There were things I expected, from childhood perusals of National Geographic. Photos and stories I'd heard from friends who've spent years coming to Marrakesh to lead culinary tours. Hell, I once taught a class in tandem with a chef friend who spent his boyhood here.
I expected the Medina's winding streets in Tangier and Marrakech, men strolling by in djellaba's (long hooded robes), spices wafting through the market places, mint tea loaded down with sugar and the eye aching glory of the rugs, lights, pillows, glasses and silver. I knew about all of it.
What I didn't know surprised and delighted me.
People were friendly and kind. Speaking in English, Spanish or French, they gave me directions to my hotel or riad with a gentle smile or guided me through the maze of cobblestone streets. There were recommendations for B'sarra (Fava Bean soup) stalls, where to find free books, off the beaten path ricotta salata makers and hearty chewy whole meal home baked bread. Neighbors who brought steaming platters of couscous, more bread and sweets in exchange for English pronunciation guidance.
I didn't expect the green, lush farm lands and rolling hills of Assilah. Where spring brought wild flowers popping up spots of color and huge snail/slugs leaving a mucous trail in their quest for your cabbages.
I didn't expect it to be so rainy and cold. Where a well lit fire and hot sweet mint tea and even sweeter kinder Japanese fellow traveller housemates and our laughing half Morrocan half Spanish host, shared stories of their roads taken, worked in tandem to keep me warm.
The food fed my stomach, palate and eyes. Intricate pastries, tooth achingly sweet, strong breads, hearty soups, abundant vegetables, salty peanuts and fragrant couscous platters.
You surprised me Morroco, pleasantly so.