Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Marrakech: a recap

DAY 1:
We had such a great time and there's so much to tell! So let me start with our riad. We stayed at the wonderful riad Le Coq Fou. We had two rooms the Mustapha and the Oisseau, both were simple yet charmingly decorated and impeccably clean! Upon arrival we were met by the manager Bachir who gave us a quick rundown of the premises and all things interesting in Marrakech.
Le Coq Fou Mustapha room Lounge area

As we were hungry as hell, food was all that was on our mind, so Youssef (the friendliest man on earth) walked us over to Le Foundouk our restaurant of choice. We walked through the busy streets crowded with tourists, sellers and fraudsters alike.  The first impression of the dimly lit twisted maze of Marrakech was a bit daunting. I though there was not a chance in hell I was ever going to find my way here! But rest assure, before I knew it we were experts :) Anyway back to the food. Le Foundouk is one of the more stylish upscale restaurants of Marrakesh, they serve great food in a beautifully restored foundouk (resting place). As the food addict that I am, I had three things on my to eat list: pastilla, tanjia and tajine. So I put mouth to mind and tried their pigeon pastilla. It was delicious! Crunchy filo pastry wrapped around a sweet-savory filling, dusted with cinnamon and some roasted nuts. I also got to taste the chicken version which was very very nice as well!
Pigeon pastilla Mixed plate Chicken pastilla

DAY 2:

Youssef and Layla made us a wonderful breakfast which we enjoyed on our equally wonderful roof terrace. Did I mention already how much I love this place? Well, I do! Loved our breakfast as well! Fresh coffee, fresh orange juice, fresh fruit, fresh bread, fresh Moroccan pancakes and a little yogurt to finish it of. We then continued to roam the city, check out the souks, the Jem El Finaa square and the koutoubia. We ate a quick set meal (100 dhm p/p) at Café the France, one of the tourist traps on the square. It was unimpressive as expected, but it did have a great view of the hustle and the bustle around us :) We had lunch on the top level where you can have a drink or the set menu. The food served on the second a la carte level looked a lot better, so maybe that's a better option.
Breakfast Koutoubia Chicken & preserved lemon

We continued to roam through the new medina Gueliz and had a refreshing snack at this cute little terrace (35 dhm). Just what we needed. As we were to lazy to actually make an effort for diner, we tried the Brother Sandwich stand near our riad. We had some fries and couscous, tanjia and a chicken sandwich (total 100 dhm). The fries and sandwich were fine, but the rest was just disappointing. But hey, you win some, you loose some.

DAY 3:
We started of our day with a great lunch at Chez Mariama Berbere, a little restaurant near our riad. We had some harira, tajine and salad (20-50 dhm p/p). Very yummie! We then went for a camel ride at the palmery (250 dhm p/p). We were expecting a nice stroll in a beautiful palm grove, but it appears the palmery has been discovered by the rich and famous as the latest location to build their new villa. A little disappointing, but the atlas mountains still gave us a gorgeous back drop to our sometimes not so gorgeous scenery. High point was this tiny little oasis of rest in the midst of the palmery, where we got served some refreshing tea and spicy olives.
Harissa soup Camel ride at the palmery Refreshing tea

DAY 4:

Ready steady cook! I really wanted to take a cooking class here, but all the classes were around 50 euro p/p. I considered that to be a little steep for Morocco, so after some researching we found a cooking class at Riad Layla Rouge (150 dhm p/p). First they took us shopping for some groceries at the local veggie stall and boulangerie. Then our chef of the day Hind, took us through all the steps of making a wonderful tajine. She also gave us many tips on variations, so now we are tajine experts! As we made one big tajine and Hind did a lot of the works herself, it was more of a cooking demonstration than a class, but fun and delicious none the less! I guess we were having too much fun, cause the class took a lot longer than expected so unfortunately we didn't have enough time left to chill at the Oasiria as we had planned.
Riad Layla Rouge Chopped veggies Delicious tajine

As we were very full after devouring our scrumptious and huge tajine, we took some time to relax on our lovely roof terrace. After roaming the souks again we had a very late diner at Le Marrakchi. We were very late thus received a very unwelcome welcome by the staff. Surprising and disappointing considering the fact that this is a more upscale restaurant. The interior was gorgeous, the walls were decorated in beautiful mosaics and everything breathed charm. The service however was slow. Our designated waiter was wrapped in a very lengthy conversation with another table, even though there was plenty of staff available, we still had to pluck him from the convo to place our order. We tried the pastilla and two pasta dishes. The pastilla was really nice, the pasta was really bad. Even the microwave meals of the AH to go taste better... and it wasn't even cheap! Total let down :(
Moroccan sweet breads Chicken pastilla Jem el finaa at night

