Sxtn, Jhn

An April Adventure to Africa – Marrakech

Marrakech is, without a doubt, the most exotic place I have ever been to.

I have wanted to go for a while now, to challenge myself a bit and push my boundaries a bit further.  Confession time: most of my travel so far has been limited to the USA and Europe.  Marrakech isn’t anything like either of them, which is part of the appeal to me, both of Marrakech and, in a greater sense, Travel in general.

And it WAS different, so different!  I stayed in the Medina, which is the old city and there was a constant flow of energy, though the streets and alleys and into the air.

The focal point of the Medina is the Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main market square. During the day it is filled with performers, henna tattoo artists and small stands.  At night, it explodes into a churning cauldron of food stands (anything from skewered chicken to snails and goat’s brain), performers, Berber storytellers and drum circles.  It is sensory overload in every sense and it is incredible.  I ate there on the last night and had skewered meats with bread and sauce, all while watching the characters stroll by.  Try to find Hassan in stand 63 (I think), he will take care of you.  And make sure you end the meal with some Whisky Berbère (Berber Whiskey, sweetened mint tea, omnipresent and delicious).

Another  highlight of the trip was Café Clock.  It is the vision of a British expat who came to Morocco and never left (a story that repeated itself the more people we spoke to.  Morocco grabs you, and for some it never lets go).  The young staff, all local Moroccans, were amazingly attentive and helpful, offering suggestions and offering samples.  Starter was Harira (Moroccan Tomato Soup), Shebbakiya (tiny, sweet pastries) and Dates (you know, dates).  The soup was incredible, and I can’t bring myself to try to make it at home because I know it won’t be half as good.  For the main course, I had a Camel Burger, because I saw it on the menu and had to try it.  It did not disappoint.

Other highlights included the Majorelle Garden (once home to Yves St. Laurent) and Tajine without end (North African dish cooked in a clay pot, also called a tajine, usually with Veg and Chicken, amazing without fail).

One thing that sticks with me months later are the calls to prayer that echo through the city 5 times a day.  I had never experienced them before, and they really brought home the culture of North Africa.  One morning, when they started at around 4am, I went to the roof of the Riad (B&B) and tried to take it all in.  Each Mosque has its own call, so by then end there are dozens of calls going on simultaneously, calling you to the Maghreb.

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