Merely pronouncing the city’s name evokes sunburnt red walls, mazy streets and bustling souqs.
I arrived in the city two nights ago and found a riad (which means “small palace” in Arabic) smack in the middle of the old city, known as the Medina.
The Medina is a pretty amazing place, and it’s where all the action happens.
Literally everything is for sale.
Haggling over merchandise is inevitable if you want to get a fair deal on something.
Although what you consider a steal was still probably a ripoff.
In a way, overpaying for things you don’t need (yours truly now has 100g of cardamom tea courtesy of an opportunistic spice vendor) is the price you pay for the riotous beauty of the souqs.
Negotiating over exotic spices and rugs is only part of the fun: getting lost in the Medina offers the possibility of escaping the bustle of crowds and maybe glimpsing natives who aren’t trying to sell you something.
As it happens, life beyond the tourist track does exist in Marrakech. Builders build houses.
Postmen deliver mail–a miracle in itself, given the labyrinthine nature of the Medina.
Occasionally sunlight bathes pedestrians in glory.
Other times, when you’re completely exposed it doesn’t take long to crave the shade.
If the walls were human skin they’d be wrinkled beyond comparison from all the sunlight.
Mosques seem to serve the dual purpose of offering sanctuary to the devout and a refuge from the searing midday heat.
For the many felines of Marrakech, any shaded alcove will do.
Some things are worth risking a sunburn for, including the spectacular 12th century Koutoubia Mosque.
Not too far from the Koutoubia Mosque is the spacious Jemaa el Fnaa square, where Marrakech has met for all manner of diversions for almost a thousand years.
Live musical performances are an especially big draw, but the catch is that most of the acts don’t play music until the crowd has pitched in a certain amount of money. Everything is business in Morocco!
Because I enjoy visiting really old places, I decided to see the Palais el Badi.
It was built by a really cocky sultan, apparently for the express purpose of throwing huge parties.
The palace is mostly in ruins so no one lives there anymore except for a bunch of storks. The storks have good taste, because the views from the rooftop terrace are incredible.
For virtually all of my time in Marrakech I’ve stayed within the walls of the Medina–pray tell, what lies beyond them? Other than seeing this beautiful 12th century portal, not much. Let’s go back inside then!
Are you feeling hungry for chicken? You can have one cut up fresh at this market. Or if rabbit’s your thing, or lamb, or fish, or…you probably get the idea.
I wonder which one of those chickens became this kebab sandwich.
Or this lightly spiced tagine with vegetables.
Fear not, vegetarians, for I feasted on non-sentient eggplant.
The Moroccans take a leaf out of Thoreau’s book: they definitely know beans. These ones tease you with a touch of heat and they cost almost nothing.
Moroccans also know how to brew damn good tea, and whatever the hell spice cake is, I want all of it.
And this entire tray of delicious baclava-like pastries.
Same goes for whatever they put in this thing–it was so rich that I couldn’t even finish it. I once ate 5 desserts in one day yet I met my match here. I’m leaving the city tomorrow, which is crazy because Marrakech is not a “see it in a couple days” kind of place. Yet onward I go.
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