Sunday, April 21, 2013

Morocco Part 2: Marrakech cont'd

The Ben Youssef madrasa is a famous Quaranic school in Marrakech. Since it was right outside of our riad (the call to prayer woke us up every morning at 5 am!) we decided to check it out our second day in the city. The entrance fee was very cheap, and the tiles and mosaics were so cool to look at. It was pretty empty besides a few French tourists, so we had the place all to ourselves to roam around and take pictures. The students' rooms were so small, it was crazy to think this place was in use up until the 1960s!

For an extra 10 dirhams or so (around 1 euro) you could bundle your tickets and also visit the Museum of Marrakech. It was a small museum, but very cool, especially the beautiful tiled courtyard. Lots of fun photo opportunities :)

After all that culture, what did we feel like? Visiting the spa, of course! :) Laura told me we had to make sure we visited a hammam while we were in Marrakech. Hammams are traditional bathhouses. Men and women are usually separated, but in the fancy touristy hammams (like where we went) they allowing mixing of the sexes. There are a lot of age old skin treatments that are gaining popularity now in the western world, and Laura said we had to try them out while in Morocco.

We found a hammam near our riad and decided to go with the basic package-a body scrub with the black eucalyptus soap and argan oil and a mint foot bath. They gave us black bottoms to change into and led us to a steam room where two ladies took our robes and splashed us with warm water. We laid down on these big marble slabs while two friendly attendants rubbed us down with the black soap. It was definitely weird being cleaned head to toe by a perfect stranger, but it was funny. While we waited on the soap and oil to sink in, we soaked our feet in buckets full of mint leaves.

Finally our ladies came back and started scrubbing us within inches of our lives. The grody layers of dead skin on us was proof of their scrubbing enthusiasm. She assured me it was normal and that it's healthy to get all that skin off every once in a while.

After that it was time for another rinse and rub down with some argan oil, and we were left to lounge in a chair or jump into the (ice cold!!) jacuzzi. Feeling relaxed and VERY clean, we got our clothes and headed back our to the city. We only wished we had waited til the end of the day to visit, since we hadn't brought extra sunscreen with us!

From there we took a walk to the modern part of Marrakech, Gueliz, but didn't find anything too exciting there.

That night for dinner we decided to explore the legendary Djemma el Fna food stalls. At sunset, the snake charmers and henna ladies clear out to make way for the men setting up food stalls. Rows and rows of food stalls line the square with waiters jockeying for your attention, cooks making food, and all sorts of weird food like sheep's brain or snail soup or grilled chicken hearts. Just like mom used to make! ;)

We picked a place at random and ordered 2 plates of cous cous, bread, olives, pastilla (a pastry made with pigeon or chicken with cinnamon, sugar, and cumin), and drinks. Finally price? Around 8 euro for everything. Pretty cool, right? I'll admit, I was terrified worried about getting sick from eating something bad, but everything was good in the end. We even met a solo traveler from Canada-she was doing a Morocco-Eastern Europe trip during a semester off.

The next day we had planned on taking the bus to Essaouira, a beautiful seaside town 3 hours from Marrakech. But when the alarm went off to get up and catch the bus, we hit snooze and decided to sleep in. So, we missed Essaouira, but the shopping we did in Marrakech made up for it! ;)

A beautiful Moroccan dress that was too pretty to leave on the rack!

After picking up some souvenirs and gifts, we wandered around the souks for a little while. They really are so mazelike-you wander for an hour and suddenly you pass something familiar but have no recollection how you ended up back there. It was a very interesting experience.

That night we had dinner in our riad once more-a final farewell to the delicious food and to Marrakech before we started our 3 day roadtrip to the Sahara. The food did not disappoint and we feasted on kebabs and frites, and the most delicious lentils and beets I have ever had. Seriously, these are two vegetables I have never been excited about, but they were absolutely amazing. Must find the recipe! The kebabs are delicious too, and it was pretty cool to watch the Moroccan grandma grill them on her little barbeque in the courtyard. I would've loved to get a cooking class with her!

With that, we said goodbye to Marrakech and woke up bright and early the next day to begin our roadtrip to the Sahara...

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