The two days I spent in the High Atlas mountains gave me the serene break I needed. It was idyllic, and then I arrived in Marrakech: I can’t deny it, the first impact with the city was quite strong for me.
Marrakech is extremely noisy and chaotic: it’s the normal, everyday chaos of a north-African city but, if you’re not used to it, it’s a chaos that envelops you, that leaves you breathless, that angers you at some point, and that finally leaves you exhausted.
READ ALSO: 11 Incredible Excursions from Marrakech
But, as much as Marrakech is emotionally tiring, rather soon its chaos will seduce you.
Highly sensorial, Marrakech is intoxicating with the aroma and colours of the souks, and the myriads of faces in the streets; Marrakech is a city to narrate through the five senses.
– Hear –
The days and the nights in Morocco are marked by the muezzin chanting the call to the prayer.
Sometimes it’s a mellow and melodious chant, some others it’s harsh and more formal.
It’s enchanting to be standing in the middle of the Medina at the right time: a chant rises from a mosque, and then others from as many mosques. It’s a big outdoor concert of overlapping do and la.
– Smell –
Drinking mint tea is an ancient and important ritual in the Moroccan culture.If you stick long enough in a shop, you’ll likely be offered a cup of mint tea. Accept it, moroccans do business in front of a steamy cup of tea. And the scent of the mint, it’s so sharp and wonderful! I brought home two bags of mint tea and days later, my room is still saturated of the warm odour of the mint.
READ ALSO: 15 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Morocco by The World Pursuit
But Marrakech is not just amber and mint.
If you dare to walk towards the north-east of the Medina, you will start smelling a pungent stench, which becomes nauseating the farther you walk.
Don’t get discouraged and keep going, this the real Marrakech, the one many tourists miss by not venturing till here. It’s the stink of the tanneries, of the skins left macerating under the sun. At the entry of the tannery a local guide will give you a rosemary twig to sniff at…the musky scent of the rosemary will seem the most beautiful ever.
– Taste –
It’s October, but in Marrakech it’s still 35 degrees and the just squeezed orange juice is a pleasure to drink, all in one gulp.
In Marrakech you pretty much need to haggle for everything, but oddly enough, there seems to be a fixed price for fresh orange juice: 4 dirhams, approximately 40 cents. I’ll get another one.
Forget the dates you buy in your hometown supermarket. Here dates are gigantic, crisp and fully flavored. Buy some: dates are an important source of energy, and I assure you will need lots of energy around Marrakech.
Another good energy boost is represented by honey, and you will have lots: breakfast always includes honey, either with croissants and pancakes, and you find honey-filled pastries around the city. I love honey!
It’s funny how you land in a city which seems surrounded by nothing but ochre soil. A stretch of desert with a city appearing in the middle of it.
Yet, in the Medina, it’s a whole different story: the souks are a profusion of colors, fabrics, counterfeited bags, stones, jewelry, food, and spices. Usually all together.
Piles of spices are miraculously arranged in perfect cones, the saturated colors, almost fake looking.
Kids run around, and myriads of faces try and invite you to go and visit their shop. I wander around, without a real destination, and I wish I had 4 eyes to absorb all that surrounds me.
– Touch –
While the berber men come to Marrakech three days a week to work in the tanneries, the women stay home and create beautifully patterned carpets, incredibly soft and all made by hand.
Going to a herbalist’s is another sensorial Marrakech experience you shouldn’t miss. The shelves are full of jars containing spices, teas, magic bullets and concoctions not well-defined.
You remember when you were a kid and your mom used to tell you don’t touch everything! ? Well, those days are over. The herbalist will let you(and will want you to!) try anything: argan oil, henna, amber and rose perfumes, and if you’re as lucky as I am, he will give you a back massage for you to try the magical oils.
What’s your most vivid sensorial memory of an African/Middle Eastern country you have visited?
The sustainable info box
It’s nice to have a beautiful place to relax after the hustle and bustle of the city, even more if it’s a sustainable hotel: I recommend staying at Quaryati Ecolodge, 17 km from the city but with a free shuttle every day. A true bloomed oasis.
For eating, I recommend the Toubkal restaurant (48 Place Jemaa El Fna): as central as it can get, but a little tucked away from the action. Good portions of moroccan food and quite cheap (about 4 euros for a plate and a soda).