Yesterday was our last day in Morocco, and we spent the majority of it sightseeing in the city itself. We started at the Ben Youssef Madrasa, an Islamic college and one of the only Islamic buildings in the country that non-Muslims are allowed to enter. Morocco is well-known for its colourful mosaic tiling, and according to the guides this is because Muslims disapprove of idolatry, so the depiction of Allah or Muhammed as man or beast never appears in Islamic art or design, even in mosques. While a lot of the city is in a state of disrepair and unfortunately lacking a lot of the ornate decoration it once had, the Ben Youssef has been well-preserved. It was also updated by the Saadians in the 16th century, whose architecture is characterised by their tendency to cover every available surface with gemoetric and floral patterns, meaning that everywhere you looked you saw beautifully detailed tiling and intricately-cut woodwork, from floor to ceiling. We spent a long time exploring the central courtyard and the honeycomb of student bedrooms, which weren’t as impressive but still contained the original woodwork and ironwork around the windows and doors.
From there we went out for lunch – chicken tagine, bread, olives, mint tea and Morrocan pastries for just under £10 – then headed to the Marrakesh Museum. The building was really the star here; while the jewellery and weaponry were interesting to look it, we both felt there was a better collection in the far smaller museum at the Jardin Marjorelle. We did, however, find a small courtyard with an art gallery, which was so empty and quiet that for about five minutes we just stood there and enjoyed the silence.
Back out in the street, we navigated the traffic and headed down to the Koutoubia mosque, where we had sat on our first night in the city. We stayed in the gardens for a little while, then made our way to Café des Epices via the main square. I have to say, I still really don’t like it there in the day. Between dodging scooters, donkeys and horse-drawn carts, you’re also trying to avoid the men walking around with trained monkeys and the women grabbing at you as you walk past to apply henna – and charge you for it – before you have a chance to say no. We got there though, and had pancakes and honey in the sun looking out over the square.
Our dinner on our last night was some of the best food we’ve had so far. We went to Terrasse des Epices, a real hidden gem owned by the same people as the café we’d been in. We sat in sofas on a private booth on the terrace overlooking the rooftops of the souks, and had the most delicious selection of food: bread and olive tapenade; crab and avocado millefuille; a Moroccan salad trio of potato, carrot and roasted aubergine; lamb tagine with prunes and almonds; monkfish tagine with bell peppers and lemon; crème brulee; and double chocolate pudding. It really was the best goodbye meal we could have asked for, and the chilled-out atmosphere there was fantastic.
This blog has been a great way of documenting our trip, and it’s been both surprising and encouraging to know that so many other people have been reading it! I know holiday snaps are more traditional, but for me writing is a far more natural way to remember our adventures. I’ll upload some photos in the next day or so though, and post our favourites from each day. Over the next few days Robert and I will be de-briefing, and working out what we’ve learned – we are, after all, beginner travellers, although Morocco was a definite jump into the deep end!