A perfect day…A long walk deep into the walled city…A diamond in the rough…

Finally, we had reached Pepenero, the French restaurant where we dined yesterday, a long maze like-walk through the narrow passageways in the Medina. This was definitely a daytime-only trek for us.

It would be impossible to have a rental car while living in the walled city of old Marrakech. With the necessary 15 minute walk to exit the Medina and wildly busy traffic on the main road, there is literally nowhere to park. 

As we made a sharp turn on our walking trip to the restaurant we found many interesting sites along the way.

With many petit taxis imminently available outside the entrance at reasonable negotiated rates, we have no concerns about getting around. Plus, Samir will arrange for Mohamed to take us anywhere we’d like to go outside the walled city.

On Monday, we’ll do just that.  Mohamed will meet us outside the wall at noon to take us on a half-day excursion to see some of the sites outside the Medina. Monday, with weekend tourists gone, was a good choice.  At the end of the day, we’ll have him drop us off to try a new restaurant on the return drive, perhaps at one of the many fabulous hotels lined up, one after another, on the main road. 

Many of the roads leading to the restaurant were mostly busy with locals shopping for food and merchandise.

Halfway through our time in Marrakech, we’ll arrange as we often do, to spend three nights at another location, in this case, a journey into the Sahara desert and to see the famed Atlas mountains, staying at different locations each night as we work our way deeper into the desert and mountains. We can hardly wait! 

Then again, we make an effort not to spend time fantasizing about what we will be doing, as opposed to what we’re doing now. As Tom and I always remind one another, “Love the one you’re with!”

As we neared the exit to the Medina, cars were allowed.  Seeing this sign was comforting, so we continued on. We approached a door in this area, thinking it was a public building that we could visit when we were told by a security guard that it was an entrance to a palace occupied by a king. Thus, no entry! We continued on our way.

Yesterday, we did just that, loved the one we were with! Planning a hike through the huge Medina to a TripAdvisor highly rated, #4 restaurant on their list of best restaurants in the Marrakech, PepeNero, we were excited to be on our way.

Finding a restaurant located in the Medina that isn’t situated in the Big Square can be challenging. The narrow winding roads, many unmarked, are comparable to a maze, where one can meet numerous dead ends or seemingly walk in a circle ending up close to where one started. This possibility doesn’t intimidate us at all. 

We walked along many fairly isolated roads such as this with an occasional beggar awaiting a token.

Tom’s excellent sense of direction, coupled with directions on my phone, we took off an hour before our scheduled reservation at 1:00 PM. We’ve found that going on these long treks deep into the Medina is best attempted during daylight. Although the Medina is guarded in the main areas, many of the narrow alleys could easily invite trouble at night, nor would we want to get lost in the dark. 

It was easy to imagine that we thought we were going down the wrong narrow road when we encountered isolated areas such as this. But, it was at the end of this road that we found the restaurant, PepeNero.

Making our way to PepeNero was more about the fun of finding it than the idea of a midday main meal.  However, as many long term tourists have mentioned online in reviews, an occasional meal away from the popular flavors of tagine and its varied spices, is often welcomed. 

These colorful rose-filled fountains were a common part of the decor in PepNero.

The thought of another meal in a French restaurant was particularly appealing to both of us. Having budgeted enough for at least two of these more expensive outings each week, we didn’t flinch over the added cost.

Most likely, every day, they’d add fresh roses to decorate the fountains in the restaurant.

The Big Square in the Medina is a wide-open area filled with vendors, acrobats, storytellers, snake charmers, and musicians during the day and exploding at night. There are numerous side streets branching off of the Big Square, that one can explore heading to many parts of the souk, homes, and shopping areas for the locals. 

It was bright and comfortably warm from the sun in the courtyard as we were seated near one of the flowery fountains.

Taking any of these narrow (no cars allowed) roads is not only exciting but has an element of danger with motorbikes zooming by and with the sudden appearance of fast-moving carts with donkeys and horses.  Although we proceed with extreme caution, we often come within inches of being run over. 

The beautiful roses were displayed throughout the restaurant.

Tom, my personal navigator, pulls me from one side to another as we maneuver our way through the busy alleyways. It’s only when we’re deep into a narrow road, far from the crowds, that the traffic diminishes. Even then, we must remain on guard when suddenly a fast-moving motorbike appears out of nowhere.

Our view from inside the courtyard of the restaurant while we dined.  Heaters were available, but we were comfortable.

Yesterday, caution prevailed while we diligently followed an occasional sign pointing us in the direction of the restaurant. As each sign appeared, we were comforted that we were on the right track. At a few points, when we hadn’t seen a sign in a long while, we became concerned, when moments later, we felt relieved when another sign magically popped up.

There were banquettes for those preferring to dine inside as opposed to the courtyard.

Finally, we reached our destination, the final sign on a wood door. But, the door to the restaurant was locked.  Luckily, an employee also trying to enter, rang a doorbell and we were let inside along with him, wondering for a moment, if perhaps something was wrong with our reservation. 

This bird found a morsel for his meal.
Adjusting the camera in the bright sunlight, she was easier to see.

The website and TripAdvisor.com both stated they were open until 2:30 for lunch, reopening at 7:00 pm for dinner. I’d received an email confirmation for our reservation. Moments after entering, a charming English and French-speaking waiter seated us at a sunlit table for two in the open courtyard. At that point, we were the only guests, although 30 minutes after we arrived a few others appeared.

There were orange trees growing in the courtyard.

It fascinates us that orange and lemon trees grow inside the riads.

This gave us a great opportunity to linger over the interesting artifacts, architecture, and design of the riad and to take photos unhindered by other diners. We couldn’t have had a more enjoyable time in the exquisite ambiance, dining on an equally exquisite meal combined with the finest service in the land. 

A complimentary small appetizer referred to as an amuse-bouche was served prior to our meal. Mine was gluten-free, as are many offered items on the menu. After showing the waiter my written-in-French list of items I cannot have, he assured me this appetizer was befitting my way of eating. It was made with Aubergine, which is eggplant.
Tom’s amuse-bouche had a cracker decorating it.  Surprisingly, he ate it finding it acceptable for his picky taste buds.

Our waiter understood perfectly, obviously from many experiences when to ask how we were doing and when to step back, as we engaged in lively conversation as I told Tom a long-forgotten story from my many years as a business owner. 

Tom’s entrée including filet mignon, grilled potatoes, and vegetables which he thoroughly enjoyed, eating every last bite.

It’s ironic, how placed into a relaxing environment such as our world travels, that long-forgotten stories come to the forefront in our minds. In our old lives, the stress of daily living kept our brains preoccupied. Now, away from all of the stress, we find ourselves recalling stories we’d never taken the time to share.  In a funny way, it makes our relationship new and exciting. 

My entrée was grilled salmon and vegetables which was divine. The total cost of our fabulous meal including a liter bottle of water, tax, and the tip was MAD $400, US $49.25.

Living in a new environment every few months easily makes way for new thoughts, ideas, and conversation that invariably keeps our 24/7 lifestyle fresh and entertaining. Of course, with Tom’s relentless humorous observations and my rampant optimism and attention to detail, we never seem to have a moment of boredom with one another or for that matter, in anything we do.

