An evening outside the Big Square…

Karim, the owner of the French restaurant, Cheese Me, suggested we take a photo together.  He was also a world traveler which we discovered after our taxi was ordered. Next time, we’ll spend more time with him sharing world travel stories. No longer carrying a handbag, I stuff my pants pockets with girl stuff, as shown in my zipping right pocket. Although we’ve seen few insects in Marrakech, my two pairs of lightweight insect repellent pants come in handy.

In a perfect world, traveling the world would result in being “free spirits” able to do exactly what was most appealing. In the “real” world we have budget constraints that have a distinct effect on how we spend our time and money. From time to time spending a little more than usual is inevitable and last night was a perfect example.

As we walked through the Big Square toward the street, the sun was setting. This area is close to the street outside the Medina and was less crowded during this time.

It was obvious to me over the past week that Tom was needing a more familiar meal with fewer vegetables, fewer spices, and something he could dig his teeth into. After spending the morning posting here and the early afternoon working on tax stuff, I quietly searched online in an effort to find a restaurant for last night’s dinner more befitting his limited taste buds.

The simple décor was pleasant and welcoming.

Fingers flying across the sticky keys on this new laptop (yes, now more letters stick than the letter “i”), I was looking for dining options at and other websites. Screaming out at me over and again was a peculiarly named restaurant, “Cheese Me,” a required cab ride from outside the Medina.

Tom, with his observant eagle eye, noticed that this chandelier was made of upside-down wine glasses. Not only does Cheese Me offer many cheesy dishes, but they also have an extensive wine list. 

Using Google Maps, I found the location, set it up on my phone, sent in a request for a 7:00 pm reservation for two, telling Tom the good news when he came back downstairs after his shower.  He was set and ready to go.

The casual nature of updated daily specials adds a nice touch to any dining establishment.

With it raining off and on all day, with a break at 6:00 pm, we began to make our way outside the Medina to the street where we grabbed a “petit taxi” to take us to our destination. It’s a long walk to the street from our riad, including walking through the Jemaa el Fna souk, then across the Big Square through hoards and hoards of people. 

Tom really enjoyed this flavorful French Onion soup, usually served in a cup. At Cheese Me it’s served in a nice-sized soup bowl.

By the time we reached the street, it was 6:25 pm. The traffic on the street was crazy with fast-moving cars, tuk-tuks, horse-drawn carriages, motorcycles, and bikes seeming to go in different directions at once. While scanning the area for a taxi, a driver approached us. 

My watercress salad, although simple, was fresh and crunchy with a delicious tangy homemade vinaigrette.

Showing him the address and a map on my phone, I asked him, “How much?” to which he says, “70 dirhams.” (US $8.62). Tom flinched and started to walk away.  I started negotiating. Once we were down to 50 dirhams, US $6.16, I waved at Tom, “Let’s go!”  He yelled out to the taxi driver, “40!” The taxi driver began to walk away, waving his arms in the air saying, “No, no, no!”

Tom savoring his French Onion soup.

Oh, good grief! Ten dirhams is US $1.23. “Let’s get going!” I bellowed to Tom over the noise of the crowd. (I am not one to yell by any means, but the situated required a loud voice). The traffic was awful with horns honking, sirens blowing, pedestrians scrambling to cross the street to avoid getting hit, and I thought for US $1.23, we should get going. 

it would be fun to return to Cheese Me, sit at this cozy bar to chat further with Karim.

Tom wasn’t thrilled when we piled into the little car. Later, Karim, the restaurant owner, told us we shouldn’t have paid more the 40 dirhams, US $4.93 for the ride from the street outside the Medina. So, once again, Tom was right. 

Back inside the walled city, the night’s festivities were in front of us as we made our way back to our riad. It had begun to rain again.

But, my rationale is always the same, circumstances prevail. It made sense to get into the taxi at that point.  Fortunately, Tom and I don’t argue over such incidences. We let it go. Next time, we’ll say 30 dirhams and settle for 40. We learn as we go. In any case, the extra US $1.23 was not that big a big deal.

