Saturday, September 26, 2015

Marrakech part II - The Medina and souk

The Koutoubia mosque was constructed in the 12th century and is one of Marrakech's most famous landmarks. It is located in the Medina (old town) and flanked on two sides by rose gardens which are a popular meeting place for locals at the end of day. An order prohibits any construction in the surrounding area from being higher than palm tree level, and the tall minaret tower from where the muezzin calls for prayers five times a day is visible from eighteen miles away. So whenever you feel you've slightly lost your way, a sighting of the Koutoubia minaret gives you a sense of direction and relief. 



From the mosque it is just a short walk to the central market square (Jeema El-Fnaa), which is filled with indescribable activity... fortune tellers, snake charmers, magicians, fruit vendors and musicians all compete for attention, and if you pause for as much as a second, you find someone attempts to place a monkey on your shoulder or a python around your neck. The square is lined with cafés, and if you go to the roof terrace of the Café de France, you'll have a fabulous view over the square, and you can take in the atmosphere and prepare to merge yourself into it while enjoying a traditional fresh mint tea. At dusk the square is at its busiest... in addition to the already bustling daytime activity, hundreds of food vendors install their stands to entice large crowds with traditional Moroccan street food. To get an impression of the sounds and bustle at dusk click on the Café de la France website here



The square is an ideal place to start exploring the souk (Arab market place). The Marrakech souk is the largest in Morocco,  a huge labyrinth of intricately connected alleyways, streets and squares. Vendors are grouped according to what they sell. There are leather, carpet and silver districts, with other areas dedicated to earthenware, spices and fruit. The small alleyways are protected from the bright sunlight by slatted shades overhead, and you wander the lines of stalls, some of them the size of doll's houses and others as big (and enticing) as Aladdin's caves, in soft dappled light from above. Some spaces are small, so always be prepared to step aside for vendors with wheelbarrows, or donkey carts busily transporting merchandise and supplies back and forth.









Dried Khella flowers, a fabulous natural antiseptic tooth pick









The Café Arabe, a calm oasis in the middle of the souk and a lovely place to eat in the courtyard or have a drink on the rooftop terrace





no shortage of the essential ingredient for mint tea



The spice market (Derb Rahba Lakdima)





After a couple of hours strolling the souk, the chic and serene Nomad Café is a perfect place to catch your breath and calm your senses. You can find it by the spice market, tucked away in a quiet side street. The roof terrace has an amazing view and is a fabulous place to have lunch, offering a selection of Moroccan dishes and fresh salads made from locally grown produce which you can enjoy with a glass of local wine.

another lovely place for a drink or lunch is the 'café des épices' (dark red building on the left)






Birds eye view of the souk from Nomad's terrace



Not far from the Nomad you'll find the tiny 'Souk cherifia' shopping mall, where small labels and independent designers show their collections in the boutiques on the first floor (under the Terrace des épices restaurant, which is another great place in the souk).



La Maison Bahira was my favorite. They have some really lovely cotton and linen homeware and small jewellery items









Marrakech undoubtedly has the cutest street cats





Koutoubia mosque, Avenue Mohammed V, Marrakech

Café de France: Place Jemaa El Fna, Marrakech 2034, Tel: +212 524 442 319 

Spice market: Derb Rahba Lakdima, Médina Marrakech

Nomad: 1, Derb Aarjan, Marrakech Médina, Tel: +212 5 24 38 16 09

Café des Epices: 75 Derb Rahba Lakdima, Médina Marrakech, Tel : +212 524 391 770  www.cafedesepices.net

Café Arabe: 184, rue Mouassine - Médina Marrakech 40 000 +212  524  42 97 28 www.cafearabe.com

Souk Cherifia: D.S.Abdelaziz, Marrakesh, Tel: +212 678-382254

Maison Bahira: www.maisonbahira.com

Terrace des Epices: 15, souk Cherifia. Sidi Abdelaziz. Marrakech Médina
Tel.: + 212 (0) 5 24 37 59 04 www.terrassedesepices.com

51 comments:

  1. That looks simply wonderful, nothing is better than a good market in a foreign country.

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    1. I love foreign markets, even foreign supermarkets!

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  2. What an exotic tale of adventure you weave, my friend! The sites and sounds appear stunning, but OMG! If I paused for a minute to peruse a vendor or a sec to tie my shoe and someone put a python around my neck, well, I would surely faint dead away! I think I would stay up on the roof with a mint tea and take it all in! Then run as fast as I could back to my hotel;) Yikes!

