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Morocco was the first Muslim country that Dee and I visited and it was very interesting. Fortunately, our arrival was preceded by the Romans and the French who had the good sense to plant grapes and develop an interesting cuisine.
After a long day’s travel and a restless first night’s sleep we were awakened in the pre-dawn by strange sounds. It turned out to be the day’s first of five daily calls to prayer.
Shopping: Everywhere you go in Marrakech there are shops, boutiques, stores and galleries to tempt your indulgence.
Transportation: What you need to know is here (http://goafrica.about.com)
Business Information: Marrakech is open for your Business! Check out (http://goafrica.about.com)
US Embassy: (http://morocco.usembassy.gov/) – Embassy telephone number: The American Citizen Services office can be reached at (212) 522-26-71-51. This office is open from Monday through Friday 8 am until 5 pm. Their fax number is (212) 522-29-77-01. If you have an after-hours emergency, please call (212) 661-13-19-39.
Exchange Rates (http://www.x-rates.com/)
Day One: We suggest starting your visit at Jemaa el Fna – the center of Marrakech
This is the main square of Marrakech, used by locals and tourists. During the day it is predominantly occupied by orange juice stalls (see breakfast on Day 3), water sellers in colorful costumes with traditional leather water-bags and brass cups, and snake charmers.
As the day progresses the entertainment changes: the snake charmers depart, and late in the day the square becomes more crowded, with magicians and peddlers of traditional medicines. As darkness falls the square fills with dozens of food-stalls.
The square is edged along one side by the Marrakech souk, a traditional North African market catering to the needs of the locals and to the tourist trade. On other sides are hotels, gardens and cafe terraces.
After this introduction let’s visit the Koutoubya Mosque - The mosque is located west of the Jemaa El Fna situated on the Avenue Mohammed V, opposite Place de Foucauld.
Koutoubia Mosque’s minaret tower is a landmark of Marrakech. The Koutoubia Mosque, or Bookseller’s Mosque, reflects the bookselling trade practiced in the nearby souk. At one time as many as 100 book vendors worked in the streets at the base of the mosque.
Time for lunch at L’Annexe - 14 Rue Moulay ALI | Gueliz, 5 24 43 40 10
Start with the Provencal fish soup or the grilled foie gras with chutney and toast points.
For your main try either the grilled shrimp in a butter sauce or duck confit with a green salad and sautéed potatoes.
The wine for this meal is the S de Siroua Chardonnay. Dessert is crème brulee.
Another interesting place to see is The Saadian Tombs - Rue de La Kasbah, 212 37674013
The building is composed of three rooms. The most famous is the room with the twelve columns. This room contains the grave of the son of the sultan’s son, Ahmad al-Mansur.
The stele is in finely worked cedar and stucco work. The monuments are made of Italian carrara marble.
Dinner is at Dar Yacout – D: Tu-Su, 79, derb Sidi Ahmed Soussi, Bab DoukkalaMarrakech, 44 38 29 29
At Dar Yacout the decor and atmosphere is astounding. Start with the “Mezze” of Moroccan salads, olives & breads.
Then don’t miss the “melt in your mouth” chicken tagine or the roasted lamb with couscous and finally the Moroccan patisseries.
Your wine choice might be the Alain Graillot Syrah Syrocco.
Day Two: Breakfast is at Cafe Du Livre - B,L,D: M-Sa, 44 Rue Tarik Ben Ziad, 212 5 24 43 21 49
You can start with papayas and grapefruits or the thick, tart house yogurt with your mint tea while opening up your free wifi. Plenty of reading material is available.
After breakfast this morning’s first stop is the Bahia Palace – 5 Derb el Arsa Riad Zitoun Jdid, 5 Rue Riad Zitoun el Jdid, 212 5243-89615
The Bahia Palace was built in the late 19th century, intended to be the greatest palace of its time.
As Abu Ahmed rose to power and wealth towards the end of the 19th century, he had the Bahia Palace built by bringing in craftsmen from Fez. The structures tell a lot about the taste of the nouveau-riche of its time.
Your next stop is the Tiskiwin Craft Collection of Bert Flint – Daily: 10-12:30 and 3:30 -6, 8 rue de la Bahia, Riads Zitoun,
Maison Tiskiwin is housed in a beautifully restored riad tucked between the Bahia and Dar Si Said Palaces. It showcases a quirky array of North African arts and crafts that chronicle the region’s vibrant cultural history.
