Friday, February 29, 2008
I chose this photo for today because it seems so very typical of our neighborhood in Marrakech - what the woman is wearing, the colors of the wall and the paint on the door.
You can see the little shop doesn't seem terribly prosperous but business goes on nonetheless.
The tiles on the floor of the shop are traditional.
The medina has so much charm but sometimes it's gritty and life for some people is very hard indeed.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Food is both a great pleasure and a great bore depending on how you look at it.
We all - almost all - love eating it.
It's less interesting planning it and shopping for it - unless that's how you want to spend your day.
This is a little 'hanut' in the souks -look how tiny the shop is and how unpackaged and fresh the veggies are.
In Morocco, one spends a greater proportion of one's time dealing with food - which can be fun. Look at the goodies in the patisserie..........
This is what the table in the courtyard looks like at lunch time - a sort of shrine to fruit and flowers.
This last picture is of one of Ismail's mother's tagines........which take hours to cook and prepare and are worth it in the end.
I'm going to add a little essay here about our experience of food in general on Morocco.
When we moved to Marrakech we realized we would have to rethink our food shopping. In New York we had been spoiled by having D’Agostino’s, Chelsea Market and the Farmer’s Market in Union Square all within walking distance.
But one of the delights of moving here was discovering how everyday things differ from at home. The first, and most obvious thing, is how plentiful and inexpensive fresh fruit and vegetables are - great heaping piles of little oranges, grapes, bananas, dates and olives in little hole-in- the -wall shops and on handcarts on every street. I buy fresh manderins or oranges most mornings to squeeze to accompany either flat, round bread or baguettes just delivered from the bakery. You can get cereal including Frosted Flakes - my favorite - but since the milk is different, fruit, bread are apricot jelly the best options.
There is a covered market by the Mellah - old Jewish quarter - where chickens, rabbits and pigeons hop in cages awaiting their doom. Some people take the birds home still alive suspended from their bicycle handles: at least they are certain the food is fresh.
The Mellah market also sells beautiful roses for only 20 dirhams for 20(about $2.50). The vendors always throw in a few extra as a ‘petit cadeaux’ - little gift. Often when I carry the flowers home I’m approached by a Moroccan who asks for one “Por Moi?” - and I’m happy to oblige.
For lunch we mostly have a picnic in our courtyard - bread and cheese and salad with bright red tomatoes, and olives of course, either spicy green ones or small black ones. In the afternoons carts appear with macaroons, napoleons and miniature croissants.
For dinner we often have chicken with whatever vegetable seems most abundant that day. I haven’t yet mastered the tagine - a melange of meat and vegetables arranged beautifully with the meat inside, slow cooked all day under a conical earthenware hat.
However, our guardien Ismail, a young man who looks after the house when we are away and generally makes our life easier, has a mother who is a mistress of the art. What hours she must spend chopping and spicing. We have never met this excellent cook but, when we ask, tagines or couscous or harira soup appear at our door at 7:30 pm. Harira soup, thick, full of beans and vegetables, is traditionally served - with dates on the side - to break the fast during Ramadan when no food is eaten by observant Muslims during daylight hours. You can imagine how everyone longs for dusk to fall. There is also another soup - a bit like porridge and not nearly so exciting served at that time of year.
Because you buy everything fresh, we were here for four months before we realized we needed a can opener - to open the can of cranberry sauce thoughtful friends sent by post from America for Thanksgiving.
So, all in all, we have a very healthy diet with almost nothing packaged, frozen or canned. Everything is convenient and available within a five minute walk. The only things we have to go on a bus out of the old part of the city to get are bacon, hard cheese like Edam, and, of course, beer.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
People tend to be kind to the cats and often put down food for them. Good pickings today in the metal workers' square.
The fish bones here almost look like cartoon ones - if you can see them clearly enough.
In the square of the metal workers, where they cut glass to suit - and where all the bits of glass for above the doorways came from -my attention was caught by this large mirror with palm tree motifs.
There are always lots of kittens here - as well as lots of bits of metal and slivers of glass. I worry that the kittens will cut their paws but somehow they don't seem to.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
However fascinating Marrakech is, sometimes it drives you quite crazy and you have to get out.
The possibilities are the mountains, the desert or the sea - pretty good choices really.
The mountains are about an hour away.
The desert pretty much a whole day's journey.
The Atlantic isn't too far..........
Driving directly east through the stony desert, the landscape isn't much to look at though the skies are often spectacular. The road is a little alarming because it's two lanes so you have to take great care overtaking.
When you see this high outcrop of rock, you know you are halfway there.
The journey takes about two and a half hours, depending whether you drive or go on the bus - the bus stops for half an hour so you can get a snack etc.
These last two photos are of Essouira from the docks- one taken in the evening and one in the morning. Late in the afternoon the whole town is bathed in golden light reflected from the setting sun.........
Essouiria, as anyone who has ever been there will insist on telling you - often repeatedly - is an amazingly pretty town.
It has battlements used by Orson Welles when he filmed Othello.
It has a Breton crepe place with the best crepes in the world
And Dar Baba, a restaurant run by an Italian woman who moved to Essoiura in the 70's with food exactly like in Italy..
