Midnight at the oasis in Marrakesh

Published: December 8th 2019
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By bread and salt we are united ~ Moroccan Proverb

Today we were travelling northeast from Taghazout to Marrakesh.

After a late morning surf, I met Ren on the beach and headed back to our comfy room at the Sol House surf resort, which sits about a stone’s throw south of Taghazout (a small fishing village on Morocco’s Atlantic coast). We needed to organise our packs for the final leg of our month-long Moroccan adventure – we were returning to Marrakesh. We walked to reception, loaded our packs into the minibus and headed off.

We drove a short distance along the coastline to Agadir, then turned inland and travelled northeast to Marrakesh. Despite having driven through Agadir a few times over the past few weeks, I was still surprised by the endless rows of multi-level apartments that lined the roads leading into and out of the city. They were all the same colour and design. Agadir was rebuilt from the ground up following a shocking earthquake in 1960, so the architectural uniformity of its suburbs may be a consequence of this.

After clearing the city’s apartment belt, the landscape stretched flat to the southern horizon behind us, while the Atlas Mountains dominated the northern horizon in front of us. The soil was arid, with palm trees, argan trees and coarse undergrowth providing a patchwork of green on the brown ochre earth. After about an hour on the road we began climbing into the Atlas Mountains. Small villages of stone and mortar were set into hillsides and valleys, while dry river beds snaked their way into man-made lakes. And all the while, oud music hummed from the audio system of the minibus. When the higher peaks of the Atlas Mountains began to appear on the distant horizon, they were snow free! It was the first time we‘d seen them without snow since arriving in Morocco almost a month earlier.

After stopping at a servo for a cafe nous nous (a local cafe latte) and mint tea, we embarked on our final minibus journey in the mid-afternoon. The landscape flattened, with only the slightest shade of green covering the otherwise arid dusty earth. Goat and sheep herders tended their flocks, and they cut solitary figures in the harsh surrounds of the Atlas Mountains.

As the mountain range disappeared behind us, we started driving through larger villages and towns, and the vapour trails of jets began to cross the blue sky above us. We were getting closer and closer to Marrakesh, and while the flat landscape was getting a little greener, it certainly wasn’t lush. There was a hint of green in the trees and scrubby undergrowth, but the predominant colour of the terrain was sandy yellow. The rocky earth of southern Morocco rarely disappears. Even the larger oases are always surrounded by dry arid land.

We arrived in Marrakesh in the late afternoon and headed straight to Les Trois Palmiers, our hotel in Gueliz (one of the city’s more modern districts). It was our third visit to Marrakesh and our third visit to this hotel, so we were familiar with the area. We dropped our packs, picked up a couple of bottles of red from a trusty nearby bottle shop (a rarity in Morocco) and headed into the medina for dinner.

We caught a bus to the medina’s edge, made our way through the madness of Djemma el-Fna and navigated the narrow lanes of the souqs to Nomad – our dining option for the night. The place was packed, so we settled at an upstairs table and ordered a lemon and mint juice (me) and an avocado, orange, date and cinnamon juice (Ren). I opted for the lamb tagine with red onion, mushroom, orange zest, ginger, cardamom and star anise, while Ren went for the Nomad beef couscous (slowly braised preserved lemon and spice-infused beef with seasonal vegetables on a bed of couscous). For dessert, Ren ordered the saffron-scented Moroccan date cake with fresh whipped cream and salted caramel sauce, while I had the Moroccan affogato (espresso with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg over vanilla ice cream and toasted almonds). Yummo!

The food was exceptional, as was the heady atmosphere of this bustling restaurant. After a fabulous evening, we retraced our steps through the souqs, navigated the madness of Djemma el-Fna, emerged from the medina’s walls and caught a public bus back to Les Trois Palmiers. After selecting a few travel photos (to post to Facebook) in our large and comfy room, we retired a little before midnight.

