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Marrakech in a minute

posted on May 14, 2008 at 1:09 pm
Marrakech, Morocco: 2008
Finally able to get into my account! Seems the Blogger website is not accessible in Morocco. Perhaps it was banned like Youtube once was? Aside from that minor annoyance, my visit was extremely enjoyable and full of such contrasts. The Moroccan people are quite possibly the most hospitable and accommodating people I have met on any of my trips and the food, oh the food. I took lots of great photos and saw many of the sites—yes, I actually do things aside from eat on my trips! A shocker, I know. So, I’ll pepper this post with a few of my favorite sites, but you can see my full album HERE. Let’s start from the beginning.

Marrakech, Morocco: 2008
Driving from the airport.

After arriving early in the morning, we visited a Hammam to have treatments—a recommended activity as it really helped me loosen up after the long flight. When I say this was the best spa experience ever (and, I consider myself a bit of a junkie), believe me. After sipping on some strong fresh peppermint tea (the first of many glasses), my sister and I were led into a steamy blue tiled room with fountains overflowing with pink rose petals. After relaxing on some towels for a few minutes, two women entered and washed us with black soap (Savon noir) before scrubbing the heck out of us with these little mitts. After the scrub we were covered in a special mud and left to dry. The treatment finished with a good wash in some Argan oil-laced hot water and a relaxing massage with rose oil. It was absolute heaven and we came out with glowing skin smelling like rose petals.

After the Hammam, we jumped in taxi to go check out a spot in the Medina recommended a local. He referred to it as a “meat boutique” and informed me there are many of these around Morocco. Any mention of lamb and grilling to my father and we are there. The way it works is you choose your meat and then they go grill it over charcoal. There is a small glass case filled with freshly butchered cuts, but we just chose the mix of merguez sausage (my favorite sausage in the world), ground lamb patties and lamb chops. While the meat is being cooked, the waiter arrives with bowls of freshly ground cumin, crunchy salt, an assortment of local olives, some small tomato salads and loaves of slightly sweet bread.
Random lunch spot: Marrakech
Cumin and salt

Random lunch spot: Marrakech
Bread and tomato sauce

Random lunch spot: Marrakech
Olives

Random lunch spot: Marrakech
Meat

When the main comes, you grab the meat with the bread—your utensil—although I saw many people using their fingers, which were subsequently covered in hot lamb fat. This is a meal that definitely brings the out your inner carnivore, because I abandoned the bread halfway through.

To ensure we did not fall into a meat coma, we headed to the Djemaa el Fna, a market around the corner. This market is know for being a foodie’s paradise after dark and Bourdain hit it on his TV show, but we had other plans every night. Instead, we walked around the maze of vendor-lined alleys after buying a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice at one of the stands in the main square. The juices in Morocco are insane and we actually had a couple of orange trees outside our bedroom window.
Marrakech, Morocco: 2008
Street leading to the market

Djemaa el Fna: Marrakech
Citrus at the juice stand

Djemaa el Fna: Marrakech
Glass of orange juice

Djemaa el Fna: Marrakech
Spices for sale 

Djemaa el Fna: Marrakech
Dried flowers

Djemaa el Fna: Marrakech
You can’t see it but there were honey bees that seemed trained to hover over these type of stands. Really amazing to see and the sweets were very good.

Djemaa el Fna: Marrakech
Dates

Upon returning to the hotel with my tagine in hand (if you do go and want to buy one, make sure you don’t get talked into one that is for decor only. Look for unadorned ones with a heavy feel), we plopped down on the couches in the bar for some afternoon tea and sweets.

Marrakech, Morocco: 2008
Tea with my father, the hand model.

Marrakech, Morocco: 2008
Assorted sweets

That night we went for a diffa, or a multi-course feast, at Le Tobsil. After arriving to the area where the restaurant is located, a representative greets you and leads your party down a long abandoned alley. My family and I nervously smiled at each other, but I know they were all thinking, “what the hell has Jennifer gotten us into this time?” All of sudden, we reached a large wooden door and it creaked opened. A smiling woman peered out and greeted us as she opened the door to a gorgeous old house decorated in warm yellows and reds.
Le Tobsil: Marrakech
A pair of musicians played in the corner and rose petals were strewn everywhere. I had done good. You don’t place an order at this type of restaurant, so we just sat down a sipped on our fresh fruit juice spiked with a little vodka.

