Sleeping last night was definitely an experience, I woke up countless times to loud Morrocan music playing, cats fighting in the alley, smell of hookahs and just the general heat. I wish I could somehow describe the sounds and noises here, it’s nothing like I have ever heard. In the main squares there are drums beating, people yelling in every language, vendors fighting for customers, the call to prayer five times a day and of course the chaos of cars, mopeds and bikes in every direction.
This morning we had breakfast at our Riad, it consisted of coffee (maybe mixed with spices?) with milk, and five plates with different types of bread on each one. They also gave us honey and butter. I have quickly realized that bread here is one of the main food groups, they eat it at every meal, and eat a lot of it! Breakfast was delicious and once again I couldn’t finish, the portions here are huge!
After breakfast we walked to where the main mosque is to hail a taxi- however here it is more like a swarm of taxi drivers hailing you. After haggling down the price we were on our way to the Jardin Majorelle, gardens that are in the “new town” of Marrakech. The gardens were beautiful, full of exotic plants (lots of cacti!) and reflecting pools and colorful tiles and buildings. (The colors here are fantastic- from the clothes to the buildings everything is bold and bright) The gardens are named after the late Jacques Majorelle, a French orientalist painter. After his death the gardens were abandoned until Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent restored them. I had no idea the designer had a connection with Morocco! Carly, Grace and I found a bench in the shade and I loved watching all of the tourists and locals alike (especially all the kids on field trips) wander through the gardens.
After spending a couple hours in the gardens we took a cab to the traditional spice market/souk on the edge of the old town. As soon as we got out of the taxi I was completely taken by the smell of all the spices. In front of nearly doorway were barrels, carts and burlap sacks full of every spice imaginable- all different colors, textures and of course smells! We were immediately approached by a very friendly “Moroccan Pharmacist” who explained to us which spice was what, as well as letting us smell and feel them all. I loved seeing and learning about all of the spices that have been in the food we have eaten here. Inside he showed us all of the brightly colored dyes, teas and the health products. First he showed us “magic lipstick” which I loved- it is a bright green stick but when you put it on your lips it turns red, of course I had to buy some. Next he insisted on showing us the traditional Argan oil that nearly everyone uses here, he put it on all of our arms and we really could see the difference. While we were drinking the tea they gave us (tea here is an everyday, all the time thing) he put eyeliner on us! I’m sad to say he was a much better makeup artist than I will ever be. Long story short, he was awesome, so helpful and a great salesman!
Eventually we made our way down to the Badia Palace which was at the end of the spice souks. It was modeled after the Alahambra Palace in Granada and was built in the late 1500’s. It was destructed in the seventeenth century and all the marble was taken to the new royal palace. It was beautiful even in ruins and I can imagine how grand it once was! Some of the tiles were still left and the terrace was still maintained, giving us a wonderful view of the city rooftops and the beautiful snow covered Atlas mountains outside of Marrakech. The architectural feats that were accomplished hundreds of years ago still amaze me!
For dinner we braved the main square and its hundreds of booths (literally hundreds!) and sat down at booth #100. After looking at the menu for a while and snacking on some bread and sauces, one of the workers brought us up to the main grill where they were cooking (think raw meat, smoke and people everywhere) and pointed each item out to us so we kind of had an idea of what we were ordering. I decided on the couscous skewers which were delicious and came with a variety of chicken, beef and a couple of other mystery meats that were great! It was so much fun to eat dinner among tourists and locals alike in the chaos of the main square! It was great to people watch from our seats at dinner and talking to all of the workers who are typically super energetic and love taking pictures with us!
To wrap up the night we hung out at the Riad, meeting people from all over the world and hearing about everyone’s travels and adventures. I’m still catching on to the hostel culture, but 99% of the time people are extremely friendly and love trading stories or chatting for a while. It’s fascinating to meet so many people that have just quit their jobs to travel the world or who are literally living out of their bookbags and hostels. Carly and I both were wearing UNC basketball shirts and ended up meeting an alum from Chapel Hill. It truly is a small world we live in!