We enjoyed a lazy morning and a late breakfast, because we were moving to our pre-booked riad in the medina, and we didn’t want to arrive before our room was ready. After settling at a table in the breakfast area at Les Trois Palmiers, I hydrated with carrot juice, lemon juice, mint tea, latte and normal tea, and I grazed on cornflakes, yoghurt, msemen (flaky Moroccan flatbread), baguettes, croissants, goats cheese and jam. Lazy breakfasts are the best. 😊

It was 11:30am when we checked out of Les Trois Palmiers for the third and last time. It had become so familiar, like a cafe you keep returning to when you’re wary of trying something new. We jumped into a taxi and travelled a short distance to Riad Helen, which was located within the medina walls. This was our accommodation for the next three days, and the focus of our stay was rest, relaxation and recuperation. We were dropped off at the Dar El Bacha Palace, and we navigated the last part of the journey by foot through the narrow lanes of Derb Arset Aouzal. We needed some help from a few locals to find the place, and one very friendly young woman actually walked with us right to the door.

The disguised and non-descript door of the riad belied what lay inside – an absolute oasis. The place was a world away from the madness of the medina. We sat down and filled in our paperwork while our host prepared mint tea and biscuits. Our room wasn’t quite ready, so we sipped mint tea and escaped Marrakesh’s stifling 33 degrees in the riad’s cool inner courtyard.

It wasn’t long before our room was prepared, so we carried our packs up to the first level and instantly fell in love with our Wahda Room (which I think roughly translates from Arabic as Room One). We didn’t really want to leave. The riad had comfy nooks everywhere, and the rooftop terrace was amazing. However, we had a few things to tie up in the medina before we left, so we headed out into the dry heat of the early afternoon and made our way towards the Palais De La Bahia (Bahia Palace). We shadowed the medina wall until we arrived at the Caleches (Horse Carriages) entrance to Jemma el-Fna. It was early afternoon, but the crowds were thick, so we cut through the chaos until we were deep within the narrow Rue Riad Zitoun Kedim. We picked up a few souvenirs on the way (including a wooden camel, wooden donkey and fridge magnet), then emerged into Place des Ferblantiers where we stopped for a quick refreshing drink at a small cafe that bordered the palm-lined square.

Having successfully ignored the busking musicians at our table (and the noisy glassworks beside the cafe), we continued our journey towards Bahia Palace, taking a detour through the Mellah (Jewish Quarter) on the way. We arrived at the palace in the mid-afternoon, and it was hot – really hot! We had to queue for our ticket in the hot sun, so it was a relief to finally enter the cool and shady palace. I was surprised by the architecture. It was a beautiful place, and so well designed to escape the unrelenting Moroccan sun. The place was teeming with tourists (of which we were two), but we were able to find the occasional space to capture a wall or doorway before someone’s hand, face or camera contaminated our photos. 😊

After about an hour inside the palace we began our return journey to Riad Helen. The medina was finally becoming familiar, and I love that self-reliant feeling when you’re comfortable finding your way around a place. We headed back to Jemaa el-Fna via Rue Riad Zitoun Jdid, then crossed the square and made our way to Place Bab Fteuh where some tea glasses had captured our attention a few weeks’ earlier. We purchased the glasses and a silver plate from the friendly store keeper, then continued our return journey to Riad Helen.

After navigating the exact route we’d taken a few weeks’ earlier, we arrived at Henna Café – which was very close to the narrow Derb Arset Aouzal that led to our accommodation oasis. We made our way up to the terrace and ordered a trio of salads, avocado milkshake (Ren) and pineapple smoothie (me). The food was great, as was the atmosphere. Khobz (traditional round bread), olives and a fiery harissa accompanied the salads, and it was a perfect meal for a hot early evening.

Feeling refreshed but tired, we left Henna Café around 7pm and within minutes found ourselves at the door of Riad Helen. It had been a long day of walking in 33 degree heat, but the day was far from over. We needed to choose some travel photos, so we organised a pot of mint tea and a bottle of red and headed up to the riad’s rooftop terrace with some biscuits we’d picked up from Corne de Gazelle (on our way back from the palace). We sat in the delightful dusk air and sorted through a selection of travel shots before retiring to our room (which overlooked the riad’s inner courtyard) when the evening heat became too uncomfortable. We managed to catch up on our travel writing before exhaustion set in a little before midnight.

