Wine’s at temperature, the aroma of exotic spices fills the kitchen, and the music is a playin’. An ideal Saturday date night at home.
It was our first full day in the house post-holidays sans guests. I could think of no better way to spend a few hours than breaking out the tagine my husband gave me for Christmas and taking her for a spin. Thanks to Hollygrove Market’s weekly produce box we had some fresher than fresh ingredients to toy around with.
If you google tagine, you’ll find it means two things: both the traditional covered clay vessel used for slow cooking in North Africa and the meals that are the result. While in Marrakech last year we were fortunate enough to take a hands-on class in the technique, but the clay pots were to heavy and unwieldy to pack and bring back. And if you don’t have the actual clay pot, you can use a dutch oven to similar effect, so don’t cross tagine off your list for want of equipment. What I like about tagine cooking is the long slow braise, well-suited not only to blending the flavors of the dish, but also producing a relaxing at home event. Think comfort food at it’s finest. Continue reading
Taking it easy in Essaouira
Eventually there were camels, of course.
Beach towns, it would seem, share an essential beachiness, an island time sensibility originating probably somewhere in the Caribbean and spun across the Horse Latitudes, colonizing any place with a patch of sand. Even a place as madcap and frenetic as Morocco becomes a 78rpm set on 45 once you reach the ocean, a concept we considered at leisure with feet propped and cold drinks in front of us, looking out at the Atlantic from the end of Africa and watching the camels in the sand.
Essaouira, or simply ‘Essa’ as locals and those not wishing to use up all their vowels at once call it, is an old port town on the Western coast of Morocco, famous for windsurfing, alleged Jimi Hendrix visits in the 60’s, and an overall laid-back atmosphere. It was the last major stop on our trip earlier this year, a three-hour bus ride across the desert after days of head-on-a-swivel negotiation of labyrinthine Marrakech and Fez. Continue reading
He and She Said:
Morocco was a visual feast, a dish mixing Mediterranean, Arabic, and African flavors. Here are some of our favorite shots:
Standard issue transportation
Word is that Steven Spielberg modeled Indiana Jones’ adventures after the serials of the 1930′s and ’40′s. That source material is a bit before my time, to be sure, but Raiders of the Lost Ark is a terrific film. Thrills, chills, danger and mayhem that begin from the moment you hit your seat. Forget nuance: the good guys are really good, the bad guys are really bad, and their conflict spills across one exotic backdrop after another.
Early on, Indy’s tough former girlfriend Marion is kidnapped by agents of the Nazis in the Cairo bazaar. She’s thrown in a basket identical to a thousand others as Jones tears down innumerable confusing alleys dodging donkeys, motorcycles, and wall to wall Egyptians in a cacophonous ramble that is one of the best sequences in the movie.
Throw out the damsel in distress, move the venue west into Morocco, and the Medina in Marrakech is exactly like that. Spielberg’s movie is set in the 1940′s, but a few brands and trademarks that feel like anachronisms are really all that hints at 2012 in the Medina of today, and the donkeys are still around.
You don’t see this every day
The old walled city of Marrakech dates from the 12th century. The medina of Fes, the imperial city seven hours to the northeast, is older and even larger, but not as frenetic and pulsating. Marrakech is frustrating, fascinating, exhilarating, and exhausting by turns: full contact travel that turns over-stimulation into an art form. Continue reading
Three days in Morocco that feels like three weeks. Forget about relaxing and decompressing: this is full-contact travel.
- This place isn’t for the meek. It is bustling and frankly overwhelming at times with someone at every turn contriving ways to induce you to part with your dirham (although if absolutely necessary I am certain they’d settle for your dollars). The sooner you accept this fact the better prepared you are to manage it.
- Morocco is very different from Europe. While there are some strong French influences (French is the 2nd language) the approach and overall feel of Fez and Rabat are very different.
- The architecture is splendid and quite enchanting. If you can break away from the madness of bartering for a bit, you’ll be able to soak in the beauty and singularity of the Andalusian and Arab esthetic.
- Moroccan homes can be breathtaking. Riads (inner courtyard with central garden) and Dars (courtyard without garden) sometimes have central atriums as hgh as 40 feet surrounding rooms on all sides.
- The Medina of Fes is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. More than 250,000 people in a walled city with donkeys as the only mode of transportation. Not a tourist district, but a self-contained community.
- Five times a day the call to prayer beckoning from the minarets adds another piece of the exotic. We are most definitely not in Kansas anymore.
Posted in Travel
Photo: Matteo Martinello
He and She Said:
Our itinerary is set for our Moroccan adventure. As we mentioned a couple of months ago, we were fortunate enough to win an incredible privately guided trip to a place on our once-in-a-lifetime list.
We leave in February, and our trip will include stops in Rabat, Meknes, Volubilis, Fez, Marrakech, and Essaouira. We’ll eat, drink, experience, and bring back some cool things, and maybe something for you as well.
We’re looking for tips, especially of (but not limited to) the food variety. Most of our dinners and many of our lunches will be on our own, giving us the opportunity to find the best cross-section possible from street food to haute cuisine. Morocco’s a bit off the beaten path relative to places in Europe, and good intel is correspondingly a bit more difficult to obtain.
If you’ve been to Morocco, give us your insider secrets. If you know someone else who has, ask them for theirs or forward this post to them.
In return, we announce the very first He Said/She Said contest: best Morocco tip wins a free tagine, courtesy of us. The traditional clay pot used in Moroccan cooking is an item we already know we’ll need to acquire when we’re there (we’re still kicking ourselves for coming back from Spain without a paella pan), so we’ll pick up another as a thank you to the respondent who’s suggestion knocks our socks off the most.
Game on, and thanks in advance!
Photo: Katina Lynn
He and She Said:
There are worse ways to start a Monday.
We learned this morning that we are fortunate to be the winners of iExplore’s Best Travel Secrets Contest. The prize: Six days and seven nights in and around exotic Marrakesh.
We stumbled across this opportunity a couple of months ago and figured it wouldn’t hurt to try our luck. We wrote a little piece on our amazing trip to the Amalfi Coast a couple of years ago and published it with additional photos on the blog here with a shameless plug for votes.
So thanks to everyone who took the time to click through and vote for us! We never seriously thought we would win, but a Moroccan odyssey was tempting enough for us to give it our best shot. Not sure yet of all the details or when we’ll be making the trip, but we’ll be sure to share our experience in words and pictures when we do.
Thanks for the support!