07 November 2011

Marrakesh: Burn, Baby, Burn

Today was Eid and, for a few hours at least, Marrakesh's tempo slowed down to a moderato pace. For the past few days we had seen sheep being carried around on motorbikes and today, all that remained were their heads being barbecued on street corners in the medina.

As we weren't sure what would be open in the medina, we visited the Jardin Majorelle in the Nouvelle Ville, a gorgeous art deco garden bequeathed to Marrakesh by Yves Saint Laurent, consisting mainly of cobalt blue and lemon yellow plant bots and bad-ass cacti. Much of the rest of the Nouvelle Ville was pretty dead but we stopped for lunch at the Place du 16 Novembre—carrot and argan oil soup, melon juice and a macaroon. Oh, and impressively slow service.

Back in the medina, things were perking up a bit and after a spot of sunbathing on the rooftop terrace of our riad, we headed down to the Djemaa El-Fna, which was spectacular at night, even on a "quiet" holiday night, with dozens of food stalls and the usual fun, games and entertainment. We wanted to eat somewhere where lots of locals were eating but as this mainly seemed to involved the stall selling the aforementioned barbecued sheep heads, we stuck to one of the more boring options. As one of the touts pointed out, the stalls are effectively identical—same price, same menu—so the touts have to be as memorable or funny as possible. We were invited to "come and have a butcher's" and "come and have a gander," while being promised five Michelin stars and air conditioning (it was a cool night anyway so naturally, we didn't let the latter away us). 30 dirhams or about £2.50 bought me half a roast chicken with couscous and vegetables, a large chunk of flat bread and some olives—a bargain, which also gave a great view of the circus going on around us.

We did try one other stall though—one that seemed to attract locals too. There was a giant urn that appeared to be serving some kind of tea, a list of spices in French and Arabic (cinnamon, ginger and cardamom, for example) and a large cake thing that seemed to be made of muscovado sugar. We ordered the cinnamon option and our tea tasted of cinnamon but I don't know whether there was in fact a ginger option. The cake was OK too although by that point my mouth had had enough spices.

I think finally, we might be starting to get the hang of the madness that is Marrakesh, although perhaps I am speaking too soon...

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