Stepping out of the airport into North-West Africa was our first step outside our western world comfort zone (at least for the first day or two.) Marrakesh looked, sounded, & felt different. Everything – The color of the red clay. And the Arabic language doesn’t sound anything like English or Spanish. We had a hotel booked for our first night so that we could relax unwind and let the energy of the city settle in.
Our stay at The Meriden N’Fes was incredible. Gorgeous pool, gardens, as well as energetic friendly staff. The highlight was the huge complimentary breakfast buffet. It had EVERYTHING we could want, but best of all was the lady who worked non stop making fresh off the griddle Beghrir (a Moroccan pancake) & Msemmen (a cross between a croissant and a tortilla)! (ps: Domaine De Sahari Reserve, Vin Rouge du Maroc, great red wine.)
The next morning we walked to our riad that was located near the center of the medina. Again, Google maps app to the rescue. This little blue dot makes the world so much easier to navigate.
The Medina is hectic. The main roads are comprised of souks that are lined with shops and venders eager to attract your business. These souks are essentially a giant swap meet maze with twists, turns, and alleyways that seem dedicated to get us turned around (if it wasn’t for our trusty google maps 😉 Fill these roads with local women shopping for the day, a LOT of tourists, and walking vendors selling sunglasses or watches and add the never-ending amount of rusty motor scooters zipping through the crowded narrow cobble stoned streets and… hectic indeed.
Though, a walking tour gave us such better insight to the city. We saw a palace, a famous mosque, the Jewish quarter, explored further into the souks, visited a Koranic school, a beautiful royal burial site (that had been sealed closed for over 300 years), and a pharmacy for traditional medicine.
But no destination is complete without the food, and a cooking class was the perfect remedy to make us feel right at home. We met our instructor in the morning for a walk through the medina to collect our ingredients. We were accompanied by one other classmate and new friend, Jayna. Our first stop was a tiny stand with chicken coops along the back wall. The butcher simply pulled one out, weighed it, got our instructor’s approval, (graphic; vegans skip the following two sentences) placed it on the ground, stepped on the neck and chop! He placed the headless chicken neck-down into a cylinder to drain and repeated once more.
While the butcher plucked and prepped the chickens we went around the corner to the local farmers market.
After heading back to pick up our birds, and a quick stop for some freshly baked bread we were greeted at a riad with tea on the rooftop before beginning our class.
Chop veggies, mix spices, rub into chicken, place in tajine, sear then simmer, make a pico de gallo salad and…voila!
Chicken tajine & salad. This is basically as close to mexican food as we could get so far. They even use jalapenos (though they call em something else)
As a lover of tea, Siobhan could not get enough of the mint tea served in all restaurants, cafes, and in homes. It was DELICIOUS but very sweet. Our instructor taught us how to make a proper pot and pour in a way to cool the tea without spilling it everywhere.
Our instructor also showed Siobhan and Jayna how to wear a hijab 🙂
Later that night we met back up with our new-found friend and an Irish buddy for some people-watching and some street food including kebabs, soup, tajine, and pigeon pastry (yum!). It should be noted there are many street food vendors that each have a guy trying to entice you to sit at their stall, and it can be quite the event when some are pushier or more insistant than others. No, my name is not Harry Potter nor is it Chicharito.