Part 1... A night in the Medina...A memorable experience...

 
As we entered the Big Square in the Medina, the night's varied activities had just begun. 
Yesterday, we were itching to see the "Big Square," the center of the Medina, as often called by the locals, on a busy Saturday night.  Marrakech is a short flight from many locations in Europe attracting many tourists from many countries.
 

Leaving Dar Aicha at 5:00 pm, our home until mid May, 2014, we immediately got into step with the massive crowds, working their way through the Souk, stopping every few feet to look at the vast array of colorful merchandise. 
On the crowded trek through the Jemaa el Fna colorful shops began to light up for the evening's activities.
With both of us adamantly opposed to being caught in crowded areas, we've somehow have put aside our disdain since arriving in Marrakech (going forward I will spell the name of this ancient city, in the same manner as the locals, ending in "kech," not the English version of "kesh"). 
I'd be in big trouble if I had room in my one large suitcase for a few of these colorful dresses.  I'd then ask myself, where would I'd wear a dress such as this?  How would I wash it?  Practicality is of the utmost importance when traveling the world.
The relentless crowd pushed and shoved as we bounced around like ping pong balls, neither of us into shoving and pushing.  During the week when more locals were in the Jemaa el Fna Souk it was an easier trek to the Big Square.
Leather bags are a popular item among tourists.  Excuse the blur as I shot this while maneuvering through the crowds.  Also, some shop owners don't want photos taken of their merchandise and we must refrain from doing so or be discreet in doing so.
We were on a mission to find a rooftop restaurant for dinner and an opportunity to watch the evening's activities while high above the crowds.  The challenge:  food I could eat, food Tom was willing to eat. 
It's a good thing I can't eat these tempting confections. I'm certain I would have loved them gaining weight while here.  We have no options of gaining weight in our travels.  Our clothing supply would no longer fit.  In his old life, Tom had jeans in a few different sizes for those "up and down" times.  Now, he has one size, the size he wore when we left the US, which he'll definitely return to while in Morocco as he struggles with the spicy foods when we're dining in restaurants.  This is not an issue with Madame Zahra's cooking which we both enjoy.
All of the restaurants in the Medina have menus posted outside, giving us an opportunity to review each as we made our way from one restaurant to another.  None of the menus are in English.  They are posted in Arabic and French. 
The colorful fabrics in the Souk is appealing to the eye.
Thank goodness for my four years of French studies while in high school, 50 years ago.  Thank goodness, that my way of eating has been instrumental in my memory being sharper than ever. (Read Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter, if interested in improving your memory and health by eliminating inflammatory foods from your diet).
As we entered the Big Square we could sense that the size of the crowds were growing by the minute.
I was able to translate the entire menu except for one word: huile.  Looking it up this morning in Google Translate, I discovered it means "oil."  OK.  Good to know. 

Products that please the senses are a big aspect of life in Morocco, both for selling and incorporating into one's life.  The combination of the herbal scents coupled with the smell of the spices and foods being cooked is heady.
As we discovered after dining in three restaurants thus far in Marrakech, my only safe bet is to order a salad with grilled beef, chicken or fish, avocado, olives, veggies and cheese.  Of course, when we dine on Madame Zahra's fabulous foods, we have no fear.  She totally gets it, making the most interesting and delicious foods I've had since the onset of this way of eating 31 months ago. 
If we stop to take a photo, the hard working vendors are compelled to get us to make a purchase.  Where in our luggage could we ever fit any of the colorful trinkets?
We won't mention the name of the restaurant where we dined.  The food wasn't good.  It could have been an "off" night and long ago, we choose not to write bad reviews.  In other words, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," a policy we adopted when we started writing about local businesses.  Why would we want to potentially hurt the hard working owners and employees of local establishments?  We wouldn't.
The size of the crowd continued to grow as we made our way around the Big Square checking
out the dining options.
The view was the restaurant's rooftop was stupendous, as you can see from our photos.  Later, when we walked through the Medina we were amazed how the Big Square became about food after dark as tents were set up with vendors enthusiastically steering passersby to their "stations" each of which we clearly numbered for future referenced.
As the sun began to set and the crowds grew, we were comfortably situated atop of the roof of the restaurant we selected for the evening.
As we passed, literally hundreds of diners were seated together at picnic tables, plates piled high with colorful fresh foods cooked to order.  As we meandered through the outdoor food area, I'd wished we hadn't already had dinner when I saw many items which appeared to be suitable for me.  We'd hoped to participate in this exciting aspect of this extraordinary old city. 

The vendors organized their wares in preparation of the upcoming evening's activities.
This morning in speaking with Samir, he suggested we avoid the "street" food.  He explained that it would be very risky to ensure these foods are made befitting my way of eating.  We can't take the risk and will stick to the restaurants where each item is prepared individually.
The crowds increased by the minute...
Dining high above the crowds at one of many rooftop restaurants definitely has an appeal after last night's experience.  Last night's dinner was our most expensive thus far at US $38.53, MAD $320 with no alcohol included. 
The vendors were prepared for the growing crowds.
Madame Zahra's amazing meals are US $24.08 (for two), MAD $200.  There's no comparison to restaurant food and her delicious meals.  We'd dine in every night for the divine quality of her food if we weren't so determined to get out for more experiences. 
The sky darkening over the rooftops of the homes and shops located in the walled city. We were too far from our riad to find our rooftop.

It seldom rains in Morocco, although the sky at dusk was covered with fast moving clouds.
Before we'd booked Dar Aicha we'd read several reviews written by past guests stating the exact same dilemma;  Madame Zahra's food as compared to restaurant food inspired them to prefer to dine in.
Smoke began to waft through the air as wood fired grills were started for the evening's foods. The smell was indescribable.

The pigeons are fed by the locals as well as the many cats that wanders the Medina and the Souk.
The old walled city of Marrakech and the Jemaa el Fna Souk, make it tempting for a visitor to seldom venture outside these walls.  The energy, the excitement, the entertainment and its diverse culture have an irresistible appeal. One senses are stimulated to a point of wondering why one want anything different or more. 
The horses and colorful buggies were awaiting their next customers.

Many of the vendors began to turn on the lights in their tents and shops.

This mosque was lit creating an enchanting scene.
In time, we'll explore outside these walls to discover what other wonders Morocco has in store for us.

Note:  Tomorrow, we'll return with photo of the Big Square, after dark when we were able to get some excellent shots of the night's activities.

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