Moroccan Heat – Part 1

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While this blog is intended to document my cafe and cuisine experiences on my travels, I can’t help feel this one is going to turn into a bit of a ‘Travel Blog.’ So feel free to skip the dull parts, but I believe there is too much ‘good stuff’ to pass up on documenting this time, hence the blog being split into two parts. Enjoy! 🙂

Last week my boyfriend and I treated ourselves to a decent break away from the cold, inconsistent weather of London, and journeyed to Morocco for a seven-day escape from reality. This indulgence however did not come without sacrifice – with me contracting food poisoning the night before our departure, after a Mexican meal out with a visiting kiwi friend. So it’s safe to say, our trip got off to a bit of a bumpy start.

However, as soon as those wheels hit the tarmac, my punishing stomach was soon filled with butterflies of excitement (and even a few nerves chucked in there too).

Our first destination was Agadir – a coastal retreat at which we had designated a whole day of ‘blobbing.’ We like to fill our global discovery adventures with 12 hours of sightseeing and cross-country traversing, but I made my boyfriend promise we could have one day – just ONE day – of relaxing, doing bugger all. The night we arrived (after a terrifying, life threatening, yet thrilling taxi ride to the city centre) we joined the local Moroccans down at the beach front board walk, where people young and old gathered to simply ‘hang out.’ I couldn’t get over the amount of people just sitting there, not doing a lot. But it gave the place a great atmosphere. So we walked along the front, passed restaurant workers promising us free cocktails, starters and beers in return for our evening custom. We settled with a dreadlocked-teen who gave us free (and delicious) cocktails – to which my stomach refused, but I couldn’t resist – accompanied by free bread, olives and two lamb tagines. This totalled £15 – a cost we would soon realise was upmarket dining.

After literally burning to a crisp on Agadir beach, the following morning we joined a bus load of locals and ventured the three hours to Marrakech. Thank god I had ‘The Great Gatsby’ on audio book, for 2.5 hours of the journey we were exposed to – what I can only explain as Muslim praying – but what was probably a famous singer’s latest hits. What was funny is as soon as we entered Marrakech, Taylor Swift’s ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ blasted through the speakers.

We had three days to spend in this breath-taking place, which we filled to the absolute brim with sight seeing, shopping and eating – lots and lots of eating. Our Riad (a traditional Moroccan house converted to accommodation) was beautiful, and located just 10 minutes walk from the Djeema el fna square – the tourist honey-net of Marrakech. The route we had to venture to reach this destination was a technicoloured maze of jewellery, clothing, silverware, spices and food – not to mention the speeding scooters driven by locals using the alleyways as highways.

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While everyday the same shop owners would try to entice us with discounts and, what they thought were compliments like ‘Gidday Mate!’ and ‘Cor Blimey Guvnor,’ they were never pushy, grabby or rude – as I had been warned through research of the place. The Moroccan people were always incredibly friendly – and patient with our embarrassing lack of multilingualism. Ashamedly, we both only speak English, and when a taxi driver offers to speak in the native tongue of France, Italy, Spain and Germany, you know as soon as you get back to London, you will be booking new language learning lessons.

So we did the tourist things – saw the Ben Youssef mosque, visited the Bahia Palace, checked out the Sardian Tombs and visited the Marrakech Museum – all of which had their information plaques in either Arabic or French. So if you don’t speak either, I would highly recommend some serious Googling before hand so you can truly appreciate these architectural works of art.

Anyway, to the famous Moroccan cuisine – well I will get to that. The first thing I wanted to share is the common courtesy we encountered time and time again – the act of offering mint tea. In Morocco, the locals drink it 5,6, even 7 times a day. It is considered rude not to offer it to someone you have become friendly with, and it is considered rude to deny that offer. Safe to say, my boyfriend (who strangely enough was asked if he was Moroccan four times on our trip), who makes friends with EVERYONE, got us multiple offers of mint tea.

I personally don’t mind mint tea – however I can’t say it will ever make my staple collection of hot drink options in the pantry. But it isn’t bad, when it isn’t too sweet. However, one thing we realised in Morocco was that the Moroccans like their sugar, and boy, do they put a lot in their mint tea. Half the time it ended up tasting like we were drinking hot Colgate Total.

