The Sounds, sights and smells of Marrakesh


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Africa » Morocco » Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz » Marrakech
November 1st 2011
Published: November 1st 2011
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Marrakesh SpicesMarrakesh SpicesMarrakesh Spices

enjoy the market
Our last blog took you to the deserts and mountain towns in Morocco and now ----------- the Sounds, sights and smells of Marrakesh.

We approached the outskirts of town with great anticipation. We were approaching the famous city of Marrakesh, which has a deep history and is also home to our guide, Mustafa. We’ve traversed quite a few miles in these last days and the next stop would surely prove to be all that we hoped. We’re both sitting in the car with the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song playing in our heads…….”do you know we are riding on the Marrakesh express….they’re taking me to Marrakesh”. Actually that song has been playing in our heads for about three days and we are ready to give it a rest.

We’ve learned a few facts about Moroccan life that we would like to share with you.

Few Moroccan women drive and in Marrakesh we have seen increased numbers. Driving around the country you will encounter police check-points, you may be waved through or not. They are looking for drugs, illegal alcohol and anything nefarious. We asked Mustafa if trouble was encountered did they accept bribes to allow you to pass—he said no, they are tips. Driving without a seat belt will cost you 4 points on your license and 400 dirhams. We’ve been told a speeding ticket is 8 points and 800 dirhams. In this country they have what they call “quick justice”. You can negotiate with the officer at the time of the infraction and be on your way. “Making new friends,” he said.

Marrakesh is the second-largest city in Morocco and home to a large city market that we’d heard about and longed to see. From the city, you can make out the Atlas Mountains, and we’re told you can see the snow-peaked caps during the winter months when the air is not so hazy.
We motored in from the countryside and almost immediately found ourselves in a lot of traffic, which we hadn’t experienced in several days having spent them in the desert. Cars, motorbikes, taxis, trucks, carts pulled by mules along with any number of other modes of transport were all competing position on the road. Sure, there were lines on the road, but they served as merely a suggestion, or rather just a line on the road with no apparent significance. This city of over one million residents is bustling.
We like the feeling of Marrakesh, the city is alive and vibrant. We were surprised by the cleanliness of this town compared to other locations in Morocco. There is a sense of pride and caring.
Mustafa introduced us to our guide for the day, who was also named Mustafa. He kiddingly referred to him as Mustafa #2. We spent the better part of the day visiting gardens, a few palaces and the outside of two mosques, one of which was completed in the 12th century and was over 70 meters high, quite an architectural accomplishment back then.
There is a law in the city that forbids buildings from being more than one-half the height of the tallest mosque, so that it could always be seen from anywhere within the city, which is also possible as the city is quite flat. Non-muslims are not allowed inside the mosques (with the possible exception of the one in Casablanca) due to a law passed during the French occupation. Seems some soldiers wandered into a mosque with some alcohol….you can imagine that didn’t go over very well with the locals. As a result, our views of these lovely structures were from the outside only.
MJ had longed for the sights and sounds of the souk (market) inside the medina (fortified city), as she knew they would reward her with numerous photos. We were not disappointed. The souk had it all, everything from traditional spices to footwear and everything in between. This was the Walmart superstore for the denizens of Marrakesh. If you could not find it here, you must not have looked very long.
Besides being cleaner than the souk in Fes, the streets of the souk in Marrakesh were wide enough for bicycles and motorbikes to traverse the area, and you constantly heard the riders beeping their little horns to warn you they were coming through. And they were not kidding and they darted in and out of the pedestrian traffic. They were quite skilled actually and posed no threat to us or anyone else during our meanderings.
We also spent some time in and around the square, which is a UNESCO designated site and is quite busy even though we were there during the off season. The square has some interesting trappings, including snake charmers, palm readers, monkeys who will hang on you, (take a
View of MosqueView of MosqueView of Mosque

beautiful palm lined streets
picture and fork over 10 dirhams) a crazy dude who smiles, spins his head so the tassel swings around from the top of his fez while clanging some rather large metal castinet-like things. Again, for a price you get your picture taken with this man whose neck muscles must either be very strong or he would probably fall down from dizziness after swinging his head around in such a fashion.
There was also a gent who sat behind a small table with teeth and what looked like some old dentures and partials. I made the mistake of telling Mustafa that my brother was a dentist (thank you, Bob) and the next thing you know, Dave is sitting on his little chair and this dude is attempting to put into his mouth what appears to be a rather ancient-looking extraction tool, all the while smiling and laughing as MJ took pictures. Dave was quite the unwilling subject for this foray. Dave all but bolted out of the chair after the picture was taken.
We would heartedly recommend that anyone visiting Morocco should spend time in Marrakesh to drink in the sights, smells and sounds of this city which is alive with
Rug MarketRug MarketRug Market

Marrakesh
culture and history.