After we lingered in the pleasant surroundings of the restaurant for a while, we began the walk back, feeling satisfied after a delicious meal and excellent experience.

Currently, we’re sitting on the sofa together in the salon in Dar Aicha,  the little heater cranking out a bit of warmth, I’m writing and posting photos, while he is listening to his favorite radio show, Garage Logic, which is blaring in the background on his laptop. Whether I like it or not, I am a captive audience of his radio show finding myself laughing out loud from time to time.

Returning to Dar Aicha requires a walk through several souk after leaving the Big Square.

Here we are in Marrakech, Morocco, living in a much larger-than-we-need house, the open sky inside brightens our days in sunlight and our nights in stars and occasional moonlight. We’re graciously and elegantly attended to by an amazing household staff of four as we find ourselves content and above all, grateful, for each and every day.

After our almost three hour outing, we returned to find this cat snoozing on the grate outside our door.

It’s a fairyland…Full of magical sights…If not for food and shopping…Why are we here?…

Out for an early dinner, we had a bird’s eye view of the Big Square.

As we walked through the Jemaa el Fna souk yesterday, we passed a carpet shop. The hip-looking well-dressed owner looked directly at us and said, “Want to go for a magic carpet ride?”

A wide variety of women’s clothing is displayed in both the souk and in the Big Square.

We chuckled aloud, along with another couple walking next to us. The old city isn’t as old as it appears.  Everywhere you look, young nicely dressed salesmen, rarely women, manage the shops in the souk, smartphones in hand, fingers flying in text or game mode. Times have changed.

A postcard and newspaper stand in the Big Square.

Modern looking clothing, similar in appearance to clothing one may find in their modern local mall, hang from neatly arranged displays. Oh yes, there is the expected belly dancer outfits that one may purchase for a flirty girlfriend or as an outfit to be worn to a costume party. 

Cats are respected and revered in the souk and the walled city. The shop owners feed and care for them and yet they don’t “belong” to anyone. We see them everywhere roaming about the streets with little fear of humans.
These four cats were on a rooftop.  Gingerly, they move from rooftop to rooftop.

Many of the shops contain the long robes worn as everyday clothing by the locals with matching scarves for the modesty required for women by the Muslim faith. 

The Medina and souks is guarded by local police. Overall, it feels safe in the walled city, although one must be careful of pickpockets as one would anywhere in the world.

Overall, the merchandise is geared toward the tourist anticipating negotiating the bargain of their lives for an excellent price from an owner. Most often, they may pay a similar price at the local mall, a short taxi ride outside the Medina. 

Locals commiserating in the Medina.

The owners may purchase the item for US $10, ask for US $40, and settle at US $25, a seeming win-win for everyone. It’s all part of the process that travelers experience in any country they visit. To buy or not to buy.  To stop and look, or not.

Playful interaction among the locals as they await their next “job.”

What often amazes us is the dedication and hard work of the vendors as they must continually procure new prospects to enter their shops, to hopefully make a purchase. Did any of us ever have to work at a job where we continually had to bark at passersby in an effort to attract them for a sale? 

It could have been a bake sale at a local church bazaar or at a flea market in an effort to sell homemade craft items we somehow believed that people would flock to, and yet they didn’t. We’ve all been there.

Ordering hot tea, this tray was delivered to me. The mint-flavored tea was delicious and the water stayed hot in a little silver pot, often seen for sale in the souk. Apparently, the locals utilize similar tea trays and pots when sipping on tea in the souk.

It goes against the grain of our humanity to pester potential shoppers to buy something. In a sad way, we equate it to begging. Our nature and desire is to simply display our hard gotten wares and buyers will come.  Not the case as any person with a job or a career in sales so well knows. You have to “be in their face” in order to get results.

These rolls are often served with meals as in this case for Tom’s dinner.  No butter is served at any of the establishments we’ve visited.  When asked, the waiters explain that buerre, French for butter, is not available.

I commend these hard-working people as we wander through the souks; the older generation selling peanuts in the shell, the middle-aged well-dressed man selling women’s modern-day dresses, the young man playing a game on his phone, frequently looking up to invite potential customers into his grandfather’s pottery store or the butcher behind the bright lights and his hanging slabs of meat, hoping locals and self-catering tourists will partake of his fresh meat. 

It appears that salad is my only “safe” meal when dining out. This Nicoise salad, a vegetable and egg salad with canned tuna had potatoes on it which I removed. Tom, good Irishman that he is, will eat a potato in any form.

It’s no job any of us would choose. And yet, generations of vendors line the souk and the Big Square as tourists from all over the world long to partake of the unique excitement and energy one only finds in faraway exotic places. Or, a Tom mentioned one day, “In a lot of ways, it’s not unlike the State Fair.” So true.

Amid the various satellite dishes, a common sight in the walled city, sits a local enjoying the view from his rooftop as darkness fell.

For us, making purchases, however, tempting is impractical. We don’t own a kitchen cabinet to hold the pretty plates or a wall on which to display a handmade tapestry either made locally or imported from India or China.

Back down on the street, we made our way back to or riad. Having failed to wear jackets, we headed back.  We’ve since learned that wearing jackets at night is a must, even on warm weather days as the nighttime temperature drops considerably.

Tourists come to Marrakesh to eat and to shop. For us, we must look deep inside the culture to discover the wonders it beholds beyond food and wares. Perhaps, in essence, that is a more interesting perspective for us to pursue as we strive to glean every possible treasure from this magical place for which we don’t need a carpet, as opposed to an open mind and heart.

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 TripAdvisor.com 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 TripAdvisor.com 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.

From the rooftop of our Moroccan home…The Islamic Call to Prayer…A video…

 Our video of the Islamic Call to Prayer from the rooftop of our home in Marrakech.
 Within the first few hours of our arrival in Marrakech on March 1, 2014, we couldn’t help but hear the melodic sound of the Islamic Call to Pray which is broadcast from loudspeakers throughout the city of Marrakech and also in other Islamic cities as we’ve observed in our travels.
This photo was taken from a third floor rooftop of a restaurant where we dined in the past week.
A closer version of the above photo.

Never before were the sounds as evident as they are here at Dar Aicha where one of the loudspeakers is close to the rooftop of the house. On the second day of our arrival, sunny and warm, I climbed the steep steps to the third floor rooftop to make a video with the sounds as the focal point and the sights secondary.

Although the architecture of many mosques are similar, they each posses their own unique design.
While walking around the rooftop, it was necessary to go up and down various steps as I worked my way around the rooftop for the best vantage points. Thus, the jittery camera. Plus, with one eye on the camera, my other eye was set to watch my step to ensure I didn’t fall. (The walls of the rooftop are high so there was no risk of falling off of the roof).
The below schedule illustrates the various prayer times throughout the day. It all begins with a preliminary early morning prayer as shown, that is relatively quiet at this early hour but tends to awaken me each morning, although I can usually fall back to sleep until the second louder chant at sunrise, time to get up anyway. Tom, hard of hearing, rarely awakens from the earliest call to prayer.
Marrakech, Morocco Prayer Times (State: Marrakech)
Prayer Schedule March / 2014
Date Day Fajr Sunrise Dhuhr Asr Maghrib Isha
11 Tue 5:26 6:47 12:43 4:05 6:38 7:54
12 Wed 5:25 6:46 12:42 4:06 6:38 7:55
13 Thu 5:24 6:44 12:42 4:06 6:39 7:55
14 Fri 5:22 6:43 12:42 4:06 6:40 7:56
15 Sat 5:21 6:42 12:41 4:06 6:40 7:57
16 Sun 5:21 6:42 12:41 4:06 6:40 7:57
17 Mon 5:19 6:39 12:41 4:07 6:42 7:58
Monthly/Annual Schedule 

As we’ve read online, some tourists find the call to prayer annoying and interrupting of their holiday time. For us, the sounds are pleasant and soothing, reminding us of the devoted faith of 1.6 billion (23% of the world’s population) followers of this ancient religion beginning at approximately 600 A.D.

