by Martin Dudek , 2011
I visited Morocco in May 2011. Just one week after the bombing of the popular Argana Cafe on Jemaa el-Fnaa square in central Marrakesh there was a slight tension noticeable while walking through the city. Although the ruins have barely been covered with canvas yet, the citizens of Marrakesh tried their best to keep the impact on their everyday lives to a minimum.
Jemaa el-Fnaa is a UNESCO certified "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" and the core of social life in Marrakesh. Every day after sunset the square transforms into a massive food court and becomes the main gathering point for both tourists and locals. Even if not tempted by the overwhelming smell of freshly cooked meals, a glass of mint tea or freshly squeezed orange juice is a must have every time when passing this place.
The riad, a traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard, I was staying in gave me enough space and quiet to think over what to do next. The decision to come to Morocco was quite spontaneous and therefore lacking any initial planning. After a few chats with the owner and other locals, I quickly dropped the idea to go to Fez or Casablanca and decided to do a trip to the Sahara desert and visit the coastal town Essaouira instead.
Going to the desert turned out to be slightly disappointing since i chose probably the only overcast day of the year. I have been promised a beautiful sky full of stars, something not possible to experience for city kids like me, but it will have to wait for the next time. Crossing the Atlas mountain range and the journey through Morocco's back country was still worth the trip though.
Essaouira on the other hand was a great choice. The omnipresent cool breeze from the ocean was a very welcome change after many days of painful heat. The fortified Medina of Essaouira, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is characterized by its white buildings with blue doors and window shutters. Combined with the always busy harbor, the city is probably one of the most photogenic spots of the Country.
All in all Morocco is quite an experience. I recommend to take it slow and easy, don't rush from one sight to another. Arrange frequent stops where you can sit down in a cafe to lean back and pay attention to your surroundings. Oh, and drink mint tea, lots of mint tea. There is a reason why it is so extremely popular.
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