Robin's Adventures

Morocco, Spain, & Portugal
A Picturesque Adventure

Marrakesh Express

Old City Walls

Marrakesh has been nicknamed the "red city" because when the city was built up in the early 12th century the city walls and many of the buildings were constructed from red sandstone. The city walls, which were built in the 12th century as fortifications to protect the city, are 12 miles long and surround the medina.

There are lots of fist sized holes in the ramparts that surround the city and some were even being utilized for shelter by the local bird population. It turns out, however, that the holes are there in order to hold scaffolding when the walls undergo restoration.

Local Transportation

In many areas of the medina there is no way to transport goods to and from the souks without some sort of cart, often times pulled by a donkey. So, it was not uncommon to see donkeys pulling carts along the streets surrounding the medinas as well. In addition, camels were available for people who were planning a trekking outing.

We spent part of one afternoon in a horse drawn caliche, which is a light carriage with a retractable top. It was a fun way to see the city sights.

Wandering through the Souks

The largest souk marketplace in Morocco can be found in Marrakesh. The narrow streets and alleyways lined with small shops spread out over a great distance. Most of the souks are grouped together according to the type of product they sell. Thus, there are various areas that specialize in baskets, carpets, leather goods, metalworks, glazed pottery, spices, and so on.

Colorful Bins

Herbs and spices were abundant in the Marrakech souks. Some of the more commonly used spices are ginger, turmeric, saffron, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and white pepper.

Another important spice is called ras el hanout, which translates as "head of the shop." This is actually a blend of spices considered to be the best the shop has to offer. Although the recipe for making ras el hanout varies, the blend generally consists of at least 30 different spices that are mixed together.

Cloth and Feathers

We saw lots of traditional clothing, shawls, and leather goods that were offered for sale. In addition, we ran into a shop that was selling pet birds. We had heard that there are shops selling exotic pets, but we did not see any during our visit to the medina.

Fabulous Food

There were many food vendors offering a wide variety of delicacies, including the steamed lamb heads that seemed to be a popular item among the locals.

Interesting Scenes

The sights, sounds, and even the smells that surrounded us were definitely different from what we would experience at home. There was lots of activity and something to grab our attention any direction we chose to look. We definitely had an interesting outing in the Marrakech medina.

Snake Charmers

As we left the souks, we came out into a huge paved square filled with activity. The square is called Jemaa el-Fnaa which, according to one interpretation, means "assembly of trespassers."

The square has been a part of Marrakech culture since the inception of the city and was used for assemblies, a marketplace, and even for public decapitations by the rulers who were asserting their power. Today, the square is filled with market stalls, juice carts, musicians, street entertainers, and snake charmers.

Villa des Orangers Hotel

While in Marrakech we stayed at the Villa des Orangers, which was a traditional Moroccan riad that was built in the 1930s. The owner lived in the home until 1998 and then the riad was remodeled into a hotel. One evening while at the hotel, we had a romantic dinner for two in a private dining room.