We always ty to ensure we have a few days at the end of a holiday to relax and wind down from the intensity of travel, and that was the underlying reason for our three days in the medina. The next day we pottered in our room until 8:30am, then headed down to the inner courtyard area for breakfast. We hydrated with orange juice and mint tea while grazing on msemen (flaky Moroccan flatbread), khobz (traditional round bread), baghrir (Moroccan crumpets), fried eggs, croissants, jam and honey. It was an absolute feast, and very filling.

After breakfast we settled in one of the riad’s comfortable nooks and caught up on three weeks of travel writing, with the occasional glass of mint tea and Moroccan biscuit to sustain us through the afternoon. We walked deep into the medina for dinner at Souk Kafé in the early evening, dodging scooters, bicycles and grumpy old women on the way. We squeezed through a narrow staircase to the rooftop terrace and settled at a table under a patchy covering of thatch that barely protected us from the light rain that had continued since an early afternoon thunderstorm.

Ren ordered the tangia Marrakchia (a stew of beef meat and spices served with flavoured semolina – the first tangia we’d tried since arriving in Morocco), while I opted for a tagine de kafta (a stew of meat balls and egg served with flavoured semolina). The meals were great, and we loved the open air ambiance – rooftop dining is the best! I refreshed with a fresh orange juice, while Ren had two avocado and almond milkshakes (with ice cream).

We wandered back to the riad, grabbed the last bottle of red and headed to the rooftop to select some travel photos. It was a humid night (thanks to the afternoon thunderstorm), and it was amazing to think we were sitting in the north western tip of Africa, sipping red wine at dusk. With the light and wifi fading, we headed to our room and relaxed into the evening. Relaxed, that is, until the power went off. When I informed the night attendant, he called our host (who stayed offsite) and handed me the phone. She wasn’t entirely sure what had happened, but she told me we’d have to wait until the morning for the power to be restored. However, when it became apparent that most of the riad was without power – and not just our room – we were informed an electrician was on his way. We borrowed some candles and pottered around as best we could with head torches in the dim light. The power was restored around 10pm, much to the delight of the riad’s inhabitants (including us)!

We woke early the next morning and headed down to the inner courtyard area for breakfast just after 8am. We hydrated with orange juice and mint tea while grazing on khobz (traditional round bread), pancakes, krachel (round glazed rolls), orange glazed cake, home-made yoghurt flavoured with orange blossom (yummo), jam and honey. It was another absolute feast!

We headed out into the hot mid-morning sun and began to explore the narrow lanes of the medina that surrounded the riad. The street art was interesting, although some of the messages portrayed on the walls were very disturbing, especially the misguided but understandable gratitude to China for the money it provides Morocco. Africa has been in China’s debt for some time now, and it’s not something that needs to be immortalised in street art – well not in my book anyway. Humanitarian aid is one thing, but conditional infrastructure loans are another thing altogether.

As we ventured further into the souqs, we found ourselves in familiar territory. This was our third visit to Marrakesh in as many weeks, and most of the stalls and landmarks had become instantly recognisable. We still managed to get lost, but nowhere near as many times. We’d heard a good review of Café des Epices, so we made our way there – arriving right in the middle of the lunch service. The sun was out and the rooftop terrace was full, so we opted for a table on the first level. We settled in a corner with a comfy bench seat and reflected on the morning madness. We’d been party to a bike collision (an old guy on a bike tried to avoid me and was consequently collected by a young kid speeding past on his bike), and moments later an old lady collapsed in the morning heat just over from us…

People were pouring into the cafe, so the staff were run off their feet. I ordered an avocado, orange and date juice (which was so good), while Ren went for a coke. This was to be our last major meal in Morocco, so I ordered the sardine balls tagine with peppers and carrot, while Ren opted for a Berber omelette with onion, green olives, tomato, parsley and garlic. The food was exceptional! It was the first sardine balls tagine I’d seen on any menu, and it was unbelievably tasty. Ren’s Berber omelette was just as good, especially the olive and tomato base it was cooked in. We soaked it all up with fresh khobz (traditional round bread) and finished the meal with mint tea, spiced tea and a pistachio brownie.