It is organized into geographically themed exhibitions with each room of artifacts marking out a different spot along the ancient Saharan trade route from Marrakech to Timbuktu.
Lunch is at Terrace des Epices – L & D: Daily, 15 Souk Cherifia, Sidi Abdelaziz, Medina, 212 2437 5904
At Terrace des Epices you can enjoy cool music and a great view. Specialties include salads, sandwiches and daily tajines.
Enjoy them with a bottle of El Mogador Gris.
Time for a leisurely walk through The Majorelle Garden - Rue Yves Saint Laurent, 212 5243-13047
For dinner our cousin suggests La Maison Arabe – D: Daily, 1, Derb Assehbé, Bab Doukkala,; 011-212-5-24-38-70-10
You can begin with an assortment of Moroccan salads and briouates (Moroccan pastry) stuffed with chicken or fish.
Then try the lamb shanks with pears and a tomato confit accompanied by apricot and almond-filled phyllo pastry or the chicken couscous with tfaya (caramelized onions and raisins), egg and almonds.
We like the Sanguis Postcard Proprietary White Blend with this menu. For dessert don’t pass up the crepes flambé with Cointreau, orange confit and mandarin orange reduction.
Day Three: Breakfast is your choice at one of the cafes on the Jemaa el Fna.
Restaurants and cafés in Jemaa el Fna main square have a wide choice of breakfast menus.
These menus start with tea or coffee, orange juice, bread and Moroccan pastry filled with chocolate called petit-pan or you can get a larger breakfast with eggs.
Another option is to eat msemen – a Moroccan type of pancakes that you can ask to add cheese, honey or butter.
Time for a visit to the El Badi Palace - Ksibet Nhas,
It also has a small, underground, tunnel-like jail with about four cells where the king kept his prisoners.
The palace, which took approximately 25 years to construct, was torn apart in the seventeenth century by the Alaouite Sultan Moulay Ismail who used the material obtained from El Badi Palace to decorate his own palace in Meknes.
Another fascinating place to see is Ben Youssef - Kaat Benahid,
The Ben Youssef Madrasa was an Islamic college, named after the Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106–1142), who expanded the city and its influence considerably. It is the largest Medrasa in all of Morocco.
Its 130 student dormitory cells cluster around a courtyard richly carved in cedar, marble and stucco. The carvings contain no representation of humans or animals, as required by Islam, and consist entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns.
This madrasa was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and may have housed as many as 900 students.
Today’s main meal is at Pepe Nero – B,L,D: Daily, 17, derb Cherkaoui, | Rue Douar Graoua,. 0524389067
Should we dine on the Moroccan menu or the Italian? For starters, is it the Moroccan pigeon pie or the tuna carpaccio?
For your main, is it the house made tagliatelle with bolognese sauce or the chicken tajine with saffron?
And for dessert the choices are the crispy Moroccan layered pastry laced with creamy vanilla cream and crunchy almonds or the chocolate pudding?
The wine choice is it the Guerrouane ” Les Trois Domaines” or the Montepulciano d’abruzzo?
If you are lucky enough to be in Marrakech for a longer period of time, additional dining choices that we enjoyed include:
Gastro MK at Maison MK – D: Th-Tu, 14 Derb Lafkih Sbaai | Quartier Ksour, 524 37 61 73
Our cousin suggests an early start to have canapés on the terrace with a glass of Veuve Clicquot.
For your first course try the chicken pastilla with almonds and a lettuce salad with quail egg, pumpkin puree in an apricot sauce.
For your entrée we suggest the duck leg confit with potato sarladaise, dried fruit chutney, carrot crisp napped in a foie gras sauce or the pan fried filet of sea bass filet with five berries, and a mushroom and vegetable risotto plus a celeriac purée.
For dessert it’s the carrot and mint granita with dacquoise cake and pear lassi with cinnamon. The ’09 Cote de Provence rosé would go well with these choices.
Riad Kniza Restaurant – B,L,D: Daily, 34 Derb L’Hotel | Bab Doukala Medina, 5 24 37 69 42
Go with the filo pastry filled with chicken, beef or shrimps. Then have the lamb tajine with figs, prunes and walnuts or the chicken tajine with lemon and olives.
Dessert would be Moroccan pastries.
Until next time, best wishes and safe travels,
Dick & Dee Welge
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