‘Expect the unexpected’ a wise man once said to me. Marrakech was no exception. A few surprises awaited me..
1. Camel leather.
So my lack of research into that ‘must have leather bag’ didn’t really pay off. As I write this – my beautiful, rather unique, leather shoulder bag in a gorgeous burnt dark orange colour, is stuffed and wrapped in newspaper, in a bin bag, hanging in the shed! It is in there because it stinks. It stinks of Camel pee and to quote my friend “It smells of sick” Mmmm how lovely. Imagine sitting next too me on the train thinking to your self ” I love that girls handbag but she really smells of pee and sick!”No one told us. We didn’t read up until we got back. Eeeek.
We discovered Camel leather is the leather of choice and it turns out ( I know as I visited a tannery were they clean the skins – a very interesting and smelly place) that they wash/clean / dye etc using delightful things such as camel pee and pigeon poop.
When you are in the shop or a souk housing the beautiful leather goods, you smell the leather and its strong and strange but you think it will go in time. Then you get home, open your bag and wooosh…you have stunk your house out.
I’m not sure if the ‘paper and bin bag’ scenario is going to help but I’m willing to try for the sake of my beautiful bag and of course the public’s nasal cavities.
You have been warned.
2. Parlez vous francais? French speakers,patisseries and snails!
I did know before arriving in Morocco, that it has a large population of French speakers but it wasn’t until I was buried in a souk, looking at beautiful hand crafted pieces and the owner approached me and said ‘Bonjour’ that I thought ‘She is speaking French to me!’ She was wearing a bright coloured Djellaba and I assumed ( Ass u me – springs to mind!) she would speak to me in Arabic. I managed to muster up some broken French and got myself a bargain.
You can get pastries from carts on the streets, croque monsieur on the menus of restaurants and snails in the markets. Snails are a very popular local delicacy in Marrakech and lots of stalls dedicated to selling them freshly cooked are based in the Jama Fna square every day. C’est bon.
3. The storks and their giant nests.
I had no idea about the nesting habits of storks in Marrakech. The first time I saw a nest on the Palace walls I thought it was a joke, a man-made nest for tourists to photograph. Turns out they are real. And they are massive. They only nest on the El Badi Palace walls. How funny is that? At night, I recommend climbing up to the roof terrace of one of the bars surrounding the palace walls and you will get an enchanting view of many storks across the walls on different levels. It’s like a Mary Poppins Chimney land for Storks!
4. Moroccan wine tastes good.
Alcohol in Morocco is expensive to buy and not easy to find. Despite a huge growth in Tourism in the city of Marrakech, alcohol is still difficult to find inside the Medina walls. We ended up in expensive restaurants and bars and one night paid over 8 English pounds for a Baileys. Hey ho, we were there for a special occasion. I’ve since found out there are some shops, somewhere in the Medina, that do sell wine. And the wine tastes good. I tried White, Rose and Red and all were delicious. My friends particularly enjoyed some of the local Red wine called ‘Medallion.’
5. Marrakech cast its spell – like a Harry Potter film
Marrakech is different, it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. Being in the souks I imagine is like being on ‘Diagon Alley ‘ in a Harry Potter movie but with colour and spice and all things nice…as opposed to owls and magic wands. I get the feeling the same sense of wonder (or wander) would exist within the senses of any new arrival in this city.
Inside the Medina walls , in the middle of a souk, you could be anywhere back in time and it certainly feels magical. The small alleys, the sunlight bursting through the wicker makeshift roofs which creates strange shadows, the cobbles streets, the people who know where they are going and want to get there fast, the goods for sale presented outside to entice you in and the antique style of some shops, buried deep within the souks with so much dust on the windows you can barely see in.
You will roam past leather goods galore, hand painted pottery, exquisite wood carvings and mismatched furniture lining the walls of the labyrinth. The local people wear the traditional pointed hooded, wizardly looking coats called Djellaba ( the hood is called a cob) all these together just added to the mystic of this diverse city.
Have you been to Marrakech? Anything surprised you?