My husband and I recently returned from a vacation to Morocco. We spent most of our time in Marrakech. Morocco is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for ages and when the opportunity arose I was set on traveling there. Marrakech, in some ways reminded me of Pakistan–the haggling shopkeepers, the crowds, the homes, and the hospitality. We were lucky enough to do a great deal of exploring despite the rainy weather boooooo! The few days when the sun was out were amazing! But, more than anything we ate and ate and then ate some more. I have fallen off the healthy eating boat and am going to get back on it now that I’m back *fingers crossed.*
The Djemaa el Fna or the central square in the old city of Marrakech is bustling with food stalls serving up traditional Moroccan fare such as cous cous, sujok, tagines, and pastilla. If you enter one of the many alleys you are led to different quarters; one for spices, meats, vegetables, fruits, seafood. It is like manipulating a maze. My husband and I had no idea where we were going exactly but without fail stumbled upon a multitude of food “destinations.”
I loved the spices available there. Sacks full of spices topped off in a pyramid shape were at every corner perfuming the air. The fragrant aromas of cumin, saffron, ginger, and ras el hanout permeated the city. Vibrant colors always catch my eyes and Marrakech was definitely bliss for my senses.
Bright, vibrant colored lemons and oranges were a daily staple for me. I have never loved eating oranges on their own but being served fresh tree picked clementines and oranges daily can change a person’s perspectives. The citrons confits or preserved salted lemons also utterly transformed my food journey. The flavors exploded in my mouth– mellow yet tangy, bright and pungent. Oh and the olives! How can I forget the olives. I have never consumed so many olives on a daily basis in my life. Let me tell you, the olives in Morocco taste so much better than any other olive I have ever tasted. My husband who *detests* olives was chowing them down like they were bon bons. They were mild and not as vinegar laden as many other olives you find in North America. Often times, they were marinated in lemon, thyme, garlic and other spices I could not quite discern.
Mint tea was another thing I consumed in enormous quantities. Making mint tea is a real art. Holding the teapot then raising your arm in an acrobatic motion and pouring just so the right amount of froth can cover the tea and then discarding the first glass so that all the impurities are taken out of the tea is almost scientific. Huge bunches of mint were used in this tea creating such a pronounced yet delicate flavor. Another thing that tasted like a completely different thing was honey. Mind you, I only buy local and organic honey but this honey in Morocco beats any other honey I have ever tasted. The bread was also another highlight of the trip. Carb counters beware! This bread is thick, dense, and chewy. There is also a little honey added to it, creating a phenomenal taste. Absolute heaven!
One thing I must say is that my perception of Moroccan food was a little off. My husband and I took a cooking class with Lala Nazha, a famous cooking instructor in Marrakech. I was speaking with her about how I would prepare cous cous. First of all it would probably be instant whereas in Morocco they use a couscoussiere and is about a three hour process of steaming, and fluffing with olive oil and water. Also, stewed meat is served on top and nothing is mixed in with the cous cous itself. When I make cous cous I stir in nuts, dried fruits, herbs, vegetables and so on. I told Lala Nazha this and she labeled my version “false cous cous.” (Truth be told, I think I prefer my version of cous cous better, this could be because I felt the cous cous needed more flavor and texture.) But, other than that the food in Morocco was truly memorable and I most certainly wish to return at some point because I only dipped my toe into the ocean that is Morocco and Moroccan cuisine.
Oh yes! Before I forget, if anyone is traveling to Marrakech you must stay at Riad Dar One. It was an absolute delight. The owner, Jean Peres, and his staff are so friendly and helpful. I have never had such a pleasant stay at a hotel. The Riad itself is gorgeous and the rooms are modern yet have a distinct Moroccan flair. I have nothing but praise for this establishment!
Here are more pictures of the trip. Enjoy!