Feeling completely refreshed, we retraced our steps back to the riad, picking up some cold drinks on the way. We arrived back in the mid-afternoon, having been on our feet for five hours in 34 degree heat. I settled downstairs in the inner courtyard area and caught up on my travel writing, and I also tried my hand at marble solitaire. I headed out in the late afternoon to pick up a necklace with the Berber freedom symbol – something I’d been looking out for since our Sahara adventure. I’d noticed one at a small jewellery stand close to the riad, and the guy selling the jewellery was very affable, so I was happy to purchase it from him. I loved the tribal roughness of the pendant, and I was relieved to have found it on our last day. Phew.

We settled in the riad’s inner courtyard area and played marble solitaire into the early evening, sipping mint tea and munching on Moroccan biscuits. It was a great end to a great day. We managed to get down to two marbles on one occasion (and to three marbles on numerous occasions), but no matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t get down to a single marble! We headed up to our room in the mid-evening and started preparing for our long haul flight home the following day. There was a lot to organise, but we knew we had time in the morning, so we decided to catch up on our travel writing and have an early night instead.

A thunderstorm broke during the night, and the ensuing humidity wasn’t easy to sleep in. It also poured with rain, and an ongoing cat fight just outside the riad wasn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep. However, I woke early and I felt refreshed. We headed down to breakfast around 8:30am and enjoyed orange juice, mint tea, orange glazed cake, msemen (flaky Moroccan flatbread), baghrir (Moroccan crumpets), jam and honey. It was just enough to prepare us for our long haul flight ahead.

We purchased some soaps and creams from the riad’s boutique collection, paid our tourist tax and then headed out to a nearby artisan’s collective to pick up some last minute souvenirs. It was getting close to check out, so we waited as long as we could before showering, as we wouldn’t be anywhere near a shower for the next 36 hours. We checked out just after midday and settled in the riad’s inner courtyard area until mid-afternoon. The place was empty, so we had the calm serenity to ourselves – it was a perfect way to prepare for an early evening flight.

Today we were travelling from Taghazout to Marrakesh, by minibus.

We left Taghazout at 1pm after a late check-out. It was about a three and half hour drive including a coffee stop along the way. The clean toilets were very welcome, as was sitting in the sun while Khalid (our group leader) and Mustapha (our driver) ate a massive couscous dish. We were still full from a big breakfast buffet, so we decided to skip lunch. I slept for most of the drive from that point on, so I arrived quite refreshed in Marrakesh.

We were back at the same hotel – Les Trois Palmiers (Three Palms) Hotel – for the third time, and it was nice to be in familiar surrounds again. It’s great when you know where all the crucial neighbourhood amenities are, not to mention the quirks of the hotel and how to avoid them. With just enough time to check-in and do some housekeeping (like visiting an ATM), we left for the last group dinner in the medina. Khalid had wanted to take us back to the food stalls in the busy Djemaa el-Fna Square, but given our last meal there had been our worst meal in Morocco so far, we politely declined and made a suggestion from the Lonely Planet guide that we all thought sounded great.

We caught the #1 bus from just behind our hotel to the medina and walked through the evening madness of the Djemaa el-Fna Square. We navigated our way through the labyrinthine souqs until we saw the sign for Nomad. The restaurant is squished into odd shaped rooms over a few levels, and it was absolutely packed when we got there. We had been lucky to get a table with such short notice.

