Hey guys and girls,
Here’s the first half of my Moroccan travel diary. As it was a family trip, we didn’t cover as much ground as our usual adventures with just me and Mr Man gallivanting at a relatively high pace, but it made a nice change to kick back and take a breather of a break. We spent the bulk of our first half of the trip just exploring the souks and then packed in far more action in our final few days.
After a 6am flight (ouch!) we reached the beautiful city of Marrakesh.
^ don’t you just love the perfect rows of plants / trees?!
We’d booked a three-bed riad on AirBnB, situated near the main square in the old town, Jemaa El Fna. After registering and using AirBnB last year, I’ve never really looked back or even bothered checking out hotels. Can’t recommend it enough. (Discount on your first booking available here if you’re interested.)
We were welcomed into this absolutely gorgeous home:
With a magnificent rooftop terrace, on which our host welcomed us with a steaming pot of mint tea!
Our host had also kindly arranged for a home cooked lunch for us:
Doesn’t get much better than that if you ask me.
Traditional chicken tagine with preserved lemons and green olives. This dish was perfection. I’ve had a few chicken tagines in my time, and none of them compared to this. Clean flavours, succulent chicken, well balanced and overall just a joy to eat with the fresh bread to mop up all the juices.
It was served with a cold aubergine salad type dish, zaalouk I believe it’s called and a weird rice – loads of mayo, bit of tuna and some veg, with a ring of beetroot, didn’t really do it for me.
After lunch, myself and Mr Man headed on up back to the terrace to chill and enjoy the sunshine.
We totally fell asleep for a few hours.
Later that afternoon, we headed out to explore the souks for a bit.
^ outside our riad. Living alongside locals.
Passed a woman making tomato and onion filled msemen bread and I just had to try! So so tasty!
Gonna have to try and make my own at some point.
^ Cute little mini tagine pots.
^ We stopped for fresh orange juice at Jemaa El Fna, there’s basically a row of carts selling fresh juice, super cheap and so delicious. Oranges are big business in Morocco! I went for a peach and orange mix and Mr Man went pure orange – YUM.
It’s so easy to get lost in the narrow, winding passages in the souks, but, if you ask me, it’s best to embrace it and just explore! It’s all part of the fun.
^ Love the colours!
^ Woodwork shop.
^ Love the contrast in this pic, everything from the old man in the bottom right to the tourists standing behind right, their choice of clothing, the variety of things in the various shops. All of it!
For dinner, myself and Mr Man parted from the group and headed over to Nomad.
We decided to sit outside.
Unfortunately, they only had a tiny corner table available for two so without complaining we took it.
After perusing the menu and ordering, the light above us began flickering which is why the pics below vary so much!
^ My chicken brochettes and cous cous and a homemade harissa sauce. The chicken was a little fatty and didn’t taste all that fresh, couscous was also a bit lacklustre. Ha, the best part of my meal was the sauce!
Mr Man lucked out in comparison, this lamb burger was cooked to a perfect medium, as requested, topped with aubergines and caramelised onions, all housed in a seeded bread roll with harissa mayo. It was served with delicious roasted potatoes sprinkled with mustard seeds and some wilted spinach. Really, really good!
^ As you can see, the light decided it would turn back on in time for our desserts. Mr Man’s date cake. Again his choice was far better than my own. A dense, caramelly date cake with hints of saffron running through, served with fresh whipped cream (could have done with a bit more) and a salted caramel sauce.
^ My flourless orange cake, again, served with whipped cream and caramelised orange peel. Quite bitter overall, I think the delicate citrus notes may have been baked away. Considering oranges are so widely available in Morocco, I would have thought they’d have produced an amazing cake to do the produce justice.
The next day, we woke up fairly late and headed out to find some brunch.
Jemaa El Fna by day:
^ This is the main square and during the day it’s full of market stalls, women drawing intricate henna / mendhi patterns, snake charmers and just general hustle and bustle.
Just some of the snakes at Jemaa el Fna, they’ll charge you money to take pics with their snakes so be weary. They do ask for quite ludicrous sums of money for pics but stand your ground and where possible, negotiate in advance.
