Marrakesh, Essaouira, And Casablanca, Morocco

Marrakech:

Our Riad was really posh, it has a fossil theme going on – lots of ammonites and beautiful (but useless) Moroccan lamps (I say this because these lamps do not actually produce useful light, they are just pretty). The Riad’s manager had the most beautiful husky puppy, Aslaug. She was very cute, but very destructive. Marrakech doesn’t strike me as a dog-friendly city, and I felt that Aslaug had a lot of pent-up energy that her owner just wasn’t able to abate with a 15km run for example.

I’ll be honest with you, ultimately, I was not a fan of Marrakech. It is a very tourist-y town, the locals there are focused on one thing only – tourism. I found the local vendors to be quite aggressive and intimidating. It’s sad to say this, but I felt like they used their size (i.e. men who are taller than me) to bully me into eating at their stall, or using their services.

I would recommend Fez over Marrakech any day.

Sight/Attractions:

Marrakesh is insane. We walked through the maze that is the medina. The roads are wider here than in Fez, so motorcycles, bicycles and tuk tuks weave in and out amongst the pedestrians, it really is mayhem.

We stood outside the Koutoubia Mosque Minaret to take a picture. We were not allowed to enter as we are not Muslim.

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We walked out to Djemaa El-Fna (the big square) for the sunset. It was mayhem here as well. There were lots of juice vendors, snail soup stands street food with tagines, seafood and sheep brains. It was quite overwhelming being amongst the food vendors. The vendors are quite aggressive, I was body blocked a couple of times while I was just having a look, they are so desperate for you to sit down at their stall. There were also “snake charmers” (the snakes didn’t look very charmed, mostly they just looked dopey), monkeys in diapers on chain leads, breakdancing people, henna tattoo ladies, and odd games to play (Ben had a go at the fishing for a coke bottle, it was actually quite challenging. He won!).

We did eat at one of the food vendors, we had pigeon pastilla and some fried fish. The pigeon pastilla was great! Dh130 all up. Pastilla is basically a very thin pastry that is wrapped around a filling (which could be seafood, chicken, meat or pigeon). I guess it is like Morocco’s version of a Turkish pide. The seafood pastilla is my favourite 🙂

YSL Museum

I quite enjoyed the YSL museum. It’s not for everyone, certainly not if you are not interested in high fashion. It was really interesting to learn about Yves Saint Laurent’s life and career in fashion. It’s a very expensive attraction, and I can see why considering how well it has been maintained.

Jardin Majorelle

These gardens are located right next to the YSL museum, and are beautiful and very well kept.

Bahia Palace

Very well-kept inside, all the moldings and even the colour was still in place.

Food recommendations:

Limoni – It is a cool Moroccan/Italian place with a quaint lemon courtyard. As we were having lunch really late, we went all out. Ordered a fish briswatt (fried fish parcels), lemon and ricotta ravioli, fish tagine (it was amazing!) and a lemon pannacotta – Dh385

Essaouira:

We joined a group tour bus that drove us 3.5 hours to Essaouira.

On the way, we saw the silly goats perched on the argan trees.

We also stopped by an argan oil workshop. Their process is incredible, the argan nut grows on trees, the goats eat the nuts and their gut processes the outer layer of the argan nut. The goat passes the inner nut in their stool, which is then collected for the argan oil process. The moroccan people make two variations of argan oil – one for cosmetic purposes, and another for cooking.

To make cooking argan oil, the nuts are toasted first. Cosmetic argan oil nuts do not need to be toasted.

Then the nuts are passed through their special grinding contraption, which grinds it to a paste. The paste is collected and then squeezed by hand to separate the oil from the residual paste.

The residual paste is used to make sabon, which is a natural soap that the moroccan people use everyday.

I really admire their work, it’s not easy to make argan oil, apparently it takes 2kg of argan nuts to make 1 litre of argan oil, and requires 2-3 days of hard work. I also love how no part of the nut is wasted, everything is utilised in some shape or form.

Skala Du Port – the fish market

Food recommendations:

We had lunch at the outdoor seafood grill stalls, I negotiated a Dh150 lunch with sea bass, 4 large prawns, 2 scampi and a bunch of calamari. We were seated next to a family of 3, Mom (Catherine), Dad (gonzole) and daughter Emma were on holiday from Portugal. We had such a great time chatting and hanging out with them.

Casablanca:

Hassan 2 Mosque

The Mosque was very beautiful, no doubt about it. Apparently, it is estimated to have cost USD$800M, a third of which was personally paid for by the King of Morocco. Another third is reportedly by donation from the Moroccan people. The Mosque is apparently the third largest Mosque in the world, with an estimated worshipper capacity if 25,000. While the Mosque was aesthetically appealing, I was quite disappointed in the lack of signage, and poor communication. You can only enter the Mosque in a guided tour. The tours happen outside of prayer times, which was not communicated. The place where you buy the tickets (which is the Museum), is almost 1km away from the door of the Mosque. There is a crazy long line at the Museum with only one cashier, that sells tickets for the tour even after the tour starts. But the tour guides collect the group at the tour start time on the dot. So if you are caught at the back of the line, and haven’t bought your ticket yet, you have to run to catch up, and it’s not obvious where the tour starts. We arrived in time for the 3pm tour, but when we finally caught up to the tour group, we discovered there were about 100 people following a single guide. I was quite frustrated, as we were really rushed through, and I didn’t get to appreciate the Mosque. I told the guide how I felt, so she let us do the tour again at 4pm.

Food recommendations:

Sqala Restaurant – this was an amazing lunch, such a pity we didn’t have time to fully savour it as we were rushing to get back to the Mosque. Ben had a steak lunch, and I had the prawn risotto (it was amazing!). We also had the seafood briwatts for a starter. Was very expensive – Dh435

 

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