The food at Nomad was fusion Moroccan and absolutely delicious. Andrew had the lamb tagine and I had the Nomad special beef couscous. It was Friday and traditionally the day couscous is cooked (as it’s such a laborious process to make the couscous from scratch). I had an avocado and date shake and it was so so so good that I immediately ordered another one. For dessert Andrew ordered a Moroccan affogato (an espresso shot with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg, poured over ice cream with almonds). I couldn’t resist the saffron scented Moroccan date cake with salted caramel sauce, and it was beyond delicious! But it was so rich that I couldn’t finish it and actually shared it with Ineke and Anja.

This was our last group dinner and the end of travelling for 25 days with Khalid, Ineke and Anja. It had been such a fabulous adventure! We’d enjoyed travelling with most of the group for this third section of the trip, as they were hilarious and interesting company. An unrequited love affair created a bit of awkwardness for parts of the trip, but we managed to evade the drama and get on with enjoying ourselves. 😊

We said our goodbyes to Steph and Ness who were spending the night in the medina, and caught the #1 bus back to our hotel in Gueliz. I meant to do some writing that night, but I was way too tired and fell asleep with my ipad in my hand.

We woke late and had a late breakfast with Ineke and Anja. Having spent more than three weeks of intense and enjoyable travel with these two girls, it was nice to have a quiet breakfast with them one last time. Coincidently Khalid and Tom came down for breakfast as we were leaving, so we had another round of goodbye hugs before heading to our room to pack. This was a lazy morning. We were checking out of Les Trois Palmiers in Gueliz and transferring to Riad Helen in the medina for three nights before we began our long travel back to Australia.

We checked out at 11:30am and caught a taxi as far as the driver could take us. He dropped us off at an entrance to the medina and we walked the rest of the way. We found the small residential street our riad was on easily enough, but it forked into two tiny lanes and we had to ask a local for directions. She was buying bread from a bread cart just outside her house, so she sent her daughter with us to show us the way. I can’t express enough how extremely friendly and helpful Marrakeshi locals are!

When booking this part of the trip, we had been spoilt for choice for beautiful traditional riads in the medina. They all offered traditional hospitality, but they ranged from small and cosy to larger businesses in slightly more contemporary settings. We opted for Riad Helen based on its exceptional reviews, small size and location in a part of the medina we knew we wouldn’t have explored yet.

From the outside Riad Helen is just a doorway on a quiet street, but it opens into a haven of beauty and peacefulness. The central courtyard had a sitting area where we were offered mint tea and lovely Moroccan biscuits by Fatima while we were checked in. She hurriedly got our room ready for us at midday, even though check-in wasn’t until 2pm. We sat back and absorbed the lovely ambiance of the white and cool mint green riad. Ziane the manager arrived later and helped us get our bearings with a detailed map of the medina that would have been so very handy on our previous trips to Marrakesh!

We loved our room and the small riad very much. The ground floor held the kitchen, one bedroom, two communal sitting areas, a small library and some beautiful items for sale – including the beautiful Les Sens de Marrakech cosmetics that were provided in the bathroom. The first floor held our room and three other smaller rooms. The rooftop terrace had a few sitting areas and one more bedroom.

We made ourselves comfortable in our airy and bright room. As tempting as it was to just relax in our room for the rest of the day, we dragged ourselves back into the afternoon sun to explore new parts of the medina. We had previously explored a few areas of the medina, but we were yet to visit the Mellah (Jewish quarter). We made our way there, stopping at the calm palm-filled Place des Ferblantiers square to have a drinks break and cool down in the 34 degree heat. I had a pineapple and lemon drink and Andrew had a mint tea. The square was filled with shops selling sheets of glass, mirrors and brass light fittings. We walked to the ruins of the 16th century Badii Palace (which was unfortunately closed for renovation), so we continued exploring the narrow Mellah streets filled with wrought iron window screens.

We eventually made our way to the Bahia Palace. This palace was built in the late 19th century to house the Grand Vizier of the Sultan, but it’s now open to the public. It’s a superb example of Muslim and Moroccan architecture, with no shortage of beautiful geometric patterns, floral motifs and elaborate arches.

