Monday, 16 December 2013

Marrakech, Day One

Well we found our way out of the souk and now I can bring you photos, with a little bit of chat, about our trip to Marrakech last week.  It is the most extraordinary place and memorable in oh so many ways!

Where to start?  Our arrival last Sunday evening set the trend with our being led on foot from one of the gates to the Medina to our riad.  Our taxi driver had stopped the car by the archway over the entrance into the old town, got out of the car and then made a phone call.  "One minute" he said and we wait a couple until another man arrived to lead us along the darkened streets to our riad.  My daughter was understandably hesitant and we both felt nervous but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that in a review of the riad it mentioned this arrangement.  The laneways inside the Medina walls were too narrow for taxicabs.  So we scurried along behind this strange man and finally he opened a door in the wall of an alley and in we went!  He served us a welcome pot of mint tea and rusk-like biscuits with caraway seed, and ... relax!  We had arrived.

The next morning, after breakfast, the manageress led us some of the way towards the big square, Djemaa El-Fina, where we needed to get our hands on some dirhams, not available to buy outside Morocco.  Our riad was situated in a poor part of town (not understood when we booked) and immediately we were launched into the local environment which was chaotic, fascinating, alarming, colourful, and very photogenic of course.  That was a source of constant frustration for me because the locals do not take kindly to photographs and I always asked permission.  It was not always granted.  We hastened along the thoroughfare with Hassna until she suddenly said "OK, big square that way, see you later.  Good luck!" and before we could say "Which way?" she shot past us on the back of a scooter and with a wave of her hand she was gone, swallowed up in the hustle and bustle of the street.  To say we felt abandoned was a bit of a understatement, the map was next to useless, so we just carried on down the street, and worked it out from there!
The gibbet-like arrangement on top of the mosque tower points towards Mecca.  The call to prayer several times a day was unmissable.  I think they use a recording and then another live voice over the top.  The recording used by the mosque local to the riad sounded a bit like an air raid siren.  I had been hoping for something beautiful like Cat Stevens recording of the call to prayer, but I was sadly disappointed.
Here is the big square and I got into awful trouble with this individual because he wanted money from me for taking this photograph.  He was not happy.
Mint tea anyone?
A magnificent tapestry of herbs.  Marjoram, rose geranium, coriander, sage, lemon balm and to one side a mountain of fresh Moroccan mint.  This was my most favourite corner of Marrakech.  I bought some marjoram which is a lot more pungent than ours and also some rose geranium and I have taken cuttings.  Fingers crossed. 
Teapots for mint tea.  I bought two - a little dark green one and a larger metal one which is now sitting on the dresser.
The Mouassine Fountain decorated with wood carvings.
These are the nuts crushed in the preparation of argan oil.  We went to a womens co-operative which sells the fine oil which has both cosmetic and culinary use.  We bought a bottle each which had the addition of rose oil.  It smells glorious and is lovely to use on my face at bedtime.  Our first purchases of the trip!
Our first day was intense.  We explored part of the souk, it would take weeks to cover it all, but we made a good start and my daughter started to limber up in the art of bargaining, haggling to ultimately become a formidable barterer with the shop keepers!  I just stood open mouthed with amazement.  I don't know whose genes she was wearing but they certainly weren't mine!

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