Stories from Marrakech: Part II

Godspeed to all tourists who wander into the Medina of Marrakech.

In most North African cities you will find a Medina quarter. They are known for their high walls, and winding and narrow passageways. These tight spaces forcibly turn the Medina into a pedestrian zone. Almost. You may not be able to extend both arms without touching a wall, yet many streets are still occupied by donkey carts, toy-sized trucks, and other imminent dangers to unwary extremities. A Medina is also a personal nightmare for the directionally inept. Some were even constructed with confusion in mind, planned as deterrents for invaders. 

One can imagine why this information is not immediately presented in your travel guide. But, for all the things you can find there… the Medina presents experiences well worth wandering for.

We simply didn't have the time to join the exasperated tourists, who grieved over their city maps. We learned our routes and quickly became preoccupied with the overwhelming stimulation of the Medina.

Gorgeous rugs covered every surface imaginable. Traditional lamps in all shades of brass, gold, and silver were seen high and low. The fragrances of spice shops wafted through the streets. Fresh mint and vegetables for sale were laid on bed sheets along on the ground. And, rows upon rows of brilliantly colored babouche slippers caught my attention. 

Also begging for our attention was every hawker in the vicinity.

Marrakech may be best known for their souks- a collection of markets, shops, and small workshops of various craftspeople. In fact, the Medina in Marrakech has the most expansive traditional Berber marketplace in Morocco. And, there is no doubt you will be harassed and hounded. 

Stepping into a stall is a dangerous move. It is no simple task to walk in, and walk out with the same amount of dirham in your pocket. Yet, sometimes you also leave with a worthwhile memory.

There was an especially convincing man peddling herbs, homeopathic remedies, and other jars of curiosities. He boasted that his eucalyptus smelling-salts would cure snoring. Then, he demonstrated. He scooped a few salts into a small dingy cloth and twisted the fabric around them, creating a compact bundle. He proceeded to press down one of David’s nostrils with his finger, and shoved the small sachet into David’s other nostril. “NOW, breathe deeply!”

I felt a wide smile spilling over my face. 

To fully prove the effectiveness, I got the same treatment.

Beyond the covered souks, more sensory experiences awaited us. Most especially in the main square, Jemaa El Fna. A place that transforms every day and night- where depending on the hour, you can find storytellers, snakes, human teeth, or an amazing variety of the dishes and delights of Moroccan cuisine.

January 2014