Marrakech souk

While we were in Marrakech, we went to a local souk. Souks are markets – sometimes permanent and sometimes weekly, depending on the souk. This souk wasn’t a tourist one where you could buy souvenir trinkets, but a souk that locals went to for various needs. Part of the souk is permanent and sells things like furniture. The other part of the souk was transient and reminded me of a flea market. You could buy anything including shoes, carpets, clothing… I even saw an old VCR player for sale!

Some of these photos are a little crooked because I was taking them with my camera hidden partially under a jacket draped over my arm. Taking photos in Morocco isn’t always easy as people tend to prefer not to have their photo taken, so unless we had specific permission from someone to take their photo I tended to take unobtrusive pictures instead. I could have straightened the photos on my computer, but I feel like the angles are part of my Moroccan experience and decided to leave them all in instead!

outside of the souk, by the medina walls

outside of the souk, by the medina walls

I cannot stop marvelling at the oranges in Morocco. I still dream of their sweet goodness.

orange seller

orange seller

Moroccans love sweets and pastries.

pastry seller

pastry seller

radishes and other unidentifyable vegetables

radishes and other unidentifyable vegetables

cookware shining in the sun

cookware shining in the sun

I think these were chestnuts but I can’t remember for sure.

nut seller

nut seller

permanent part of the souk

permanent part of the souk

I saw so many tagines during the trip and I dearly wanted to buy one but there was no way I would be able to haul one around for the rest of our trip and I was afraid that it wouldn’t survive a trip through the post office. They were so cheap, and they were all so very tempting.

tagines and doors

tagines and doors

The locals must have thought I was nuts for taking some of these photos. These are parts of an olive oil press. Some of the spiral posts were taller than I am!

olive oil press

olive oil press

How did people got all this stuff home? By cart or truck, if necessary.

delivery truck

delivery truck

 

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Riad Elizabeth, Marrakech

Goodbye London! After a cramped flight on a discount airline, we landed in Marrakech, Morocco. Our guide, Mark from Mad About Morocco, arranged for a driver to pick us up and deliver us to our first stop where we would spend the next two nights, the Riad Elizabeth.

Before I go on I should explain a couple of terms that you will see me use quite often in my Moroccan posts.

A medina is a section in North African cities that is sometimes referred to as “old town.” It is the oldest or older part of the city, and was built by the Arabs as a walled town with many narrow streets. The streets are so narrow that some, if not all, streets must be accessed on foot and by donkey. Cars usually cannot access these streets, and in some cases they also can be too narrow for carts, bicycles and motorcycles (not that this stops anyone from roaring their motorcycle down a narrow medina street). Medinas often are like mazes, with many twists and turns, and contain many places of historical interest like palaces, mosques and fountains. They usually have multiple gates, and sectioned off quarters. This is where all the tourists want to go, and where many Moroccans want to move out of, as the newer sections of the city are more modern and middle-class.

Marrakech medina, just outside of Riad Elizabeth

Marrakech medina, just outside of Riad Elizabeth

A riad is a traditional Moroccan home that has a central open-air courtyard and/or garden in the middle. The rooms of the house surround the courtyard, which is traditionally open to the outdoors, although many modern renovations now have retractable roofing to cover the opening. Many renovated riads now serve as hotels and restaurants.

Located in Marrakech’s medina, the Riad Elizabeth is unique in that it is relatively easily accessible by car (although you still have to walk for a minute or so).

Riad Elizabeth

Riad Elizabeth

One of the owners, an ex-pat Brit named John, greeted us and immediately sat us down for some lovely homemade cookies and mint tea. Hospitality is a very important part of Moroccan life; as soon as you enter someone’s home you are offered mint tea and some sort of snack.

cookies

cookies

Mint tea is a traditional drink in Morocco, and it is served in small glasses. It is made by brewing green tea (sometimes jasmine or gunpowder) and adding large amounts of fresh mint. And lots and lots of sugar. Moroccans love adding copious amounts of sugar into their tea.

tea set

tea set

In my small cup I added one sugar cube and it was plenty for me. John told us that Moroccans would probably have added 4 or more cubes of sugar.

my first taste of mint tea

my first taste of mint tea

The entire riad has been renovated, which made for a nice, easy transition into the culture and atmosphere of Morocco.

our room

our room

flower close up

flower close up

Wait, who's that in the mirror?

