This post is a bit delayed…..as we have been super busy around here with Jesus’s birthday and other important future projects….to be shared soon 🙂 Anyways, you only turn 36 once, right? Clearly we had to celebrate in style.
We kicked off the celebration a week before the big day with a quick trip to our mysterious southern neighbor, Lady Africa. I had never been there before and was so excited to experience something different. And let me tell you, it was different.
We spent two days and two nights in Marrakech, Morocco. This is a place that I could describe as magical, mystical, and best of all, mysterious.
I don’t know how to explain the energy going on in the main plaza, Jemaa El Fna. This main square is the busiest in all of Africa, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s behind the main mosque, in the middle of the Medina, which is the old town full of windy streets, colors, markets, and mystery. Adding to it’s charm is a red sandstone wall built around the entire Medina, where many of the building are also red, lending the name “The Red City.”
By day, there are various merchants selling freshly squeezed juice, dried fruits and delicious snacks. It’s always bustling, full of locals and tourists alike, buying, selling, and wandering. When the sun sets, the mood changes, and you can find everything from snake charmers, henna tattoo artists, tribal drumming, Arabian story tellers, and every kind of food stand you could imagine. The food. Oh my goodness, the food. We ate amazing things: a few of my favorites included a crepe like thing called “msemmem” which we tried both with honey and butter and with cheese, and a lentil/chickpea soup. They drink everything down with Mint Tea, which is delicious, refreshing and just sweet enough. I liked it more than I thought I would. We also had lots of couscous, lamb tangines (cooked in a big clay pot), veggies, meats, and sandwiches. I loved the soup so much I went back for it the second night. Also, everything is incredibly cheap. I think we spent about 5 euros total on dinner each night.
There is also something to be said for the actual sunset on this Plaza. At the advice of previous visitors, we grabbed a rooftop table and a couple of Fantas (remember, no alcohol sold in this Muslim nation), and watched the sun go down on The Red City. From above, you can look down at Jemaa el Fna, the city center of trade, commerce, and everything else, and you can practically see the vibration of energy. People passing through, buying and selling, cooking, motorcycles zipping along between donkeys, bikes, and the occasional car. Enchanting music, food stands setting up. Women in bright colors, kids running along, men with beards and caps. You can watch the sun slowly lower into a red ball and disappear behind the mountains in the distance while the lights of the city come on one at a time. This is definitely a special memory, a moment in time that I will never forget.
The market is called the Souk, and it is another enchanting spot. It can get exhausting, because you have to barter for everything, but the happy market sellers love it. Our taxi driver even told us that for Moroccans, it’s an insult if you don’t try to barter a bit as this is an important part of the culture. Jesus was clearly better at that part. I was better at admiring the beautiful rugs, leather jewelry, scarves, pottery, and of course the “Hand of Fatima” (the daughter of the prophet Mohammed). This is a symbol that predates Christianity and Islam and is sign of protection, bringing blessings, power, and strength. I definitely bought a few of those, because lets be real, we all need some blessings, power, and strength in our lives.
Although the Plaza, the sunset, the nearby markets, and the food there were our favorite spots to spend time in Marrakech, we also checked out the beautiful Majorelle Gardens. This is a 12 acre botanical garden designed by a the French Artist Majorelle when Morocco was a part of France. It was calm and relaxing to wander around in the shaded gardens and brightly painted buildings.
The culture is markedly different, as you can imagine. It really left me thinking, more than any other trip that I can remember, about culture, and differences and similarities you can find around the world. Marrakech is considered a progressive city in Morocco, but one thing that cannot go unnoticed is that almost all women wear covers over their heads, and some wear a full Burka. I don’t know exactly how to properly express what I think about that except that it left me feeling uncomfortable and extremely curious at the same time. It is impossible to understand the inside workings of another culture or belief, but as a woman, I think I noticed it, and felt it, the whole time I was there. Because of that feeling, I had to mention it here, but not as a judgement, only as a sensation that I imagine is felt by many Western visitors. Perhaps a Moroccan woman visiting Valencia, Spain might feel something similar due to the lack of those very head covers. It was extremely interesting experience nonetheless.
Overall, fun was had by all, and it was a weekend we’ll remember forever. I can hardly wait to explore more places around the world with my one and only, 36 year old, International Man of Mystery. //-_