No trip to Morocco would be complete without Moroccan food, and even though I’d been before to Morocco (mostly searching for Arabian horses and surf), returning to eat more food and learn how to cook some was a great idea. In my company was the best chef in Iceland, so adding his tastebuds and expertise to the mix made things a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Our trip started in Marrakesh, which is a majour tourist hub for Europeans to come and eat, take cooking classes, soak in the sun, and overshop for leather and clay at the massive souk. We did all of the above, and our favourite restaurant of the whole trip was hidden within the souk, Latitude 31°, but sadly didn´t serve any wine. A delicious dinner without wine pairing always seems to be missing the cherry on the top.
Nomad was also a great restaurant in Marrakesh, and we took a cooking class at the Maison Arabe, which is highly rated for good reasons – its a major production with live TV screens and multiple chefs and bread makers (and wooden bread oven) and teachers, AND wine pairing to eat all the food you´ve cooked yourself. Once youve had your hands covered in olive oil and nearly burnt a finger off holding the tagine, you get to relax poolside at the Maison Arabe´s country estate, a short drive out of Marrakesh. Its super expensive to stay at the Maison Arabe, but I can suggest Dar Baraka as a sort of boutique hostel alternative.
We made a circle from Marrakesh to Fez, Meknes, Rabat and Casablanca, always searching out the best restuarants and riads to stay at. In Fez we stayed at Dar Finn, boasting the most beautiful roof top breakfast patio we ate at. We signed up for a private bread making cooking class at the Clock Kitchen which was worth the 40 euros, especially since we got to keep all the 4 types of breads and pastries we made at the end of it. We decided to share it with everyone sitting in the cafe around us, and still ended up with a few coconut macaroons to keep for the road. One restaurant we regretted missing was ‘7’, a locally run place that imports an internationl chef every 2-4 months to cook a new menu with his local expertise with Moroccan products. At the moment there’s a Californian-Asian chef cooking up some mean treats.
The souk in Fez was smaller, more intimate, and somehow more authentically local than Marrakesh, so we shopped for some spices and argan oil there. Later we bought a silver tea pot and a yellow dress, a little similar to the ones all the women wear with KKK pointed hoods.
They say Fez may be the foodie capital of Morocco, others argue its Rabat or Marrakesh, but I can atleast recommend Dar Roumana as one of the best dining experiences in Morocco, located in the Fez medina. The Ruined Garden was a great lunch spot, literally placed within a ruined garden. They also taught cooking classes, but didn´t sell wine.
Next stop was Meknes, were the obvious hotel to stay at was Ryad Bahia – atleast according to trip advisor and lonely planet. But then we showed up and seemed to be the only guests in the 8 or 10 bedroom hotel, which wasn´t a problem, but only surprising after having all the other guesthouses and restaurants nearly fully booked. The same happened at our dinner spot – Riad Yacout had a great restaurant reputation, but we were the first and second to last table to eat there.
In Rabat we stayed at Riad Oudaya, and just because of our check-in timing, landed the suite with a built in fireplace while the others who checked in after us were disperesed between the 3 remaining bed rooms. The restaurant Dinarjat was fully booked, with live oud (moroccan guitar) players and dancing waitresses. The setting was a beautifully refurbished riad, complete with marble mosaics and goldfish water ponds, and they had Moroccan wines!
Casablanca was a transient place for us, but we had to try Cafe Sqala for lunch. It had a beautiful patio, a smorgasbord of Moroccan salads, and any type of tagine or pastilla you could dream of. For a more sophisticated meal, we also tried Le Rouget de l’isle, a french inspired restaurant outside of the medina in the backyard of an old mansion.
Inbetween the train trips and bus rides, we also hired a taxi for a whole day (which costs 40 euros – the price of a 15 minute taxi in Reykjavik) to visit the Roman ruins at Volubilis and the holy Muslim city of Moulay Idriss. We scampered up and down and around the little hilltop village to find the most photographic old town yet, full of cats and bread makers, and ate a delicious kebab street sandwich (arguably the second best meal of the whole trip). We shared Volubilis with a few busloads of tourists, and experimented with the selfie stick we bought in some souk to try and get our picture infront of the roman pillars and arched city gate.
I think I left Morocco 5 pounds heavier than when I arrived, but don’t regret one meal. I also learned how to bake 3 types of bread and some cookies, tagine, and 2 types of Moroccan salad, and came home with my very own tagine. I I’m slightly addicted to couscous and still can’t understand why its not as popular as rice or pasta around the world, and some Moroccan wines were really, really (surprisingly) good. Now its time to start practicing with my tagine, and figure out where to buy Moroccan rosé in Iceland.