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    1. Oh my dear Trudye, I didn't mean to scare you! It's easy to bypass the hype of the square, so please come along when you finished your tea! Have a lovely week ahead xx

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  3. Dear Mai Tai. There! I am in my Marrakech with your wonferful pictures giving us the exact sensations to smell the spices into the small streets of the souk and the atmosphère of this particular oriental life and the kindness of the Moroccan's people. I want tu return right now...
    Amities

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    1. Chère Monica, I am so pleased you find a little bit of Marrakech's spirit captured, and hope you enjoy the remaining parts of the travelogue too. The kindness of the Moroccan people was a wonderful extra gift of this trip. Amitiés

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  4. What an explosion of colors, smells and noises - I can virtually feel the atmosphere of this vibrant place. And definitely the best journey to take on a rather grey Sunday morning! The olives are just mouthwatering - so beautifully arranged in the jars...Thank you so much for theses little escapes from everyday life, dearest MaiTai!
    Katja

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    1. So happy you enjoyed coming along, dearest Katja! The colors and atmosphere were truly amaizing, a feast for the senses and eyes. Hope you can visit one day, and have a lovely week ahead! x

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  5. for the cats that I like so much also, unfortunately they have a real problem of reproduction there.......

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  6. Aren't the souks fabulous! Wonderful to watch the craftsmen at work. We were guided around by a young boy of about 14 who spoke French and a little English. He was such a sweetie and seemed to know all the places without pushing us to buy anything anywhere which some of the professional adult guides do. The dyers' alleys were spectacular with the long wool or cotton threads stretched across alley "roofs". There were sections with bright reds, others with acid yellows and brilliant blues and greens. We loved Marrakech! But not so much the Jmaa el Fna - didn't like the crowds or the snakes and monkeys (I always worry about rabies with monkeys). Specially after having lived in Sri Lanka for a couple of years.
    Best wishes, Pamela

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    1. The Jmaa el Fna is not for the faint hearted, and I didn't feel like lingering much. Your souk experience sounds lovely and special... another testament of the Moroccan's kindness Monica mentioned above. Have a wonderful week!

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    2. Yes, they were very kind. One day we were driving in the foothills of the Atlas and decided to have our picnic alongside a small stream running through a sloping valley. It was beautiful and very quiet. Also very hot so after our meal we decided to wade along the stream to cool down. Suddenly a group of about ten people, led by an old man, but mostly women and children, appeared from behind a hill and approached us. The old man explained in French that they were worried about us - afraid we might drink water from the stream. He told us it wasn't safe and would make us sick - he offered us water they'd brought for us. It wasn't necessary as we had our own water in the car (and would never have drunk from the stream) - but they didn't know that and were so thoughtful. Pammie

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  7. Gorgeous- I love your travel posts x

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  8. Oh, forgot to say that those street cats are really so cute and to add big mwahs! I think I was freaked out by the pythons and snake charmers! xx

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  9. When we were here my husband completely lost the plot when he spotted the snakes and their charmers. I had no idea that his phobia was so bad!

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    1. He can join me on the roof;)

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    2. That must have been quite a moment!

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    3. Trudye, you two are probably the sensible ones!

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  10. Wow! Sensory overolad! The colors . . . those spices and olives. And the ceramics. Sigh! I love your description of the snake charmers and the monkeys. But I would freak out if someone came near me with a large python. And while little monkeys look so cute, I'd worry that it might dislike my perfume and decide to rip my ear off. Yes, I am truly a namby pamby farm-raised rabbit (vs. a tough range rabbit). But I'd try to suck it up because I'd really, really want to find a pair of genie slippers with curly turned-up toes! Just loving reading about your fabulous adventure.

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    1. Oh I remember seeing those exact magic slippers, dearest Marla! I don't think I'd be ever able to find the stall again, but will certainly keep my eyes open if we'd go again. I didn't dare going near the monkeys either (or the snake).. hugs from one namby pamby rabbit to another xx

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  11. I just love all these colors and dearest MT your pictures are so beautiful but... if there is still place, I would join Trudye on the roof.
    Jerrine Sis, I'm sure we could be nicely installed on sofas with a couple of these cute street cats!
    Catherine

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    1. I expect the floor would be dotted with saucers filled with cream by now, with you and Jerrine ordering more! Amitiés et une belle semaine x

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  12. Yes, and may I emphasize that YES. I will definitely join you and Trudye on the roof. If someone even threatened to touch me with a snake, I'd have a heart attack on the spot. And monkeys? I don't find them overly charming either!

    I'd much rather play with the cats, Sister Catherine. But, it makes me so sad to see them and know that they have no home, and as Monica said, they reproduce like bunnies . . . poor kitties.

    MT, I certainly enjoyed this chapter of the exotic travelogue. The pictures are marvelous, as are the descriptions. I was ready to book a flight until I read about those snakes!

    Catherine and Trudye, please move over and make some room on that sofa.

    Jerrine

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    1. I booked a couple of sofas upstairs and ordered extra cream for the kitties, dearest Jerrine! The monkeys will be sad not to jump on your shoulder, and the snake will have to stay in it's basket. Have a fabulous week ahead xx

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  13. I will definitely join you ladies on the roof. Oh, but the spices look so beautiful. I might have to venture into the souk, just for the spices. Dear MaiTai, thank you for this gorgeous travelogue!
    Warm aloha,
    Fifi

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    1. I'll guide you safely into the souk after you finished your tea, dearest Fifi! Hope you'll enjoy the upcoming parts too xx

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  14. What an amazing trip. This is so inspiring! Can you also let me know what brand the black espadrilles in your capsule collection are. They are lovely. Also is the online store open now? Can't wait to get shopping!