Tom suggested I turn around to take this shot of the mosque’s lights.  What a sight!

Arriving at “Cheese Me” a few minutes before 7:00 pm, Karim welcomed us at the door. Upon entering the cozy French restaurant we were comfortable and at ease as we settled into the molded plastic chairs, noisy to move across the floor, comfortable for sitting. The menu offered a wide array of simple options, dishes that incorporated fine cheeses in one way or another, exactly what the doctor ordered.

Tom ordered their highly acclaimed onion soup, based on a review I read in while I had a plain watercress salad with a homemade vinaigrette as a starter. For the entrée, we both ordered the bacon cheeseburgers, mine without the bun. I gave Tom my included homemade French fries.  hey even had ketchup which Tom appreciated.

We had to watch carefully while walking as the horse-drawn carriages stopped for no one.

When our burgers arrived, we were both so hungry that I forgot to take a photo. Sometimes our appetites supersede our desire for a photo op.  Taking the first bite, both of us were in heaven. I hadn’t had a bun-less burger in a restaurant since Kenya and the taste sent me reeling. The bacon was actually pork bacon, an oddity in Muslim countries, smoky and perfectly cooked.

The presentation, the ambiance, and the friendly conversation and suggested photo with the owner, Karim, put the final touch on a delightful experience. The cost of the meal, the most we’ve spent dining out in Marrakech so far was, MAD $350, US $43.03 including tax and tip, without cocktails but with other beverages. We didn’t flinch. 

Yes, it was a little pricey for “soup, salad, burgers, and fries” but, the service, the presentation, the quality and taste of the food, the ambiance, and the special attention paid to us by the owner, made it worth every penny.  Maybe, we’ll return, but Tom seemed a little hesitant with the high price for burgers.

Once back inside the souk, we noticed that many of the shop owners had closed for the night, although this butcher still had his products on display.  Humm..I always wondered how meat could sit out so long without spoiling.

The waiter called our petit taxi cab driver when it was time to go, for the return 50 dirham trip to the Big Square for a total cost for the evening of MAD (same as dirham) $450, US $55.41. Most often, our meals inside the Medina have been half of this cost, but dining at Cheese Me was well worth the added expense. 

Dining out three to four times each week with Madame Zahra cooking for us on the nights in between, requires us to pay attention to how much we spend each week when dining out. Don’t we all? The cost for each meal Madame Zahra prepares for both of us is MAD $200, US $24.62. (The US dollars for this amount may vary from day to day as the value of the dirham changes). 

The dark alleys of the souks are cluttered with litter at night, all of which will be cleaned up for the opening time in the morning.

Each Tuesday, we pay Samir for Madame Zahra’s meals to ensure she isn’t out of pocket for the cost of the groceries for long. Each time we dine in, she shops in the souk for the ingredients in areas the locals frequent as opposed to where the tourists shop. (We’ll be including tips for the four household staff members halfway through our stay and again before we leave).

Last night convinced us that one or two “special” dining out experiences each week is well worth the added expense and fits into our budget, considering that the other evening’s costs are lower.

By the time we unlocked the door to our riad, the floor in the courtyard was covered in rainwater. Luckily, we’d returned in time to avoid getting ourselves soaked. When walking from room to room on the main floor we have to walk around the edges in order to stay out of the water. This morning, when  the rain had stopped, this area is still wet. Oumaima and Madame Zahra used a squeegee to move the standing water to the drain.

Back at Dar Aicha by 9:30, after another exciting walk through the Medina in the dark with the activities in full roar, we were content to watch a few shows on my laptop and head to bed for yet another good night’s sleep in the comfortable bed. 

Today, more work on the taxes and another walk through the souk. We’ve yet to shop for our jogging suits. Neither of us is excited about shopping, knowing our luggage is overweight as it is. Anything we purchase results in disposing of something we already use. At this point, I can’t imagine what that might be.

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