The Madness of Marrakech

So…we’ve had a couple of impulsive moments on this holiday. The first one was when we decided to head into Spain because it was the French school holidays, which ended up with us staying for a couple of weeks, as opposed to the initially planned 3 day visit to Barcelona. The other, was on a cold and wet day in Salers.
The cold and wet day in Salers wasn’t particularly unusual, as we had had about two weeks of weather that didn’t very often get into double digits and regularly stayed below five degrees celcius. Whenever we went above 1000 metres, it quite often snowed! Not exactly what we were expecting in May in the South of France.
Anyway, what do you do if it is cold and wet in Europe? Go to Africa of course! I knew very little about Morocco (but have always wanted to go), so consulted the mighty oracle, otherwise known as, Facebook and asked if anyone had been and how long I should go for? A friend from the UK came back with all the info we needed and that night we had flights and five nights’ accommodation booked in Marrakech.

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We definitely got the heat we were after, with most days hovering around the mid-thirties. It seemed we went from one extreme to the other.
When we arrived at our Riad, which I could only best describe as an oasis of tranquility in the madness of the Medina, the owners gave us a bit of a briefing about where to go and what to do over some mint tea. After that Kate and I decided to go exploring. For those of you who haven’t been to the Medina in Marrakech before, it is the easiest place to get lost I have ever been to. We did ok getting to the main square to check out the markets and entertainment but when it came time to get back to the Riad, that was a different story. Anyway a friendly shopkeeper came to our rescue and we were within a couple of hundred metres of ‘home’ without realizing it. I never did get my bearings while we were there, luckily Kate worked out a few landmarks that she used to navigate.

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I liked Marrakech, it is vibrant, friendly, cheap and had enough to keep us occupied for a few days. The food was amazing, beef and fig (or lamb and prune) tagine, aubergine jam and Berber bread were highlights. I discovered I really like mint tea and we were shown the process that goes into making a good cup. If you are into shopping you’ll have a ball with all manner of merchandise available, Kate did a little jewelry shopping but otherwise we were very restrained.
We visited a few of the more interesting (from our perspective) tourist spots. The Museum of Photography was my favourite, with a variety of photos of life in Morocco from the late 1800’s through to the mid 1900’s, but the El Badi Palace with its wonderful mosaic tiles and Jardin Majorelle were interesting to wander around as well.

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We also decided we would like to go for a hike in the Altas Mountains, that particular day was in the high 30’s and walking 25kms without much shade certainly caused a bit of perspiration. It was one of the highlights of our trip as we had lunch with a local Berber man named Mohammed, who kept us entertained trying to teach us a bit of the Berber language. It was an excellent lunch with great company even though we didn’t speak each other’s language.

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The last day in Marrakech we decided to do a Moroccan cooking class. It started with a trip to the market with the Chef to get the ingredients for the evening’s dinner. A Moroccan market certainly teaches those of us who get our produce from a supermarket a thing or two about freshness. There were live chickens in cages that were processed for the table as you waited. Not something you would see too often in New Zealand unless you lived on a farm. After the shopping trip we spent a little more time getting lost in the Medina and later that day we went to the kitchen of our Riad, put on an apron and learnt how to make a beef and fig tagine, lettuce leaves stuffed with aubergine jam, a mixed meat Moroccan version of a samosa, courgette and cream cheese filo tubes and an apricot and custard dessert.
I think the best part of this whole process was eating it afterwards! It was far too much food for two people but it was very good.

Berber bread
Berber bread

While our first visit to Morocco was impulsive we have decided that we need to go back at some stage and spend some more time trekking (or mountain biking) in the Atlas Mountains and partaking in the delicious food on offer. It was a very good escape for a cold French spring.