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Morocco

Morocco: Marrakesh: Exotic Spices, Soaps and Scrubs

May 22, 2011

sunny 88 °F

Today is our last day in Marrakesh and we are really sad about it. We walked around and tried to enjoy every last second while soaking in the culture. Marrakesh has to be the best place for exotic travel by far! There are lots of Europeans who live here so Tony was able to blend in instead of his usual obvious tourist appearance. We went on a mission hunting for the plates we love so much and ended up on the other side of Marrakesh in front of a closed store (Sunday) :( That was disappointing but thanks to our awesome camera we were able to zoom in on the price tags from OUTSIDE the store and take pictures for negotiating in the market later. Once we got that sorted out we noticed that we were in a very French neighborhood which makes sense since Morocco was colonized by the French for some time—this is where Tony fit in well. After gaining some bargaining power we headed back through the souk . . . along the way we could smell the spices, hear meat sizzling on the grill and see lanterns glowing on their display hooks. Ruby couldn’t resist the smells and ended buying lots of spices including the Moroccan 35 spice mix for cooking in a tagine and seasonings for chicken and fish. We hope to use these in our own cooking at home. She didn’t care for Moroccan curry though—it’s too sweet! We also picked up some black soap which is made using the oil from olives as a base.

By this time we were starved and at a rooftop restaurant we ordered chicken kebabs but ended up eating something that may have pigeon. We didn’t eat much before we walked out of there. . it was terrible! At least the view was nice . . . and we got to admire some Moroccan carpets from afar; if we got too close Ruby might be tempted to buy one and lug it around with us on the rest of the trip like our friend Carine from South Africa did!

Before we said bye bye to Morocco Ruby couldn’t leave without indulging in a classic massage at our hotel and spa. This was insane, for $35 (including a generous tip) they bathed her with eucalyptus black soap , shampooed her hair, scrubbed her with a loofah, applied a mud mask to her entire body with an herbal mask to her face and followed all that with time in the steam room. Afterwards, Ruby had a full body massage with warmed scented oils and a facial. It was heavenly and they played Buddha Bar 4 during the whole time; Ruby liked it so much that she asked to borrow it so she could play it and remember this amazing experience! Afterwards we watched the sun go down just as we boarded our night train to Tangier . . . we opted for second class again . . . fingers crossed that we don’t have to share our cabin tonight!

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 13:00 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Morocco: Marrakesh:Ten Tagines Just to Start---FOODIE ALERT

May 21, 2011

sunny 92 °F

We started our day at 5am with some woman yelling at us in Arabic to make room for her and her baby while trying to squeeze her way into our cabin. Ruby was so out of it that she yelled back “GET OUT and go to another room, we’re sleeping”! After that, the lady grabbed her bags and we never saw her again. Don’t mess with Ruby at 5am! Besides that, there were several other cars with people who weren't trying to sleep. We arrived into Marrakesh and grabbed a cab going over to the medina around Jemaa El Fna Plaza and the old part of town. As we quickly learned the medina is actually a walled area containing tons of narrow maze-like streets that are easy to get lost inside! After a little walking around with a new found “friend” (aka tout) we finally found our hotel, which we love! It’s called Les Colours de’ Oriente, it’s sort of like a spa and boutique hotel. There’s a center court yard, tiled walls, and great seats for chilling outside. We dropped our stuff off and were oh so happy to take showers and start our day.

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As we walked around the souk (market) while catching whiffs of exotic spices, dodging speeding scooters and stray cats we realized that we had definitely made the right decision coming to Marrakesh. It was so exotic but at the same time easy. The shop owners were friendly and didn’t give us a hard time if we decided not to buy anything. All that scooter-dodging made us hungry to we headed to Dar Essalam, personally recommended by the owner of our hotel. It was just down a small alley not too far away. The restaurant was established in 1952 with amazing detailed dining rooms that look exactly like what you think of as being Moroccan. One of the first things we noticed were the gorgeous place settings at our table. The restaurant was featured in the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock film “the man who knew too much” . . . thus being a little more expensive than those on the main square. However, the place was so beautiful with wonderful service and yummy food that we couldn’t complain! We started with a Moroccan salad which turned out to be six types of salad including carrots, white beans, cucumbers, and an aubergine dish to die for! Our first Moroccan tagine prepared dish was of lamb and vegetable and it was perfect. After eating so much that we could hardly breathe we decided to continue our Spanish tradition of the afternoon siesta and headed back to the hotel.