DAY 5:
We took a day to visit the wonderful Ourika valley. There are seven beautiful waterfalls to be seen here, we only made it to one :) We took a private tour (200 dhm p/p) so we were free to stop whenever we wanted or skip whatever we wanted. We stopped frequently to make pictures of the beautiful mountains and scenery, to visit a berber house and to check out how they make argan oil traditionally.
Making argan oil traditionally Grinding argan nuts Argan nutty paste

The Ourika valley is really beautiful. There are little streams running through the dark red of the valley which contrasts beautifully with the green threes and plants. Really a stunning sight.
We enjoyed a set lunch at one of the many diners available, sorry forgot the name (120 dhm p/p).
Ourika valley sigh so pretty

For diner we tried one of the stalls on the Jem el Finaa. This square is always busy with all kinds of people selling all kinds of stuff, but at night it is really really busy! You'll find fortunetellers, story tellers, musicians, henna artists and the many many food stands. These food stands have men boasting about their food, telling you whatever it is you need to hear to sit down and try their food. It is both entertaining and annoying at the same time, but as long as you kindly and politely decline their offer all is well. Anyway, Youssef had recommended stand #14 a seafood stand, so off we went. This stand was packed with tourists and locals alike, always a good sign. We had to wait for about 10 minutes to even get a spot. But as soon as we sat down we got some tasty aubergine puree with lemon and olive oil, tomato salsa and tasty bread. We tried the calamaris and fish chunks (30 dhm p/p). It was all very fresh and scrumptious. Really finger licking good and so cheap! We finished our evening with a spontaneous midnight tea party on our roof terrace. What a lovely day it was!
Jem el finaa #14 Good food Morrocon sweets with tea

DAY 6:
The girls had decided to do the quad thing at the palmery (550 dhm), but I opted out. I thought I'd go check out the Menara gardens or some other and just have a relaxing morning reading and strolling the premises. But I ended up getting a private tour of Marrakech by Youssef. We scooted by almost every site of interest in Marrakech! The Agdal gardens with it's monster fish pond, the Saadian tombs, the Baadi palace, Menara Gardens, Bahia palace and the Mojorelle Gardens we saw it all. I especially liked the Bahia palace, it had beautifully zellidj and was really really pretty.
Menara gardens Bahia palace Tanjia

In the afternoon we headed towards Medina spa to get pampered at the hammam (850 dhm for 3). The hammam treatment was a little bit 1-2-3 and not really relaxing, but the massage, o lord that was heavenly!

For our last night we had wanted to treat ourselves to a lovely diner at Al Fassia. Unfortunately they were fully booked (insert very sad face) so we decided to end our Marrakech adventure where it had started at Le Foundouk. We had the tanjia, sardines with tomato, fish tajine, king prawns and a dish I can't recall, sorry (225 dhm p/p). It was a great last diner. I finally got to try a real tanjia, which just fell apart as you touched it, buttery soft hmmm.

And then it was time to return home... All things must come to an end. Sad but true.

 A few last tips for anyone considering to visit Marrakech:
  • Expect to haggle about everything! There's just no way out of this. Try to consider it a fun experience otherwise you'll just end up being very frustrated.
  • When lost, it's inevitable you will be at least once, ask directions at one of the shops or ask a reliably looking female. Don't just follow someone's directions or let anyone lead you. There's a very big chance you'll end up being scammed.
  • The only garden here that's really strollable and free is the Cyber park and you have free wifi here as well! All the other gardens or more like olive groves etc. but quite often there's only a small section you can actually walk through. The Majorelle garden also provides for a good stroll, but is a bit smallish and charges an entry fee of 50 dhm.
  • Buy some argan oil! This liquid gold is great for everything from hair and body to cooking. There's a lot of fakes on the market so be cautious where you buy it. But even the fakes have some argan in it, just make sure you get a good price.  
  • Try some of the great fruit smoothie like drinks they have here. Especially the avocado milk one hmmmm!

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