A Typical Saturday in Marrakesh

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My Saturdays in Marrakesh are spent hunting and gathering, hanging out and sometimes haggling.  Though I may have errands to run,  there’s no yard to keep, house to clean, or car to wash.  Shopping in stores, on the street, and in the market followed by lunch in the mix or above it is a time to stock up, catch up with friends, relax.

Grabbing Grub in Gueliz

Moving to Morocco meant giving up a car and Kroger to fill my trunk with food for the week.  It also meant leaving my deck grill–which I used for most meals come rain, snow, or sunshine.  In the suburbs of Nashville we drove everywhere for everything. Though Target was the distance of about a city block  away, it never occurred to me (or anyone I knew) to walk there and lug groceries home.

I’d always romanticized the way Meg Ryan in movies set in New York City built her dinner bag-by-bag as she strolled home from work. I thought it would be fun to live in the Big Apple, no worries over car insurance or repairs and fresh produce on every street corner.  I never dreamed I’d get a version of that in Africa.

In my neighborhood of Gueliz, “the New City,” I can do a Meg Morning–picking vegetables from sidewalk carts (though here they are pulled by donkeys), choosing meat from the butcher’s display case, grabbing a loaf of bread from the bakery, and buying roses at flower stalls (a dozen for $2 ).  For birthday treats or holiday feasts, there are French-style specialty shops selling cheeses and desserts.   To save time, I still  default to a weekly one-stop-shop, either Carrefour (a French chain that carries imported prosciutto/other pork and wine) or Acima whose citron (lemon) tarts are amazing.  Though I know to buy only what I can carry in my backpack and bag for several blocks, I optimistically  overstuff both.  Harnessing a too-heavy backpack too many times has led to a torn shoulder over the last two years, but I’m stronger for the walking and enjoy the fresh air.

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“But my favorite remained the basic roast chicken. What a deceptively simple dish. I had come to believe that one can judge the quality of a cook by his or her roast chicken. Above all, it should taste like chicken: it should be so good that even a perfectly simple, buttery roast should be a delight.” —Julia Child, My Life in France

For a dinner with friends, I bought a whole, herb-roasted chicken with potatoes from La Maison du Poulet.  The owner proudly said his birds are free range and organic.  The taste would make Julia Child shrilly shriek with pleasure.

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On a Saturday morning Sylvia showed the two Mikes and me the French bakery above and the cheese shop below.  We happened upon the chickens; the samples were so good we all took one home.

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With no rent, utilities, or transportation to work to pay, my weekly budget is $100 which covers  groceries (I cook a dutch oven of beef stew, shrimp chowder, chili, or coq au vin on Sunday that is dinner until Thursday and make salads or pasta for lunches), a restaurant with friends or takeout on weekends, a pool day here and there, weekly yoga (or my first year, Moroccan dance lessons) and having the apartment cleaned twice a month.  Some coworkers have ladies who clean, cook, or provide childcare multiple times weekly, but my one bedroom only requires cleaning/clothes washed every other Friday for 200 Dirhams per month ($20).  When I want Moroccan food, for an additional 50 dirhams ($5) and 70-80 dirhams ($7-8 for groceries), Saida, an amazing lady, cooks so much chicken couscous  and vegetables that I have enough for 8 meals so must freeze some.   Lack of preservatives in meats, breads, vegetables, and fruits means I have to use what I buy faster and shop more often, but I’m healthier for that.

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Sometimes I eat from the hanut next door–fresh strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, and lemon year round.
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Carrefour Supermarket located on bottom floor of Carrie Eden Mall in Gueliz
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Fresh Atlantic seafood at Acima located near Jardin Marjorelle often includes sharks and stingrays.

 

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The central flower market is a couple of blocks up the street from my apartment.
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I love when friends  in my complex (coworkers and Kate) join me on the balcony for mojitos (a variation of the fresh mint tea Moroccans drink daily), wine, or Tai takeout.
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When we get a Friday off, we can take advantage of couscous  (made fresh in Moroccan homes and restaurants as the traditional Friday family meal)  at The Amal Women’s Center which is open for lunches and by appointment only.  Ritchie and I went there on a 3-day weekend in February.

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I can always count on Kate for finding (and cooking) the best desserts in town.  Though she manages a riad in the Medina, she is always ready to meet for a treat like Cassanova’s chocolate mousse below.

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Jasna and I at our go-to rooftop, Chez Joel, for a Saturday sweet tooth.

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Chez Joel’s Caesar Salad

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On walks to and from the mall I passed this cute cat…till recently.  My favorite boutique for inspiration recently closed.

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Haggling and Hanging Out in the Old City

Sometimes I saunter through the souqs in search of great shots.  Below are guys I was thrilled to find.   Pillow cases and poufs are ubiquitous but it took me a year to find someone who sells stuffing.  Some coworkers paid their maids to have it done, but I was determined to find the place myself and with Kate’s help finally did.

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A picture of the king as a child, youth, or adult appears in every business and building.
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Jemma Fna Square is a place I’ll never forget.

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Loved this spring green purse but passed.

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My shoe guy had my favorite sandal design in a new color for spring.  Morocco is hard on shoes; at best sidewalks are uneven and dusty and at worst they are under constant repair or don’t exist. It was time for a new pair.

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The first place a colleague took me to eat in the medina after moving to Marrakesh was Cafe des Epices.  Since then I go there almost every trip to the souks.  When my children visited they loved it, too.  Located on Rahba Lakdima, the Spice Square, it is a place to people watch, hang out with friends, and eat great food.  The salads and mint tea are the best.

