World-renowned chef, author and Emmy winning television personality Anthony Bourdain visits Tangier, Morocco in the next episode of "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," airing Sunday, May 12, at 9 p.m. ET. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.
One of the signature photos people always take home with them from Morocco is of heaping piles of spices in a variety of enticing colorful displays. These setups aspire to overwhelm visitors with the enchantment of a new and undiscovered place – and to encourage wide-eyed tourists to part with their dollars.
Diane Rice of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, captured a singular image of one of those remarkably shaped groupings of spice cones, a monument to Morocco's exotic qualities.
Spice shops are located all over the place, inviting visitors to try a sniff. Ras el hanout, or "top of the shop," is the country's signature spice blend. There may be dozens of ingredients involved, including nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon and cardamom - and everyone has their own variation. It is these same spices that lend Moroccan foods a special flavor.
"I've traveled extensively in Europe, but nowhere than can match this experience," Rice said. "Whatever exotic dream I had of Morocco before I went was more than confirmed. It was way better than I ever expected, and by far the farthest thing from our life in the U.S. that I have ever visited."
Rice was visiting her son-in-law's family in Morocco and wasn't sure what to expect during her May 2011 trip, but any fears were quickly dissipated by the hospitality - and tastes - she encountered.
Two popular meals are the tajine (or tagine) and the pastilla. The former is a style of slow-cooked stew often filled with meat and vegetables, and is named for the special pot in which it is cooked. The latter is a Moroccan meat pie often made with pigeon or chicken.
"My experience with the food was amazing, but different because I was eating in private homes, prepared by real, traditional Moroccans," she wrote. "I had every conceivable tajine recipe and loved all of them. I had some clean, lemony salads and some creamy, delicious couscous that I remember vividly."
Jessie Faller-Parrett of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, shared a photo of the colorful array of vegetable foodstuffs one might find in just one course of a Moroccan meal. Multiple courses with many different components and local breads are common when eating in Morocco.
Like Rice, Faller-Parrett spent time eating with Moroccan locals during her travels, so she also got the non-touristy perspective on food.
"I was fascinated during one of our first breakfasts, as the hosts at our riad served us three different kinds of bread, hard boiled eggs, cheese, jam, cocoa, honey, butter, olives, orange juice, coffee and mint tea."
She enjoyed immersing herself via the varied foods available in Morocco, including the tajine and pastilla. She also made sure to try a sheep's head and brain straight from a stall in Marrakech's Jamaa el Fna, the country's most famous market.
"Meals are a wondeful experience, with many different courses and new tastes," Faller-Parrette said. "Be adventurous and try everything from the many delicious types of bread and vegetables to pigeon pastillas and boiled sheep's head."
If you go to Morocco, you'll also find that tea is steeped into the culture. Swishing a paper tea bag in a steaming coffee mug can be heavenly on a cold day, but it's a far cry from the elaborate rituals of the East. Residents drink a special green tea several times a day. It's a part of daily life, and a component of hospitality shown to guests.
"The ubiquitous mint tea was ever-present," wrote Rice. "Every shop, hotel, restaurant and home."
The tea is prepared with mint added to it, and then sweetened to varying degrees by regional preference.
Visual presentation is a big part of the ritual, and the preparer typically uses a tray with glasses and pots. There may be an elaborate preparation technique designed to affect the taste and consistency of the drink. Pouring is done from a distance to ensure a certain foaminess, which is a practice that can be found in many other countries around the world.
Vivienne Chapleo and Jill Hoelting , who run WAVEjourney.com, visited Morocco and participated in a tea ceremony with a Berber family just outside Marrakech in the Ourika Valley. The Bend, Oregon, bloggers said the tea ceremony was a treasured experience featuring more than just tea, and plenty of attention from their hosts.
"They also served warm, fresh bread from flour they had stone ground themselves. Accompanying the bread was honey from their own bees, butter from their cow and olive oil from their olive trees."
The traveling pair made sure to record a video of the elaborate preparations for the tea.
"The mint tea was served with copious amounts of sugar and was an absolute treat to see being prepared."
Faller-Parrett says she also enjoyed tasting the tea with meals or just to relax wherever she went.
