Tag Archives: Fes medina

Africa

This April, I’ll be participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, where I’ll write an entry a day centered on my theme of Memoir. I’ll be using  Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg as my inspiration for my daily topic. Each post will be a quick write (about 10-20 minutes) to help me notice and remember.

A is for Africa

Tell me about the time you went to Africa.

Entering our riad that night, exhausted from a day of travel and a hectic night of driving in an unfamiliar country, down too-narrow alleyways where I thought for sure we’d scrape the mirrors of the rental car on the walls, I was immediately taken aback by the beauty of it all. The outside revealed nothing of what we would see inside the walls. The vaulted ceilings were illuminated by intricate chandeliers, and the colors, textures, and shapes in the furniture, flooring, and decor were nothing short of breathtaking.

Waking up the next morning, with the sun streaming in from overhead, I was again stunned by the gorgeous surroundings. Following our breakfast on the rooftop, we set off to explore the medina, a series of twists and turns in a never-ending maze of alleyways, at times only wide enough for two people to pass by. As we went deeper into the medina, we found ourselves immersed in the sights and smells of the vendors hawking their wares and the fresh produce and spices for sale. Every turn revealed something new that caught our eye, an old wooden door, barrels of colorful spices, heaped to overflowing, or a storefront with beautifully designed pottery spilling out into the walkway, begging us to come in and take a peek.

But the food. The food is what really got me. From the tagines to the bastilla to the so-sweet-you-instantly-get-a-cavity mint tea, I was in love. Cafe Clock was my favorite find of the trip, an unassuming restaurant tucked away in an alley, with only a small orange sign to alert you to its presence. Upon entering, we immediately headed up, scaling the three flights of stairs to the rooftop terrace, an inviting area with comfortable seating and more plants than you could count. From there, towering above the medina, you could see out for miles. Down in the medina, where we were shielded from the sun, we were cold, but up here, the sun shone down on us and warmed our faces, bringing with it a smile or two. Their version of iced lemon tea, more a slushy than anything else, was frothy goodness, a mix of black tea, tart lemon, sweetness, and cold. Each time we ate there, I tried something new from the menu, but it was always paired with the iced lemon tea.

Lost in the Medina

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Morocco is one of those one-in-a-lifetime places that most people dream about visiting, but rarely do. I was fortunate enough to live out this dream a few months ago.

Much like my typical approach to traveling, I didn’t research a ton about Morocco, deciding instead to experience it in the moment. What I did research was the food. As a self-proclaimed foodie, it’s one of my must-do’s before visiting a new place.

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Our first stop in Morocco was Fes, where the best thing to do is get lost in the maze of twists and turns called the medina. Wandering through the medina is an assault on the senses. Colorful fabrics, pottery, and paintings fight for your attention, while smells linger long after you’ve passed by, tempting you to come and have a taste. Historical treasures hide among stalls upon stalls of wares, inviting you to explore.

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As I weaved my way down the narrow alleyways between throngs of people, I found myself thinking that it couldn’t get any better, only to find out that, yes, it can. An internal battle ensued between wanting to soak it all in, experiencing it in real time and taking a photo of every beautiful and interesting thing that I encountered.

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My favorite experiences in Fes involved interacting with the locals. Meeting new people from a different culture is always interesting and fun. On one such occasion, we wandered into an art gallery tucked down a tiny alley off the main thoroughfare. Inside, we met the most colorful character imaginable. The artist, an older man in his sixties, was so full of life and personality! Despite the language barrier, he made us laugh til our sides hurt. He repeatedly said, in the deepest voice he could muster, “I’m da BOSS!” while beating his chest and doing some karate moves. During our negotiations, the faces he made were priceless, too.

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Another day we found an embroidery shop that featured hand-embroidered cloth, such as pillow cases, table cloths, napkins, etc. We even got to watch the ladies working. Seeing the delicate work that went into each piece proved that it was truly a work of art. A great find was a shop that specialized in local, organic argan oils and clay masks. The ladies educated us on the benefits of argan oil for your skin and showed us how the oil is extracted from the nut.

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Tucked away in the medina is Cafe Clock, one of our favorite places to eat, whose ambiance is second to none. It’s worth climbing the 4 flights of stairs to the top to enjoy dinner on the terrace, high above the medina below. Their menu features local Moroccan favorites as well as Western dishes. It’s vegetarian friendly, and the food and service are both top-notch. A real treat is the iced lemon tea, which is more like a tea slushy. My favorite meal was the aubergine and goat cheese quiche with salad and potato wedges. They also do a killer cooking class, which I highly recommend checking out!

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A trip to Morocco would be remiss unless you

try the mint tea. Consisting of green tea, loads of fresh mint leaves, and sugar (and sugar and sugar), it’s a distinctly sweet, fresh taste that isn’t easily forgotten. Mint tea is typically served hot and in a clear glass, and can literally be found everywhere. Most shops will even offer it for free if you have been shopping there a while.

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My food research yielded a gem that I thought would be impossible to find, but as luck would have it, I stumbled upon it, and I’m glad I did! I read about this man who sells 2 Dirham (20 cents) cookies called macarons, which are large, lightly browned cookies with a slightly crunchy outside and a chewy inside. They were described as the best peanut buttery-tasting cookie ever, and that description is dead on! I was waiting outside of a shop for my friends, when this guy walked by with a tray of cookies on his head. He was shouting “Two Dirham!” as he went by, and it wasn’t until he had passed me up that it dawned on me. Cookies for 2 Dirham! That must be the guy! I caught up with him and bought 3 cookies, one for each of us. After one bite, I was in heaven. I went back to buy a dozen more for us to munch on throughout our time in Morocco. What I’d give for another one of those…

I could seriously devote an entire blog post to all the delicious food I had in Morocco…next time!