sheep head and big bowls of escargot are just some of the more adventurous dishes, sadly our weird food night got cancelled due to a bout of the stomach flu on my part. However the square is not where you need to be most worried about ill prepared food because locals feast there all the time, but salads can be a concern. Spiced tea stands and orange juice stalls all fight for your business around the edge of the square and the juice is definitely worth it. You can get a glass of fresh squeezed OJ for about 3 DH (35 cents) that’s is truly nectar of the Gods. Mila and I had orange juice every day and we even kept up our AmVil tradition by making a girl as us for juice in English before buying her one as well.
The best part about the evening is perhaps the famous Koutoubia Mosque that overlooks the square with lights showcasing its enormous tower. Dive in, get crazy, and eat everything you can. The square is definitely the heart of Marrakech and branches out to all the other wonders of the city.