There is something truly magical about Marrakech. This bustling, tourist-friendly (by Moroccan standards) city is commonly described as “an assault on your senses”, and that’s pretty spot on. Marrakech is intense, vibrant, alluring and energetic. It’s like no other place on Earth. And I absolutely love it.
Marrakech can be hot, really hot. It’s a dry heat that is absolutely not relieved by the hot tea offered with zealous regularity. Although I’ll still take the mint tea, thanks, but I’d prefer it without sugar. It’s kind of offensively sweet otherwise. Or maybe just hand me a coke. Yes, please. The only time I crave Coca-Cola is while in Morocco. It’s the heat.
Moving on from the heat, you’ll notice lashings of vibrant colour dancing against the dull salmon and brown buildings. I find myself mesmerised by the stunning hues draped over the ladies of Marrakech – from Kermit the Frog
green to blood red, it’s a feast for the eyes. I also find myself stunned by the fact that these women can stand to wear such layers, even if they are fantastically bright. They’re acclimatised, clearly. I am not. Yet.
Marrakech is a boisterous beast, but a friendly one. Eager shop owners luring you in, offering the freshest orange juice for the very best price (far better than their neighbours). Pals engaged in joyful chatter, recounting tales and cracking jokes. “BalAK, balAK!” signals a need to scoot quick smart, as a donkey is fumbling through the narrow street where you’re trying to haggle a price on some fantastic leather shoes (you’ll buy two pairs). And of course, the poetic call to prayer dancing from the rooftops.
And then there’s the food…oh, the food. The scent of simmering stews and charred meat rise from coal-cooking corners and enthusiastic grills, enticing you to take a seat and feast. And so you do, alongside fellow hungry visitors and locals alike. There are few places I’d rather eat than Marrakech. It’s dizzying in it’s brilliance.
Let me take you there.
By day we like to explore the streets, quite literally loosing ourselves in the souks and doing a little shopping.
We might visit a herbal medicine man and pick up some argan oil and nigella seeds (great for the sinuses)…
A fan is always a good purchase.
We’ll then find a little nook to have lunch. What’s on offer today?
Bread. Always bread.
Chicken tagine with potatoes.
The perfect meal, even in 40 degree heat.
How could we resist a meatball sandwich to go?
Another day we might visit the Lamb Tagine stand behind Djemaa el Fna (the main market square), opposite all the wonderful olive stalls. You can’t miss this row of shops, the sheep heads on sticks prove to be quite reliable signposts. On this day they had run out of lamb’s face, and so we settled for a lamb tagine, heavy on the preserved lemon. With cumin salt and bread. Perfection.
Afternoon snack of seasoned naan-like pancake, warm from the grill.
After all this excitement and exploration, we might retire to our riad for a rest, before setting out for some mint tea or a Coca-Cola at a rooftop cafe. This is absolutely a favourite activity of mine, lazily perching on the rooftop chairs after a day of Marrakech mischief and watching Djemaa el Fna come to life.
You’ll see food stalls beginning their nightly trade, tourists getting duped into paying for photos with monkeys, and kids with balloons dragging their parents around the square. Constant drumming provides a powerful soundtrack for the evening, enhanced by the eery, staccato snake charmer melodies that filter through the air.
As the sun goes down, we rally again for a market meal. I love to brave the crowds at Djemaa el Fna. The mayhem is worth it, as you’re guaranteed an unforgettable night of grilled treats and exotic plates. I recommend powering through the ever-persistent waiters luring you into their stalls with their energetic but flawed charm tactics, and go where the locals are eating. The busiest stalls with the freshest ingredients, those not vying for your business, are where you should eat. That’s the golden rule at Djemaa el Fna.
Are you ready? Let’s go.
Let’s start with some harira
soup. Why not? It’s only 40 degrees outside.
Next we’ll grab a seat at the terribly popular corner grill.
Tomato and bread with chicken and vegetable skewers. Charcoal-kissed wonder.
The sun goes down but the flames don’t stop.
sausages. I love these spiced, stubby little sausages.
Done. What’s next?
Let’s visit our favourite stall at Djemaa el Fna, the always popular fish dudes. Once you’ve waited long enough to secure a spot, you’re delivered simple plates of deliciousness – fresh tomato, gooey eggplant and crisp battered seafood. It’s the eggplant that gets me every time…
And for something sweet, we’ll head to my other favourite spot, the spice cake carts. When I first visited Marrakech, I believed these dark scoops would be similar to gelati. It’s not. Rather, this delight is an intensely spiced, dry cake. I find it to be absolutely scrumptious, intoxicatingly so. Especially when served with hot, super sweet ginseng tea.
Initial trepidation at Peta’s first taste turned to assured adoration. I knew she’d get it.
Time to head back to the riad, where we’ll read on the rooftop with more mint tea.
Let’s go back to Marrakech…please?