Sunday, 19 November 2017

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKESH DAY 1

Hi everyone,

Last week I shared with our stay in Casablanca (you can read it here, if you missed it).  Today I would like to tell you about our visit to Marrakesh.

The first thing that we noticed as we got into the car at the airport, is the total domination of red.  Each structure that we passed, whether it was a building or a wall was either built with red bricks or rendered in red.  It was in total contrast with Casablanca which is all white, hence the name.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
We chose to stay in a small luxury boutique hotel called AL Fassia Aguedal "renowned nationally and internationally for its hospitality and service as well as for exquisite refined Moroccan restaurants offering the finest Moroccan cuisine".
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Its name came up in the search with excellent reviews and a high rating and when we checked the website and scrolled through the images, we liked it even more.

The one distinctive feature of  this is that it is owned and run by two sisters, a rare phenomenon in the male dominated society that is the Middle East. We mostly dealt with Myra, the hotel owner and manager, who together with her well trained and friendly team went out of their way to make our stay most enjoyable.

We loved this place the moment we stepped through the thick heavy front doors and found ourselves in the beautifully appointed reception area where we were offered cold towels and refreshments.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Its style and architecture reflects the principles of  a riad with the traditional indoor square shaped roofless garden with a splashing fountain in its centre that gives the whole place a sense of tranquillity and peace and provides a most desired respite from the heat.  The rooms are situated along the perimeter of the garden, ours was on the second floor overlooking the Moorish shaped pool filled with emerald green water and the city behind the thick red walls of the compound.  The suite was absolutely lovely, big and comfortable, with a thick carpet over the tiled floor and big cushions scattered everywhere should anyone choose to take a rest on the carpet.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Breakfast was served around the pool and with in accordance with local taste included items such as home baked traditional bread, pancakes drizzled with local honey and yogurt, delicious house made orange and carrot jam, eggs baked in spiced tomato sauce (later on I would like to share with you my take on this dish), all washed down with freshly brewed mint tea.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Our first point of interest was, naturally, was to visit the souks, of which I had seen and heard a lot and I have been fascinated by them for years.  After a short ride, a taxi dropped us at the front gates of the Medina (old city) and we found found ourselves in the middle of the busy big square called Jemaa el Fna that for centuries has been the cultural symbol of Marrakesh and a showcase of traditional Morocco and has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
It is a hub and the heart of all activity of the Medina.  A large market is held here every morning where stallholders are selling medical plants, freshly squeezed orange juice as well as all kinds of nuts and confectionery.  Whatever free space is left, is occupied by snake charmers, dancing monkeys, donkeys tied to the poles patiently waiting for their owners to return and hundreds of people, tourists and locals alike.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
At sunset the square becomes a gigantic, multifaceted open-air show.  It is a perfect place to watch the sunset from one of the many cafes surrounding the square and people from all walks of life are drawn to the square to watch the street performers, dancers, musicians, story tellers and showmen.  The air is filled with the aroma of grilled meet, fish and spices and for those with the exotic taste, cooked snails.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Behind this throbbing activity lie the souks.  They are arranged according to the type of goods on offer:  fabrics, brass goods, leather goods including babouche slippers, Berber carpets, jewellery, clay tagines, ceramics and much much more, some of them looking like an Aladdin's Cave.  The store owners are men only, dressed in djellabas (long hooded robes).  The street of the souks are narrow and wind and go on for miles.  You can spend days wandering up and down them not knowing what wonder is awaiting for you around the corner.

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1 

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
We emerged back to the square many hours later toying with the idea of staying there till the sunset but in the end, totally exhausted and a little bit overwhelmed we decided to save it for another day and we caught a taxi back to the hotel where we had booked our dinner at the hugely popular restaurant called Al Fassia Aguedal.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
When, refreshed, we came down to the restaurant, the hostess escorted to us to the rose garden where the tables were laid under the dark blue skies and the waitress handed us leather-bound menu offering the wide array of traditional Moroccan and North-African dishes and local wines.

After dinner we said goodnight to our host and retired to our quarters as the next day we had an early start but that is the story for another post.

As promised earlier, here is my version on how to cook the eggs in the spicy tomato sauce.  This dish has many incarnations, in the West it is called Eggs in Purgatory, while in the Middle East it is know as Eggs Shakshuka.  You can find this recipe and many others in MY COSMOPOLITAN KITCHEN recipe book.

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN MARRAKECH DAY 1
Enjoy!!!

Linking up with Glass of Glam






Monday, 13 November 2017

MOROCCO - WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN CASABLANCA

Hello everyone,

It has been over two weeks since we came back from our five weeks of travelling around the world, eating, drinking and having a good time.  If you followed my Instagram posts, you would know that we literally did a round the world trip, starting in Morocco, then Italy, Cuba, South America and then back across the ocean to New Zealand and finally home to Australia.

