Although you would imagine that a city in a semi-arid climate would look dull and desolate, quite the opposite is true of Marrakech, the heart of the exotic African country Morocco. From the intricately tiled railway station to the exotic architecture of the riads, Marrakech is a mythical marvel. For university students used to going away for party weekends by driving to Brighton or taking a quick flight to Amsterdam, Marrakech was an eye-opener. It is old and new at the same time, both chaotic and peaceful and very, very mysterious. This was not just a party place; it had culture and a heartbeat like only African countries have.
Our group stayed in the old city in a classic riad near the great old souk – where yet more colour waited. Timeless mosaics and vivid spices, the smell of flavourful Tagine and pushy vendors feature richly along busy lanes. In Marrakech you can just as easily be entranced by a snake charmer as what a curious monkey can land on your shoulder and join your journey for a while. Some of the English ladies in the group were overwhelmed and could not manage to spend too much time in the madness that is Marrakech. Your best bet is to try to ‘absorb the chaos’ and stop for a refreshing mint tea when things get a bit too exciting. While you are having a breather with your tea, take a moment to look around at the doors. Yes, doors; yet another colourful aspect of this incredible place, the Moroccan doors alone make a trip to Marrakech worthwhile.
Mint tea is not the only delicious thing in Morocco
Being a predominately Muslim country, pork is not consumed in Morocco. But who wants bacon if you can experience the taste sensation of Moroccan food? Pastillas are meat pies made of squab with almonds, wrapped in filo pastry and flavoured with cinnamon and other spices. Shrimp briouats look like Indian samoosas but were surprisingly different. Filled with tangy meat and cheese, these small triangular pastries are so delicious you can’t help but snack on them through the day. Dinner is generally some sort of tajine with saffron infused rice or couscous.
A bit like a magic carpet ride
With its rich and opulent food, remarkable architecture and culture Marrakech was an impressive first taste of Africa. Although it was a short trip that left me feeling like I was briefly transported to a magical wonderland, its uniqueness has stayed with me and planted a seed that was to develop into an unquenchable thirst for Africa. I hope to revisit this enchanting place again someday soon and to share more of the magic with my blog readers. Watch this space…