 

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Since I moved here in 2014 it has been expanded to double the size to accommodate all the customers.

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My wedding carpet guys located two doors down from Cafe des Epices.

 

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After seeing Nomad across the square for almost two years, Jasna and I decided to give it a go. I’m glad we did.

 

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Nomad has good food, too, and three levels with amazing views.  The music and couches make it a great place to lounge.

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The gift shop is cool,too.

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By one o’clock the place was packed.

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My favorite feature of Marrakesh is the rooftop bars and restaurants.  Gorgeous at sunset and perfect for Saturdays, they offer an escape to to exhale the week before and breathe in a new perspective.

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Cindy McCain

A Southern Girl Gone Global, I flew from my empty Nashville nest in 2014 to land in Africa where I lived two years in magical Marrakesh, Morocco. Now I live in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and continue sharing my journey--so far across 27 countries on 4 continents and the Caribbean. This travel/lifestyle blog is about letting go of fear, clinging to faith, and following your heart's desires. It's a celebration of beauty, adventure, relationship...roots and wings.

8 comments

  • Everything is so beautiful and love all the bright colors. The food looks so good and know you will miss your friends and students next semester.
    Great journey!! Love you!!

    • Hello!
      My companion and I are considering a move to Morocco. We currently live in Texas and are ready for a new adventure. As we considered countries, Morocco was one of his first suggestions. Any advice for someone who wants to stay for a year or two?

      • Hi Malina,
        I have many suggestions. Write me at cindylmccain1@gmail.com so I can learn more about what you are both interested in, what you’ll be doing while here career wise, etc. so I can better advise. I look forward to helping all I can!

  • Hi Cindy! I haven’t taken the time to read your blog in awhile…my travel business has been busy despite all the horrible things going on in our world today…finally read through this entry and loved every bit of it. Your photos are wonderful…are you are in Marrakesh and not Paris?! Those pastries are to die for!

    Have a question for you…how in the world did you ever find your job and the opportunity to do what you are doing? Is there a chance for something similar for an “old lady” living in Crossville, TN? Where to start???

    Thanks for sharing your experiences…the best to you…take care!
    elaine j

    • Thank you for reading the blog, Elaine! One of the main reasons I write is to say that we are NEVER too old to make a move/change. 🙂 One of my favorite quotes is from The Alchemist–a book that has moved many (including me) to follow the heart: “He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dreamed of.” And as a Baby Boomer born in a small town in Kentucky who now calls Tennessee home, too,the internet provides opportunities we didn’t have when we were in school. Now not only kids take gap years to travel for adventure or figuring out what they really want in life but also adults can do the same. There are so many great resources for jobs, schools, volunteer opportunities and expat bloggers (2 who helped me are mentioned in links below) who share their paths abroad. Deciding where you want to be is a first step for some though in my case I contacted schools in multiple countries–some because I’d loved traveling there and others I’d only read about and placed on my Bucket List.

      My dream started with a shift–literally– in Costa Rica (see link below) but was planted in me from childhood and cultivated in Italy over a decade ago. (https://amovetomorocco.com/2014/06/02/seismic-shifts-puerto-viejo-to-marrakech/). My opportunity came when I decided to teach English at an international school. How that happened is here: https://amovetomorocco.com/2014/07/20/the-road-to-morocco/.

      There are ways to work full time, part time, volunteer short or long term, and retire abroad. Each country has rules about work visas and long term stays. Companies that handle some or most of this are great which is the case with international schools.

      There are English language schools and tutoring opportunities world over. Some require certifications (TEFL, CELTA); many institutions offer these courses online. Some use skills in tourism/restaurant/hotel/spa industries. With your travel company experience, as an English speaker you could search for something in tourism.

      Pet sitting and house sitting is another way to live abroad for awhile. House and pet sits can be a week to a couple of years. TrustedHousesitters.com (see link to right on this blog) and MindmyHouse.com are two popular sites that allow living like a local in a particular area. They don’t usually pay for the service but allow sitters to live free in areas all over the world, such as flats in London, cottages in the Lake District of England, villas in France, in beach houses in Spain. These can be found across the US and in Canada as well.

      To have more freedom in traveling about, there are also house swap sites online. If you choose a place that has an Easy Jet or Ryanair hub you can fly cheaply and see more countries. For example, my ticket home from Rome was $26 recently; round trip flights from Marrakesh to Spain are often $80.

      Another option is to volunteer. I have met wonderful people working for Peace Corps and NGOs from Morocco to South America.

      When ready to retire, many expats here bought riads where they not only rent to tourists but also live in themselves.

      I’m working on a post with more options/info…stay tuned or write me at cindylmccain1@gmail.com and I’ll try to answer what I can.

  • Hi Cindy, I love reading about your life in Morocco. I am planning to retire there in about 10 years (Such a long time LOL!) I am traveling to Morocco next April 2017 for my first “Look See”. I am so so very excited. I have connected with a wonderful group of Expat Women in the group Women Navigating Morocco and I hope to meet at least a few of them in person.

    Until then I will live vicariously through you.

    ENJOY!

    • Hi Sondra,
      I LOVED my two years in Morocco and know you will enjoy meeting expat women there. A friend of mine says she fell under the spell of “Marrakesh magic” and has never looked back. I still have many more posts to do this summer on experiences in Morocco. I will be moving to the Dominican Republic in August to be closer to family (my daughter is going with me this time:), but I can’t imagine not returning to Morocco at some point some day. Many women do indeed retire there.

      Thank you for writing,
      Cindy

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