When we’re in the souks or the Big Square during the call to prayer, we see congregations of men, separated from the women, on the street or in mosques in a state of prayer. 

We posted this photo of Tom last week with a mosque in the background.

As one may expect, the roles of men and women are separate in the older population. However, as typical in many parts of the world, women of the younger generation have taken on many new roles. 

As visitors, we respect, accept and appreciate the differences as we have been given the opportunity to live among the local citizens of this amazing cultural city. Non Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosques, some of which are shown here in the walled city.  Last May, while in Dubai, UAE, we had the opportunity to visit the interior of the Sheikh Zayed White Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE (please click this link to see our story and photos of our visit to this mosque). 

Unfortunately, I was very ill during our entire two week period in Dubai having contracted a respiratory virus during the cruise to Dubai. Unfortunately, it evolved into a raging sinus infection. On the day we visited the mosque, the temperature was over 100F, over 42C, while I had a fever. Thus, wearing the black abaya, required to enter the mosque, was exceedingly difficult. Tom wore the cooler white thobe. (Click this link to see us in our required attire for entering the mosque).

Also this photo was previously posted, taken from the petit taxi when we headed to the grocery store.

As difficult as the day of sightseeing proved to be, I am grateful that I bit the bullet for the experience. Many of our friends and family, not knowing how sick I really was, chuckled over my appearance in the abaya. Little did they know, how I struggled to keep it in place in an attempt to honor the required state of dress. In looking back now, I certainly understand their humorous perspective!

The memory of visiting the exquisite mosque in Dubai will have to suffice for now. We can only imagine the beauty and dignity of the many mosques in Marrakech and other parts of Morocco.

Why did we wait so long to post this video? The Internet was too slow for it to upload to YouTube.com, where we post all of our videos. On several occasions I attempted to upload this video only to tie up my computer for hours without success. Last night, I left my computer on allowing it to upload during the night. Alas, this morning, the video was available. Why didn’t I think of this earlier? I suppose my best excuse is that my brain is otherwise occuped.

If you’d like to see more of our videos please click here. (Please bear with me as I continue to work on developing better video taking skills. The bad shoulder prohibits holding the camera steady for more than a few seconds. I’m attempting to learn other ways in which to handle the camera. Hopefully, soon we’ll purchase a new camera to once and for all be rid of the smudge on the lens that appears in many of our photos. Sony has a new model coming out at the end of this month, we may purchase.

On the agenda for today? More time on tax stuff. And later today, we’ll head out to find a restaurant for tonight’s dinner and, hopefully attempt to find a shop in the souks where we can each purchase a warm jogging suit. A popular attire for many of the locals who don’t wear the traditional Muslim attire, these sets are available at many of the shops.

Last night, it rained almost all night, again soaking the floor in the courtyard.

My problem will be finding a set with long enough arms and legs to fit me. Tom has the opposite problem. We’ll see how we do on finding what we need and if we do, negotiating a good price.

We’ll return tomorrow with the results of our shopping expedition, our outng and with many more photos, as we continue to experience life in Marrakech.

It rained inside the house, an unusual phenomenon…Yikes! April 15th is looming!…

Lemons are growing inside the riad, absorbing last night’s rain, a rare exception, and reaching for the sun that shines most days through the open roof of the center courtyard. 

Living in Dar Aicha is delightful in so many ways, all of which we take time to appreciate; little birds flying and walking about in the courtyard; sunshine streaming through the opening to light and warm the courtyard; comfortable rooms and furnishings; the finest bed and covers one could imagine; en suite bathrooms with powerful water pressure and hot water and the finest staff in the land.

Water on the floor as the rain began last night.

The placement of the furnishing and draperies prevent anything from getting wet. As a precaution, we moved our scattered electrical equipment undercover.

Last night, we discovered a rather curious element to our stay in Dar Aicha. It rained inside the house. Please keep in mind, we didn’t get wet nor did any of our belongings get wet nor, did we suffer any ill effects in any manner. Simply put, it was interesting.
We continue to explore beyond the crowds in the most popular souk, finding interesting nooks and crannies.
A table of shoes likely to appeal more to the locals than the tourists.  In the more popular souk, many of the shoes have well-known labels and are arranged to catch the eye of the tourist, while this is a more functional display with lower prices.

It is definitely usual for it to be raining into one’s house other than if, God forbid, a roof is torn off in a tornado or hurricane or if a roof is worn and leaking severely, which we’ve definitely experienced in our travels. A free-flowing rain inside the house, such as we experienced last night, was unusual even for us.

Colorful scarves are a commonly worn accessory by the local women and in many cases, by the men as well.

It started on Sunday night when a mysterious wind whipped up around 9:00 pm that brought us out into the open courtyard from the cozy comfort of the salon as we watched a movie on my laptop. The sudden sound of wind swirling about startled us. 

The narrow streets away from the tourist areas, attract the locals in search of food and clothing.

As we stood in the courtyard, leaves blew around the courtyard as billowy curtains flew about. As we watched each other’s hair blowing while inside the riad, we both chuckled over the odd phenomenon. 

This little square offered outdoor dining with lower prices on food than in the Big Square. Overall, the cost of dining out in Morocco is reasonable with only a few higher-priced establishments.

Loud noises came from the rooftop as lawn chairs and other items flew in the high winds. At one point, Tom went up to the roof to investigate if something was wrong. Nothing was. Quickly, he returned back inside, securing the door behind him. I had visions of him flying off the roof.

Heading back to the Big Square we noticed more clouds rolling in.
Back in the courtyard, we reveled in the oddity and went back to our movie, content that there wasn’t a thing to be concerned about. This property is built like a fortress with thick stone and plaster walls.
 Tom made the mistake of wearing a short-sleeve shirt as the weather turned. We’d wished we’d both worn our jackets as we continue to adapt to the cooler weather. Soon, Morocco will warm up as spring nears, much to our pleasure.

Last night, Monday, there was little wind, but it began raining lightly around 8:00 pm. Tom, with his hearing problem (a result of 42 years on the noisy railroad) didn’t hear it when I did, as the droplets of rain began clinking onto the brass fountain in the center of the courtyard.

Many orange juice carts are available in the Big Square, offering fresh-squeezed juice.

We bolted off the sofa in the salon, standing on the edges of the room under the overhang as we watched the rain sprinkling into the room. With some of our power cords and strips scattered about the second-floor lounge, we ran upstairs moving everything undercover, just in case. What if that wind returned while it rained?

