By Karlie Marrazzo
Our riad is in the centre of the medina, an easy 15-minute walk from Jemaa el-Fnaa. Every time we turn down one of the narrow side streets, somebody offers to assist us, for a small cash sum, to “the big square.” We politely decline and walk on. We know where we’re going. It appears much cleaner than it did in Fes. The streets are wider. The sky is blue and the sun is shining. It doesn’t feel as claustrophobic.
I’m still not feeling well. I ended up going to the Clinique Internationale de Marrakech and getting a cortisone shot and some new prescriptions. Needless to say I’ve been spending a lot of time in our room. I’ve found it easy to sleep in the other cities with the call to prayer in the background; I find it quite soothing. Here in Marrakech the mosque is 20 yards from our riad, but the muezzin’s voice is uneven and jarring. The staff at the riad has been kind enough to make us fantastic soup full of sweet carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, peas and more vegetables fresh from the daily market.
We’ve been wandering the maze of souqs, taking in the sights, the sounds, the colours. The shopping is fantastic in Marrakech, and we’ve come away with as many goodies as we can fit in our backpacks. Hand-stitched Morrocan leather slippers and luxurious handmade linen scarves are affordable and easy to carry home for ourselves and for gifts. The merchants here aren’t as aggressive as the ones in Fes. There was the older gentleman who was very impressed that I knew the proper word, abaya, for the long, loose, robe-like dresses that Muslim women wear, thanks to my friend Bintou. There was the postcard seller wearing the fisherman’s hat that pretended to bite down on my coin to make sure it was good when I bought a few cards from him. And the master weaver who was chic, noble and proud of his work.
Every day we go to the same tangerine guy and the same banana guy. We carefully choose the best tangerines and place them into the worn plastic basket. He then weighs them on an old school scale with weights on the other side and throws more than twice as many more tangerines into the basket. A bag full of them only costs us 3dh, or 40 cents CAD. A bundle of small, fresh bananas is only 20dh.
Everyone tries to point us or take us to Jemaa el-Fnaa, the city’s main square and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is bustling with humanity day and night, especially at night. It is covered with storytellers and musicians, performing traditional Moroccan music and dance, but also trying to squeeze out tourists bucks by getting you to take a picture with a monkey or a snake. It makes my head spin so we don’t pass through there often.
To escape the heat, we visited the Maison de la Photographie , a fantastic photo museum tucked down a side street in the medina. The exhibit features stunning, mostly black and white, photos of life in old Marrakech, as well as other parts of Morocco, taken from the 1870s to the 1950s. We also visited the Ben Youssef Medersa, an Islamic college that was operational from the 14th century all the way until 1960. The inner courtyard was a cool and tranquil oasis, with a central pool for ablutions and decorated with stunning, colourful intricate tile work and delicately carved Arabic script.
Another quiet oasis in the middle of the new part of the city, not far from the main train station, is Jardin Majorelle, a garden designed by Jacques Majorelle in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Perhaps it is more well known for its association with French fashion legend Yves St. Laurent, who bought the garden in 1980 and subsequently had his ashes scattered there after he passed away in 2008. Most of the visitors seemed to well aware of this, based solely on their fashion sense. The whole garden is adorned is yellow and a special shade of blue called Majorelle. I loved all of the different shapes and sizes of cacti the most. It was hard to believe this relaxing place was in the middle of such a hectic city.
For more photos from my Morocco trip, click here.