Additional photos below
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1st November 2011

I'm loving reading your blogs...
We have just decided this morning to spend time over Christmas in Morocco - we'll be arriving in Marrakesh on Dec. 5th, so I am reading your blogs eagerly. I was wondering if you could give me some details about your guide - how you found him, is he with you all the time, and if I may ask, how much it costs to have him with you. I would love to have a guide for some things - like visiting the tanneries and the souk... do you feel you could drive yourselves without a guide... Thanks, it would be great if you could help me out with this. By the way, I'm not surprised Dave didn't enjoy the dentist experience - looks scary!
1st November 2011

Hello Jim and Tracey
We will be back in the states in a few days and I will answer all of your questions.
1st November 2011

Blue Spice
MJ, what is the name of the cobalt blue spice? It looks gorgeous, but I have no clue what it might be. Can you enlighten me?
3rd November 2011

Hi Rene
The blue is not a spice but a dye. It comes from ground sea shells and they use it to dye leathers and wools. I think they put it on display with the spices because it is so colorful.
1st November 2011

Blue Spice
MJ, what is the name of the cobalt blue spice? It looks gorgeous, but I have no clue what it might be. Can you enlighten me?
2nd November 2011

Nice blog~~
Really makes you appreciate the modern dentist and anesthesia! :)
2nd November 2011

Color, color and more color
Loved the pictures- the hills of vibrant colored spices, the camels, the mosques but mostly the dentist and his wares. I am sending your blogs onto Val ( my travel partner). She visited Morrocco a few years ago and loved it. They slept out in the desert in tents. Thanks,Carolyn
2nd November 2011

Oh, the memories
Thank you C,S,N and Y. Now we know how to pronounce the name of the city in that catchy tune! Pics are wonderful, and the notes are enjoyable.
2nd November 2011

So Jealous!
What a beautiful blog..I read it while listening to midnight at the Oasis :)Your pictures are just awesome, i can almost smell the spices - thanks once again for a beautiful blog :)
2nd November 2011

Hi Cindy
Glad you are following along. What a nice country to explore. The people are wonderful. We are currently in Essouria and think you would love it as it is a beach town. Having seafood for dinner.
6th November 2011

This brings back winderful memories
we spent our honeymoon in marrakesh and the atlas mountains 2 years ago - thanks for bringing back some very happy memories! looking foward to the hearing about the rest of your trip
6th November 2011

Sally and Nick
What a great place for a honeymoon. I will have to go back and read those blogs. We had a marvelous time. We've just gotten back home. We wrote 4 blogs about the trip and I think that is all we will write. Don't want to over do it.
9th November 2011
Moroccan dentist

Ha ha ha ha great picture :-)
10th November 2011
Moroccan dentist

Yes, that was fun.
Dave's brother Bob is a dentist so we thought he would enjoy it.
29th November 2011
Marrakesh Spices

Love this photo!
The colors here are outstanding and I can only imagine the aromas. Moroccan markets have definitely been on my "must experience" for a while and this only bolsters that desire. Curious what that beautiful blue is - edible or a dye I wonder?
29th November 2011
Marrakesh Spices

Hi Stephanie,
Glad you enjoyed some of our photos. It was a great trip. The blue comes from seashells that have been ground up and they use it for a dye when making those lovely scarves and things. It is an amazing deep blue and fun to watch them transform the material into the fabulous colors.
20th December 2011

This blog is a 2011 TravelBlog favourite!
Check this out, and feel free to add some 2011 TravelBlog favourite anythings of your own. :) http://www.travelblog.org/Topics/30521-1.html
5th May 2012

Temptations...
Great blog! It made me move morocco higher up on our travel wish list :)
5th May 2012

Morocco was fantastic!
Move it near the top of your list. Hope you will be blogging again soon. I have nominated you for blogger of the week but was reminded that you have to have publish as blog within the last month. Hope we see more from you soon. Love your work and can't wait to read more. Happy travels.
8th May 2012

re:Morocco was fantastic
Thanks Dave and Merry Jo, very kind of you :) We start travelling again in four weeks (to Turkey) - so very excited! Cheers Ren
8th May 2012

Great to hear
I'm glad you will be on the road again soon. Maybe you need to publish a blog of your local area in the meantime. I will continue to rally support to get you on the front page. I'm sure you know many things about your local area that you could share with all of us. We travelers need all the tips we can get.
31st May 2012
Aromas of Marrakesh

More smells!
Just love the symmetry of this photo.
3rd June 2012
Sunset over Marrakesh

Beautiful place
Marrakesh is the second largest city in Morocco and from the city, they can make out the Atlas Mountains, and the visitor said they can see the snow-peaked caps during the winter months when the air is not foggy. In the city, a law forbids buildings from being more than one-half the height of the tallest mosque, so peole could see from anywhere within there. City sunset over Marrakesh of over one million residents was very vibrant. Although it isn't crowed like HCMC of Vietnam, I really like this. I also like the life of city, it is great and peace. If I have a opportunity, I will go there and spend time to visit every where is interesting.

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