When we were ferried out in a bus to the flight to Marrakesh at the Frankfurt Airport, I already sensed that the trip was not going to be a run-of-the-mill commuter. Instead, we ended up outside a hangar where planes were being repaired, and the lone plane outside looked as if it had been grounded for bad behavior. The airport stretched for miles as far as the eye could see, between the Baltic and the Alps. I never realized that an airport could be THAT big, but Frankfurt was, like all German things, serious business.
We took off and landed three hours later to an another immense airport. The new Menara Airport, next to its old one, was so vast and empty that you wondered if they hadn’t put several square miles of the three largest airports in the world together and renamed it Menara. It was indeed a beautiful architectural masterpiece. Hopefully by a local architect. Regardless, it was impressive and ready to compete with Hong Kong, Paris or New York for tourists.
If you are in interesting places, it won’t be surprising to find that you are in a UNESCO world site without knowing it. That’s what happened here. Without trying, I discovered that the Medina of Marrakesh is indeed on the list. The history, the Islamic significant buildings (madrassas, mausoleums and mosques) and souks, or markets, all contribute to its status.
On an initial walk around the neighborhood of the hotel where we stayed, here were a few of the sights and sounds:
The Madrassah Ben Yousef was one of the earliest institutions of higher learning established in Marrakesh, where the doctors, lawyers and mullahs were trained.
The guilds within the market area preserve traditional crafts such as tanning, carpet weaving, metalwork, woodwork, and making argan oil and other pharmaceuticals for remedies.
The doorways are significant entry points through walls and into private spaces. Beautiful courtyards lie beyond reach for the public pedestrian. My guide explained, that after you arrive at someone’s home, you announce your presence. If they do not answer, you are never allowed to enter beyond the doorway, even if the place is accessible. That would be considered a breach of trust.
After a walk around the neighborhood on my own and a guided tour of the souk (market area later in the morning, I participated in a hands-on cooking class at the Clock Restaurant all afternoon. Its famous camel burger was on the menu, but we learned how to make tame versions of traditional dishes that included harisa soup, chicken tagine, eggplant caviar, and biscuits with dates.
And the Chef de Cuisine:
At the end of a very busy day, I could escape to my suite in the historic Riad Dar Mouassine (also photo featured above)
Tomorrow: On to the Drawing Boards!!!