We are winding up our three weeks in Morocco with a few days in Marrakech. I’m glad we didn’t begin our trip here, because it would have been rather overwhelming. Marrakech is crowded, busy, and sprawling. We like to stay in the medina, the old part of the cities we visit, so our hotel here, Riad Raphaele, is just a short walk from the ancient district.
We hired private local guides for two separate day tours, and they showed us fascinating places while narrating the history of the area. Additionally, both Kdijah and Yder have lived in and guided in Marrakech for decades, so they seemed to know every craftsman and vendor we passed. Each of them showed us wonderful rooftop cafes, where we could rise above the chaos and relax. They introduced us to local customs and brought us inside the little shops and workplaces. We learned that every neighborhood has a baker. The area is electrified but judging by how tiny the houses are, I doubt there are modern stoves or ovens in them. So the woman of the house makes her bread at home, then sends it to the baker, who cooks it for her using his wood-fired oven, and an eight foot long paddle to reach the loaves inside.
Today we braved the crowds at Jemaa el-Fna, the pulsating square which is the heart of the old medina. Here you can find everything from fresh fruit vendors to small flea markets. Young men blast out bubbles from a pistol-type toy, in order to attract attention to the little wind-up animals, no doubt made in China, that they are hawking. And yes, there are snake charmers, and young fellows crazy enough to pose for a picture while wearing a cobra necklace. No thank you!
After about an hour of the hustle and bustle, we needed a break. Three flights up, we relaxed on a beautiful terrace and watched the chaos continue below us. Half an hour of peace and quiet, two cups of cafe au lait, and free wifi, all for less than four bucks. Can’t beat that.
Back into the fray for a little shopping. I decided that today was the day to purchase a Berber style candleholder made of goatskin. The artisan showed me the parchment-like leather he uses, and tried very hard to convince me that a large lamp would fit nicely in my suitcase, but reason prevailed and I purchased a petite version.
As we headed back to our riad , we decided to detour into a little museum we had passed yesterday. It didn’t look like much from the outside, but we gambled the price of admission, and bought our tickets at the little shack just inside the gate. We stepped through the front door and discovered a breathtakingly beautiful space. Really, it is a museum within a museum – the building itself is a showpiece, plus it is filled with various examples of ancient and contemporary Moroccan art. In a little nook toward the rear of the museum is a calligrapher, who will write your name in Arabic script for a very small fee. We selected a couple of his pieces, plus a contemporary triptych depicting Moroccan women creating handcrafts, done in bright colors and meticulously detailed, painted by a local female artist.
Craig fortunately has a great sense of direction, but even he was stymied by the twists and turns of the souks. And of course, if you show a moment’s hesitation, or pause to get your bearings, you are pounced upon by a local who will get in your face demanding, “Where you want to go? Tannery? Tannery this way.” It doesn’t matter that you’ve given no indication that you’re interested in seeing the tannery – you’re obviously a tourist, so you must want to go there. And naturally, he expects payment for this helpful advice.
About 6 pm, we spotted a lovely little restaurant with a welcoming fire crackling inside. Although there were no other customers, the menu looked good and the place was spotlessly clean, so in we went. After a delicious lamb tagine and a yummy slice of lemon meringue tart, we struggled out of our chairs and staggered off homeward, which was fortunately only a short walk away.
And that’s how I spent my Super Bowl Sunday!







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