No mopeds or bicycles are allowed in the center of town - this is a pretty significant and glorious difference from Marrakech.
More photos tomorrow..........beaches.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Robert has his studio on the second floor.
The drawing on the back wall is a collage of different people he saw walking through Djemma El Fna.
Our painted doors do not rival the ones at the Bahia Palace...........
The plant outside his room isn't looking too happy.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Moroccan ceilings are very often elaborately decorated.
I used to think that they were painted in situ - like Michaelangelo did the Sistine Chapel.
But, in fact,they are painted at ground level and then put up later.
These first two pictures are from Dar Mimoun.
The last three pictures are from the Bahia Palace - where you can see wonderful examples of all sorts of painted surfaces. Here the shape of the lamp echoes the sklight.
Because there really aren't windows on to the outside world, it would a be a delight to look out through the roof.
There is a lot of painted cut plasterwork too.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
This photo was taken up town near where the pale dog lives in her cardboard box.
Slightly paler glass than usual.
Also the glass has a little design in it.
For throwing dramatic shadows, plain glass is better.
The vine, when flowering, has a very pretty pale pink flower shaped like a trumpet.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Many shops and cafes have pictures of the current king and some have ones of his father and grandfather.
This one is Mohammed V after whom the main road up to Gueliz is named.
This retro picture hangs in a little cafe in the Spice Market.
When having supper at Dar Mimoun ( "Lucky House" -the name a bit like a Chinese restaurant) a rather bizzarely decorated restaurant on rue Riad Zitoune Lakadim, we saw a picture of.............George V.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Floor to ceiling books - rather slim on the whole with very brightly colored bindings - in a very small shop near the Mousassine mosque which is a cave of knowledge.
Ali Baba's treasures......
Depressing to to realise that I wouldn't be able to read one of them.
They also sell pens and note books.
The ladder reminds me of old private libraries in England - but lots of shops here have ladders because they store things very high up.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Below you will find a little essay about how we set up the house in derb Djedid two years ago. People who read the beginning of the old blog will be bored and can skip it!
The mirror in this picture is the one mentioned at the end.
People watching from Cafe France in the northeast corner of the square - something we have done pretty often for the two years we have lived in Marrakesh - and the eight years we visited before.
All the world seems to pass by - in one shape or form.
Mimi on the upper landing when the jasmine was flowering well.
When my husband and I left New York and moved to Marrakech, the only household items we took with us were two mugs and a paring knife.
We had bought a very small traditional house - the kind often called a riad - where everything is arranged round a central courtyard. It is five hundred years old and set in the medieval medina, down an alley so narrow that only mopeds, bicycles and donkey carts can approach it. Our address is derb Djedid which translates as “New Lane”.
The previous owner - who had done part of the restoration work -bathrooms, kitchen and electricity - wanted an additional $6000 for the furniture and fittings but part of the joy of being in Morocco is finding exactly the wonderful bits and pieces you want. However, we hadn’t realized that Danny would remove everything including the air conditioner, refrigerator and stove.
So there we were in blistering late summer with the temperature over 100’F every day with a house with absolutely nothing in it. The first thing we needed were beds, and, having discovered that only twin beds would fit up our precipitous stairs, decided to put two together. We bought simple wood frames and Simmons mattresses which were delivered two hours later by a very small man with a handcart. Next a refrigerator, also delivered on a handcart. We held off on a stove for a few days and boiled water with an electric kettle and cooked on a $28 countertop barbecue. We sat in the courtyard on rush stools ($5 each) and ate on our laps
The stools had come from a wood yard five minutes from our house where the carpenter also had four designs of chairs and so we pointed to the design we liked and two days later went to collect them. Then we asked him to make a table for the stove to go on. My husband drew a picture, we haggled, briefly, about the price, and the next day brought it home. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of cooking with liquid propane but so far nothing has happened.
A hardware store in the souks had a good selection of mops and brooms, and, while I was choosing them, a young Moroccan woman, taking me for a tourist, asked very politely: “Why are you buying those? Don’t they have them in your city?”
For bed linens we were told to get into a taxi and ask for Marjane. We hadn’t the least idea what Marjane was and were driven right out almost to the desert on the Casablanca road to discover: a shopping mall complete with McDonald’s. Marjane turned out to be the Moroccan equivalent to K-Mart and had a good selection of sheets and towels. We also treated ourselves to a cheerful plastic handled flatware set - the kind most people use for picnics.
It was interesting, when you have nothing, to discover exactly what it is that you need. One day it was a a pepper grinder and another a sieve. We bought wooden spoons in the souk and the man cut me a chopping board there and then.
While all this was going on we often sat in Cafe France on Djemma El Fna the main square sipping fresh orange juice listening to the various vendors: the cigarette sellers jingle change so you know they are coming; the shoe shiners tap their boxes and the phone card salesmen flick the cards. You can also buy fresh macaroons from women or children who pass by with trays. One day a man with six palm trees strapped to the back of his bicycle sold us a one for our terrace.
We still didn’t have a dining table and, since the courtyard is open to the sky, it makes sense to have a tile one with metal legs. We decided to design our own with tiles in almost, but not quite, the same color - sort of soft pinks with hints of green. It took a long time from order to delivery - ten days in fact - but in New York I’m sure it would have taken ten weeks. The table wasn’t a bit expensive ($150) but the metal worker threw in a lantern.
So now we could sleep in beds, eat off a table and keep things cool in the fridge: life was definitely improving. We bought two more single beds, which, with cushions, serve as sofas in the salon. Now was the time to look for luxuries like bedside tables. On our interminable wanderings, we would often look in at different wood shops and were particularly taken with a craftsman who made elaborately carved tables in Berber designs. Since by now it was Ramadan we often had to wait for him to reappear from the mosque. As well as new tables, he also had some old pieces and Robert bought a very imposing carved chair fit for a pasha as his bedside table. My little table needed a glass top to protect the carvings from dust - I went up to the glass workers and they made me a top with smooth edges - for 23c.
So each individual piece has been chosen with great care, and most made to our exact specifications. An exception is the tiny yellow Berber coffee table which is up on the roof and looks as if it was painted with mustard. The old man who sold it to us at the flea market at Bab Khemis laughed like mad when we agreed to pay $4 for it. At that price it seemed churlish to haggle.
For our first Christmas in Morocco, I bought my husband a huge mirror framed with black and white camel bone and he bought me a green glass vase to display the roses which are so plentiful here all year round. So we realised we were likely to stay for a while.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
It's absolutely no good doing pictures/stories/ paintings based on what others think is a good idea.
We end up walking to the mellah market almost every day - a lot of walking in Marrakech. Very good for the health.
However, the chicken, rather than the flower and veggie, part of the market is very smelly. R. waits outside while I rush in.
I like seeing the rabbits and chickens. The fish is straight from Essouira.
The light fell in rather an interesting way on some shuttered cages.
This is natural light from above - not some fancy light set up.
The paintings are wonderful.
I don't think I have shown this one before.
Some friends of ours wanted to buy one of these paintings to hang in their riad.
A deal was made via one of the flower sellers.
A price was agreed upon. The painter made a new sign for the chicken seller.
The chicken seller didn't like the new sign.......or the one after that.
In the end it all came to nothing.
This is rather a bold sign. The rabbit looks a bit crazy.
I prefer pictures of chickens wandering about pecking in the dirt.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Derb Dabachi as you have never seen it before.
It is utterly deserted at 4am. with all the shops shuttered and all the cats hiding.
We had to get up at 3:30 am to get to the airport to catch the 6:15 flight to Casablanca.
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Luckily Mohammed Taxi arrived very promptly so Robert didn't have to wander around looking mysterious any more.
The flight to Casablanca only takes about 20 minutes.
However, the layover at Casablanca is four hours before the flight to New York - there are no direct flights. you always have to go either through France, Spain, London - or somewhere.
I hate flying. I hate airports. We eat candy. We chat to the girls who run the snack bar. We cruise the gift shop.
I take a photo of the plane.
I take a photo in the little tiny smoking lounge. (Don't ask).
We snag internet access by sitting directly outside the First Class Lounge.
The flight is uneventful - the only thing one wants really.
Needless to say, we look forward to the food. Luckily Robert doesn't like smoked salmon, so I eat his bit.
The tea is all wishy washy - I have two cups and long for more.
The luggage takes for ever to arrive at JFK.
We eventually get to the apartment at 6pm US time - 11pm Morocco time so the journey has taken almost 20 hours.
I'm continuing the Morocco blog while we're away with images I've stored up.
But, having got the blogging bug, I'm doing a New York one too.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Light falls through the windows at Peacock Pavilions - the best of contemporary architecture and design in Morocco. For other pictures go to Design DNA.
In contrast, some amazing traditional juxtapositions at the Bahia Palace - paint, tile, cut plasterwork - you name it. How it dazzles the eye!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Of course, Marrakech is famous for its cats. But someone asked me in a comment the other day if there were any dogs. Well, there are dogs, but they don't rule like the cats do. This one who lives in Essouira looks as if he is getting the cats' left overs.
This one, who lives 8 km from Essouira looks as if he is related in some way to the one above. He's waiting to see if the butcher will drop anything interesting.
This plump young lady was catching some rays on rue riad Zitoune Djedid.
This is one of my favorite dogs and if I had a garden or anywhere with grass, I'd adopt her immediately. She lives on a street in Gueliz in her cardboard box and is obviously fed by someone -or various people. I have seen her often.
She has such a sweet face and disposition - but a little bit sad. Moroccan dogs are often like this - a little bit fearful and a little bit hopeful at the same time.
You can see the cat is first in line at the butcher's shop shown above. Another dog knows his place and waits at the side by the motor cycle.
You notice not one of these Moroccan dogs are on leashes - most just wander about. But French tourists sometimes bring their little dogs on vacation and they have leashes.
In this last picture - a memory from last summer - Maryam and Chris' dog Rocky is having a wonderful time retrieving a stick from the Atlantic - he is a Retreiver after all. He will continue until the thrower of the stick's arm almost falls off.