Once a cultural and commercial hub of Northern Africa, Morocco is a melting pot of different flavours, tastes and cultures. My romance with the country started in Fez. There I was exposed to its wonders. I wish to return and explore the rest of the country one day soon, God willing.
What sparked my love of Morocco was its ancient history. A country that has been under Roman, French and Berber rule with an extensive trade relationship with Arab nations, its occupants’ influences can still be felt. There is an antique feel to the city of Fez, a preciousness; the centuries passing before you as you move through the city. Nowhere is this truer than in the Medina of Fez, my favourite sight in the entire town. The oldest walled part of Fez, this beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage Site is a labyrinth of narrow bustling streets filled with vendors, palaces and tanneries. A maze I was happy to get lost in.
Then there is their delicious cuisine, which, much like its peoples, is humble and traditional, yet excitingly complex. Spices such as saffron, cumin, cinnamon, coriander and mace give Moroccan food its signature flavour. They can be found stacked high in giant sacks with their bright and lively colours decorating streets everywhere. Like many countries that embrace spices, Morocco has its own signature blend, ras el hanout. Meaning ‘head of the shop’ in Arabic, the versatile blend is perfect for sprinkling on meat as a rub or stirring into warm stews.
At the top of Morocco’s food pantheon lies the humble tagine, a clay pot used traditionally for cooking everything from lamb to fish to couscous and even dried fruit. Herein lies my favourite dish, one that conjures fond memories of my time in Fez, Lamb tagine with almonds, apricots, and prunes. It was my pleasure to enjoy this delicacy with my family in Dar Binsauda, a charming hotel made out of a magnificent 300-year-old building. There, we were lucky enough to also receive a hands-on cooking class from the head chef and learn how this dish is put together.
A land that has endured constant change, if anything typifies Morocco, it is versatility and adaptation. The various cultures that have had influence over the country remain rooted in everyday life. This eclectic combination of cultures gives Morocco a flavour, unlike any other and a deserved reputation as a culinary paradise.