Daily, the outdoor food tents are reconstructed after the necessity of taking them down every night to make way for the daytime street vendors. What a huge amount of work for owners and their workers! 

Later heading to bed, the sprinkling ended and we didn’t give it another thought. At 3:00 am, I was awakened by the sound of pouring rain with an occasional burst of thunder. The rain was pelting into the house through the open roof in the courtyard.

As we return to the more popular souk, the streets are lined with colorful merchandise.

Jumping out of bed, I looked over the second-floor railing and yes, indeed, it was pouring rain. With nothing out of order, I returned to bed and soon back to sleep. This morning, although the fountain had some standing water and the stone floor was soaking wet, nothing was out of order.

Many of the vendors object when I’ve attempted to take photos of their displays. As a result, we try to take photos when the opportunity arises with less resistance.

Need I say, all and all, it was a pleasant, albeit unusual experience. But, then again, many of our experiences as we’ve traveled the world, are “different” from life as we knew it in the past while living in a cocoon of familiarity, consistency, and comfort. How that has all changed.

Various souvenirs that may appeal to the shoppers.

As for yesterday, we headed out in the late afternoon for a hike around the souk and Medina in search of a restaurant. Spoiled from Madame Zahra’s fine cooking, we continue to struggle to find restaurant food appealing, especially befitting my way of eating and Tom’s picky taste buds.

We’re committed to continuing to try a different restaurant every other day, at least until we feel repeats of favorites are in order. Last night’s dinner at a new location was mediocre at best. Most assuredly, many tourists would have found it to be exotic and delicious. 

This similar costume is found on many men we’ve seen in the Big Square. He is referred to as a “water boy” from the period when the nomads came across the desert needing water. These costumes indicated that he was the provider for water. Now, with less of a need for providing water, he poses for photos for a small sum, while still carrying the cups and supplies for the water to add to his authenticity.

In truth, our personal limitations do tend to hinder our enjoyment of the local flavors wherever we may travel. As we’ve stated in many prior posts that we have resigned to the fact that food around the world is less important to us, as it may be to other travelers. It is through this acceptance that we’re able to revel in the food that we can and do eat while focusing our attention on many other aspects of traveling the world.

This sign atop the building apparently says, “Welcome to Marrakech.”  Why Marrakech is upside down baffles us.

As we sit here this morning, delicious coffee in hand, we’re content that we’re dining in tonight for yet another authentic Moroccan meal lovingly prepared to our tastes by dedicated master chef Madame Zahra.

Another of our favorite meals prepared by Madame Zahra for Sunday night’s dinner including, from the left at the salad, clockwise; salad with radishes, cucumbers, celery, onions and lettuce; cooked, seasoned zucchini; (center) my favorite, egg battered and fried Aubergine (eggplant); another favorite, fried egg battered cauliflower; and Tom’s fried egg battered potatoes, which, along with chips, he particularly likes. 

A painful task I must begin to tackle today is the preparation of the worksheet for our accountant for our 2013 taxes, due to be filed on April 15th. As the record keeper in the family, I had taken on this daunting task as soon as Tom and I were married 19 years ago. 

So, today I begin, allowing myself two days to complete the task, forwarding everything to the accountant by late tomorrow. Having already logged all of our deductible receipts, hopefully, it won’t be as intimidating as it feels at the moment. 

This dish was Lamb Tagine which I absolutely loved.  Tom, on the other hand, is less inclined toward lamb. Much to my surprise, he ate a portion, leaving the remainder for me. 

Without a doubt, this is a painful reminder to those US citizens with this job hanging over their heads. Once completed, the sense of relief will be profound when we’ll be able to relax and we’ll be able to arrange sightseeing outside of the Medina.

Our commitment to continuing to provide new photos each day is ongoing, amid our other responsibilities. May your day be filled with a sense of accomplishment, as we too strive for the same.

Part 2, a night in the Medina…a memorable experience…

As darkness fell and the crowds increased, the lights in the Big Square cast a breathtaking glow.

Sunday afternoon, we walked the narrow, out the way streets, most often visited by the locals for their shopping far from the crowded tourist shops. 
Our perception was that the old city of Marrakech was comprised of most of the areas we had seen.  Not the case.  After all, this is a city, not a tiny village.

We enjoyed watching the evening change as the sun began to set. 

As we wandered from one narrow shopping area to another we found ourselves in less “touristy” areas, instead in the areas where many of the locals shop and eat.  The prices at the restaurants were considerably less than in the Big Square, the vendor stands were less “fluffed up” for attracting patrons and the vendors were considerably less aggressive than in the popular souks.  It was another version of this highly cultural and diverse environment.

Grateful to get a table by the railing of the third floor roof of the restaurant, we were excited to watch the evening unfold. 

Of course, this area intrigues us, as has been the case for as we’ve traveled the world.  We’re not trying to cram everything into a long weekend or a one or two week vacation.  We’re trying to experience everyday “life” as much as possible in our short two to three month stint in yet another country. 

Most assuredly, even our short stays aren’t long enough to make a full and fair assessment as to the quality of life long term in an area.  But, we do get the “flavor” of the city, the town, the village, the country in order to determine if someday we’d like to return for a longer stay. 

The smoke from the various fires for cooking created a hazy view of the area.

Few places we’ve visited have left us imminently wanting more, instead leaving us, in each case, with a sense of pride for the region and a connection to its culture and its people, however our short stay may allow.

This was our favorite photo of the night, clearly depicting the color, light and energy occurring at night in the Big Square.

The exception to this has been Marloth Park, South Africa which, for those of you who have followed us these past many months, was unique and special in its own way that will always tug at our hearts.  Most likely, nothing we will ever find again.

Many vendors display their wares on the ground making walking around the Big Square at night a bit challenging as visitors are pushed through the crowds.

In Morocco we find the experience far removed from any past experiences we’ve had, a place drenched in cultural diversity with a potent mix of stimulation of the senses.  

Tom, a little perplexed by the French language spicy menu, wasn’t quite as animated as when there is a burger and fries on the menu. He ordered a three course meal including a salad, a steak and a chocolate mousse which was his favorite of the three.

Where else in the world would one become intoxicated with the smells that waft through every doorway, every narrow alley, every open square and most assuredly, through every house as taste, smell and companionship gather its citizens to commiserate over food?  None other than Morocco. We find ourselves drawn in.

The view from the rooftop of the restaurant.

Yes, the Internet is slow as I sit here now struggling to load photos to share with our readers. 

Yes, no more than 30 seconds from our door we’re bombarded with persistent crowds and barking vendors. 

Yes, the language barrier is a struggle even with my limited French when lovely people such as Madame Zahra only speaks the Marrakech dialect Arabic for which Google translate offers no solution.  Yes, for this long term stay, its not easy.

Many of the vendors lit their displays with visually appealing lighting for the best
advantage for their offered merchandise.
Its from these very challenges that we grow, we adapt and, in our advancing age, we learn more than we ever imagined we’d be learning at this stage in life.  For us, it’s a heck of a lot better than sitting in a high rise waiting to watch “The View” and “Dr. Oz” each day, as we so easily could have done had we chosen another route for our lives after retirement.
This hotel has one of the many restaurants we will try soon.

