Jemaa El-Fnaa Market is a square & market place in the old city or Medina of Marrakech, used by locals & tourists.
During the day it’s mostly fresh juice stalls, merchants with traditional leather bags, jewelry & brass cups, youths trying to get you to pay for photos with monkeys & then there are the snake charmers. There are plenty of small cafes & restaurants to have a meal or Moroccan Mint Tea.
As the day progresses, the entertainment changes: late in the day the square becomes more crowded, with dancing/acrobatic boys (it would be against custom for girls to provide such entertainment), storytellers telling their tales in Berber or Arabic, magicians, and peddlers of traditional medicines or Argan oil lotions & such.
The souks with the spices & fruit are beautiful in their gorgeous colours & smells!
As darkness falls, the square fills with dozens of food stalls as the number of people on the square peaks. Steam rising from food stalls greets you, as do the greeters trying to invite you over for a meal.
The square is edged along one side by the Marrakesh souk, a traditional North African market: both for the common daily needs of the locals & for the tourists looking for something to take home with them.
On other sides are hotels, gardens & café terraces, narrow streets lead into the alleys of the medina quarter.
The square is so busy that you must watch as you go, for mopeds rush past at breakneck speeds! There are carts, pulled by donkeys, loaded down with fresh bread or fresh produce.
If you want to go into the alleyways we suggest one or two things: 1) Ask your Riad or hotel to find you a guide. You’ll pay them a little to help you not get lost & they’ll take you to what you ask to see. 2) If you don’t want a guide, always look like you know what you’re doing – if you don’t, some troublemakers take note & may try to pickpocket you or otherwise bully you into paying them some money. We chose a guide & had no trouble. Our friends went it alone, and did have a bit of an issue.
The best view of the market will be from a restaurant rooftop patio. We suggest https www.zeitouncafe.com You can enjoy the craziness from the comfort up above! You can hear the entertainment + the Calls to Prayer. Take a peek at our video here: https://youtu.be/xqKpYCBXhWQ
If you want to experience Moroccan cuisine there is literally no better way than to immerse yourself all in. And by all in, I mean sign up for a cooking class!
We booked this class through Viator after reading many excellent reviews about Chef Najla. And she did not disappoint.
As we started to arrive at the meeting point, we introduced ourselves, there was a young woman from Milan, another from Nottingham, a couple from Portugal, myself from Vancouver, Canada & then another couple, from Port Moody, Canada! Not far from me! What are the chances?!
They all were really fun people & we had a great time together. We were greeted warmly by Chef Najla in a little alleyway near a pharmacy & were asked what we wanted to cook from chicken, lamb, vegetable & meatball tajines. We decided upon chicken & meatball, then were given little shopping baskets as we stepped across the street to a fresh fruit & vegetable stand. Najla explained about choosing your vegetables & what to look for, explaining the Moroccan diet & why they eat the way they eat – bread is life – but fruit & vegs are also very important.
We moved along one stall to the butcher where we purchased the chicken, some choosing to see how the fresh chicken is caught & “prepared”. Then down another little alleyway to a beautiful doorway into the chef’s own home.
Her home was the style of the Riads we’ve visited but this one had a more enclosed “courtyard” where all the cooking classes are taught, her family meals are taken, and where she also teaches how to make Argan products by hand. The beautiful tile work & Moroccan decor was bright & welcoming. The home originally belonged to her mother’s parents & holds many memories. It felt very special to be there.
Najla is a lively, cheerful person who clearly loves what she does. We were made the most heavenly Moroccan Tea that I had the entire time we were in Marrakech. It was made with gunpowder green tea (which I purchased) & then infused with special herbs (I purchased the dehydrated version to take home). That was Anise, Spearmint, Peppermint, Lemon Verbena, Lemongrass, Wormwood, Rose Petals & Thyme. There is a certain way to boil & make the tea to “clean” the leaves & get a clear, flavourful tea. The teeny gunpowder tea is as small as caraway seeds but expands when boiled to so much more than you’d think! Then of course, there’s the sugar – they love their tea sweet!
