Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Marrakech Day 1 (6 Jan 09): The Riad

We arrived at the Hague from Florence at around 8:00 p.m. We unpacked, re-packed, then L started working on a few memos and I started cleaning the apartment and taking out trash. At 5:00 a.m., we left for the airport for our flight to Marrakech.

Arriving at the airport in Marrakech is pleasant - the airport is airy and new, immigration procedures were done in ten minutes (including waiting in line), and the baggage came out as soon as we cleared immigration. Our friendly driver Youssef was waiting for us when we came out, and we were soon whisked into a van and traveling to our Riad.

A Riad is a house with a courtyard, and the rooms are usually arranged around the courtyard. According to our guide, there are about 900 of them in Marrakech alone, but L and I were fortunate enough to stay at one of the only six Riads that were locally owned (the others are owned by French expats), the Riad Kniza. All of the Riads are inconspicuous from the outside, and the only entrance is a plain wooden door. This is what surprises you when you step inside:

L and I were pretty happy with our room and our riad and we would have been content just lounging in there for the rest of the trip, but that would have been really lazy (and rather sad). We started exploring Marrakech's Medina that afternoon:

Marrakech is a delight to ALL senses, and L and I got lost inside the Medina within ten minutes of entering it. Nighttime came too fast though, and we soon had to make our way back to the Riad for dinner.

I love Moroccan food! After the delicious, but heavy, food of Italy, Moroccan food is light and tasty, with the right amount of spices to be please my spice addicted tongue. Eating Moroccan food is also a spectacle - immaculately dressed waiters continue bringing in food until you ask them to stop. It was a very cold day (around 8 degrees C, and that's very cold by Moroccan standards) so having dinner by the fire was lovely:

First dish was Harira, a meatless winter soup made mostly out of chickpeas and lentils:

Followed by Moroccan salad, actually a selection of hot and cold dishes with carrots, peppers, eggplant, zucchinis, tomatoes and meats, each prepared differently:

And then arrived the Tagine, slow cooked-meat, vegetables and fruits. Tagine apparently refers to both the food and the receptacle its cooked in. For that first night we had a glorious tagine of lamb, with apricots, figs and almonds:

Dessert was oranges and a flaky pastry, topped with cream, caramel and cinnamon:

When we got back to our room there was a fire slowly burning in the fireplace and moroccan mint tea waiting for us. We sat back, relaxed, and did what you would logically do in a place of such relaxation, bliss and romance: We surfed the Internet on our respective laptops.

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