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Ok, now the food. So, of course, if you are an ethnic food fan like me, you would understand our complete immersing of ourselves into the Moroccan food on offer. We had a a tagine meal at least once a day. While tagines seem to be quite popular over here in London – I put down to the close proximity between the two countries – I had never tried one before back in New Zealand. I think the closest thing I can compare it to would be an individual crock-pot meal, but not as ‘stew’ like. It would consist of one large chunk of succulent meat, covered in spices, big pieces of starchy vegetables, and sometimes accompanied by olives and prunes. It was (as I know you can imagine with your mouth watering just by reading this) absolutely delicious. And, what would impress my Father to no end about a tagine, is it always comes out piping hot – which on a 38 degree day, can sometimes be a hindrance. However after that first mouthful, no matter if you are sweating tacks, your taste buds will let you know it is worth it.

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My favourtie thing about Marrakech – which in all honestly is a very weighted statement as I loved EVERYTHING – was the djeema el fna at night. The place filled with masses of pop-up eateries, where you are welcomed with applause, sat down beside other awe-struck tourists and served a meal which had only been cooked an arms length away from you. It was such good fun – an absolute hive of activity which really gave the term ‘dining experience’ value in the word ‘experience.’

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A very, very close second to the djeema el fna, was the fact that wherever you chose to eat, you would be given bread, chilli dip and olives to eat (free of charge!) before served your main meal. I must have said every time “Mum would be in her element,” as my love of olives is definitely passed down from her. It made me a little sick when I came back to London, and had lunch out with my brother at Nandos, where we paid £3.95 for a tiny bowl of olives!

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And, before I go, I HAVE to get this down in writing – my boyfriend said he had the best coffee he has ever had in his life, in Marrakech. We were sitting in a little restaurant on the perimeter of the djeema el fna square, and managed to get front row seats on its balcony – ready for sunset. We ordered two coffees – the options either black or with milk – and this is what we were served.

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Two glasses maybe three times the size of a shot glass, with a double shot of espresso then filled to the top with steamed milk. I had to agree in some respect, and say that it was delicious. Neither of us like our coffees too milky, but aren’t fans of espressos either. This was like a Macchiato but with more milk. Safe to say we ordered another and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the djeema el fna, with the backdrop of a Moroccan sunset. the perfect – if not even a little romantic – way to finish our stint in Marrakech.

So that’s part 1. I don’t want to loose you before I even get to the part about gorges, cliff-side hotels and the Sahara! So check in soon 🙂

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8 responses »

  1. You have successfully managed to describe Morocco as such a traveller’s jewel. In the words of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, I wish I was “riding on the Marrakesh Express taking me to Marrakesh!” Reading your blog is way better than the Weekend Herald’s travel supplement and food column wrapped into one. Can’t wait for Part II…think I’ll be researching purchasing a tagine!!!Tell Danny to start saving his pennies and making his way to Morocco…reckon he’d love it. Mumxx

  2. Kelly you are so gifted with your writing, I agree with your Mum much better read than the Herald. It comes straight to my inbox and with eager anticipation I get a nice Hot Choc or Ginger latte settle myself comfortably to read like a good book

    This made me laugh, must be something he learnt from his Mother !
    Safe to say, my boyfriend (who strangely enough was asked if he was Moroccan four times on our trip), who makes friends with EVERYONE, got us multiple offers of mint tea.
    Sad I havent put Morocco on our list, but just maybe I can think of next time …….

  3. Salam Kelly . Sbah el Kheyr. Once again this article is Ya Salam . It makes me want to visit Morocco so much and Kol . Ajbani how you describe everything in so much detail . Kate’jebni how all the photos relate to the Blog Lakak ………..Shokran Kelly ….. Kanebgleek xxxxxxxx Beslama Beslama .

  4. Have you been reading the Arabic Dictionary Dave?? Salam Alaikum Kel. Your writings brought back so many memories for me. I spent several weeks driving around Morocco in a camper van – drinking mint tea in the carpet emporiums, walking through the medina in each city/town (in our day it was donkeys rather than scooters), eating couscous (this is the name of the meal rather than just the semolina as we know it), happening upon some sort of festival in the middle of nowhere where the women were all dressed in bright clothing & the men were racing on horseback and shooting their rifles, being blown away with Rabat & Casablanca. I could go on & on… One thing that does upset me is that Keith walked out & left Maxine with all our photos!!!!

  5. Hey! I’ve got a complaint to make! I read the whole article and couldn’t find any of the boring bits you mentioned at the top! I was looking forward to those…

    On a more serious note, this is beautifully written and very evocative. Takes me right back to my one and only visit to Marrakech. You’re going to have to tell me exactly where that restaurant with the great coffee is for when I go back 🙂

    Looking forward to Part II.

    Brian.

    • Hi Milosz!

      Thank you very much for your comment.

      I’m so glad you intend to visit Morocco. The food really is amazing and with every meal comes a fantastic new experience! 🙂 I hope you have a great time when you eventually visit.

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