Instead, Tom spends time each day when we’re not exploring, continually piecing together his ancestry and his varied investments. And, with my ceaseless entrepreneurial spirit in tact I have a website that magically turned into a lifetime dream of writing with adequate fodder to attract a population of readers worldwide. 

After leaving the restaurant, back on ground level, we found an area we’d yet to see, the dining tents.  As we walked by each “booth” we were bombarded by salespeople encouraging us to dine at their station. Each was numbered to ensure one could find the one they’d preferred the next night. These stations are put up and taken down each day to make room for the daytime vendors, a daunting task for the owners and staff.

How ironic that the business spirit that I’ve always possessed has turned into a website with big advertisers without forfeiting the personal perspective that we willingly share each and every day. 

Although I’d just eaten my dinner salad, my mouth watered over these confections. Sweet
desserts are everywhere, none of which I can have nor Tom is interested in.  He prefers a plain cake donut.  

How ironic that my disdain for taking photos up until May of 2013 when we started using the newer camera, would magically turn into a passion for me and for Tom with his great eye for good story telling shots and me, with my determination for a clear and concise angle.

Today, our photos tell more of the story of this “magic carpet like” city as we continue to plan further explorations over the next few months which we’ll joyfully share with you once they are confirmed. 

Each station had a slightly different theme but most, maintain the use of the popular  spices savored in Morocco.

For now, we continue on, with open hearts, inquisitive minds and an impassioned spirit to discover what more this unique environment has to offer.

Mostly tourists, these picnic tables were filled with a hungry captive audience.  We’ll stick to the restaurants which tend to use fresher refrigerated foods.  In any case, it was exciting to walk through this area to see what it was all about.

Part 1… A night in the Medina…A memorable experience…

As we entered the Big Square in the Medina, the night’s varied activities had just begun.

Yesterday, we were itching to see the “Big Square,” the center of the Medina, as often called by the locals, on a busy Saturday night. Marrakech is a short flight from many locations in Europe. attracting many tourists from many countries.

Leaving Dar Aicha at 5:00 pm, our home until mid-May, 2014, we immediately got into step with the massive crowds, working their way through the Souk, stopping every few feet to look at the vast array of colorful merchandise. 

On the crowded trek through the Jemaa el Fna colorful shops began to light up for the evening’s activities.

With both of us adamantly opposed to being caught in crowded areas, we’ve somehow had put aside our disdain since arriving in Marrakech (going forward I will spell the name of this ancient city, in the same manner as the locals, ending in “kech,” not the English version of “kesh”). 

I’d be in big trouble if I had room in my one large suitcase for a few of these colorful dresses.  I’d then ask myself, where would I’d wear a dress such as this?  How would I wash it?  Practicality is of the utmost importance when traveling the world.

The relentless crowd pushed and shoved as we bounced around like ping=pong balls, neither of us into shoving and pushing. During the week when more locals were in the Jemaa el Fna Souk it was an easier trek to the Big Square.

Leather bags are a popular item among tourists. Excuse the blur as I shot this while maneuvering through the crowds. Also, some shop owners don’t want photos taken of their merchandise and we must refrain from doing so or be discreet in doing so.

We were on a mission to find a rooftop restaurant for dinner and an opportunity to watch the evening’s activities while high above the crowds. The challenge? Food I could eat, food Tom was willing to eat. 

It’s a good thing I can’t eat these tempting confections. I’m certain I would have loved them gaining weight while here. We have no option of gaining weight in our travels. Our clothing supply would no longer fit.  In his old life, Tom had jeans in a few different sizes for those “up and down” times. Now, he has one size, the size he wore when we left the US, which he’ll definitely return to while in Morocco as he struggles with the spicy foods when we’re dining in restaurants.  This is not an issue with Madame Zahra’s cooking, which we both enjoy.

All of the restaurants in the Medina have menus posted outside, giving us an opportunity to review each as we made our way from one restaurant to another. None of the menus are in English. They are posted in Arabic and French. 

The colorful fabrics in the souk are appealing to the eye.

Thank goodness for my four years of French studies while in high school, 50 years ago. Thank goodness, that my way of eating has been instrumental in my memory being sharper than ever. (Read Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter, if interested in improving your memory and health by eliminating inflammatory foods from your diet).

As we entered the Big Square we could sense that the size of the crowds was growing by the minute.

I was able to translate the entire menu except for one word: huile. Looking it up this morning in Google Translate, I discovered it means “oil.” OK. Good to know. 

Products that please the senses are a big aspect of life in Morocco, both for selling and incorporating into one’s life. The combination of the herbal scents coupled with the smell of the spices and foods being cooked is heady.

As we discovered after dining in three restaurants thus far in Marrakech, my only safe bet is to order a salad with grilled beef, chicken or fish, avocado, olives, veggies, and cheese. Of course, when we dine on Madame Zahra’s fabulous foods, we have no fear. She totally gets it, making the most interesting and delicious foods I’ve had since the onset of this way of eating 31 months ago. 

If we stop to take a photo, the hard-working vendors are compelled to get us to make a purchase. Where in our luggage could we ever fit any of the colorful trinkets?

We won’t mention the name of the restaurant where we dined. The food wasn’t good. It could have been an “off” night and long ago, we choose not to write bad reviews. In other words, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” a policy, we adopted when we started writing about local businesses. Why would we want to potentially hurt the hard-working owners and employees of local establishments? We wouldn’t.

The size of the crowd continued to grow as we made our way around the Big Square checking out the dining options.

The view was the restaurant’s rooftop was stupendous, as you can see from our photos. Later, when we walked through the Medina we were amazed how the Big Square became about food after dark as tents were set up with vendors enthusiastically steering passersby to their “stations” each of which we clearly numbered for future referenced.

As the sun began to set and the crowds grew, we were comfortably situated atop of the roof of the restaurant we selected for the evening.

As we passed, literally hundreds of diners were seated together at picnic tables, plates piled high with colorful fresh foods cooked to order. As we meandered through the outdoor food area, I’d wished we hadn’t already had dinner when I saw many items that appeared to be suitable for me. We’d hoped to participate in this exciting aspect of this extraordinary old city. 

The vendors organized their wares in preparation for the upcoming evening’s activities.

This morning in speaking with Samir, he suggested we avoid the “street” food. He explained that it would be very risky to ensure these foods are made befitting my way of eating. We can’t take the risk and will stick to the restaurants where each item is prepared individually.

The crowds increased by the minute…

Dining high above the crowds at one of many rooftop restaurants definitely has an appeal after last night’s experience. Last night’s dinner was our most expensive, thus far, at US $38.53, MAD $320 with no alcohol included. 

The vendors were prepared for the growing crowds.

Madame Zahra’s amazing meals are US $24.08 (for two), MAD $200. There’s no comparison to restaurant food and her delicious meals. We’d dine in every night for the divine quality of her food if we weren’t so determined to get out for more experiences. 

The sky darkening over the rooftops of the homes and shops located in the walled city. We were too far from our riad to find our rooftop.
It seldom rains in Morocco, although the sky at dusk was covered with fast-moving clouds.

Before we’d booked Dar Aicha we’d read several reviews written by past guests stating the exact same dilemma; Madame Zahra’s food as compared to restaurant food inspired them to prefer to dine in.

