This post will help you come along (in spirit) for my first visit to Marrakech. In fact, she's even included a recipe so you can get an idea of the flavors of Morocco, too!
So excited! Thanks for the great post, Amanda! :D
Katrina's been posting lately about her upcoming trip to Morocco and I am sure each and everyone of us wishes she would stuff us into her tiny little carry on bag! Sadly I think there won't be enough space but that doesn't mean we each can't have a little piece of Morocco wherever we find ourselves. Let's go on a virtual tour! I'll be your tour guide to Marrakech – get on your walking shoes, slather on some sunscreen for the hot southern Morocco sun and don't forget your dirhams for some shopping!
It's 7am and time to wake up to the birds chirping outside in the courtyard of our riad. Perhaps you heard the muzzein call early this morning from one of the hundreds of mosques of Marrakech? While some may see it as a nuisance you will miss it once you've left this magical city. Walk through the doors for a Moroccan breakfast of hearty round bread, fresh fruit, and perhaps some beghrir or msemmen typical Moroccan breakfast breads dripping with honey and butter. Don't forget some hot mint tea.
This photo of Dar Pangal is courtesy of TripAdvisor (note I have stayed here, this is a great choice in riads and the owner speaks English!)
Hurry up now we've got lots to see! As you leave the riad, we will wind our way through the kasbah. This mainly residential area of Marrakech was once home to many employees of the kings' palace (conveniently located across the street). It is a very large area now dotted with riads. As we walk you'll notice many of the mundane aspects of everyday life; the produce markets that pop up in small squares, the barber shops, meat markets and corner bakeries. We have come to the entry of the kasbah and will take our first stop to visit the Saadian Tombs.
This site was uncovered in 1917 after having been sealed for hundreds of years. The earliest known burial dates to 1557 but very likely contains remains that are much older. It was a burial site for prominent citizens and even kings. You can read more at Sacred Destinations.
A bit further down the road we find ourselves in Djem al Fna – the square of Marrakech – and arguably much better at night than during the day when there's really not much going on! On the left is the impressive Khotubia mosque dating from 1150 and the oldest of the three Almohad mosques remaining in the world.
Finally we find ourselves in the medina, a UNESCO world heritage site and worthy of several days of visiting. Each area of the medina souqs (markets) focus on a different trade/craft such as metalworks, dyer's souq, modern clothing market, glassware, spices, pastries, food products, traditional medicinal pharmacies, woodworking etc. etc. etc. Take your time, savor the different options available and you must bargain with the shopkeepers. For those unfamiliar with this concept, offer half of what the shopkeeper states as his price, this gives you some leg room. Never let on that you "love" an item or you're snookered! The more interest you show the higher your price will go! Enjoy yourselves and we'll have some lunch…
A Marrakech specialty: Tangia Marrakechia is on the menu along with several first course salads. This tangia is slow cooked over low coals in a special vessel. However it can be replicated at home using a pressure cooker. Salad suggestions: Charred Green Pepper and Preserved Lemon Salad Potato and Olive Salad Taktouka – Green Pepper and Tomato Salad
Ingredients for Tangia
- 2 lbs. lamb
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp garlic crushed
- a small bunch (5 stalks) Italian parsley chopped
- a small bunch (5 stalks) cilantro chopped
- 2 tsp
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 pinch of saffron threads crushed
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp ginger
- 3/4 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 preserved lemon rind, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1-2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon smen, optional
In pressure cooker, add the olive oil, onions and garlic and saute on medium heat until onion becomes translucent. Wash and trim lamb of all excess fat and add to the pressure cooker. Add all of the spices and mix around all of the ingredients so that the meat is covered with all of the spices.
Next add the preserved lemon, smen and water. Just enough water should be added to barely cover the meat. Cover the pressure cooker and cook on medium high heat for 45 minute s- 1 hour. Vent the steam and check to see if the meat is tender. It should be falling apart with a thick sauce reserved. If the meat is falling apart but there is a lot of liquid left continue boiling down the liquid. When finished turn out onto a plate and eat with crusty round bread or French baguettes.
Now I have to leave you friends, but since you'll be here a bit longer make sure you visit these sites too:
Berber Cultural Center (this is a few hours from Marrakech)
Gueliz (for upscale boutiques and McDonald's if you're so inclined)