Anyhow, I am over it now and ready to tell you all about our holidays, starting with Morocco.

Our first stop was in Casablanca.  We took the advice of our friends who have been to this city before not to spend more then two days and that is what we planned.  We landed at the airport in the middle of the night and went straight to our small boutique hotel, Hotel and Spa Le Doge, situated within walking distance of the Old Medina.
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
It was furnished and styled in a true Art-Deco fashion with plush sofas and curtains, beautiful stained glass windows, a spiral staircase covered in red velvet and brightly painted rooms, each was decorated in its own distinctive style and was given a name.  Ours was painted emerald green and called La Tempica.

A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
Breakfast was served on a terrace on the top of the building which provided a sweeping view over Casablanca.  After breakfast, we set out on foot to visit the Old Medina (traditionally the old walled part of a North African town), one of the "must see" places in Casablanca.
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA

A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
As we entered the main square of the Medina through one of the multiple entrances, it felt that as if we had stepped into the  world of 1001 Arabian nights. We were deafened by the noises coming from the donkeys tied up to the posts everywhere, shop-keepers selling their wares, loud sounds of motorbike horns coming from the riders dashing up and down along the narrow and winding paths on full throttle and above all these noises, the overpowering voice calling believers to prayers coming from the mosque's loudspeakers which can be heard all over the city.
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
The next few hours we spent zigzagging up and down narrow streets looking at the historical and monumental buildings, watching women choosing their fruit and vegetables spread in abundance on the tables of the market holders, smelling the exotic spices and sampling the dried figs  and apricots, marinated olives and locally baked bread.
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA

A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA


A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
" 
IF YOU ASK ME WHAT WAS THE MAIN REASON 
WE CAME TO MOROCCO, I WOULD SAY ITS FOOD
"
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
By lunch time our senses went into complete overload and we decided to leave the Medina and have lunch at the famous Rick's Cafe,  designed to recreate the bar where Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman met in the movie classic, Casablanca.  
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA

A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
The lunch gave us much needed energy to continue our explorations so we set our feet to the other landmark that is a "must see" while in Casablanca, Hassan II Mosque.  It is the largest mosque in Morocco and 13th largest in the world, its beautifully ornate minaret stands tall to 210 meters and the tallest in the world.  Its other distinctive feature, though totally unrelated to the religion, is that it is one of not many mosques in the world that opens its doors for non-Muslim visitors, however you are not allowed to wander inside on your own so we joined the English speaking guided tour that which takes place few times a day.
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA

A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA

A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA


A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA

A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
The following day we took a cab to the Quartie Habous, a small village lined with shops and eateries, where French influence is blended with the traditional Moroccan way of life projected in the architecture and design of this area.
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA

A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA

A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA

After strolling through the artisan markets of the Quartie, we stopped at lunch in one of the well known restaurants called Resto Zayna for a delectable Moroccan lunch.
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
followed by the sublime pastries that we bought at Pattiserie Bennis Habous.  I really have a sweet tooth for good pastry and when I first walked in into this sweet heaven, I was mesmerised by the aromas coming from the shelves covered with trays and trays of pastries that literally had just come out of the oven in front of our eyes.  I wanted them all, luckily for me I just had my lunch and wasn't feeling very hungry, so instead I settled for a small box of samples.  Needless to say, they were divine.
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA


A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA


A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
As we were leaving Casablanca the next day, we decided to have an early night and had dinner at the La Jasmine restaurant at out hotel.  We started with a mezze, a collection of small dishes that tantalise your taste buds and enhance your appetite, followed by traditionally cooked meat dish and a trio of refreshing ice-cream to share.
A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA


A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA


A TRIP TO MOROCCO - PART 1 CASABLANCA
If you ask me what was the main reason to come to Morocco, I would say my love for Middle Eastern food.  I love the smell of spices, the vibrancy of colours and most importantly, the spices and the taste of the dishes of this region and quite often cook them myself to the delight of my family and friends.

On this note, I would like to share with you a recipe Moroccan Lamb Stew.  This dish is full of the exotic flavours of the Moroccan souks that will fill your kitchen with wonderful aromas and put happy smiles on the faces of your fellow diners. 
MOROCCAN LAMB STEW
You can find this recipe and many more in MY COSMOPOLITAN KITCHEN, a collection of dishes from all over the world, inspired by my travels, experiences and the multicultural diversity of Australian food and which, with great delight, I would love to share with you.

Enjoy!!!

Anna


Linking up withe Shelbee on the Edge