Smoke began to waft through the air as wood-fired grills were started for the evening’s foods. The smells were indescribable.
The pigeons are fed by the locals as well as the many cats that wander the Medina and the souk.

The old walled city of Marrakech and the Jemaa el Fna Souk, make it tempting for a visitor to seldom venture outside these walls. The energy, the excitement, the entertainment, and its diverse culture have an irresistible appeal. One’s senses are stimulated to a point of wondering why one would want anything different or more. 

The horses and colorful buggies were awaiting their next customers.
Many of the vendors began to turn on the lights in their tents and shops.
This mosque was lit creating an enchanting scene.

In time, we’ll explore outside these walls to discover what other wonders Morocco has in store for us.

Note: Tomorrow, we’ll return with photos of the Big Square, after dark when we were able to get some excellent shots of the night’s activities.

First trip outside the Medina, the walled city, to the modern area…A special treat for Tom on our anniversary…

Thanks to all of the warm anniversary wishes we received yesterday as we celebrated 19 years of marriage (together 23 years)
Also, for our readers in the US, with changing clocks overnight tonight for Daylight Savings Time (where applicable), we will be seven hours later than the West Coast, five hours later than the Midwest, and four hours later for the East Coast.  s an example, those of you in the Midwest will see our newest post, no later than 8:30 am your time. 

Yesterday, Friday, the souk is closed due to Friday as the Holy Day. It was odd walking through the area when it was quiet.

Yesterday afternoon, we decided it was time to leave the walled city to find a supermarket for purchasing cheese and nuts. There are many snack type vendors in the Medina and Souk, but, all that we’d purchased thus far were unsalted nuts.

The “petit taxis” are smaller than what is shown here. But, all taxis, large and small appear to be this same beige color, making them easy to spot.

With my limited food options due to my way of eating, nuts with salt are a treat for both of us. Everywhere we’ve traveled we’ve been able to find nuts that are salted without the use of wheat as a stabilizer. 

To the right, is a petit taxi as we maneuvered through the traffic near the entrance to the Medina.
Cheese is not a commonly utilized food item in Morocco none of which we found in the souk. Thus, a trip to a grocery store was inevitable. For us, the simple trip proved to be another learning experience.
Non Muslims are not allowed to tour the many mosques in Morocco.

With no taxis allowed in the Medina, and the long walk from Dar Aicha to the street outside the walled city, we realized we couldn’t purchase more than we could easily carry back.

This is one of many newer condo complexes with units available for sale that we noticed on the way to the grocery store. The streets in Marrakesh are meticulous, free of trash or litter. It’s obvious the Moroccan people take great pride in their surroundings.

Samir, our kind and dignified houseman, had explained that there are “petit taxis” (small taxis) on the street outside the Medina with drivers prepared to negotiate a round trip and who are willing to wait while we shop.

As a business hub, there are many fine hotels in Marrakesh for both business and pleasure travelers with the convenience of the nearby airport.

Moments after stepping off the curb, we were approached by Simone, a French speaking driver with whom we were able to communicate with my limited French. He agreed to take us to the “supermarket,” 15 minutes away and back for a negotiated price of MAD $80, US $9.63 and was to wait 30 minutes or more while we shopped.  We paid him MAD $100, US $12.04 including a well deserved tip. 

At the entrance to the Marjane Mall where the Hypermarket is located on a lower level with elevators for wheeling carts to one’s vehicle.
This could have been any mall, anywhere in the world, newer, convenient and with many stores, some of which were “chain” stores that we’ve seen in other African countries. We didn’t see any US chain stores.
Only a small number of the mall’s stores were open due to the Holy Day.

As we drove further and further away from the Medina, the city changed dramatically from old to new with modern buildings, hotels, newly built condo communities. It could have been anywhere in the US except for the interesting architecture of the structures, following the pleasing Moroccan theme. 

No pork or pork products (bacon, sausage, chops) are available in Morocco. Muslim people do not eat pork. Beef, chicken and fish comprise most meals.  Many of the body parts of cows and chickens are savored.
These are steaks with all of the fat removed. In South Africa, fat is considered a delicacy and is left on the meat. Apparently, that is not the case in Morocco when all of the beef appeared to be very lean and free of visible fat.

With the temperature at 85F, 29C, I was warm in my bundled up attire that I’ve worn in an attempt to keep me warm in the riad which stays very cool day and night. Tom had worn short sleeves instead of layers and was comfortable as we walked, while I was sweating in my heavy layers. 

Driving through this modern area reminded me in many ways of Scottsdale, Arizona where we lived for two months as we prepared to leave the US.

Off putting to some, I was intrigued by all the parts of the fresh fish which are utilized in cooking in Morocco.

Simone dropped us off at the new shopping mall where upon entering the modern facility, we found our way to the Marjane Hypermarket on a lower level. Upon entering the giant facility, it reminded me of any Target Superstore in Minnesota, where both grocery, clothing, electronics and household items can be purchased under one roof.

It was hard for me to take my eyes off the fresh fish, a favorite.
Various sundries are also sold in the Hypermarket.

Having been an avid Target shopper in my old life,  a wave of excitement washed over me, quickly dispelled by the reality that we are only able to purchase that which we will consume before we leave Morocco in a little over two months. 

After exiting the mall, we didn’t see Simone, thinking he may have had to park in another area when we didn’t see any taxis on the street. After waiting for five minutes, Simone appeared on foot and walked us to his vehicle further down the road.

With cheese spoiling quickly with less preservatives used in Africa, we only purchased enough cheese that would keep for the few weeks until we venture out for groceries again. Of course, we’re able to keep the cheese in the refrigerator, as we do our iced tea, along with ice made in trays.

It wasn’t long before we approached the Medina for our long walk back carrying heavy the groceries. I suggested to Tom that we take a horse and buggy or a tuk tuk, but, he insisted he was doing fine carrying the bulk of the load.

I must admit I felt like a kid in a candy store. Had we been cooking here, we’d have been able to find most of our usual ingredients. As for prices, as I clicked away on my smartphone for the currency conversion app, they were higher than South Africa and more comparable to Kenya.  The produce was cheap, meat was reasonable (both locally grown) and packaged goods were high (mostly imported).

Here is everything we purchased in the Hypermarket. Although I’m not a big fan of Lipton tea, I am very picky about flavors of tea and chose what I knew I’d drink and use for iced tea if necessary. I miss my old favorite, Pouchong but, am unable to find it anywhere outside the US. The coffee we purchased was the same brand that we’d used when we lived in Tuscany last summer. The receipt and conversion for our entire purchase is listed below.
This chunk of Gouda was US $11.11, MAD $92.30.  It was .63 kg, 1.38 pounds, which we agreed was a reasonable price. The name on the label, Carrefour, was the same store name where we’d made purchases in Dubai, UAE, last May.

All the fresh foods were beautifully displayed and carefully handled. The cheese display was extensive with as many options as we’d found when we lived in Italy this past summer. The packaged nuts were a little pricey, mostly locally grown. We were thrilled to find salted nuts.

The total grocery bill for cheese, tea, water and nuts converts  to US $149.71. It’s unlikely we’ll need to shop again for several weeks.

