Getting Weird in Marrakech

Sites, sounds, textures, lights, and tastes of Marrakech!

Marrakech or Marrakesh, known as the "Ochre city", is the most important former imperial city in Morocco's history. The city of Marrakech is the capital of the mid-southwestern economic region of Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz, near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, being also the fourth largest city in Morocco.

Like many Moroccan cities, the city of Marrakech comprises both an old fortified city (the médina) and modern neighborhoods, the most prominent of which is Gueliz, for a total population of 794,620 and 1,063,415 in the metropolitan area. It is served by Ménara International Airport (IATA code: RAK) and a rail link to Casablanca and the north.

Marrakech has the largest traditional market (souk) in Morocco and also has one of the busiest squares in Africa and the world, Djemaa el Fna. The square bustles with acrobats, story-tellers, snake charmers, water sellers, dancers and musicians (who all want your money). By night food stalls open in the square turning it into a huge busy open-air restaurant. (Thanks Wikipedia!!)

My day in Marrakech started out around lunch time. I was lucky enough to experience the city with 3 cool people I met while staying at Surf Maroc (Julie, B, and Matt). This group definitely made the journey much more enjoyable. It was about a 3 hour bus ride from Taghazout to Marrakech... and the road was in surprisingly great condition.

Upon arriving in the city (and ditching a larger tour group), we immediately headed to a cafe in the souks. After eating lunch, I was on a mission to buy a leather messenger bag. Morocco has an incredible history in leather... being the first country to start working with it. As we were wandering around the market, we met someone that knew of a leather tannery and volunteered to take us there. After a bit of discussion, we decided to follow the strange man... and ended up in a tannery that was founded in the 11th century (amazing!). I have been to many tanneries in Asia (since I work with shoes), but this one was unlike any I had ever seen (or smelled). It was like going back in time. Everything was done naturally or by hand. For example, if you wanted to dye a material brown, you used sawdust... and if you wanted to dye a material blue, you used saffron. Pretty rad. After the tannery tour, we went to a shop that carried finished leather products... and I ended up purchasing an awesome messenger bag made out of camel hide (should last forever).

After the exciting tannery tour, we wandered around the souks a bit more. It's incredibly easy to get lost inside the maze. The best thing to do (if you get lost) is to go into a shop, buy something, and then ask for directions to get out (if you don't buy something or ask someone on the street for directions, they will lead you deeper into the maze and make sure you get more lost). It's literally like trying to walk around in a blizzard... you'll just keep going in circles. What I found interesting, is that the shopkeepers will actually kick you out of their store (and cuss at you) if you ask for too low of a price... or don't bargain correctly. I think one person in our group actually got kicked in the leg. Nonetheless, the haggling and bargaining is all part of the experience!

Eventually, we made our way back to the main square... which really comes to life at night. The center area turns into an giant outdoor food court and there were performers/merchants surrounding it. It's an incredible site. Unfortunately, we didn't have a lot of time to hang out in the evening (should have spent the night), but I was glad to see and experience all of the craziness.

Recommend visiting Marrakech at least once in your life!

The square at night.

The outdoor food court starting to come to life. Yes, there is meat hanging from the ceiling of those tents.

Motorbikes, cars, horses, camels, and people speed past.

Really good apricots and almonds at the food stands.

The tea kettles and tea pots were pretty incredible (should have bought one). The details molded into the sides were very intricate and unique. Everything was handcrafted in the city. Someone I was with bought something in this shop... so I was allowed to take a photo (if you don't buy anything, you can't take photos... or you run the risk of being kicked)

Delicious dried fruits!

The mosque in Marrakech. There are loud speakers at the top of the tower that call out the daily prayer 5 times a day. There is also a pole on the top that points to Mecca. 

Getting inside the streets and alleyways (this was actually a wider section). I saw everything from motorbikes to cars to horse and carriages to donkeys to bicycles speeding through the narrow corridors. Yes, judging by the crumbling brick, this is a rather ancient city.

Narrow corridor.

One pretty awesome thing about Morocco is that there were delicious/small oranges growing everywhere.

Right after I took this guy's photo, I kind of wish I hadn't... not good to upset a guy with a large knife.

Inside a leather tannery that was founded in the 11th century. They process everything from goat to camel. It's incredible to know that not much has changed in the 1000 years they've been manufacturing leather products. We were given a guided tour around the outside of this structure.

Not a place to go if you're vegetarian.

This was the first place leather would go after it had been cut from a goat or camel. They actually soak the hide in "pigeon poo"... which acts as a natural ammonia and cleanses it. However, as you can imagine, it doesn't smell very good. They actually gave us mint leaves to hold to our noises. 

The details and colors of the lanterns were really cool.

Inside a Riad in Marrakech.

All of these intricate details on the stone were carved by hand... very cool.

Pretty sweet door handle and textures.

Hope you enjoyed the photos! I know that my photos aren't the best representation of Marrakech (can't smell, taste, or hear them)... but hope I was able to give you a glimpse into the city. 

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