Marrakesh is colorful, chaotic and fragrant all at once! The medina, or the city's central marketplace, is a buzzing mix of stalls, restaurants, handmade carpets, slippers, artisans, spices and thousands of people, motorcycles, bikes, donkeys and carts. Outside the medina is just as chaotic but this time you throw in cars, taxis, horses and carriages and a swarming buzz of pedestrians. Wonderfully mad and thrilling at the same time!
A spot of tranquility can come from the beautiful central gardens of a Riad. The opportunity to stay in a Riad, a private home with a central garden that has been converted to a small hotel, is a must! These former residences are dotted throughout the medina and the surprise that awaits you behind a simple door is out of this world. Some of these homes are also converted to restaurants that have stunning cedar ceilings and the intricate tile mosaic walls and floors.
Did I mention the food? Moroccan cuisine is centered around the fruits of the earth – apples and pears, almonds and apricots, olives and spices to awaken taste buds you did not even know you had. My favorite is the “Head of the Shop” or Ras El Hanout, made with a combination of between 30 to 35 different spices and used to make Morocco’s most iconic savory dishes; tagine and couscous. Rose buds are the perfect infusion to the ever present mint tea that is offered wherever you go. As you wander the medina, you can stop for a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice to keep the spirits up.
If you've ever been to one of the iconic leather tanneries, you may remember the need to hold your nose due the distinctive “aroma." You might try to get a fist full of fresh mint and keep it so close to your nostrils that you almost inhale the leaves! Despite the stench, the tanneries of Morocco are able to tan the softest most beautiful and supple goat, sheep, cow and camel hides. The vibrant colors come from natural vegetable dyes and are transformed into stunning slippers, bags, belts, jackets and anything else you can think of wanting or needing! Saffron (yellow), mint (green), poppy flower (red), indigo (blue), henna (orange), and cedar wood (brown) are used to provide the colored hides to make anything you can think of.
We have found that wherever you travel, it is the people who make the most lasting impressions. This is so true in Marrakesh - a city of such diversity from the old world to the vital new, from the market vendors to the food stalls and bakers, and from the charming and helpful folks throughout the city.