Memories of Marrakech

Narrow streets. Almost being run over by motorbikes. The calls to prayer.

Beautiful kaftans. Wearing a hijab. The night food market on the main square. Snake charmers.

Throngs of people. Hot mint tea. The mosaics and tile work.

The smell of the tanneries. Our rooms in the Riad. Couscous served in tajines.

Traffic jams consisting of yelling locals, confused tourists, speeding bicycles and donkey-pulled carts.

Freshly squeezed orange juice. The smells of cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Being bathed in a Hammam.

Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech, was completed in the 12th century.
Djemaa el-Fna, the main square in the medina (old city).
One of many streets and alleyways inside the old fortified city.
Spice jars from a vendor in the souk, a traditional North African market.
Nut and spice vendor on the main square.
At sunset, the Djemaa el-Fna is transformed into a giant open-air restaurant.
Lantern vendor.
Courtyard of Riad Catalina.
Breakfast at the riad.
Fighting turtles. The first turtle sees the second one and starts walking toward it. The second one gets close enough to start snapping at the first. Must have been a domestic quarrel. After a while, both walk off together in the same direction.
The Saadian Tombs date back to the mid 1500s. Members of the Saadi Dynasty are buried inside the mausoleum.
Intricate carvings adorn the columns and ceiling of the tombs.
Outside in the garden are the graves of soldiers and servants.
Inside the Museum of Marrakech housed in the Dar Menebhi Palace built at the end of the 19th century.
A fountain inside the palace.
Doorway in the main courtyard.
Workers restoring the tile work on the courtyard floor.
This door eventually leads to the Hammam inside the palace.
The Ben Youssef Madrasa was an Islamic college founded in the 14th century.
Intricate detail inside the Ben Youssef Madrasa.
Near the Museum of Marrakech is La Koubba Almoravide which dates back to the 11th century and is an example of Almoravid architecture.
Under the dome of La Koubba Almoravide.

More on Marrakech and Fes coming soon.

Your Husband is a Berber!

We wanted to explore Africa and chose Morocco as our first venture on the continent. We were tempted by Casablanca with romantic images of dapper men in white suits and damsels in distress but decided on a more traditional route. We spent most of our time inside the medina in Marrakech and a couple of days lost in the labyrinth of Fès.

If you go to Morocco, a must buy is a woven rug. And if you are going to buy a rug in Morocco, you must be prepared to haggle.

We meandered from rug seller to rug seller, browsing, looking, until we decided to get serious. At the first sign of actual interest, the proprietor took us upstairs to a room stacked to the ceiling with carpets. One by one, a young boy took them down and displayed them on the floor at our feet while we sipped on sweet mint tea.

We saw a few we liked and started whittling them down to our favorites. Then the negotiations began. My husband took the lead while I listened and occasionally shook my head. The starting price was outrageously high. My husband patiently explained that we knew nothing about rugs or how much work went into making each one but thought they were all quite beautiful, and that we were on a budget. He made a counter-offer. Apparently it was outrageously low because our host threw his hands in the air and described the craftsmanship that went into each one in agonizing detail.

And so the conversation continued. The proprietor gave us another price. I opened my eyes wide with shock. My husband told him we would love to buy a rug from him since he had been so patient with us but it was too far off our budget. Another counter-offer. More detailed explanations. It continued like this for some time. I had another glass of mint tea. Finally, they agreed on a price. The proprietor exclaimed that he would not want to disappoint me by sending us home without a rug. We thanked him effusively.

As my husband handed him the agreed-upon price, the proprietor turns to me and exclaims, “Your husband is a Berber!” I can only deduce that meant that (a) my husband is cheap, or (b) a very good negotiator.

This is our Moroccan rug.