Wait, who's that in the mirror?

view of the courtyard from above

view of the courtyard from above

This riad can arrange for dinner, or can help you with taxis to restaurants. Every room comes complete with a full breakfast, served on the riad’s rooftop patio. Clockwise, starting at 12 o’clock, are toasted baguettes, Moroccan bread (named khobz and pronounced hobs in Arabic), fluffy Moroccan pancakes (named beghrir in Arabic), and thin Moroccan crepes (named msemen in Arabic). The crepes reminded me of Malaysian roti. The jam was delicious, and the orange juice was freshly squeezed and sweet. Oh and the oranges! I fell in love with Morocco’s oranges. Almost every orange I ate during the trip was sweeter and tastier than any orange I’ve had in North America. And these oranges were winter oranges; in the summer they are even sweeter!

breakfast, day 1

breakfast, day 1

The breakfast we had before we left Marrakech consisted of French toast made from baguettes (top), more khobz bread, and semolina bread (named harsha in Arabic). And more fruit. I gobbled the oranges.

breakfast, day 2

breakfast, day 2

John, his wife Elizabeth, the riad’s manager Kamal, and all their staff went out of their way to make our stay a pleasant one. It was an auspicious (and delicious) start to the Morocco leg of our trip.

Riad Elizabeth
Derb El Baroud, Hart Essoura
Marrakech Medina 40000
Morocco
www.riadelizabeth.com

News and events

  • I recently stopped at Famoso for a meal (lots of photos over at my review from 2009). The pizza was great as usual, but they’ve recently changed their gelato supplier from Edmonton’s Bueno Gelato to Calgary’s Fiasco Gelato. I tried two flavours – the blood orange sorbet and the banana chocolate gelato, and was disappointed. The sorbet was a little too icy and grainy, and didn’t have much blood orange flavour. The gelato, while creamy and smooth, had no banana taste whatsoever and I wasn’t crazy about the chocolate flavouring. This really surprised me; while I haven’t tried them in any of their Calgary locations, Fiasco ordinarily gets pretty good reviews from what I can tell.
  • Superstore is now selling bread made with Red Fife. There’s a $1 coupon that you can get if you want to try it out (expires July 16). When you click on the link, just skip to page 4 of their baking booklet. There are also coupons for other breads and cinnamon buns on that same page.
  • Liane Faulder at the Edmonton Journal has a blog post about a food writer’s tour of Alberta.
  • Gary at travel blog Everything Everywhere has started up Project Pringles – his effort to document every flavour of Pringles from all over the world. If you have a picture of a Pringles flavour, you should send it his way. (And yes, he’s right. They are everywhere. I even found Pringles in Morocco, but unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of them.)
  • World Cup fever – did you know that the Dutch wear orange because of purple carrots?
  • And more on the World Cup – the “Oracle Octopus” could end up as dinner if German fans have any say.
  • Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko is in hot water after spending a lot of money on breakfasts during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Maybe he’s a hobbit who needs breakfast, second breakfast and elevenses?
  • Jeffrey Steingarten interviewed Gwyneth Paltrow for Vogue magazine – she’s coming out with a “cooking for families” cookbook later this year. The best line from the article has to be “Our conversation was not much different from what it would have been if Gwyneth were a longtime food friend, except that Gwyneth is nicer than most of my food friends.” You can see a bunch of photos of Gwyneth’s kitchen(s) and read an edited version of the article on the Vogue website.
  • Fast Company did a feature on innovative U.S. cities, and a couple of cities caught my eye – New York’s urban farms and Portland’s farm-fresh food.
  • And lastly, check out Beer and Butter Tarts, a Canadian food and drink blog aggregator. I recently added my blog to the list!

News and links

Tupperware citrus peeler

The Tupperware citrus peeler is a silly looking gadget that is one of the key tools in my kitchen. Years ago I heard people rave about them but never knew where to find them. I didn’t know anyone who sold Tupperware and these things weren’t sold in the stores. They were often given away at Tupperware parties but weren’t something that a person could necessarily purchase. One year, while at the trade show of Klondike Days (Edmonton’s old name for Capital Ex, the annual summer fair), there was a Tupperware stall. I asked the lady about the peeler and to my excitement she agreed to sell me some. I ended up buying five of them; three went to family members and I hoarded two for myself.

The little hook part is dragged along the skin to cut it open. The opposite flat end is amazingly efficient at poking into crevices and shaving off pith.

Nowadays, you can buy these things off of eBay and other online places so there is no need for searching anymore. But my little blue peelers are still going strong so I think it will be a while before I need new ones.

Tupperware citrus peeler

Tupperware citrus peeler