I tend to judge a place by its food.
Zac and I stayed within the medina of most of our Moroccan cities. Medina is another word for the “Old City,” and medinas are often enclosed within fortress-like walls. The medina in Rabat was a maze, it took many minutes of wandering around in order to get our bearings. The medina in Fez was much more manageable.
Medinas are lined with all sorts of vendors, all full of color. Some vendors stick to dates and figs, whereas versatile vegetable vendors sell eggplant, avocado, tomato, carrots, mint, potatoes, watermelon and all sorts of other delicious goodies. There are also vendors who sell grains in barrels of burlap, such as cous cous, rice and legumes. There are also herbalists who sell fresh spices (I couldn’t resist picking up some tumeric and curry spices). Other vendors sell all sorts of different olives. Olives in Morocco are given out at just about every restaurant as a free appetizer. And of course, there are plenty of vendors who sell meat – with the traditional cuts as well goat head and cow intestine.
Walking down the path of the Medina is intense. Its a sensory overload, filled with powerful smells and color. As tourists in Morocco, we really stuck out. I can walk down the streets of Spain and not be recognized as an outsider, but there is no possible way to blend into Morocco, especially as a woman. Most, but not all, of the women wear headscarves. Much of the Moroccan city economy depends on tourists, and so foreigners are baraded with invitations to enter their store or restaurant. Zac and I bought a lot of fresh fruit to snack on while traveling, but did very little stuff shopping. The only place we entered was a self promoted “rug museum,”which was little more than a rug store. (See photo below) There are photos of King Muhammed V everywhere. The photo in the “rug museum” was the most statesmen of those I saw, most of the photos are more candid.
The rugs in Morocco are beautiful. Most of them are handmade, reversible adn full of brights colors.
Back to the food: The food at the restaurants was incredible. Everything was pretty cheap and very fresh. The Moroccans eat a Mediterranean diet of olive oil, whole grains and vegetables. Many dishes are eaten out of a two part ceramic serving dish called a “tagine.” The bottom of the tagine is a regular bowl and the top part is a triagular teepee with a hole through the middle. The bowl is filled with food, covered with the teepee and then put on top of a stove and cooked slowly. Its delicious. We ate lots of garbanzo beans, cous cous, chicken, eggplant and tomatoes.
Its interesting to see a culture with such a totally different connection to food. Women cook the food while men work. The unemployed men hang out in the cafes (but no alcohol, the country isn’t entirely dry but it is difficult to get alcohol). According to unofficial sources, many people in the Moroccan are unemployed, but few are malnourished. Business are usually family run, and the children work just as much as the parents.
Despite friendly warnings, I was drinking the tap water in Morocco the whole time. I was entirely fine until Tangier, but got a little ill from . Tangier sucks. Its pretty touristy, more unsafe and expensive and poorer quality of food. Its interesting, and difficult, to judge the quality of food. I couldn’t say how the food in Tangier was worse, but it just was. The food wasn’t as fresh and the collaboration of spices was off. In Rabat, Fez and Chefshouen the food was just incredible.
Photos of Morocco: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2322255&id=9128464&l=b50c2cf598