After a bit, our waiter brought us a large assortment of salads and bread.
Le Tobsil: Marrakech
Next came the first tagine, a lemon and chicken variety, that was so tender and full of flavor.
Le Tobsil: Marrakech
After the chicken, we were treated to a lamb and fig tagine which was out this world. There are no words to describe this.
Le Tobsil: Marrakech
A massive bowl of couscous (the best I have ever had) covered in vegetables came next. It also had a small bowl of light gravy to drizzle on top.
Le Tobsil: Marrakech
To finish, we were given a poached pear and some of that wonderful Moroccan mint tea. I am addicted and will be replicating this at home as soon as I get a proper pot (I was told the more silver the better).
Le Tobsil: Marrakech
Le Tobsil: Marrakech
Our check came in a small box filled with rose petals. What a lovely evening. I would definitely recommend the restaurant.

The next day was our day with a guide when we went to see the city’s many attractions. On our way to one of the locations, I spied an open door to the fires beneath a Hammam. Locals bring their tagines to such places and leave them to cook all day before picking them up. See the cluster of them in the corner? The smell of cooking meat and fire was unreal.
Marrakech, Morocco: 2008

Marrakech, Morocco: 2008
Bags of goodies on the side of the street.

One of the most beautful places we visited was the Ben Youssef Madrassa, an old Islamic College. The architecture was gorgeous. Here are some pics.
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Medersa Ben Youssef: Marrakech

Medersa Ben Youssef: Marrakech

Al Fassia: Marrakech
For lunch, we headed to Al Fassia, a place I’d found in my guide book (Time Out puts out such great travel books). The restaurant is run by sisters and an all woman staff. They source their ingredients from small producers rather than large distributors and the flavor was definitely there. Such a quaint little place and excellent service.

Al Fassia: Marrakech
Pastilla with pigeon.

Al Fassia: Marrakech
Lamb kebabs

Al Fassia: Marrakech
Couscous with braised lamb and vegetables.

Al Fassia: Marrakech
Lamb tagine with eggplant.

Al Fassia: Marrakech
Lamb tagine with prunes.

Just a few more pics of some of the sites, I promise…
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At doorway at the Majorelle Gardens

Some random architecture:
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When we saw this little patisserie and had to stop inside and grab a few treats for later.
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We had a great trip and it was nice to finally see Morocco after wanting to all these years. Just beautiful, but four days was more than enough because it is an intense place (even for me). Stay tuned for my next stop. You’ll just have to wait to find out where.

~Bliss~

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5 comments

  • Re: Marrakech in a minute
    posted by: A. Sunshine · May 14, 2008  11:05 AM

    Beautiful pictures! I felt like I was transported there for a second with you. Thanks for sharing, can’t wait for the next trip!

  • Re: Marrakech in a minute
    posted by: biskuit · May 14, 2008  1:49 PM

    Well done! Brings back many memories for me – I think I have several photos that are nearly identical to yours (great eyes see alike).

  • Re: Marrakech in a minute
    posted by: Anonymous · May 15, 2008  6:33 AM

    Reminiscent of the Egypt trip I just returned from as far as the lamb, abundant fruit, dates, etc., but clearly Moroccan cuisine is on another level!

    Lorenzo

  • Re: Marrakech in a minute
    posted by: nakedatlgardener · May 15, 2008  9:29 AM

    Absolutely beautiful. We toured Tureky and much of the market scenes remind me of those experiences. Thank you for the wonderful pics!

  • Re: Marrakech in a minute
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · May 17, 2008  12:05 AM

    Thanks everyone! It was a great trip and I am happy you all enjoyed the recap. Hope I did it justice.
    Jennifer

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