Foodie Travel: Yourfoodgeek Explores Morocco.
As I sat beside my friend, waiting for the plane to take off, after what seemed like the longest wait ever, I could feel some high level of excitement in my belly, just imagining all the Moroccan cuisines I was going to indulge in, and I could also hear the sound of my camera go “click click”, capturing all the moments and most importantly, sharing it all with you! I was excited!!
To explore Africa has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I have always wanted to see the true diversity and depth of different African countries, cultures and of course, try the different sumptuous cuisines.
I booked my all-inclusive trip to Morocco with a very reliable travel company known as Diamond and Pearls Travels. They not only saved me time, but they also saved me from the hassles involved in travel processes. You should really check them out.
Morocco is a North African country that has a coastline on both the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It has borders with Western Sahara to the south, Algeria to the east and the Spanish North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean coast in the north.
Morocco, whose long struggle for independence from France ended in 1956, is mainly composed of Arabs and Berbers. The major resources of the economy are agriculture, phosphates, tourism, and textiles.
For the few days I spent in Morocco, I gorged myself on couscous, drank mint tea, visited the Saadian Tombs, stopped by the mosque, and really absorbed the sights and sounds of the beautiful kingdom.
Of all those beautiful moments, these were my faves:
The official religion of Morocco is Islam, with about 99% of its inhabitants as Muslims.
I arrived the city of Marrakech (pronounced Marrakesh) on the eve of Sallah. My ride from the airport to Iberostar Club Palmeraie Marrakech Hotel & Resort was made interesting by the hustling and bustling sounds on the street of Marrakech, with the air literally reeking of excitement as people were busy with the last-minute rush and buy for the big day tomorrow.
The morning after, as I walked into the dining section of Iberostar Club Palmeraie Marrakech Hotel & Resorts, it was such a beautiful sight to behold. People had gathered to dine and celebrate together. The room was filled with happy people, both young and old. This was pretty evident as the excitement was real and super contagious. Before I knew it, I joined in. who doesn’t like gbedu?
Food is quite central to Moroccan culture and family life in general, so it does of course, have a prominent role in the celebration of any of their holidays. There was an array of different types of food and drinks to be consumed, that for a moment I was spoilt for choice. They sang and danced to the rhythm of the music being played in the background by three elderly men. These people were happy and it was obvious! Standing there in the midst of the buzz was such a great feeling. I totally loved it!
Soaking In The Moroccan Cuisine
Moroccan cuisine is greatly influenced by Morocco’s interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the years. Moroccan cuisine is typically a mix of Arabic, Andalusian, Berber and Mediterranean cuisines, with a slight European and Subsaharan influence.
The main Moroccan dish most people are familiar with is Couscous, the old national delicacy. Every menu I came across had Couscous on the top of the list. No wonder by the end of my stay, I was a little bit “couscoused out”. Whew!!
I discovered that Beef is the most commonly eaten red meat in Morocco and it is usually eaten in a tagine (this is a Berber dish that is named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked) with a wide selection of vegetables. Chicken is also very commonly used in tagines. Lamb is equally heavily consumed. Other famous Moroccan dishes are Pastilla, Tanjia and Harira.
A big part of their daily meal is bread. There was always bread served on the table. I was told that bread in Morocco is principally made from durum wheat semolina, known as khobz. I found that bakeries were very common there and fresh bread is a staple in every village there. They love whole grain coarse ground or white flour bread or baguettes. There were also a number of flat loaves of bread and pulled unleavened pan fried loaves of bread.
Drowning Myself In Moroccan Mint Tea.
Every culture has its own way of relaxing and showing hospitality. In a country where the consumption of alcohol is not common due to religious restrictions, for the Moroccans, drinking tea is a way of life. When you visit a Moroccan, the first thing they do is to start brewing tea. It is a tradition. It is also an invitation to witness and participate in an important part of the culture.
The most typical type of tea served in Morocco is green tea, specifically, Chinese gunpowder tea. It is brewed with fresh mint and a lot of sugar. I remember requesting for the tea, without sugar and I received a strange look. I discovered that it didn’t taste as good without a bit of sugar in it.
