Here is a peek at the most famous souk in Marrakech, the Jamaal el Fna, located at the entrance of the old medina. This ancient market is a labyrinth of narrow hallways and tiny stalls, where sellers hawk everything from beads to leather slippers to cone-shaped towers of cumin and corriander. It is a lavish visual feast, but you must be careful not to make eye contact with the men who stand in front of the stalls; at the slightest hint of interest, they immediately engage you, trying to place merchandise in your hands so that they can begin to persuade you to buy something. If you aren't careful, you'll end up staring glumly into your mint tea as you debate how to carry your new 30-pound rug back home.
I hurriedly snapped pictures as I followed the crowd through the winding corridors, not stopping for too long in any one place, trying hard to ignore the questions that swirled in the air around me: "Excuse me, madam?" "Hello?" I wanted to linger, to touch and gawk at all of the pretty things, but I didn't want to have to explain myself every time - "No, just looking..." Shoppers here must be decisive and firm, unmoved by the history of an object, willing to walk away in a second. Softened by years spent in American stores, I'm not adept at this very different way of buying.
In the plaza just outside the market, food vendors sell every kind of Moroccan food you might wish to find,
from kefta to freshly made yogurt. Fancy a freshly-roasted lamb head?
You're in luck! All around the plaza, street artists perform acrobatic
feats, while snake charmers coax cobras out of their baskets and women
in headscarves hold out photo albums of hands decorated in henna, asking passerby to sit down to have their own hands done. The intense aromas of spices and sizzling meat mingle with the sharp tang of leather dyes, creating a heady fragrance that hangs in the air.
We're not at the Ferry Building Market anymore, Dorthy!
I have much to tell you about dining in Marrakech. The hard part is: which meal should I write about? Eenie, meenie, miny, moe...