Check out this cobra!
Another stall, another exotic creature. Tortoises. (I hope these are being sold for pets, not dinner!)
Onwards we walked…
^ Koutoubia mosque
Love the colours!
We headed to a place called Cafe Clock which I’d read up in advance as a good place to have shakshouka.
Love the quirky decor and the modern Islamic theme running through.
I went for the orange juice whilst Mr Man opted for the sweeter, carbonated equivalent.
^ my Berber eggs or shakshouka. Seriously, can’t even begin to tell you how delicious this dish was. A rich tomato sauce, housing three baked eggs – would have been better if yolks had been slightly runnier – served with fresh toasted bread.
Mr Man a little more adventurously went for the house camel burger, which he said actually tasted quite beef-y. Decent burger, topped with cheese, tomato and onion. Could have used a little more sauce. Served with a delicious side salad and some fresh fries, which, I took the liberty of dipping in my shakshuka tomato sauce.
Having had heard that they made their own ice cream in-house, I insisted that it’d be rude not to sample. I went for the affogato, vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso to pour over, and Mr Man went for a chocolate sundae. I found, personally, that the ice cream lacked the creaminess and depth that you expect so overall a little disappointing after our perfect mains.
After a delicious start to our day and no real plans for the rest of the day, we settled up the bill and headed out to explore and shop.
^ Love this little doorway. Did you know all the houses in Marrakech are painted in this pinky, reddy, orangey hue – I believe that’s why it’s referred to as the “red city.”
I wish we’d discovered the hot air balloon ride company before the final day, I’d had loved to have seen the sunrise, or even, set, over this perfectly coloured city!
Back past the mosque.
Fresh bread. Restocked daily.
Deeper into the souks.
^ Absolutely adore the colourful piles of herbs and spices. Take a deep breath as you walk past and inhale the heady mixture!
^ Looove the blue and white tiles.
^ Moroccan macarons sold by ladies on the street. Surprisingly good albeit a little too sweet.
Mr Man got us roped into checking out an apothecary. A random man stopped us and got talking – walked us to the shop, left us to it, and was waiting outside to claim some commission too. He then tried to offer us a variety of other retail goodies which we politely declined.
Various hand-crafted wooden boxes and trinkets:
Beautiful blue and white kitchenware:
Glasses and pots for mint tea:
Here are a few pics of the things we actually bought, I can’t stress how important it is to haggle. By default, we went in at about 1/3 of the asking price, but ultimately, it’s down to how much you’re willing to pay:
^ Argan oils. We picked some up from a women’s cooperative company – aitma. The big one is to cook with, and the small ones in front are for skin – I picked amber and lemon scented ones. And behind it, there’s a couple tubs of moisturiser. (Clearly didn’t put enough thought into positioning when I took this pic!)
^ herbs and spices: tea, cinnamon, ras el hanout, harissa, cumin and also some crystallised menthol – great for blocked noses. Actually, think this would be really useful with my hayfever at the moment.
^ One of my favourite purchases, adore the colours! Took me forever to pick the one I wanted as there were endless beautiful choices!
^ Couple of scarves and a leather satchel. The deeper into the market you go, the cheaper things get, and the less you have to haggle.
For dinner, we went to a place called Le Salama, just off Jemaa El Fna.
Quite a posh place with belly dancers and the likes.
I didn’t get a chance to take pics of everyone’s food but overall it was really, really good.
Mr Man’s mixed meat skewers and grilled sausages, served with a tiny pot of rice and some harissa chilli sauce. His only issue was that the lamb that was overdone and pretty chewy.
My chicken skewers, mildly seasoned with fresh herbs and lemon, juicy, succulent and perfectly grilled. Yum.
^ Huge leg of lamb, slow cooked, perfectly fall apart tender with a sweet sticky apricot glaze and almonds.
With the square still buzzing, it felt too soon to call it a night.
And so, we ended the night with a Calèche ride…
^ In hindsight, the horse and carriage ride would have probably been considerably more enjoyable by daylight where we could have seen a bit more…
P.S. I’ll try have the second, more exciting half, up this weekend!