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.