And oh! They don’t just pour the tea, there’s an art to pouring it: the higher the teapot is raised, the better! This pouring technique is as important as the quality of the tea itself. Moroccan teapots have long, curved pouring spouts and this allows the tea to be poured evenly into tiny glasses from a height. They love their tea with bubbles, I noticed. So while pouring the tea, they hold the teapot way high above the glasses. Amazing!
I will do a specific post on Moroccan tea, sharing the recipes.
Wandering Through The Souk
I was beginning to really enjoy my stay in Marrakech but I knew it wouldn’t be complete without going into the city and getting a feel of the locals, walking on the streets, making a few purchases of souvenirs to return home with and you know, just literally inhaling the city.
Many thanks to the travel company I used, Dandptravels, who made sure I got this experience by putting together a city tour. Our tour guide was pretty pleasant and he made sure we got a feel of the city.
A souk is the part of the medina or town where most of the stores congregate. A market, if you will. It is divided into sections based on what is being sold. Walking through the souk, I found twisting and turning streets, with so many shops all lined up too close together. One thing was certain, one could easily get lost there. But wouldn’t that be part of the adventure? So.. bring it on! I’m just joking, haba! There were very old looking buildings with different people selling different items and trying to hassle the tourists and buyers. While I found this fascinating, it was obvious to me that selling is like their national sport and haggling is an integral part of their culture. So if you’re shopping in the medinas, you will have to know or learn how to haggle so as to get a good deal and avoid giving into the pressure. my igbo brother traders have nothing on these guys, I swear!
There were loads of beautiful items, it was totally overwhelming: from carpets, woodworks, jewelry, leather items, kettles, etc.
Having Dinner At Chez Ali Restaurant/ Fantasia Show.
This has got to be the highlight of my entire stay in Morocco. I will call it the “two in one night” as it started off with a beautiful dinner and ended with an amazing show. It was truly an Arabian Nights’ experience.
The night started with a ride to the Chez Ali complex on the outskirts of Marrakech. Walking into the beautiful and huge complex and headed to Chez Ali restaurant, we were welcomed by different folk groups from different Moroccan tribes, playing different tribal music.
We were taken to our table inside the beautifully decorated tent that reminded me of the book, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. did you read it? We were not alone in the tent, there were other tourist groups and their local guides with them.
For our starter, we had the Moroccan Harira Soup. Harira is an authentic Moroccan soup made with tomato, lentils, and chickpeas. This is a typical heavy soup, usually served for dinner during winter to warm up. It is eaten with plain bread or with dates. This soup was quite filling. I didn’t quite enjoy it but the bread made up for it.
For the main dish, we had the famous 7 Vegetable Couscous. yes, Couscous again! These Moroccans love Couscous!! The 7 Vegetable Couscous composed of semolina grains, topped with 7 different vegetables and meat, obviously cooked in a super tasty and comforting broth.
The Moroccans consider it good luck to combine seven vegetables in a Couscous dish. Substitutions are acceptable if the total number remains the same. As well as improving the flavor of the couscous, the vegetables in this vegetarian dish added color to it. It was delicious.
After literally getting drowned in the pool of couscous, it was time for some sweet treats on our taste buds. First was the big colorful tray of fruits and then the deliciously crunchy cookies. And aha! The Moroccan mint tea!
While we ate, a group of singers and dancers came round our table to perform.
Dinner at Chez Ali Restaurant was indeed beautiful.
The Fantasia Show
The already impressive evening comes to a fitting finale with the Fantasia show. After dinner, we were escorted to the arena to watch the Fantasia show.
Fantasia show is a traditional exhibition of horsemanship performed during cultural festivals and also used in closing wedding ceremonies. This performance started off with a group of horse riders, all clothed in traditional outfits, with old muzzle-loaded rifles along with a straight path. They moved at the same speed so as to form a line and they fired into the sky. Boooom! I had my heart in my mouth, literally. It was terrifying, yet so exciting!!
Then came the horseback acrobatics, and the beautiful belly dancer, who reminded me that my foodie ways were slowly getting me into trouble in the flat tummy department. oh well…
The show was unbelievably a rare sight. I’d never seen a thing like that. I was really glad I went.
I had an interesting evening at Chez Ali. I became familiar with Morocco’s traditions. A lot of food, fruits, tea, warm live music and dance around the tables. The exciting show with horses and ancient guns showed part of Morocco’s traditions.
Have you visited Morocco? What was your favorite experience? Please kindly share.