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    1. Hello dear Melissa, the espadrilles are by Castañer (a Spanish brand), and I can't recommend them highly enough! Hope this link works: Castaner
      The new shop is (finally!) open, hope you have fun browsing.
      www.maitaicollection.com

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  15. Dearest Mai Tai,

    Your descriptions are always so accurate! I'm enjoying your exotic travellogue a lot! I can almost smell the spices and the colours are so beautiful!
    Dear Trudye, Catherine and Jerrine is there still a place for me on that couch? I would faint if someone came close to me with a snake. Wishing you all a lovely week ahead!
    Hugs, Manuela

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    1. We were just waiting for you Manuela! Let's have a party on this roof! Snakes, monkeys and poor cats... I don't think I would enjoy a real visit, I prefer to travel through MaiTai' eyes for this time!
      Bonne journée,
      Catherine.

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    2. Dearest Manuela, thank you for the lovely note! Hope you enjoy the upcoming parts too. The roof terrace seems to have become the new hot spot of town.. I heard rumours it's going to be renamed Swan Saloon! Hugs x

      Catherine chère, the Marrakech cocktail is a wild mix, it's true! Amitiés

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    3. Yes, Manuela, we figured you'd show up, so we saved you a seat . . . and a cat!

      Here's to the Swan Saloon where snakes and monkeys are banned, and Swans can hang out in peace with not a single ruffled feather in sight.

      Cheers,
      Jerrine

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    4. Of course, MT - lots of saucers of cream and plates of tuna fish for the little kits. Sis Catherine and I would also set up a foundation for the care and spaying/neutering of our charges while we're there.

      Just keep the monkeys away from us! (Not to be indelicate, but I hear that they love to throw . . . poop. Ugh.)

      Une bonne semaine à tous, bien sûr,
      Jerrine

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    5. Chere Catherine, dear Jerrine,

      You girls are so sweet! Thank you for reserving a place for me:-)
      Catherine, me too, I prefer to travel to Morocco through MT's eyes. Jerrine, let's share my cat. I' m sure you are better with cats than I am.
      Dearest Mai Tai, Swan Salloon sounds just perfect to me!
      As Catherine would say: 'tut tut! Manuela

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  16. I have to know--did someone actually drape a snake around your neck like one of your lovely scarves?! The photos are marvelous--makes me want to visit. The piles of spices are amazing--a true feast for the senses.

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    1. I am not as brave as dear Monica, even though the snakes were completely harmless. Marrakech is a feast for the senses indeed, hope you'll visit one day soon!

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  17. So, dear ladies, I can
    see that I am the only one with a snake in my arms (far away my face....) For the ritual picture ! Its true that I have the same picture 10 times, but I see how older I became since so many times I went to Marrakech and all Morocco ! from when I was 20......
    Hugs to all The salon.









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    1. Chapeau, chère Monica! Maybe I'll do it next time ;-)

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  18. To all the swans gathering in the Café de France - The roof terrace is now officially closed for the reason of being overcrowded! It’s time to smooth the feathers, and get out to explore. Will get you in a minute and guide you safely past the square and into the souk. Who’s coming….tut tut <3

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    1. If you can guarantee no snake or monkey attacks, definitely count me in. Looks like there's some fabulous shopping to be had. (I wanted every thing you showed us and then some!)

      Maybe Monica The Brave could volunteer to help you guide us safely through the souk.

      Merci,
      Jerrine

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    2. Ok...she says warily...count me in! But, I will need something stronger than a mint tea to venture off the rooftop!
      Maybe Monica the Brave can be the decoy as well as a guide!;-) xx

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    3. Please, wait for me! l'll fly just behind you, dearest Trudye! We'll be able to protect eachother in case a lost monkey should appear. xx Manuela

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    4. Not to worry,darling Manuela, we shall protect one another! By George,ladies and swans, I think we can do this! With a little fortification from the bubbly or an exotic Marrakesh cocktail, anything is possible! xx

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    5. Thank you! <3
      M xx

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  19. Dearest MaiTai,

    I have been too slow in posting this compliment for you on the lovely layout of your website and MaiTai Collection on-line Boutique. "Design is Function" guides your readers beautifully. Well done. It is superbe.

    As usual, your travelogue is just a delight to read, thank you. Especially the homage to YSL.
    It is lovely to see the ancient artistic influence in this city. I was wondering whether it is Andalusian or Coptic, all of the above?

    Very touching to see your inclusion of small creatures.. Pigeons in Paris. the lizard in Barcelona .. the kittens in Marrakech .. the chihuahuas in Paris. Always a delight that these little creatures share our world.

    Grands Bisous
    Terese xx

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  20. Beautiful Mai Tai..love your beautiful Moroccan photos. An idea for the future---one of your tunics is black and white. You did such a good job with your blue and red and leopard prints with scarves. Can you try your magic with a Breton striped black and white top? I like more subdued stripes or prints, and honestly, all the USA style advice says if you want to "look French". --get a Breton bateau top! But how to work it with a scarf or necklace????? Thank you Mai Tai!

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