"Mint tea is such a huge part of Moroccan culture, and I enjoyed taking a moment after meals to drink it and talk about all of the delicious foods we ate or to take a break from a day of exploring to sit for a moment at a café, soak in my surroundings and drink tea."
Visit Bourdain's favorite places in Tangier:
Café Tingis - Petit Socco
06 73 49 40 54
Saveur de Poisson - 2 Escalier Waller
05 39 33 63 26
Café Baba - Kasbah
06 04 37 14 31
Abdelileh Zim (Street Pancakes) - Kasbah across from Café Baba
Grand Socco Market - Grand Socco
Bashir’s House - Jajouka, Morocco
21 26 61 18 99 65
Boutique Majid - 66 Rue Des Cheretiens
Café Andalous - Rue de Commerce, 7, Soula Eddakhel
05 39 93 05 37
Gibbs House - 287 Rue de la Vienns Montague
06 247 712 605
Poccadillios - 14 Rue de Mexique
06 61 20 91 20
Previously on Parts Unknown:
O Canada! Our home and delicious land
Colombian cuisine – from aguardiente to viche
The ever-changing flavor of L.A.'s Koreatown
Fall in love with Myanmar's cuisine
The post originally ran as part of CNN iReport's Destination Adventure series, which took a look at great places for eager explorers. Have you been to Morocco? Share your story in the comments below.
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As a native Moroccan, I am so proud of Morocco, it's heritage and culture. I am disappointed at other Moroccans who are very critical and negative about Morocco. Change is happening in Morocco, either you embrace it or remain critical for the rest of your life. it's your choice so keep your destructive comments to yourselves. Anyway's this article was meant for tourists so let them be the judge!
Interesting how one always finds negative comments in all type of news articles. I think people should try to relieve their stress using other means. Go out and get some sun, exercise, get a life :)
I am Moroccan living in USA, and I want to give a near perfect image how morocco is. lets just stay away from ignorance. if you like to travel and you are an avid tourist, morocco would a perfect destination. why? so much to see and taste. but you need to cough ups few thousand dollars. forget about cancaun in mexico. restauration business is very well organized. Morocans don't go out, so nice restaurant are primarily for tourists. there are touristic villages that are located in Marrakesh, Fes, Agadir, Essaouira in which you can spend a great time. Marrakesh ranked in sixth place as the best touristic destination to visit in all over the world. 40 000 French citizens live in Marrakesh, because they like the food, the weather, and the hospitality of local people. Beaches are gorgeous. with due respect to florida beaches, they are no where to compete with Moroccan beaches. I know because I have been in both. but if you want to visit morocco and be frugal. sorry! don't even try. you wont enjoy it because you will not enjoy our public transportation, hospitals do not offer great services.. and go on.for those who are hateful, I would rather eat Moroccan foods than shut down my cardiac artery with fast foods...carnival with cloaked toilets will be a good choice for you.
I was reading this story, enjoying the pictures and the videos. Then I got to the comments... Those people who leave snide, rude, vicious, ignorant and just plain idiotic have become the biggest problem with the internet. They're a cancer. A plague. Piles of vomit and dung. You can't go anywhere online without these people thinking so highly of themselves or hiding behind anonymity and spouting hatred that they THINK they don't have to account for. (Can't wait until they find out how wrong they are.)
Exactly, Thanks Jack for this. I think these people need therapy. Maybe one day, when they start to love themselves they can act the same way towards others and life in general. There is an Arab saying that goes -using my modest translation- "If you lack something you can't give it to others".
The Moroccan food are the best, and the taste of frui is magnificant. You got try it to belive it.
if it looks nasty, don't put your mouth on it.
that's why the women look like dump trucks
Why would you say something like that? I'd like a logical answer for your hate. I'm having a hard time understanding thoughtless hate. I went to Morocco last year and I had the most amazing experiences. I met the most beautiful women and the kindest men. I don't understand you. Help me understand.
They didn't mention another important point. Women there will do anything for money. Trust me, anything!!
Sir I think you are confusing your sister with Moroccan women.It is sad to know that there are people who make such statements.