The big mistake we made was in purchasing two five liter bottles of water, hoping to make Samir’s task of going out to buy water for us easier for a few days. Carrying the big jugs of water along with the other items, certainly made the return walk cumbersome. We’ve learned our lesson. Samir has kindly offered to get all of the bottled water for us, for which we’ll reimburse him.

Last night’s delicious anniversary dinner made by Madame Zahra included: clockwise from the bread, to the pepper salad (not hot peppers), marinated beet salad, egg battered Aubergine (my favorite) and a cabbage and olive salad. The item below the beets was Tom’s favorite, battered and fried cauliflower (containing flour so I didn’t try it) up until the item shown below was served. 

It never occurred to us that the walk through the Souk yesterday would be less crowded. With Fridays, as the Muslim Holy Day, many of the vendors had closed their shops, allowing us to quickly move through the Medina and the souk upon the return. We’ve decided that in the future, grocery shopping will take place on Fridays.

French fries for Tom, called “chips” in Africa remain as one of Tom’s favorite. Although he didn’t have Heinz ketchup for dipping, he thoroughly enjoyed these.

Once back at Dar Aicha, and finding spots for the snacks, we settled in, as our anniversary dinner was being prepared. The smells wafting from the kitchen had us both famished. 

Last night’s dinner was our favorite thus far with Madame Zahra making “chips” (French fries) for Tom and sautéed egg battered Aubergine (eggplant) for me, a special treat.

When Adil asked us for an entrée preference, we suggested this grilled chicken, made by Madame Zahra on a grill on the rooftop. Once again, it was wonderful.

Today, we’ll head out again to further explore the Medina and to find a new restaurant for dinner. We’re committed to trying new restaurants each of the three to four times we dine out each week. Later, when satisfied we’ve tried most of them, we’ll do repeats of our favorites. Already, the first two restaurants we’ve tried is on the “favorites” list.

As I wandered upstairs to change into my pajamas I only needed to look up to see a crescent moon through the open air roof of our riad.  We can hardly wait to see the full moon as it  soon will cast a shadow inside the house.
The nearly invisible wire covering the roof opening is to prevent branches and animals from falling into the house. So, we suppose.

Yes, we’re settling in after arriving one week ago today. For us, part of the process revolves around becoming familiar, as most of us do, in developing somewhat of a routine. As we’d observed in nature over the past three months in South Africa, animals, like humans, find extraordinary comfort in familiar routines.

We dine, trying new places and foods. We explore, to learn about the area and the culture. We interact with locals, as often as possible. And, we document our experiences in photos and stories which, we joyfully share with our readers each and every day. 

A reason to celebrate…Spending our anniversary in a foreign land…Life is different for us now…

Yesterday, we dined at Le Jardin, a lovely restaurant that had good reviews. The food and ambiance were excellent in this “riad,” a building with an open-air, center courtyard, as is the design of our current home. Tonight, for our anniversary dinner, Madame Zahra will prepare and serve yet another fabulous meal which we’ll savor by candlelight in one of the most romantic settings in town, Dar Aicha, our home for the next 10 weeks.

Spending 24 hours a day with another human being could be challenging, whether a spouse, partner, child or family member, business associate, roommate, or friend. 

Seated next to a birdcage with two parakeets, Tom got a kick out of their playful antics.
When there are no giraffes, kudus, or warthogs to watch, birds can be fun!

Retirement often brings couples together around the clock, creating an environment for stress and disharmony. We’re not totally retired, spending half of each day researching, writing, taking, and posting photos, in the ongoing documentation on our website keeping both of us busy half of each day.

No more than two minutes after we were seated, we noticed this turtle on the floor, on a mission. In search of crumbs, he moved rapidly.
Later, during our meal, these two turtles were hanging out together.
Later, they basked in the sun in close proximity to one another.

Although Tom doesn’t write here, he is actively involved in researching information about the city and country in which we’re currently living and the research as to where we’ll live in the future. 

Few Moroccan citizens own dogs, perceiving them as unclean. But, a foreign customer allowed her Jack Russell Terrier to wander about while she dined.  Oddly, (duh) his name was Jack.

Together, we research through 1000’s of future possible vacation homes in many countries, available transportation, cost of living, while continually checking on activities available in our current country. 

These common Tibbit birds frequent the riads in search of food, as they do in our temporary home.

One huge benefit of our daily postings is the manner in which it inspires us to get out and about in order to explore the area in which we’re currently living, taking photos along the way, while soaking in the glory of the experiences. 

Fresh produce from the farm, used in the menu items, were freely on display in the restaurant.

It would be easy to fall back into the “staying in” mode we thoroughly enjoyed in our old lives. But, we get out, as we doing here in Morocco with the colorful culture at our fingertips, a few steps from the door of Dar Aicha.  We’ve been out almost every day.

This was Tom’s lunch, Moroccan seasoned penne and meat sauce.  Asking for half as much spices as usually prepared, he liked this dish. No comment from me on him eating pasta.

In Marloth Park, South Africa, most of the entertainment came to us. Although, we regularly went out. We took a separate three day trip to Blyde River Canyon, several outings in Kruger National Park, attended game drives/bush braais, dined out three times per week, spent a night in a tent on the Crocodile River, and spent many days and evenings in the company of friends all while living in three different houses.

My dinner was this mouth-watering Moroccan seasoned chicken Caesar salad, minus the croutons The black items are dried black olives which I can eat.The homemade salad dressing was on the side. 

Here in Morocco, we’re busy researching possible overnight trips in order to experience the desert and mountains, further away from the city. Samir is organizing possibilities as we also research online what may appeal to us the most. 

After our meal, we explored new other areas of the Medina and the souks, discovering more interesting items along the way. The huge maze-like Medina can present difficulty in finding one’s way back. Tom’s good sense of direction once again served us well when it was time to return home.

Each time we go out, we find ourselves in situations that we find “photo-worthy” inspiring our daily stories. How amazing that years from now, that we, as well our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, will be able to look back at our worldwide travels in stories and photos, let alone the joy we feel in sharing it with our worldwide readers as we post each and every day.   

The top of this mosque in the background serves as a landmark for finding one’s way to through the Medina.

Some have said that we should “get out more.” But, this is not a “vacation” or “holiday.” This is our daily life. Who amongst us, went sightseeing every day in the city, town, or village in which we lived? We shopped, we dined out, we saw a movie. We attended a sporting event, a wedding, a birthday, or a retirement party. 

Did you ever have a fantasy as a child of riding a magic carpet?

We spent time with our family and friends either in their homes or ours. We attended a grandchild’s soccer, football, or softball game. We attended doctor and dentist appointments. We had a medical test, anxiously awaiting the results.

Vendors sit on the ground as they await their next customer.

Had we been cooking our food while here, it would have been fun to shop from these vendors.

All of this is different for us now. Neither of us has seen a doctor or dentist since December 2012. Fortunately, we feel well, energized, rested and healthy. If we felt otherwise, we’d see a doctor. In seven months, we’ll be in the US, in Hawaii, where we’ll see a dentist, a doctor if need be, or have a test if warranted.

Finally, we found our way back to familiar territory to begin the trek through the busy souks to return to our home. We were never concerned about being lost. It’s best not to ask passersby for directions to avoid paying for an answer.

