Kerri Ough - a work in progress...

Morocco Part 2: Marrakech & Riad Bledna

Marrakech was sort of what I expected, sort of not. I thought we’d be run off our feet by shopkeepers pushing goods on us and that I’d get caught in haggling wars for hours. It was a lot calmer than that and for that I was grateful. Most people were kind and inviting, asking us to come in and look around, with no agenda. We drank mint tea (such sugary mint tea) with shop owners and looked at hundreds of rugs and pieces of jewelry and antiques and canvas bags full of pigment dust. It was a visually vibrant place to be and I was happy to just be there to see it and snap a few photos along the way.

We chose Riad Bledna as our hotel in Marrakech to contrast the anticipated madness of the souks. It would be our peaceful getaway where we would eat a few delicious meals and read and relax by the pool for a few days. It was just what I needed at just the right time.

RiadBledna-day2-morocc

After a good night of sleep we made our way to the souks of Marrakech, first by way of  the Majorelle Garden. Here is Gabrielle standing in front of the inviting majorelle blue wall.

GM-Majorelle-2

The souks were full of rugs, pottery, leather, donkeys, jewelry, people and food vendors. It was colourful and hot, almost too much to take in, in just one day. I usually love taking photos but I found myself forgetting to reach for my camera. When I did pick it up, I was so aware of myself gawking at the scene, so obviously a tourist, that I would quickly snap a couple of photos and then tuck it away again. I managed to get some shots to remember the beauty of the scenes around me, so I could gawk at it later, once I got home from the trip.

Marrakech-rugs copy

Marrakech-Leather

I loved looking at all the rugs and bags and pieces of pottery, but I wasn’t planning on bringing anything home with me. It’s strange, I know, going to Morocco and not planning to bring back at least seven rugs, but that’s not my style these days. I’ve become a minimalist this year at home and with that in mind I had packed only one small carry-on suitcase for our nearly three weeks away (a stark contrast to the seven bags I usually fly with.) I wanted to enjoy traveling without being bogged down by bags. Sheesh, say that five times fast.

It was limiting knowing I couldn’t stuff these beautiful items in my bag but it made it easier to say no to when asked to buy things I didn’t need. Whether we were shopping or not, sometimes shopkeepers just started dressing you in hats and clothing when you passed their stalls. Brian was stopped by a man who tried to get him to replace his straw hat (we call it his “vacation hat” because he only wears it when we’re on vacation.) He tried on a bunch, but none stole his heart, so he is still wearing his beaten up hat from two trips ago. I think a combination of his bright pants, pale skin and straw hat was why a group of giggling store owners shouted out “MR. BEAN!” when he walked by. It was so out of the blue that we almost died laughing in the souks at his new nickname. John had been calling him “Mr. Brian” until then, now he would be “Mr. Bean.”

JHBO-souks

We spent the whole day in the city, wandering, shopping, haggling, eating and drinking tea and coffee. We all wanted to experience a sunset from the city and stick around to eat in the main square at one of the outdoor vendors. It was a big, beautiful, exhausting day full of new sights, tastes and smells. So many smells. A donkey comes to mind, as I write this…

sunset-marrakech-souks

If I could be awake and outside for every sunrise and sunset for the rest of my life it would be a dream come true. When the sun hit the brass and tin on the walls it cast such an arresting glow I had to photograph it. I am truly an annoying person to walk or hike with at sunrise or sunset, because I want to stop every 10 steps and take a photo as the light changes. Some of my trip photos are stunning, some are blurry snaps of a moment in time to remind us where we were, what it looked like, and to hopefully trigger a funny memory. It’s why I have a good memory, but it’s also why I have a computer thats overcapacity with 20,000 photos I can’t bring myself to delete.

We wandered back to the square where all the food vendors were set up. We hadn’t pre-selected a place to eat, and I decided to boldly walk down the food alley gauntlet. I WAS SWARMED by men inviting me (us) to dine with them, each of them with their special sales pitch, each of them mere inches from my face. I smiled and calmly walked on, slowly but surely, (slowly because the swarm kept interrupting my step.) Gabrielle joined me and as we walked together the swarm kept at us.  John and Brian were about 2 metres behind us also getting swarmed, but they were getting a separate kind of sales pitch for dinner: each man insisting his place was the place where you would experience zero gastrointestinal distress… and illustrating the many ways their food wouldn’t make you throw up like some of their competitors’ food would. That made me laugh when they told us later. Once through the gauntlet (and it felt like a mile to get to the other side) we took a moment to regroup and went back to the beginning and picked the first place. It was the right choice. John made friends with our cooks, we drank Orangina and mint tea, and ate some great street meat and side dishes while the sun went down.

JH-vendors-marrakech

Meat Skewers -Marrakech

BOJH-Souks

Our night in Marrakech finished with drums, music, sunset, friendship and meat. Our host, Mohammed, picked us up and brought us back to the peace of his hotel. We spent the next day reading, and relaxing beside his pool, then took off for a Hammam in the city (I must remember to write in detail about this experience of being scrubbed down by a lovely woman, mostly naked, all for less than 7 dollars. Unheard of where we come from.) I loved the city as much as I loved relaxing by the poolside the next day. I LOVED how my skin felt after the Hammam and loved the stillness of Riad Bledna.

Next up: The Sahara Desert. Read that blog HERE.

 

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