The Moroccan people are quite possibly the most hospitable and accommodating people I have met on any of my trips and the food, oh the food.
After arriving early in the morning, we visited a Hammam to have treatments—a recommended activity as it really helped me loosen up after the long flight. When I say this was the best spa experience ever (and, I consider myself a bit of a junkie), believe me. After sipping on some strong fresh peppermint tea (the first of many glasses), my sister and I were led into a steamy blue tiled room with fountains overflowing with pink rose petals. After relaxing on some towels for a few minutes, two women entered and washed us with black soap (Savon noir) before scrubbing the heck out of us with these little mitts. After the scrub we were covered in a special mud and left to dry. The treatment finished with a good wash in some Argan oil-laced hot water and a relaxing massage with rose oil. It was absolute heaven and we came out with glowing skin smelling like rose petals.
After the Hammam, we jumped in taxi to go check out a spot in the Medina recommended a local. He referred to it as a “meat boutique” and informed me there are many of these around Morocco. Any mention of lamb and grilling to my father and we are there. The way it works is you choose your meat and then they go grill it over charcoal. There is a small glass case filled with freshly butchered cuts, but we just chose the mix of merguez sausage (my favorite sausage in the world), ground lamb patties and lamb chops. While the meat is being cooked, the waiter arrives with bowls of freshly ground cumin, crunchy salt, an assortment of local olives, some small tomato salads and loaves of slightly sweet bread.
When the main comes, you grab the meat with the bread—your utensil—although I saw many people using their fingers, which were subsequently covered in hot lamb fat. This is a meal that definitely brings the out your inner carnivore, because I abandoned the bread halfway through.
To ensure we did not fall into a meat coma, we headed to the Djemaa el Fna, a market around the corner. This market is know for being a foodie's paradise after dark and Bourdain hit it on his TV show, but we had other plans every night. Instead, we walked around the maze of vendor-lined alleys after buying a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice at one of the stands in the main square. The juices in Morocco are insane and we actually had a couple of orange trees outside our bedroom window.
Upon returning to the hotel with my tagine in hand (if you do go and want to buy one, make sure you don't get talked into one that is for decor only. Look for unadorned ones with a heavy feel), we plopped down on the couches in the bar for some afternoon tea and sweets.
That night we went for a diffa, or a multi-course feast, at Le Tobsil. After arriving to the area where the restaurant is located, a representative greets you and leads your party down a long abandoned alley. My family and I nervously smiled at each other, but I know they were all thinking, "what the hell has Jennifer gotten us into this time?" All of sudden, we reached a large wooden door and it creaked opened. A smiling woman peered out and greeted us as she opened the door to a gorgeous old house decorated in warm yellows and reds.
A pair of musicians played in the corner and rose petals were strewn everywhere. I had done good. You don't place an order at this type of restaurant, so we just sat down a sipped on our fresh fruit juice spiked with a little vodka.
After a bit, our waiter brought us a large assortment of salads and bread.
The next day was our day with a guide when we went to see the city's many sites. On our way to one of the locations, I spied an open door to the fires beneath a Hammam. Locals bring their tagines to such places and leave them to cook all day before picking them up. See the cluster of them in the corner? The smell of cooking meat and fire was unreal.
For lunch, we headed to Al Fassia, a place I'd found in my guide book (Time Out puts out such great travel books). The restaurant is run by sisters and an all woman staff. They source their ingredients from small producers rather than large distributors and the flavor was definitely there. Such a quaint little place and excellent service.
On our way home from seeing all the sites (which you can view HERE
) , we saw this little patisserie and had to stop inside and grab a few treats for later.
We had a great trip and it was nice to finally see Morocco after wanting to all these years. Just beautiful, but four days was more than enough because it is an intense place (even for me). We hit La Rioja next. Stay tuned for that post.