Today was mostly a travel day, but the very best part was that we ended up in Africa! We dropped our beloved rental car off and flew yet another low-cost airline, Transavia, from Munich to Marrakech, Morocco. We arrived a quick three hours later in the mid-afternoon to experience the full blast of Moroccan mid-summer heat. Our driver took us straight to our riad, Riad Rose du Desert. A riad is a traditional Moroccan lodging with an open courtyard and a handful (in our case, five) rooms arranged around it. We were greeted by warm, kind people and delicious cups of hot mint tea, a Moroccan specialty. After unpacking, we rested for a few more hours to let the heat abate before going out to explore.
The main square - and the heart of the city - is the Jemaa el-Fnaa, and it's conveniently an easy ten minute walk from our riad. We've never seen anything like it, and suspect there's nothing else quite like it in the world. It's sensory overload at its most spectacular, packed with food stalls, performers, and people selling everything from jewelry to lanterns to rugs to spices to chameleons. All the while, people are shouting at you from every direction to get your attention in hopes of making a sale. And the square is HUGE, so if you wander near the middle, good luck finding refuge any time soon. There's so much to see, hear, and smell, it's hard to decide which way to turn next. We can't get enough!
This photo doesn't come close to capturing the place, but it was the only sort of out of the way area where we could utilize our selfie stick.
We did buy one item, loose cotton pants for Sarah. She knew this was a must-have in the scorching Morocco heat, so we kept our eyes open. After reviewing a few stores, she found a delightful pair of pants printed with pink elephants. The shopkeeper quoted 220 dirhams, or about 22 dollars. That's when Hirsh got to work, countering with an opening bid of 50 dirhams (or more than 75% off the quoted price). After much gesturing, forceful exchanges in English, French, and possibly Arabic, and several episodes of walking away, they agreed on 75 dirhams, plus 10 dirhams more for on the spot alterations. The impressed/frustrated shopkeeper even asked Hirsh if he was a Berber, a Moroccan nomad known for their haggling skills; Hirsh obviously took this as a compliment.
After that shopping win, we wandered the vast maze of merchant stalls surrounding the square, and we definitely got very lost.
By sheer luck, we came upon a restaurant we had read about and had come highly recommended in online travel guides, Nomad. We had a very memorable dinner on their upper terrace once the weather had reached a cool 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Compliments on a great location, charming decor, and friendly service.
As it was our first night in Morocco, we couldn't wait to dive into the local cuisine. Tagines for everyone! Sarah had chicken and lemon rice tagine, while Hirsh had lamb and couscous tagine. Delish!
Then it was back to our riad to rest up for an early morning drive into the desert.