After lining up in the blazing sun to buy tickets, we were so grateful for the beautiful shady and cool palace complex. We walked into the main reception rooms, through the smaller side wings for the wives and concubines, and down dark hallways. I absolutely loved the magnificent zouak (painted carved wood ceilings), muqarnas (moulded plaster), zellij (mosaic ceramic tiled walls) and the shady quadrilateral Islamic courtyard gardens. The details on the walls, doors and pillars were really exquisite and pulled me in, so much so that quite often I was standing facing a wall and forgetting to take in the overall room!

The palace was relatively packed with large groups, but I think it felt more crowded than it really was, as there were lots of small doorways and narrow hallways that caused bottlenecks. Much of the crowd also seemed to be attracted to the courtyards. The beautiful courtyards were full of shady fruit trees and cooling fountains, but the chattering crowd didn’t allow for the peaceful sensory experience Islamic gardens are primarily designed for.

We walked back to our riad via Place Bab Fteuh, because we wanted to return to a shop we had seen on a previous visit. It sold the silver tea trays and mint tea glasses that we'd come to love. We also stopped at a gorgeous little patisserie shop that had mouthwatering biscuits and pastries. With much difficulty, we limited ourselves to just a small sample to have with our mint tea later that evening. It was such a good feeling knowing we could now navigate most areas of the medina without relying on our map… or getting lost! A far cry from our very first visit to the medina a few weeks ago. 😊

We had a very late lunch at Henna Café, which was around the corner from our riad. We had wanted to support this cafe because 100% of its profits go to a charity that supports adult literacy, education and development projects. We sat on the roof terrace and shared three lovely refreshing salads – Moroccan salad (tomatoes, onion and herbs), a kind of Waldorf salad with apples, cabbage, raisins and nuts, and a delicious cooked bean salad. I had an avocado shake and Andrew hydrated with a pineapple shake and then a carrot and ginger juice. It was a lovely, light and refreshing end to a hot and sticky medina outing.

We retreated to our gorgeous riad room and showered to cool down. We ordered a mint tea and walked to the rooftop to enjoy the Moroccan pastries we’d purchased in the medina. It was a gorgeous but still hot dusky evening. There wasn’t much of a view as the walls around the rooftop were high, but we could still hear the various calls to prayer and watch the local cats walking along the walls as they roamed their neighbourhood with confidence. It had been a happy and relaxing day, but walking in the heat had tired us both out. We caught up on our notes and crashed close to midnight.

We’d purposely booked these last few days in a lovely riad to relax before the long trip home. We had NO plans, apart from eating, drinking, writing and resting. Hopefully we wouldn’t feel guilty about doing nothing.

We decided to have a lazy Sunday morning and finally rolled out of bed at 8am! Even the alarm at 7am didn’t totally wake me up. Breakfast was served in the courtyard and included three breads – khobz (traditional round leavened bread), msemen (flaky Moroccan flatbread) and beghrir (spongy honeycombed semolina pikelets), a fried egg, apricot jam, honey and butter. And a lovely mint tea. Every Moroccan breakfast on this trip has been a carb-loading exercise! 😊

As we had zero plans for our second-last full day in Marrakesh, we spent the morning sorting out our packs and reading in our room, and then eventually settled into the comfortable courtyard downstairs to relax and write. But I ended up chatting to Ziane more than I wrote.

In the early afternoon we asked for another pot of mint tea, which Ziane served us with some chebakia sweets. It’s a Moroccan fried pastry shaped like a rose, slathered in a syrup made from honey and rosewater, and then sprinkled with sesame seeds. Apparently it’s something they serve during Ramadan. We also finished the Moroccan sweets we’d bought the afternoon before. Between drinking tea, eating sweets, writing and watching the other guests coming and going, it was a very very pleasant and relaxing afternoon…

Our quiet day was dramatically broken with rumbling thunder rolling overhead and a massive rain storm hitting the medina. That affected our afternoon plans of sitting on a cafe rooftop until sunset, so I napped for two hours until we were ready to head out for dinner after the rain stopped. We had Mike’s ‘Magic Umbrella’, and true to form it stopped raining while we walked. It never rained whenever we carried it!

