Back home in North Carolina after 14 days in Morocco, the quintessential shopping bazaar, with a 2-day stopover in beautiful Madrid, Spain. Now, I prepare to return to Oaxaca, but not before a final set of Morocco recommendations to share with you.
Tisnet tagines photo copyright Norma Hawthorne
- Riad Bahia Salam, Marrakech, a restored mid-range guesthouse situated within easy walking distance between the Mellah, Jemaa el Fna, and the souqs. Great food. Serene spa with best massage. Excellent service. English, French, Arabic spoken. Tell Omar at the front desk I said hello.
- English-speaking Marrakech taxi driver Abdellatif will drive you anywhere for a reasonable price. He has a university education in linguistics and can’t find professional work! Very nice, honest man. Tel (00212) (0) 6 60 47 98 42
- For incredible Marrakech hand-woven cotton and agave silk scarves see artisan Ahmed El Baroudi, Souk Serrajine, No. 69, Tel 06 58 37 19 80
Spice market, photo by Norma Hawthorne
- Chez Laarabi is in the Mellah, down the street from the spice market and the old Jewish synagogue no longer in use. It is a mini-bazaar with a fine selection of rugs, leather bags, clothing, old and new Berber and Tuareg jewelry, tea sets, babouche (pointy-toed slippers), and all things Moroccan. Arset El Maach, Rue de la Radeema No. 41 (upstairs). Tel 06 66 09 11 59 email: email@example.com Say Hi to Mohamed for me.
- Stay outside the city in the Palmerie at Mosaic Palais Aziz & Spa for deluxe, grand luxury experience. The two swimming pools and spa offer a retreat from the hubbub of being in the souq.
- Chez Chegrouni for the BEST tagine and people watching on Jemaa el Fna. I had both the vegetarian and the chicken tagine on two different nights. Cheap and delicious! Recommended by locals in the know.
- Don’t get kidnapped by the henna artists on Jemaa el Fna. They are con artists who grabbed my wrist, started painting my hand in motion, and dragged me to their chair before I could protest! Cost 100 dh to get out of jail. Evidently they are famous. First price she asked me to pay to be bailed out = 800 dirham. Don’t fall for it 🙂
They saw a live one coming!
Essaouira, Morocco photo copyright Norma Hawthorne
- Taros Restaurant, Essaouira, consistently the best food, views, Atlantic Ocean breezes, great wine.
- Buy your tagine in the fish market square. Don’t pay more than 30 dirham! I bought one made in Tisnet which is just south of Agadir on the Atlantic coast. It has a beautiful green/brown glaze.
- Eat dinner at L’Heure Bleue, the luxury Chateaux et Relais hotel at the Bab Marrakech (the Marrakech Gate) if you want to spend $100 per person for superb food and house label wine.
L’Heure Bleue patio, photo by Norma Hawthorne
- See Abraham Touarez for great authentic, old Berber and Twareg jewelry at very reasonable prices. Avenue Sidi Mohamed Be Abdellah on the left side closer to the end of the shopping as you walk toward the old Mellah. There’s a pool hall directly across the avenue. Tel 06 70 95 404 He says the best way to clean Berber silver (a metal/silver mix) is to use salt and lemon juice! Map.
Argan oil, nuts photo by Norma Hawthorne
- Best lunches are at teeny tiny Vague Bleu on a side street to the left off Avenue Mohamed El Quon as you walk toward the Bab Marrakech after crossing the BIG main shopping avenue. Seats 8-10 people. Get there early. Daily specials. Terrific. Went there 4 days in a row. Not boring. French ex-pat hang-out.
- For rugs from a trusted merchant go to Maroc Art, 8 Bis Rue Laalouj, next to the museum. Ask for Abdel Mounaim Bendahhane or his colleague Abdoul Gnaoui. Tel. 05 24 47 50 50 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bring home Moroccan spices, dates, argan cooking oil and argan nut spread (be sure you buy the authentic kind made with almonds not peanuts) from a young man in a stall on the left side of Ave. Mohamed Zerktouni close to the Bab Doukala. Very fresh. Keep your empty water bottles and pour the oil into them. Then wrap in bubble for safe travels.
- Azur Spa & Hammam for great deep tissue massage. 1-1/2 hours for 500 dirham — an incredible bargain!
- Visit the Essaouira Synagogue and discover Jewish Moroccan history — deeply embedded in the town’s identity as a trading center.
Abraham Touarez, photo copyright Norma Hawthorne
How to get from Marrakech to Essaouira? It’s a two to four hour bus ride depending upon which company you choose. SupraTours and CTM offer first class direct service and have their own stations. Any bus that you take from the Gare Routiere will stop in every hamlet and crossroads along the way. Avoid El Mahabba Voyages, second class, shabby. Prices are about the same. You choose. And, don’t get swindled by somebody who wants a tip to reserve a seat for you! Bags are extra 5-10 dh each depending on which service you choose.
Below, dinner at L’Heure Bleue. C’est magnifique.