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After waking up we went for a walk down to the medina and did some window shopping looking at hand-made lanterns, leather bags, and spices. We tried to avoid the snake handlers because we don’t like their practice of de-fanging the cobras but they were hard to avoid . . . or resist! A familiar sound was Tony getting offered another 1 million camels for Ruby. Must be an Africa thing because Tony wasn’t offered any camels for Ruby in Spain! We stopped at a beautiful area selling spices and olives where Ruby got a bag of FREE seasoned olives from one of the vendors. We wanted to pay but didn’t have any small change and he said don’t worry about it! As we walked around town we came across a shop selling the same porcelain plates we ate on earlier today at Dar Essalam. . . we couldn’t resist and bought tree serving plates. . . so when you come to New York maybe we’ll serve something on them for you! On the walk back we had some of the best fresh squeezed OJ EVER! :)

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Back at the room we got on the computer and did some “work”. We didn’t really know how we would be getting back to Spain but we had to be there soon. After doing some price comparison we decided taking the night train, then a taxi, then a boat, and then a bus to Sevilla. . .yeah, the cheap way! This was in competition with a direct flight to Madrid for $88 USD each but we didn’t want to skip Sevilla :) We had dinner at Dar Nejjarine, another personal recommendation. We got a little lost looking for this one too but after a little walking around we found another “friend” to show us the way. This restaurant was even more amazing, with 10 different Moroccan salad starters in mini-tagines, bread, and a bottle of wine. Then our main dish, a tagine of cous cous with chicken, Yum! We didn’t think we’d enjoy Morocco as much as we have but tonight with the light breeze blowing through the tented ceiling, live Arabic music and belly dancers we wish we could stay longer! Just for a moment we forget just how close we are to going home.

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Afterward we walked back through crazy alleys on a lively Saturday night and arrived into the large square with music, food and tons of street vendors. A café at Jemaa El Fna square was the site of the terrorist bombing a month back but everything seems really safe and calm now. We didn’t want to test our luck on this perfect day so we headed to bed.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 01:26 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Morocco: Tangier: Back on Africa Time!

May 20, 2011

sunny 85 °F

We got up this morning and man are we happy that we left one of our bags in Madrid! We didn’t think the hill was this steep when we walked down it the other day? Ruby stopped at the store and grabbed some fruit on the way up the hill and we realized that it’s cheaper to eat apples and bananas than candy! We got on a bus in Marabella and just an hour later we arrived at the port in Algeciras, Spain. Unfortunately Tony forgot to grab our backpack from the bus so instead of getting on a ferry we ran half way across town to the other bus station. Luckily, we got there just as the bus that dropped us off was pulling up and grabbed the bag :) Now Tony doesn’t have to buy Ruby all new toiletries!

We arrived at the port a little after 3pm and the next ferry was going out at 3:30, but only to the new port at Tangier MED 45 min outside of town (33 Euros per ticket). They told us that the ferry would take an hour and 45 minutes and they would have a bus there to take us into town for FREE. This sounded good and it was . . . too good! We forgot that we were now back on Africa Time! The boat didn’t even move until 4, it took over 2 hours to get into Morocco, and then we had to wait 45 min for the bus to arrive before it took us into Tangier over 45 min away. That’s a total of over 7 hours and even more if you add in the taxi to the train station. If you plan on doing this trip we suggest you pay the extra 4 Euros and got straight into Tangier (Old Port)! The ferry crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and we had some great views of the back of the Rock of Gibraltar. The Strait of Gibraltar is only 14km wide and leads to Tangier which is known as the “Gateway to Africa”. We arrived and were surprised to find that Tangier was pretty modern. There were nightclubs and McDonalds within easy reach. After exchanging some money we grabbed a sandwich and the guy didn’t even charge Ruby for the olives she asked for (so nice)! We watched the sunset on the beach and then walked up to the train station which is only a 5 minute walk from the boardwalk and got on the 9:45pm night train to Marrakesh. The trip takes around 10 hrs (Africa Time so maybe around 11 hours).

The second class seats are insane, with bench seat rooms built for 8 people. Everyone runs in to grab an open area to sleep. We were told that the train is usually not busy so you can usually get an open cabin and sleep all the way. I don’t know if it was because it was Friday or because the information we got was outdated but there were so many people on the train that eventually two people came into our cabin. The lady lived in Spain but was on her way to visit her husband for the weekend. She was super nice and even helped keep more than 4 people from coming in and joining us (by yelling at them in Arabic)! It was great having them in the car until these two started talk to each other. It was crazy; they were yelling to each other back and forth and talking incessantly for 3 hours of the ride. We were pretty tired from our traveling day and lucky for them the guy finally got off the train before Ruby killed them! We finally went to bed and were not disturbed for most of the night.

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Posted by Tony.Ruby 15:37 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

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