I lived in Morocco for awhile and enjoyed the B'stilla, cous cous, and all, including the obligatory mint tea. Especially enjoyed the hospitality you would always get from complete strangers in the countryside. Fascinating wedding dinner at the wedding of the Caid of Amizmiz. Enjoyed visiting Berbers in the mountains and seeing a Fantasia up close and personal (a horse ran over me without touching me). Fascinating country, but with astonishing poverty, and limited available medical care. Like in many other countries, the locals do live under different, more rigorous rules than the foreigners.
I would advise all white women to stay out of Morocco. 99% of their men are rapists.
Why would I believe someone who's name is American Knowledge??? really 99% of men rapist!! So 14,352,951 Rapists live there?
That is an ignorant comment. sorry. As a Moroccan, I will say that is not true. this is highly insulting to me.
Well I wouldn't say 99% but alot of people there are bad and not to be trusted...I'm Moroccan by the way
Adel, you are an Idiot..
You are the Gay Adel from Tahar Benjelloun's Book partir...such a pathetic boy!
Have you been raped in Morocco?
Simply not true. If a white girl travels to morocco and has the common sense to dress conservatively & respectfully, she will be left alone. Saying this from experience as American who has been there 3 times. Don't ever generalize all men into one category. There are scumbag men in every country, but not the majority.
"Good" Moroccan men do exist, I married one.
Just returned from Morrocco. The fascination of the place still envelopes me–the food, the culture, and the sunrise trip to the sand dunes will be remembered for a long time................
I an here trying to perfect a tajine recipe I am trying for dinner today.
This was a nice article but only really brushes the surface of the possibilities, culinary and other, that you can seek out in Morocco. Maybe it was luck or naivety, but my friend and I once ended up on the night train from Tangier to Marrakesh and had one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Everyone in the sleeper cabin I was in fell asleep right away, but I could not, and spent the entire night listening to the lonely sound of the train's whistle whilst looking out at the never-ending desert expanse. We stopped at one point around 2am in the absolute middle of nowhere, not an electricity pole or road or anything in sight, just two people on camels, one of whom got on the train. I could see across the desert for miles because the moon was so bright and sat there watching as the other person slowly led the two camels back across the dunes toward the stars. It was incredibly moving. Beautiful loneliness, if there is such a thing.
Anyway, take that train if you can, but do it at night. Aside from tagines and pastille make sure to try the roadside merguez, the rooftop cafes of some of the old riads in Marrakesh, the traditional bathhouses and especially the Djemaa el Fna at night when things really come to life.
what a wonderful story! Shame it's not true.
I'm moroccan and I can tell you my friend that there are absolutely no dunes between Tangier an Marrakech. you would travel hours to the southeast of marrakech to find a dune.
Adnan, I don't think you are right. The train ride between those 2 cities do go through many sand dunes. You may be thinking a car drive but he is talking about a train ride.
I am just wondering how technology sheds light on the rudeness of some people. The guy relies on what his memory can remember. Can you forgive him for that?? He might have meant form Ouarzazat to Tangier. Remember, he is not a native Moroccan. May God fill your heart and the heart of all the rude commentators with love. That's all I can say!!!
Thank you for sharing your experience. By the way, only artists, educated and fine people would understand what you mean. Great literary works and breathtaking paintings are still proof for that. Please ignore the negative comments.
I'd rather eat Moroccan or Indian than pizza and burgers anyday. Turmeric, cumin, coriander, mint...heavenly flavors.
Agree that the food is outstanding.Especially like the traditional bread--believe it is called khobs.Have made many trips to Morocco and never tired of the cuisine.
Morocco needs to change their apartheid Laws that discriminate against Moroccan Nationals. In Morocco, Moroccan Citizens are not allowed to share hotel rooms if they do not produce a marriage certificate, white people can share a hotel room with whomever they want.
Moroccans are not allowed to legally drink alcohol. On the other hand white people can drink alcohol whenever they want.
Laws need to be uniform. Without laws that apply to everyone, you have a situation where Apartheid becomes the rule of day. Unlike Apartheid Israel and the new apartheid laws in the Netherlands, Morocco's apartheid laws are against their own citizens!