In nine months, we’ll be together with our family during the holiday season. Of course, we can hardly wait to see each and every one of them. But, life is different for us now.

When my eye caught this Chameleon, the friendly shop owner noticed my camera, offering a “free” photo. Some shop owners won’t allow photos without paying a fee which we discovered when we tried to take a photo of a meat market.

Samir suggested one only buy spices at “certified” shops to ensure quality and freshness.

These similar items are offered in one spice after another, all with prices subject to negotiation.

The shop owner gave me this palm-sized clay holder. The color in it is actually a Moroccan lipstick made from poppy seed flour, activated when water is added. We offered a tip but he refused, hoping we’d return another day.

After they fly away, we’ll continue on our worldwide travels, living our lives to the fullest, exploring that which we find most interesting, trying that which we may never have imagined, in places we’d never expected to see.

Pashmina scarfs, popular in the US years ago.
 Sandals in many styles and sizes, tempting to me in my old life, not at all now.
Lighting fixtures galore.
Bean pods, herbs, and carrots for sale in the souk.

As we celebrate this 19th wedding anniversary (23 years together), we celebrate with love, with gratitude, and with passion for our lives, for each other, and for living life to the fullest.

Happy anniversary to my husband, lover, and friend for sharing this outrageous adventure with me; for your continued optimism, your cheerfulness, your humor, and for most of all your love.

Jemaa el Fna, the vibrant square of Marrakesh draws us in..Dining out…A trip to a spice shop…

Tom and Hamoudi, the owner of the spice shop.
Me and Hamoudi, the friendly owner of the spice shop in the Medina. I was all bunched up with so many layers of clothing to keep me warm.

The Medina or square, the Jemaa el Fna, contains historic buildings, restaurants, residences, and the world-famous souk, the marketplace for both locals and tourists.

These bars are actually scented with perfumes from around the world to be scraped onto the skin for a lasting scent. Unable to decide which we liked better we purchased two. I can’t recall the last time I purchased anything that wasn’t functional or absolutely necessary. 
For a moment, I recalled my former days of cooking using a wide array of fresh spices. The feeling quickly passed when the fact that I won’t cook a single item over the next two and a half months.  
Cinnamon is a popular spice used in Moroccan cooking and medicinally worldwide.

The bottles of the vast array of spices in Hamoudi’s store was appealing.

Hamoudi has me guess the names spices and from my past passion for cooking, I was able to recall most of them.

When exiting our home, Dar Aicha, we are in the souk in less than 30 seconds. In other words, it’s almost outside our door. If we could shop for food and spice, this would be a veritable paradise with colorful shops and stands all begging for negotiation for the vast array of merchandise.
The smells of these scented rocks mixed with the spices were intoxicating.

Locally handcrafted items, clothing, shoes, handbags, leather goods, fresh produce, baked goods, pottery, silver goods, and costume jewelry seem to predominate the offerings in both the souk and the Medina.

One must have thick skin to walk through the souk with tourists pushing their way through the crowds, locals carrying or wheeling over-sized bundles and motorized bikes suddenly appearing out of nowhere zooming through the narrow streets where no cars are allowed.

Spice balls to be tossed into an open fire.

Yesterday, we decided to make our first foray into the Medina to find a restaurant for an early dinner. After traversing through the souk, we made our way into the Medina, a 10-minute walk through the crowds, where restaurants were lined up, one after another. 

Turmeric, a commonly used spice in Moroccan cooking. For many centuries turmeric has been extolled for its many medicinal uses.

In an effort to experience many of the local restaurants, we’ve decided to work our way around the Medina, trying one after another. I’m certain, that at one point, we’ll find favorites that we may visit more frequently.  The excitement of the Jemaa el Fna changes by the minute, illustrating a unique and interesting perspective of life in Marrakesh.

By the way, the spelling of many of the words and names of people, places, and things varies. Arabic is written in characters rather than letters resulting in a variety of translations, all of which are acceptable. For example, as mentioned in another post Marrakesh is also spelled Marrakech, always pronouncing the “esh” in the same manner. I will make every effort to be consistent in words used here to avoid appearing to be errors in my spelling.

Shoppers are attracted to colorful displays.
Also, the likelihood of us learning any words in Arabic with the unique dialect of Marrakesh is remote in our short time here. Even the basic words are difficult to master. Luckily, I know enough French to be able to read signs, menus, and ask general questions. The predominant languages of Marrakesh, in addition to Arabic, is French.  Waiters and shop owners may speak some English as we’ve experienced thus far.
Colorfulness overload!

Late yesterday afternoon, we headed out in search of a restaurant. Tom was inclined toward a hamburger and fries which we’d seen on a menu a few days earlier. 

Once we made our way through the souk to the open-air Medina (pronounced “me deen a”), it didn’t take long to locate a casual outdoor dining spot set among many other restaurants with burgers and fries on the menu plus a few good options for me.

Some of our photos, such as this, were taken while walking to avoid possible pressure from the hard-working salespeople.

Tom’s hamburger and fries and my delicious Moroccan spiced seafood salad were especially enjoyed while chatting and viewing the varied activities in the square. The food was great along with the service. Many have told us not to purchase food from the carts in the square. 

Unfortunately, I am unable to take a risk in eating street vendor foods and, in any case, neither of us likes to be eating while standing or walking. For us, dining is an experience to be savored while relaxing at a comfortable table and chairs with plenty of napkins on hand.

Exiting the souk, we entered the square looking for a restaurant.

Plus, the cost was rather reasonable at US $13.27, MAD (Moroccan dirham, different than the dirham in other African countries) 110 including tax and tip.

Not all the prices on items in the souk were bargains. One must negotiate which is expected.

After lunch, we wandered into a spice shop, after the smells drew us inside. The friendly owner spoke English and we explained that we are unable to cook while here making spice purchases unlikely. Instead, he brought out what looked like little bars of soap scraping a gentle swipe across our hands for us to smell. They were infused with designer fragrances in such a subtle manner that it was intoxicating. One was a musk, the other a flowery scent. 

Often, the shop vendors are keeping busy using their smartphones and tablets while waiting for customers. Perhaps, this is why there isn’t as much in-your-face solicitation as one might expect.

Having not worn any fragrances since leaving the US, I was hooked, unable to resist buying the two little bars at a fair price after a lively negotiation with the animated shop owner, Hamoudi. His shop is located at 144, Bab Ftouh Place Jamaa el Fna, Marrakesh. He insisted we take photos with him which are shown here today. After our visit, I was giddy from the pleasant experience and we were on our way. 

We’ve seen several peanuts-in-the-shell vendors wheeling these large carts in the Medina.

Returning to Dar Aicha, after spending the better part of the afternoon in the Medina, we were stuffed and content to spend the remainder of the evening reading, writing and of course, reviewing our photos from the day.

Huge slabs of a variety of meats are hanging outside the butcher shops. We were uncertain if this was lamb or goat or otherwise. I asked but no one spoke English. Comments?

Tonight, Madame Zahra will prepare our dinner for yet another fine evening in Dar Aicha, our home for this leg of our many year’s long journey to see the world.

Thanks to all of our worldwide readers for sharing our ongoing travels which means the world to us.