Once we started the food prep, Najla explains the Moroccan spices & what they should (& should not) be used with as far as fish, chicken or vegetables. She explains about the timing & cooking using tajines, also depending on what’s in them. We did get to make some sides as well, one with fire roasted aubergine (eggplant), another with zucchini, also a tomatoe one & lastly, one with potatoes. All were delicious & refreshing!
My favourite thing to learn about was the preserved lemon! The flavour is amazing! It’s lemon only so deep and rich. I’ll be trying my hand at making my own.
It was very interesting to see the difference between the vegetables that we get in Canada from our grocery stores and the ones we chose in the market in Marrakech. Their tomatoes are so beautifully red & flavourful that it makes ours seem tomatoe-esque… the aubergine were a different flavour as well, everyone liked that side dish, even though they weren’t normally fans of the vegetable. I think the difference is that when ours have been shipped, they’re picked before they’re ripe so that they ship well, which means they won’t have the same flavours at all. I will be sourcing our produce directly from local farms from now on, as much as possible.
I have cooked millions of meals for my children, husband, grandchildren & extended family over the years & I still managed to learn some tricks! One: cut tomatoes in half then “grate” the insides out to get a fresh tomatoe base for your tajine(or stew or soup, even pasta sauce); two: take your garlic clove with the skin on – grate that too – you’ll be left with the skin to toss and nicely minced garlic; three: you can fire roast your peppers or aubergine right on the flame of your gas stove! Is it ever tasty!
We got to enjoy every bit of that meal, of course with fresh bread & was it delicious?! The best! We were able to purchase the Berber tea that we got to enjoy, tajines or any of the spices we used, even a few other items, like the Argan products Najla also makes. She does classes to teach people how to make oils by hand too.
As we said goodbye, we took each other’s information so we can follow each other’s further travels & so that we could receive the recipes to try making at home. I’m excited to try!
We would highly recommend this class & would take another ourselves if we were returning to Marrakech, for sure.
While in Morocco, we’ve got many events & activities planned & most had the same thing in common… the pickup each morning by the companies was at the El Fenn. We decided we should know where this is prior to going so went searching… we didn’t have far to go as it’s right around the corner from our own Riad.
We’ve learned to not assume anything from the front of a building here in Marrakech – some entrances are a huge wooden door in the middle of a stone wall, others are glass, but once you go inside, it’s usually quite something else. El Fenn was the most surprising yet.
The colours & art were bright & beautiful with an African feel. There was beautiful clothing, footwear, there was decor & jewelry, furniture & even a cool brass moped with a cowhide seat! Giant vases in a cerulean blue, lanterns upon lanterns lit up every corner, and brightly coloured bunting hung throughout the lobby. There was an amazing display of colourfully painted full-size branches in vases.
Then there was the stairway up to the rooftop… a shiny, red corkscrew of a staircase that lead up to a beautiful patio with stunning views of Marrakech & two of its spectacular mosques.
The lanterns swing in the breeze, there’s lots of plants & trees, comfortable seating, even futons. The tiles that Morocco is famous for did not disappoint here, herringbone green on the floors paired with the brick walls & mirrored bar made for such a lovely spot.
I had a refreshing Red City Rosé Cooler – Rosé wine, fresh strawberry, Triple Sec & sparkling wine – delicious. We were served spiced olives & salted peanuts as a snack.
Dinner was from the bar menu – a Spiced Lamb Burger with Feta & minted raita sauce & also a Red Bean & Mushroom Burger with Cheddar Cheese, both with tasty homemade, fresh cut fries.
We’ve learned that staff are not in a particular hurry in dining establishments, unlike on the streets where it’s rush, rush, rush. We work fast-paced demanding jobs at home so are learning to slow down here & take it easier, to relax & enjoy the moment. We were lucky to have gotten a spot on the patio it seems, as reservations are required for dinner service & we can see why.
We were able to capture tons of photos from inside while we waited, but also of the patio & its brilliant sunset, with the fading light overtop of the exquisitely lit mosques, where you can hear the Call to Prayer echoing.
We’d like to make a reservation for dinner at some point during our stay & see what the dinner menu & seating elsewhere upstairs will bring.
The perfect corner spot to sit, people watch & talk about our tour of the Saadian Tombs.
