Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Marrakesh Odds and Ends

As I wind down with my coverage of our trip to Morocco last November, here are some things I haven't yet shown you.

Marrakesh's famous landmark is the Koutoubia Mosque and its minaret, which, interestingly, has served as inspiration for church towers and buildings the world over. The minaret helps you find your direction in Marrakesh, as you can see it from many places in the city. It's a particularly impressive sight at nighttime.

Just imagine coming back from a night out at the Euro-style clubs in the new part of town, leaving the high-rises and gardens and wide avenues for the increasingly narrower streets and alleys lined by ancient buildings and filled with people and streets stands, your compass being this minaret. That was our journey home one night.

Michael and I took a cooking class one morning. La Maison Arabe is a famous Marrakesh hotel and restaurant that has a satellite location 15 minutes outside of the center of town where they have their swimming pool, special event facility, and cooking school. Behind very non-descript doors, you find an unbelievable oasis.

We're talking gardens, an 18 meter long swimming pool, and unbelievably gorgeous buildings. If money were no object, I would throw a soiree here in an instant! Want to daydream? Then you must check out their website here to see their kasbah salon.

Michael and I, after we suited up in our aprons, got a chance to wander around the grounds. We saw rosemary hedges, as pictured above with Michael. Moroccans do not use rosemary in their cooking, so instead, it functions as shrubbery. Michael was aghast (it's his favorite herb). Various other herbs, though, were cultivated for culinary use in the garden. There were also bushes of tiny red, yellow, and purple peppers -- pictured with me, above -- as well as olive trees.

Mohammed, a professor at the University, was our translator, and our instructor was a dada, or traditional Moroccan cook. The dada showed us what to do, and Mohammed translated and helped us. We learned how to make a roasted pepper appetizer and the classic chicken tagine with preserved lemon and olives. (Once we got home, we purchased a tagine of our own and now enjoy making Moroccan tagine dishes when we have the opportunity.)

Michael and I each prepared our own individual tagine. It was fun and interesting, and the best part was the beautiful surroundings. When our food was finished cooking, a waiter served it to us outside.

We wished we had brought our bathing suits, so we could have taken a dip in the beautiful pool. But it was November, and the pool was not heated, anyway. I put my hand in and found the water bone numbingly cold. So, nothing really lost there.

After a walk back through the garden, we were at the gate and piling into the shuttle van. Time to go back into the fray of Marrakesh.

Back in the new (French) part of Marrakesh, there was a very popular McDonald's. I had to take a picture of their local special: the McArabia. Note: we did not actually eat at McDonald's on the trip.

Here was the doorway to a mosque in the Medina. You almost wouldn't even notice it unless someone pointed it out, which someone did. The narrow streets of the Medina are packed with so many details, I could've taken a million photos.

I found the artwork on the back of this truck interesting. Also, that there are words in English and bald eagle heads. Hmmm.

This was the door to the house across from our hotel. Earlier in the week, we had seen cuts of meat being wheel-barrowed into the house. We had wondered what was up. As it turns out, the Saturday night we were at the hotel, there was a wedding here. From our roof, we saw across to their roof, where servant girls were looking down at the party in the courtyard. We also heard the noise till the early hours of the morning. But it was all good (we had just gotten married the week before, after all).

If only we could have gone across and taken a peek at the actual celebration. Unfortunately, it would have been a little obvious that we were crashing the wedding. So we just heard their music and imagined what must have been going on.

The Djemma el Fna by day is filled with various tourist traps, including the ubiquitous snake charmers.

Yes, we paid money to have snakes draped on us and have our picture taken.

Michael even kissed the snake, as part of some good luck ritual.

So there you have it. These are some of the highlights I hadn't yet featured here. We saw and did so much in seven short days in Morocco. Unfortunately, we weren't able to capture everything on film. But at least we got a lot of it. The rest is for our memories!

No comments: