We break our fast on cakes. That is the Moroccan way. Pancakes, with a side of normal cake…and bread. All smothered in jam and honey. Add to that a steaming pot of coffee and another of mint tea, a yoghurt, a cup of pomegranate, cheese, and a gallon of freshly squeezed blood orange juice…and you have a breakfast in a Moroccan riad.
It’s just about enough to keep you going for a couple of hours, until it’s time for lunch: fistfuls of olives, platters of roasted vegetables and bubbling tagines, accompanied by mountains of cous cous and baskets of warm bread.
Frankly, it’s a miracle you make it to the dinner table, laden as it is with skewers of grilled and spiced meats, pyramids of dissected salad and, of course, more bread. That’s to say nothing of the puddings and snacks, which range from classic crepes with Nutella and banana, to ornate cocktails of fruits swimming in rose water. They keep the old blood sugars up during the day, as if the constant mint tea (with 2-3 sugar cubes per 50ml) wasn’t enough.
To say we feasted in Morocco would be an understatement that would insult both the hospitality of our every host, and the hard-earned girth of our new bellies.
The feeding was constant. If we weren’t adult humans, apparently capable of making considered decisions, it would be considered abuse. To make it worse/better, Marrakech itself is devoid of opportunities for physical exertion of any type. Gyms as I know them do not exist, the fitness centres are limited to the poshest hotels and jogging through the streets is liable to get you – and many others – run over within 90 seconds.
No, here is not a place for exerting yourself as a tourist. It’s enough to endure the mental struggle of fighting off vendors whilst staying true to your traditionally over-polite English upbringing. Any more than that will bring on total collapse of mind and body.
Morocco is intense. It also highly sensual. In every…sense.
Most famously (and infamously) there are the tastes and smells. From the aromas of freshly cooked tagines and the calming oils of the Hamman, to the stench of camel’s breath and the choking fumes of rush hour Marrakech, the never let up. Nor does the noise: from the ceaseless buzz of motorcycles through the Madinas, to the sudden shriek of the Adhan blaring from a thousand loudspeakers, to remind us how great the muezzins think God is (very great, as it happens).
Perhaps most intense of all, however, are the colours: the smothering reddish pink of Marrakech and its dazzling multicoloured spices and carpets; the cool sea blue of Essaouira and the cloudless African sky; the massive brown expanse of the Tizi n’Tichka and Grand Atlas; and, of course, the endless searing yellow of the Saharan dunes.
Yes, Morocco clings to the senses like sand slings to unsuitable European attire.