With three restaurants in mind, we wandered the medina and finally settled on Souq Kafe. I had a beef tangia, a traditional Marrakeshi dish. Related to a tagine, the name refers to both the thick clay urn and the rich meat dish made in them. Everything – meat, vegetables, herbs and spices – are thrown into the pot, which is then sealed and taken to a communal oven adjacent to the local hammam baths, where it cooks very slowly in the ashes from the fires used to heat the bath waters. My tangia was served with a side dish of couscous, and it was amazingly good… but slightly too meat heavy for me. Andrew loved his kefta tagine (meatballs in a tomato sauce with eggs poached on top), which had become his favourite tagine. I'd been loving my avocado shakes in Morocco, and this one had almonds in it, and it was the most delicious one I’d had to date. I ended up having two!

We enjoyed our evening on the rooftop of Souq Kafe, where the rainstorm raged while we ate. There was some drama when a light bulb burst with a flash and a bang… and made a young man scream and almost jump into his friends lap. Luckily he saw the funny side of it, and could laugh along with all of us who were giggling at his overreaction.

By the time we walked back to the riad it had stopped raining again (thanks to: Mike’s Magic Umbrella!). We sat on the rooftop with drinks for a while, enjoying the dusky evening air. However, at 9pm when we retired to our room, the power went out in all the rooms on our level. We were first told it wouldn’t be fixed until the next morning, but eventually an electrician arrived in an hour and fixed the fuse. We had been given candles and weren’t too bothered by the prospect of not having power that night, but a French family in the other two rooms on our level were vocal about their annoyance. I’m guessing that’s what prompted the quick arrival of the electrician.

We slept really well that night, as the storm had cooled the city down. We woke at 7am with the alarm and had a lazy breakfast at 8:30am on what was to be our last full day in Morocco. For me the breakfast wasn’t as tasty as the day before. We were served three types of bread – khobz, krachel (a brioche bun with sesame seeds) and an American style pancake – along with homemade yoghurt, a slice of cake with an orange glaze, butter, apricot jam, honey and mint tea. I should mention that for someone who doesn't like yoghurt, I absolutely loved the orange blossom flavoured version we were served! I was glad I tasted it before giving it to Andrew (as I usually do with my yoghurts). 😄

We eventually headed out into the medina at 10:30am and walked in the opposite direction of the souqs. We witnessed small market lanes full of stalls selling everything a household would need. The butchers and fish mongers were doing a swift trade, as were the bakery carts full of bread and the mint and herb stalls. The vegetable stalls and fruit stalls were the next busiest, while the hardware stalls didn’t get busy until later in the day.

It was a very hot day, so we tried to stay within the covered market lanes – as the direct sun was a merciless 34 degrees. We bought a small wooden donkey from an exhibition gallery and then walked back into the souqs.

We’d loved our dinner at Nomad so much (a few nights earlier) that we decided to lunch at their sister restaurant – Cafe des epices. We had wanted to sit on the rooftop, but it was packed and had little shade, so we sat on the second floor and cooled down under the aircon. My Berber omelette was absolutely superb! It was cooked differently to the ones I'd had in the Atlas Mountains. It wasn’t cooked in a tagine and was more like a shakshuka with eggs and olives and a gorgeous tomato and onion sauce. Andrew loved his fish ball tagine. The avocado and date shake Andrew had was the same one I’d loved in Nomad. We also had a mint and spiced tea with a pistachio brownie for dessert. It was a lovely last long lunch in Marrakesh.

We returned to the riad, and while I showered and cooled down in our room, Andrew returned to buy a necklace with a Berber symbol he’d seen in a stall we’d passed multiple times in the last few days. The yaz (ⵣ) character in the Berber alphabet also symbolises the Berber ‘Free Man’ and decorates the Berber flag.

We relaxed downstairs in the riad that evening, and Andrew repeatedly tried to win at marble solitaire (where the aim is to jump marbles on a board until you’re left with only one marble). Despite his multiple attempts, three marbles left was his best solo result (as was mine). Two left was our best joint effort.

