The smell of smoke and spices will forever trigger memories of Marrakech and everything we experienced there. We spent quite a bit of time in Jemma el-Fna, the busy main square of Marrakech, watching and listening to snake charmers play flute-like instruments and locals sell their freshly squeezed fruit juices. Our beautiful Riad was located in the Medina, so we chose to have meals at the busy restaurants surrounding the square, attempting to take everything in. Stray cats covered the restaurant patios and streets, and tourists strolled in front of the Argana Cafe – or what remained of it. Artwork attempted to cover the destruction from the 2011 bomb that closed the restaurant.
At night, the square came to life. Smoke from the food stands formed a thick cloud around us and chatter and music filled the air. My husband had monkeys thrown onto his shoulders and shortly after, a woman grabbed my hand and applied henna before I even realized what was happening. Since the square alone is an assault on your senses, and it’s easy for tourists to get lost in the commotion, the locals use these tricks to get foreigners to pay up. We weren’t upset, though — it was all part of the experience. While we searched for a restroom to wash off the sloppily applied henna that was now splattered on my pants, a wrinkled Moroccan woman grabbed me and proceeded to scrub my hands in a tiled cafe sink. I didn’t speak Arabic and she didn’t speak English so we looked at each other, smiled, and went our separate ways.
The most memorable part of the trip came when a local drove us through Berber villages in the Atlas Mountains. Our tour guide pulled over to the side of the road and we entered a small Berber market where low tarps draped over dirt paths and small stalls selling food, coins and handmade jewelry. A group of men trimmed a donkey’s hooves and fitted it for shoes, a small child sat in a tiny hut while his bad blood was drained, and Berber women laid out makeup on brightly colored blankets. After our short stop at the market, we continued up into the mountains and handed out sweets, notepads and pencils to children who lived in the remote villages. Our tour guide knew every child by name and genuinely cared for each and every one. He pointed out that one of the young boys was diabetic, so instead of giving him candy, we gave him an extra pencil. He was very happy.
Our last stop on the tour was lunch at an Imam’s house. His wife and daughter served us Moroccan tea, bread, couscous, and chicken tagine. Money from the meal went directly to the Berber family to assist them in purchasing kitchen equipment, and we were happy to contribute in any way.
Have you ever been to Marrakech, Morocco?
Filed Under: Marrakech, Morocco, Travel