The Zeitoun Cafe has a street level seating area but also a rooftop one. There is so much hustle & bustle around the neighbourhood where you’ll find the Saadian Tombs, located on the south side of the Kasbah Mosque, inside the royal kasbah (citadel) district of the city.
There are petit taxis or horse drawn carriages everywhere but we chose to walk so we could see the local businesses & people living their daily lives. Dodging mopeds becomes second nature as you go along the cobblestone sidewalks.
We enjoyed a refreshing cold drink called a Tutti Fruiti which meant it was full of all the local juiced fruits. We had the freshest of fruits & yogourt + some almond briwates. The finale was, of course, Morrocan Mint Tea with the perfect foamy pour.
The service was quick & friendly, the food was good & priced fairly. One of the hosts was a young man, full of life, who agreed to get some great video for us of a local barber shop across from where we sat, who were having a fabulous time singing & dancing!
The Boathouse Restaurant in White Rock has been specializing in fresh seafood & breathtaking waterfront views in White Rock since 1981. Featuring sustainable seafood that is locally sourced & from around the world.
Their exceptional chef-driven dining experience with the highest quality steaks & an extensive wine list, that has the best & largest selection of BC VQA wines.
A true west coast dining experience, gazing out from the beautifully decorated dining room, or from the rooftop patio, across the street to the glistening ocean.
The service was fantastic, there were servers in training shadowing their well-trained co-workers, and the food was cooked to perfection. The fish & chips were, of course, as fresh as can be, tasty, crispy, with just the right amount of batter.
The Truffle Butter Roasted Chicken, with goat cheese mash & truffled Brussels sprouts was moist, juicy & so flavourful.
We enjoyed a glass of cool, crisp, sparkling Henkell Trocken Prosecco & a refreshing Peller Family Chardonnay.
They also serve fresh oysters, steak, even brunch, there’s a kids’ menu & while we were there, they had quite a few large groups celebrating that they easily accommodated.
As the sun set, the sky was unbelievable shades of blues, pinks, purples & the fairy lights slowly came on in the trees along the waterfront. We were surprised when a train came along the tracks between the ocean & the street as we hadn’t realized they were there.
Their other locations, with apparently just as exciting views, are in Kitsilano, New Westminster & Port Moody. We’ll give them a solid, full four star rating.
If you’re looking for a fantastic girls’ day out – I would highly suggest Downtown Chilliwack but first making reservations at Fortitude Wine Bar for 2pm (you’ll see why, keep reading).
Start out with an early 9 am breakfast at Cultivate Cafe at Minter Country Gardens. Enjoy a leisurely, scrumptious meal made by the talented Chef Cam & served by his adorable wife, Peggy. They’ve even got delicious baked goods or frozen soups to take home with you. I’ll always recommend the Eggs Benny – the. best.
Make a quick right out the door of the cafe into Minters & see all the lovely plants, flowers & gift items on your way into Marais Tea, also in Minters. The loose leaf teas are so fresh & there is something for everyone. They carry delectable chocolate as well.
Next, shop in all of the wonderful stores in the area such as Classic Home Decor & Boutique (so worth the extra minute to go to Alexander Avenue for the clothing, purses, art, decor & furniture that Barb has specifically chosen), then Circa Vintage on Main Street(we could wander among the vintage lovelies & chat with Darby all day!), The Button Box(the girls here are fun & their carefully curated decor & clothing pieces are so good), Pick Eco(it smells divine & they’re always at the ready with ways we can all become more ecologically conscious), also Fraser & Co.(this is an adorable store with gently used & new fashions), and Marion’s Dressing Room(vintage clothing to swoon over)on Mill Street, Lolly’s Fashion Lounge (fashion forward pieces + Matt & Nat purses & other accessories) on Wellington Avenue, also Creekside Chilliwack(beautiful country chic decor), Batiqua(handwoven baskets & decor), The Bookman(the best selection of new & used books, even some collectibles), Mary’s on Wellington(luxury underwear & pjs), Payton & Buckle(shoes, shoes, shoes & purses), The Veganist(a little grocer with tasty alternative choices in food & other products, including gluten & dairy free items), and Pink n Blue Kidz(new & gently used kids’ clothing). Magnolia & Oak(fashionable women’s wear, shoes & accessories – we’ve spent a LOT of time here!), The Local Space(some fun & saucy gift items, clothing, skincare, accessories, all locally, Canadian-made), Hunni’s(lovely women’s wear, including hats & accessories), Spruce Collective(clothing, puzzles, art, cards, candles, kitchenware & more) & The Chwk Store (good quality Chilliwack branded clothing, mugs, stickers, etc) are all in District 1881 on Yale Road.
