Exploring the Spice Markets of Marrakech

One of the main things that attracted me to Morocco was its mix of European, Middle Eastern and African culture and flavors. Marrakech epitomizes this. The cultural capital of Morocco, Marrakech is an ancient exotic city wrapped in European modernity. Well known for its spice markets and Djemma el Fna one of the largest squares in the world, Marrakech is a feast for the senses. My short 3-day adventure in Marrakech (I spent more days exploring the rest of Morocco) touched the tip of the iceberg, the charm of its pink walled houses, bustling souqs and fresh mint tea will have you come back for more.

  1. By day explore the famous Majorelle Gardens (70MAD) created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle (now owned by Yves Saint Laurent). The gardens provide a protective green shade from the strong heat of the Marrakech summer, as you walk through, admiring its majorelle blue coloured pots and lush green flora
  2. From here move onto explore the bustling medina as you wander through endless mosaic of souqs each dedicated to a separate trade of pottery, woodwork, metals, leather, carpets. Ramble through the spice markets; colours of deep orange, red and yellow surround you, stacked high in pyramids. The pungent smell of spice in the air makes your mouth water as you perfect your bargaining skills and pick up some authentic saffron to take back home. Tip: Wander as deep in as you can and then start shopping. Anything on the perimeter will be the most expensive and odds are good that you will find the same things for less money further inside
  3. Djemma el Fna is the the city’s main sqaure. When night falls it transforms into a hive of activities. There are henna artists, snake-charmers, story tellers, magicians, performers and a huge street food bazaar, loaded with Moroccan delicacies, including snail soup. The best food you can eat in Marrakech is street food. Try out the local street vendors, they offer a variety of food from fresh fruit, stews and tagines, grilled meat on skewers and soups. Make sure to eat at least one night in Djemma el fna at the open air stalls and try out the snail soup
  4. Take a cooking class while in Marrakech. There are many cooking workshops, where you learn to make the country’s traditional tagine and couscous
  5. Visit a Hammam.  The traditional Moroccan bath, where you are scrubbed squeaky clean with black soap is an experience in itself. You could go to any of the local community Hammams or opt for a Hammam experience at your Riad or hotel
  6. Take a day trip to Eassaouria the windy fishing town on the Atlantic ocean where the medina brushes up against the ocean and sea gulls are constantly screaming and yelling. This is a laidback artist town, once a Portuguese colony. Lazily wander through the port, skala (sea wall), Jewish Mellah. For lunch try out the catch of the day. For 90 MAD, you can choose from a variety of fresh sea food grilled right up front, along with a drink and salad
  7. Historical Sites such as the Badi Palace, Saadian Tombs, Ben Yusuf Madrassa and Bahia Palace are great to experience the history of the city

Where to Stay: There are plenty of hotels to choose from in Marrakech. But for an authentic experience, book yourself into a traditional Riad – a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. You’ll love the experience and warmth of the owners.

Best Time to Visit: While Marrakech can be explored all year round, in summer the temperature reaches desert like heat. Stay hydrated, wear cotton, loose clothing and a hat.

How to reach: Marrakech has an International airport. It will also well connected by train and road from Casablanca, another big city in Morocco.

As I write this blog, I’m sitting back, sipping on mint tea in coloruful glasses I picked up in the Marrakech medina, reminiscing with fondness my time in this exotic land and the wonderful people I met.

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