Just Back From... Morocco's Bazaars
Spain-based writer Nellie Huang fell for Morocco on a first visit in 2008 and returned with her partner, Alberto Molero, to experience the street food, labyrinthine bazaars, and bath houses—from Marrakech to Larache.
Great local meal... A lamb tagine paired with the traditional harira soup and washed down with some sweet Arab tea at Chez Chegrouni in Marrakech. [PHOTO] Generally, my favorite way to sample Moroccan food is on the street—the variety is outrageous. [PHOTO]
We're still laughing about... Our hammam (bath) experience. We visited a traditional hammam with no idea what to expect. Soon enough, our "therapists" came and drenched the both of us with boiling-hot water and started scrubbing us hard—really hard. We couldn't stop sniggering despite our torturous predicament.
Our favorite part... Morocco's colorful and chaotic souks (bazaars). The labyrinths of narrow alleyways are packed with beautiful spice stalls and handicraft shops. We spent hours soaking up the energy, getting lost, and absolutely enjoying it. We were also enchanted by mosques like Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech and Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. [PHOTO]
What we should have packed... Layers! In northern Morocco, around Tangier, weather is somewhat Mediterranean. But in the south, temperatures would get very hot in the day and very cold at night.
Worth every penny... A pair of Moroccan lamps [PHOTO]. I was obsessed with the gorgeous bronze lamps—some framed with stained glass—that hang from the ceiling of every shop in the bazaar. You can usually buy them and then send them home via overseas postage, but we carried two large lamps back to Granada, Spain, on the ferry. When we got home and hung them in our living room, I knew they were worth our effort.
Never again... Will I ask for the price of something if I'm not truly interested in buying it. I became curious about the price of a table while roaming around a bazaar in Fez. [PHOTO]. After I rejected the shopkeeper's first offer, he kept insisting on lowering the price. He even followed me for a few minutes, each time naming a lower price. Once he knew that I was seriously not going to buy it, he scolded me for wasting his time.
Fun surprise... Stumbling upon a vibrant fishing market in the beach town of Larache. [PHOTO] We decided to take a day trip out of Asilah to explore and assumed Larache would be similar: calm, quiet, and filled with the ubiquitous white-and-blue architecture. But to our surprise, it was market day, and everyone in town had gathered around the fish vendors. It was the best peek into local life.
Moment when things got tense... We were overwhelmed by the amount of activity by Jemaa el-Fna square in Marrakech's historic center. [PHOTO] Without Alberto noticing, a local man placed his monkey on his shoulders and asked me to take a photo of them. I took a shot, laughed, and didn't think more of it, but the man asked for payment. When we refused, he got a little worked up and we had to walk fast to ditch him.
Hotel we liked... Riyad Al Moussika, a charming Marrakech guesthouse that retains a tinge of authenticity. The decor is amazing, rich with local flavors and heritage.