If you’re looking for premium hair products & services, then stop in at Michael’s on Main, they’re award winning & have been 74 years in business, they carry Kevin Murphy, L’anza, AG hair products, DesignMe, Kenra, Mighty Moose Beard Oils & Balms, and Morocanoil haircare.
Really beautiful lashes & brows are crafted at Voila Lash Lounge, the best coffee or tea is right next door at Smoking Gun Coffee, again on Yale Road. They’ve got their own roasted blends for you to take home & treats to go with it.
If you’re into thrifting, there’s some great little stops on Main Street(the Hospital Auxiliary), Kipp Street(MCC), and a few on Wellington Avenue (Unique Thrifting has 2 spots) that are fun to wander around in & make it easy to upcycle clothing or home goods at a fair price, each of these locations give back to their community in big ways.
Now that you’ve shopped till you dropped, you’ll be glad you reserved at Fortitude Wine Bar to end the afternoon on a relaxing, delicious high note.
An absolute gem in the heart of @downtownchwk in @district1881 is @fortitudewinebar
The atmosphere is classy yet comfortable. The walls are a chic, matte navy blue with hints of green velvet on the banquets & gold accents in the lighting.
The wine or bubbles flights are served on wooden boards as is the charcuterie, that gives that rustic texture.
The appetizers were fresh & delicious from the escargot, to the chef’s board, from the Caprese salad, and the meatballs to the Bruschetta or the blue cheese stuffed dates.
Two of us enjoyed a crisp, delicious Prosecco while the others tried wine flights with some they loved and one not so much. But the excellent servers were helpful in finding another wine to try instead & that one was a hit.
The service was excellent, the pricing was fair & the total atmosphere of wandering along from Main Street and down Yale Road to our destination was just right.
It was easy to sit, visit & carry on conversations while overlooking the new additions to the neighbourhood. Downtown Chilliwack has been working hard to revitalize the businesses, from touching up or refurbishing the historic buildings, being conscientious of our yesteryear when building new ones, also improving the walkability(including parking), and for your viewing pleasure – notice the gorgeous murals found on many walls & most nooks & crannies. Each with a plaque to explain their origin & the artist that created them.
Visited a new spot downtown called The Offy. It was FANTASTIC.
It reminded me of a European café, say in Paris, with attention to detail, from real linens & beautiful cutlery, to a carefully curated food & drinks menu.
We decided to go first thing, for brunch, during the week, so I could get some great photos without the crowds I’ve been hearing about.
The Cappuccino with a dollop of Baileys we started with was sublime. Frothy. Strong. Delicious. Pretty, in it’s clear glass with a cinnamon sprinkle on top.
We decided to share, so ordered the Pierogi (apple & cheddar pierogi with thick cut bacon, fried egg, Polish farmer’s sausage, caramelized onion, Crème fraîche & grainy mustard) & the Croque Madame (grilled sourdough bread with hand carved ham, Gruyère cheese, onion Mornay sauce, a fried egg & fresh house greens in a Dijon vinaigrette).
Everything was perfectly cooked, beautifully plated & graciously served. Our server was lovely, fun & very good at her job. The atmosphere was exactly what I’d hoped; cheerful, quaint, good music & even better food.
I loved the decor, the way they served your drinks & meals, the location in the revitalized Downtown Chilliwack’s District 1881.
Here are a couple of really great places to eat while you’re on the Island:
Hornby Island Bakery & Pizzeria – super good pizza & baked goods. The owner Jon was super friendly, opening just for us, and chatted with us about his love for his craft. Fresh, thin crust and the toppings were A1.
Isla de Lerena Vineyard – amazing charcuterie, huge platter, and then delicious chicken florentine, trout meunière & slow braised boneless short ribs with a red and white wine. It was great to speak with the chef who clearly enjoys his work.