Marrakech was unlike anywhere I've ever been. It was loud, it was busy, and full of barely controlled chaos. Parts of the city were startlingly modern, while other sections, like the tanneries and ironsmiths, felt almost medieval.
When you go to Marrakech you have to stay in the medina, which is the old town. Everything you'd want to see is within walking distance. The main square is a must-see, as the day goes on it fills up with people selling food and a variety of street performers, from snake charmers to acrobats and more. Just be warned, if you take pictures of anything or anyone they'll charge you, and they'll charge you double if they think you're an American.
The other must-see is the souks, which is the marketplace in the city. Families tend to work in one trade, and some have occupied the same stall in the markets for hundreds of years. Jeff really liked the leather working and bought a fancy pair of shoes, but I was enthralled by the spice markets where you could buy anything and everything, or even ask the shopkeepers to mix something up to make your wishes come true. Some people hire guides to take them through the souks but we found that unnecessary. It was pretty easy to get turned around inside of the souks, but if we ever looked lost someone would immediately point us back to the main square.
Our favorite activity of the trip was a cooking class we signed up for in Marrakech. Souk Cuisine is a class run by a Danish woman named Gemma who moved to Morocco ten years ago. Instead of just cooking, like most of the classes we came across, Souk Cuisine first takes you through the souks to buy all of the ingredients you'll need for cooking, and then we were welcomed back to Gemma's home to cook (with the help of two Moroccan women) and then eat and drink as much as possible. I was in charge of preparing some sardines covered with tomatoes, and when it came time to cook them it turned out people don't usually bake things in their own houses. Instead, they bring their food to the local baker, who adds your food to the oven and charges based on the amount of bread he could have been baking instead. Besides the sardines, we also made a number of salads (including my new favorite, fried eggplant salad) and the best couscous I've ever had.
We had heard before we left that Moroccan food is best enjoyed in the home. It couldn't have been more true. The meals in the restaurants we went to were never particularly amazing, but the two homemade meals we had were fantastic. One was prepared by the private cook at our riad, the other at the cooking class. Our favorite thing was called pastilla, which is a stewed meat pie with cinnamon sugar on the top.
No matter where we went though, the mint tea was fantastic. I don't even like tea usually, but I've been craving it since we got back. A simple recipe for Moroccan mint tea can be found here.
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