Stockholm- A Culture Capital

Stockholm- A Culture Capital
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Friday, July 9, 2010

Morocco: Part 3

The Souks

Once you move away from the square there is plenty to do, and also plenty of maze like streets to get completely lost in. Mila and I spent several days just venturing through different areas of the city and seeing where the roads and the people took us. Needless to say we ended up doing a lot of shopping in the streets. The Souks are markets where products are for the most part split up into different sections of the city, clothes, metal works, leather, antiques, spices, chicken, the list goes on. There is nothing more fun than spending some time with a salesman and driving a hard bargain for a set of teapots or whatever it is you are looking for. If you are good at the bartering game you can really walk away with some great items for great prices, however they tend to quadruple the price of items when they first offer so make sure you know the prices and don’t get had.

If you really manage to charm a vendor you can even get tea or more out of the deal. After spending about an hour of speaking Frangelish and picking out tea cups in a shop we got invited to have dinner at the shop owners house. We had a good feeling about the man and so we returned to his shop around 9 pm and we went with him to his apartment to make a traditional tagine, smoke sheesha, and enjoy some true Moroccan hospitality. On our way to his house we picked up beef from a market stall as well as a watermelon for desert. We took a taxi and were welcomed to a very traditional Moroccan style abode decorated with a lot of our friend’s own artwork and furniture. He showed us how to make tagine and cooked it over hot coals in the back garden. The mix of stewed beef, tomatoes, chili, and potatoes was amazing and we ate it with our hands and bread, as is the traditional way. The idea behind it is that we should taste everything directly from the earth and that the metal of utensils only taints the food. Needless to say the food was amazing, the apple tobacco was thick and smooth and even though we left dog-tired it was an experience I would not have missed.

Palaces, Tombs, and other Attractions

Marrakech is becoming a very hot tourist locale (no pun intended), yet the city does not have tons of big attractions like Paris or London with the Eiffel Tower, the London Eye, so on and so forth. The city is host to several palaces, gardens, and mosques scattered about the old city. The Royal Palace where the king’s mother lives is grand but can’t be viewed past the main gates, however there are some old palaces which have been opened to the public that give an idea of what it would be like to be a Moroccan monarch in the 19th Century. These palaces and mosques let you see an eclectic mix of Moroccan architecture and design. Marrakech recently uncovered a series of tombs from the Saadian rule that were walled up in the center of the city. The tombs shows some brilliant carving and tile work and if you look closely you can see what religion the tomb belongs to depending on the direction the tomb faces. We also got to spend some time with the stray cats taking roost in the tombs and even a very determined turtle.


Morocco is famous for its leather products and most if not all of the leatherwork is done by hand by groups of both Arab and Berber tanners and artisans. Originally trying to find a palace in the maze of Marrakech we had a man offer to lead us to the tanneries free of cost and he even threw in a ‘Berber gas mask” or a stalk of fresh mint for us. We soon learned that the tanneries were not only a tad dirty but also the smell of animal hides being soaked in everything from pigeon shit to dye didn’t leave much to be desired. However they were fascinating.

Once we arrived at the tannery another man took us through the procedure of how they first soak the hides to remove the hair, then soften them in pigeon feces, followed by lime and different minerals and then finally dyed to their desired color. We saw the tanners at work in the vats of treatment sporting hip waders and then were shown to a shop with finished goods. The shopkeeper tried very hard to sell us something of any size, but after feigning interest in several products over a glass of mint tea on the house we managed to leave without spending our dirham.

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