Nov 13, 2006


Now on the night we arrived in Marrakech, my digestive system was still in pretty bad shape (in fact, it still isn't back to normal yet). On the plus side, my lunch had stayed in for the length of the drive to Marrakech, and even then it didn't feel too bad. This was an encouragement. Jason on the other hand, wasn't doing so hot, but being the trooper he is, we forged out into the Djmaa.

So far, our experience of nightlife in Morocco has been pretty tame. While Marrakech doesn't run late, it's incredibly lively from sunset onto 11pm or midnight. The Jna is a huge square, that's mostly empty during the day. Surrounding the Jna are a number of cafes, some with terrace patios. The daytime crowd tends to hang around these cafes overlooking people in the square. At night, the square fills up with a number of food stalls and street performers.
There's a huge number of brightly lit food stalls, but there are a few different food types that are cloned through the various stalls. The biggest ones had a windowed case of kebabs and and also had a variety of deep fried seafood. These ones tended to have the most publicists, who would run out to tourists and lure them into their stalls, sometimes forcibly. Jason and I got pretty sick of the calls of "konnichiwa" and "arrigato" from these guys. I never ended up eating from these stalls, since they seemed to serve foods that were fairly typical.
Now given my poor digestive condition, I probably shouldn't have touched anything, and I knew it, but Jason had to start it off by ordering some fresh orange juice from some stands that had citrus juices. The floodgates having been opened by the one who could barely stay off the toilet, I figured I might as well give it a shot. You only live once.

The first thing that caught my eye really was a street food I had previously seen on some evenings in other cities, large vats of escargot. It was 5 drms for a small order (50 cents?) that was a bowl of maybe 10 or 15 snals. You stand at the stall and use the toothpick to pick out your snails, tossing the shells into the large pile at the stall, perhaps sipping a little of the heavily peppered (but lightly salted) soup.
From there I moved on the the mutton stall, which had a number of roasted lamb heads on display (you could order them and eat them if you'd liked), but I stuck with the stew, and tried some sheep tongue. The stew was only about 10 drms, and the tongue seemed to have been thrown in for free, since the chef seemed to have built up some rapport with us.
From there we took a further look, and passed over some stalls that served harrira soup and dates (we already had that in Fes), and others with lots of eggs, serving some sort of egg dish (had eggs, Berber style, for lunch). The next one we hit up was deep fried fish and chips, with some of the most excellent deep fried fish I've had. It had a very light, perfectly salted, and extremely crispy batter (not the fluffy beer batter you'd get on a north american style fish and chips). The fries were also fresh and hot. They were served with a salsa-like pureed tomato sauce (that was also popular at some other food stalls). I was under the impression we were over charged a bit on this one, costing us 20 drms for fish and chips, but it was still rather cheap. At this point, Jason also gave into the temptation of food that's not recommended for a bad stomach.
From there, we noticed some stalls serving tea. We gave that a shot, they served some chocolate/spice cake, that really wasn't very good in my opinion, being pasty and much less sweet than the tea it was being served with. The spiced tea (no milk, unlike indian chai), was incredibly hot and spicy, and aromatic too. I loved it, although it was too spicy for Jason.

For the last item we were drawn to huge plumes of grease smoke, coming from a flaming grill upon which some fatty skewers and sausages were being cooked on. We ordered one serving of the breakfast sized links of allegedly beef sausage (although I would have guessed that they were lamb). They were incredibly meaty, and non greasy, and only 7 drms for a little plate.

Having had quite enough (actually, way too much), we moved on to the less well lit areas, were large crowds had congregated around the various shows. I'd say there were primarily three types. One was a storyteller, telling some story we had absolutely no understanding of, but they drew large crowds with their animated recantations. The next were the musical groups, highly percussive with drums and traditional stringed instruments. These guys weren't as professional as the dinner show we saw in Fes, and the rancour from the various different "bands" pounding away in close proximity to each other left more of a sense of energetic anarchy than cultured music, but they gathered plenty of spectators, both tourists and locals. The last were the guys hawking medical cures, with tables of dried animals and bits of bark, and exotic herbs imported from China. Despite the sales pitch being in arabic, one can easily tell from the delivery, that the conviction of the salesmen far exceeded those of North American paid TV commericals.
We enjoyed the bustling atmosphere for a while, but pretty soon the call of nature beckoned us back to the safety of the hotel for the night.

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