Ziane was giving two other guests a cooking class, so she offered us a mint tea and some biscuits (as they were making some). We also got a sample of a ktefa (also called pastilla au lait) dessert they had made. I loved it! Layers of crispy fried warqa pastry was layered with orange blossom water-flavoured custard sauce and topped with crushed almonds. Andrew wasn’t a fan, so all the more for me! 😊

That evening we packed for our flight home and relaxed. It was going to be a long long long day the next day, but we’d had two days of total relaxation to prepare for it.

On the day of our departure, my favourite breakfast item (mseman) was served for breakfast, along with my not-so-favourite baghrir and the orange glazed cake I hadn’t liked from the day before. We checked out at midday and hung around the riad until 3pm, playing marble solitaire and writing notes. We eventually caught a taxi to the airport on a beautiful golden Marrakesh afternoon. I was ready to go home, but I was also sad to leave Marrakesh.

I had loved our time in Morocco, and I thought it fitting we had finished our trip in Marrakesh. As usual we will gather our thoughts on the whole trip and post our reflections in our Epilogue blog, but it’s no secret that Marrakesh has been one of our favourites… with its mass of old world charm sitting very comfortably alongside its infectious cosmopolitan energy. It was an intriguing mix of old traditional life, modern city life and suburban community life.

Our time at Raid Helen had been a beautiful and unforgettable farewell to Marrakesh and Morocco.

Next, we’ll post our thoughts from planes and airport lounges, on that long long long journey home.


8th December 2019

You definitely need to write for a good magazine Andrew (Epicure) maybe and travel the world writing a critic for them My mouth waters every time you describe your meal Love your and Ren posts Love Aunty Deb xx
8th December 2019

Thank you Deb. That would be a dream job - food and travel :)
8th December 2019

Enjoyable Trip
I have indeed enjoyed my armchair travels of Morocco through your words and pictures.
8th December 2019

Re: Enjoyable Trip
Thank you Chris. We have enjoyed sharing our trip too :)
9th December 2019
marrakesh medina

Nice photo
The best photo ops in a medina aer usually the various sales stalls. Fruit, fish and spice are my favourites. /Ake
9th December 2019
marrakesh medina

Re: Nice photo
Thanks Ake. Yes, I love visiting markets and photographing market stalls, especially the items that are unique to that country :)
10th December 2019

Looks like super trip to Morocco, could taste & smell the food ..... NTFS! Loved Africa, Chobe River (Botswana) sunset photo safaris a highlight, whole trip way up there with Northern Lights experience in Iceland a few years ago. Off to London tonight for 6wks, spend Christmas with our other daughter & grandson (#5 for us with 4 here). Enjoy your Christmas, hope Santa is kind & all the best for 2020! Cheers Paul
10th December 2019

Re: Yummo!
Hi Paul - good to hear from you! We absolutely loved Morocco :) Have a safe trip to London, and wishing you and Grace a great Christmas and Happy New Year. xx
15th December 2019
marrakesh medina

Marrakesh Medina
There is something about the uniqueness of exotic ancient doors that cannot help but draw you in. Then there are the door knockers! These are great. I've gotta post some in TB's "Marketplaces of the World' thread in the Photography Forum. Check 'em out.
16th December 2019
marrakesh medina

Re: Marrakesh Medina
You're ight David, I've very drawn to old doors... especially ones that have ornate features such as these knockers. We could probably start a dedicated 'knobs and knockers' thread in the Photography Forum? :)
15th December 2019

We still dream of the chicken apricot tanginess we had in Morocco. Marrakesh has something for everyone... a bit of a circus and yet plenty of off the beaten paths full of delight. It captures your heart. They know how to use spice.
16th December 2019

Re: Marrakesh
We didn't come across any tagines with apricots, but plenty of lamb and beef ones were sweetened with prunes. They were all delicious! Marrakesh definitely offers something for everyone :)

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