Even though I love peace and quiet (with a coffee in one hand and a good book in the other), I have also always thrived off the hustle and bustle of city life where the atmosphere is alive and the energy overwhelming (more on that here). The Medina in Marrakech was like a microcosm of everything you associate with the Middle East; the boundless life and energy of the persuasive (borderline pesky but not quite) street sellers, the vivid colours of the fabrics and leather, the rich aroma of the spices and the regular prayer calls providing the soundtrack to each visit made it a party for the senses.
The ‘Medina’ refers to the main square which is lined with horse-drawn carriages and stalls selling fresh orange juice (never again will I see so many oranges in one place) and is home to traditional evening entertainment which includes snake dancing (where either a flute or music playing arouses the snake out of its curled-up slumber so that it stands tall and sways a bit – more terrifying than it sounds), roaming monkeys and the opportunity to have a spontaneous tattoo by a very friendly but an absolutely in-no-way-qualified local woman. And at the same time as trying to absorb all of these absurd sites, you’re also dodging crowds of local young men clad in leather jackets and dark, mysterious sunglasses who, if you stand still for more than 10 seconds, take it as a sign that you want to be surrounded and whisked off to some unknown alleyway (they’re usually only trying to get you to visit their shop but it’s intimidating and also extremely uncomfortable). And the people – the swarms of people that seem to appear out of nowhere at the fall of dusk. Like bees around a honeypot. The truth is, when night draws in, it’s like a real-life Mad Hatter’s tea party.
The Medina is also the centre of the maze. Narrow alleyways and cobbled paths branch off it and give way to the souks: streets and streets of rainbow coloured fabrics, leather slippers, silverware and assorted jewellery. The shops are tiny and packed together so tightly that it’s hard to peer into one without offending its neighbour. The owners sit around outside, eyeing up potential customers and guarding their turf. Your eyes dart in every direction, trying to drink it all in but also to stay on high alert; it was not a particularly touristy area and the locals are quick to identify foreigners – looking you up and down and asking for at least 3 times the amount of money that their product is worth (tip: learn to haggle!). It’s also very important to watch out for motorbikes, they seemed to be a popular method of transport and one of which the drivers have no care for whether you move out of the way or not.
Despite loving exploring the souks, to say it was overwhelming would potentially be an understatement. For this reason, Mum and I ducked off one of the streets into an alleyway that was home to the Earth Cafe (I’d read positive reviews on TripAdvisor beforehand) which to a vegetarian, is an extremely exciting place to feast. However, once inside, we quickly decided that it was best to only enjoy a drink there. I hate myself for sounding so snobby (I really, really do) but neither myself or my Mum would have been comfortable eating somewhere that, to put it bluntly, needed a damn good scrub and a half. But I enjoyed a delicious fresh juice of beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger that seemed to detoxify me from the inside out and I mean it when I say I’d go back, just for that! We then headed back to the main square and had dinner on a terrace restaurant, overlooking the Medina and drinking in the chaotic but somewhat beautiful scene below us.
Unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before, the animation of the Moroccan Medina is something I can’t and won’t forget. It was a truly fantastic experience but trust me when I say that you don’t need to go twice.
Love, Beth xo.