The Moroccan regime needs to continue the path towards democracy, the best way to do this is to either make alcohol illegal for everyone, or legal for everyone. Make it legal for anyone to share a hotel room or make it illegal for all unmarried people to share a hotel room.
Changing the laws to suit foreign tourists means that Morocco has Zero respect for its own citizenry. This is why Moroccan youth think of nothing other than escaping the open air prison that has become Morocco. Morocco is in desperate need of foreign currency, but getting this currency should not be at the expense of the dignity of the Moroccan people. The Moroccan people deserve laws that are not apartheid in nature.
Gee, I thought this article was about the food
Yes, lets all leave random political comments on stories that have nothing to do with politics in the first place.
If you want to write about this subject and get attention for it, do what everyone else does and get your own free blog.
drinking isnt illegal for Moroccans. It is culturally frowned upon but not illegal. I spent months with my husbands family in a small non tourist city and there was a bar and the Label vie' (big grocery store) sold beer and alchol. We did have to show marriage cert at riad on a few of our travels and im American.
I think before posting such a comment, you should go visit or read about Morocco first, because what you are describing here was maybe Morocco during the French protectorate or even before
listening to this guy ,i don't even think he's moroccan.read the constitution before you criticise .bye the way i am moroccan and live in USA.for the last 25 years that i am away from morocco i still cook all kind of moroccan food in my house.i will always cheriss those moment that i grew up in morocco.
there is always bad apples in every part of the world.
We loved the food in Morocco, too, even despite the special meal at our hotel that made us violently ill on the next morning's ride back to the airport in Calcutta. Just make sure you are eating in places where both hands are washed and the produce is fresh and disinfected or you'll be feeling sorry for days.
I think Calcutta is in India?
What's Calcutta got to do with Morocco???
Haha silly, you were in the wrong country......why do people suck so bad at geography these days?
The capital city of the US is potato.
I have been to Morocco and the food is out of this world. I loved their pastries and their 'tajines'. Also, I love the couscous which I know how to prepare. I cannot say I have a favorite dish because I have too many of them. "Wonderful cuisine"
Well, I'm convinced. Morroco, here I come!
Me, too. I just hope no one kills me. I'll tell everyone I'm from Canada, eh.
I love Morocco, I adore Moroccan foods. Some of my favorites: The amazing "ChefChouen Chicken Tagines" , its name says-it all! No its not a name of a Moroccan Chef, it is a Peaceful Andalusian Moroccan town situated in Northern Morocco. Their heavenly indian-looking peace pipe named "Sebsee" with that hot delicious mint tea will wipe out any western stress syndrome. Many informed European tourists, especially Brits,Spanish, French, and Italians make a yearly pilgrimage to ChefChaouen, there is also a small american community that live in Chefchaouen . Moroccan Foods are definitely Kosher...
Yes way to go man way to go...
I love ras el hanout but I had an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients so I can't have it anymore. I don't even know which one caused me to react. I've had many of the spices in other things so it's one of a few spices that caused a rash to break out all over my face.
I traveled with my 3 adult-age children and a daughter's boyfriend in Morocco in 2008. We had a guide/driver traveling from Fez to Marrakech crossing the Atlas mountains at 3 elevations. The orange juice is the best I have ever drank. My favorite dish was tajine at a roadside cafe in the High Atlas Mountains served with a fried egg atop.
Everything is better with a fried egg. Sounds like a wonderful trip (and now I'm dying for a fried egg).
My husband is from Morocco, so I am lucky to have Moroccan food often, but I fell in love with rghaif, a pancake that is out of this world, with homemade preserves that my mother-in-law makes from various fruits that are left over from dessert. Another of my favorites is nous-nous, a cafe au lait that is served in the small tea glasses. I loved taking a break in the afternoon and sitting at a cafe in the medina enjoying my nous-nous. Here in the US I'm a Starbucks iced latte lover, but in Morocco I think they would faint to see my venti-sized glasses!
Care to share the recipe? Lemon Moroccan Chicken sounds very great!
I have never been to Morocco, but I love Moroccan food (actually, I love many ethnic foods)...and I have a recipe for Lemon Moroccan Chicken and Moroccan Dried Fruit Lamb Stew...both are excellent dishes.
The food in Morocco is excellent, but especially the mint tea!
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