Marrakesh markets a feast for senses

(QMI Agency)

(QMI Agency)

JOE BELANGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

It’s a city of colours, of scents and sounds that conjures images of busy markets, snake charmers and music.

Marrakesh, Morocco, a city steeped in history and culture, is also known as the Ochre or Red City, so-called because of the red sandstone used to build its walls and buildings within them in the 12th Century.

There are palaces, museums, historic mosques and, of course, the markets.

“It was a nice city, pretty clean,” said Ken Fear-Firman who spent three days there with pal Peter Boulton, as well as time in Casablanca, the industrial and business centre of the country.

Marrakesh is considered the cultural centre of Morocco and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa, its narrow streets and alleyways bustling with turbaned hawkers and snake charmers, musicians and artists.

It features the largest traditional Berber market, or souk, and 18 other souks where you can buy anything from traditional Berber carpets to modern electronics, dried foods, spices, craft jewelry, baskets, rugs and blankets, traditional clothing and accessories, especially leather goods.

“When you enter the markets, you’ve got all the stalls, entertainers such as the snake charmers, people with monkeys and others doing acrobatics, you can smell the tajines cook, the smell like a curry,” Fear-Firman said.

“The music is everywhere and it’s typical Middle Eastern, or Arab.

“And when you’re standing in the market you can look across to the big mosque and it’s quite an impressive building.”

They also visited the Majorelle Garden, a 12-acre botanical garden.

“It was extremely impressive with palm trees and cactus and flowers and ponds with fish and turtles,” Fear-Firman said.

“It was like walking through a lush jungle.”

Morocco is renown for its cuisine with the varied influences from Europe, the Middle East and parts of Africa, flavoured with spices such as a saffron, mint, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, anise seed, sesame seeds and coriander and ingredients that include nuts, fruits and vegetables and meats such as beef, lamb, chicken, camel and rabbit.

And, of course, the main dishes are usually served with couscous.

Fear-Firman said he enjoyed the food, such as lamb and chicken often cooked in the traditional Berber earthenware called a tajine, where all ingredients are cooked together on a plate with a conical-shaped lid.

The bread was also good, he said, “but the next day if you hit someone with it you’d kill them.”

“It was nice being in the city to experience it, but that wasn’t what I was in Morocco for. I wouldn’t want to go to Marrakesh (or Casablanca) for a holiday, but the cities do give you a break.”

joe.belanger@sunmedia.ca


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