A Travellerspoint blog

MOROCCAN COOKING 101

A FINAL DAY EXPERIENCING LOCAL CULTURE THROUGH FOOD

overcast 26 °C
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What a difference a day makes. Yesterday the heat was unbearable but today the 6 day heat wave ended and it is a cool 26 degrees. Honestly, it doesn’t even feel hot but there is also a haze over the city so the sun isn’t beating down either. Essaouira is actually known as the windy city and is a getaway for surfers. This calm, hot weather is unheard of in April and more typical for August.

I decided to take a break from photography on my final day in Morocco and do something else I enjoy, cooking. Food is such a big part of travel and learning more about the preparations and the traditions is always a great activity. I spent the better part of my day at L’Atelier Madada and it did not disappoint. Out instructors were Allison, who has been married to a Moroccan and been living here for 14 years and Mouna, who is Moroccan and has been cooking for years. Her mother has actually cooked for dignitaries in Marrakech so her attention to detail is impeccable and our work was carefully checked and often rejected. I have never spent 15 minutes cutting up one onion before today. We spend about two hours preparing and cooking our traditional Harira, a very common but complicated soup and our lamb tagine. A

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fter everything was put together and left to cook ( a tagine takes 1.5 -2 hours) we went for a tour of the spice market, and a few explanations by Mohammed who is a spice expert and who also does herbal medicine.

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He even has the traditional dyes like the indigo and kohl, used on eyes. It was pretty interesting.

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After we returned our food was ready and we enjoyed a wonderful meal together. We had a great team, a dentist from the UK who came to surf and was left with no wind, a 29-year vascular surgeon from Germany (now working in Switzerland) and a lovely couple from France who were celebrating their 30th anniversary. Great company. By the time we were done it was almost 4pm.

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The class was enough to convince me to buy a tagine. Hopefully it will make it home ok. I also stopped to buy a suitcase and went for a final stroll around town. I figured I should at least walk by the beach.

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And grab a snap of the cart guys. These men carry luggage into the medina and to the riads because the alleys are too narrow for cars.

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I also went to say goodbye to Rachid, the carpet salesman with a sister in Ottawa ( who I must call) and drool over the carpets one more time. I love this one but it is not in the cards. Next time, inshallah.

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Another very popular product…..herbal Viagra.

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And Argan oil. This is another popular sell. Not just for hair and skin but made with the toasted nut to pour over cooking.

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Morocco is heavily influence by the Spanish occupation, the French occupation, the once large jewish community. Pastry shops are common here but not that appealing.

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Another wonderful holiday has come to an end. I have to say, this has been particularly special. I have loved every single day both behind and without my camera.

I will definitely return to see the northern part of this country, inshallah (said after every hope, meaning god willing).

Posted by curlygirl 11:58 Archived in Morocco Tagged cuisine cooking morocco essaouira Comments (2)

PUSS IN BOATS

THE BLUES OF ESSAOUIRA

sunny 35 °C
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My good friend Nancy asked, after I told her how many cats there are here, “why don’t you photograph the cats the way you do people?”. The truth is, of course, that I find people much more interesting than cats.

This morning, I woke early to try and explore this little fishing town before the chaos began. I wanted to see the fisherman in action and photograph some of the incredible blues that I noticed inside the medina when I arrived last evening. What was evident on my early morning stroll, is that the cats are very much a part of life here in Essaouira and they have a presence in every corner and at every turn. Every quiet early morning alley had at least three cats starting their day. Although they all appear to be street cats, I saw people feeding them, petting them and a fisherman giving him a taste of his catch.

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Many of today’s shots are inspired by the question posed by my cat loving friend.

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My walk took me down to the port which was in full swing at 7am. Fresh catch had already arrived back at the port and money was being exchanged with the middle man and the buyers. Most people didn’t want their picture taken but were happy to let me photograph their fish. The old guy by the boat was more than happy to let me take a picture, as long as I didn’t react when he rubbed my arm a little. Yes, sometimes you have to make it work. But I do stop at the arm. The guy selling the fish with the cheesy pose settled for a “promise” that I would “consider” letting him show me the town later.

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Today was a relaxing day. It is extremely hot. 35 degrees and I didn’t have much energy except for a small stroll. Even the cats were hiding in the shade.

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I don’t find the shopping here particularly good which is not a bad thing since I have already spilled over into a second bag.

I finished my afternoon with a nice massage. I asked for the deep one but it seems there is a standard here. While it didn’t get the big knots out it was great.

Loving all the blue...and other colours.

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Posted by curlygirl 10:13 Archived in Morocco Tagged hot morocco essaouira Comments (6)

CAMEL TREKKING IN THE MERZOUGA DESERT

EVERYONE SHOULD RIDE A CAMEL AT LEAST ONCE

sunny 30 °C
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A very quick update after a couple of busy and exciting days.

Yesterday we made our way to the Merzouga Desert which actually runs right in the Sahara after crossing into Algeria (which you can see from Merzouga). This was our base for our camel trek and stay in a desert camp. It was so much fun. It didn’t turn out to be a real photography session since the rest of the people in our group were late and we missed sunset and the cloud this morning created a wildly pink sky but did nothing for the deserts sands. Saying that the 2.5 hour ride there and 1.5 hour ride back were spectacular and we had a lot of fun.

Getting ready and our ride in…

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A failed attempt at the camel silhouette with the sun already set.

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Here is our camp. And the bathroom which had a real toilet.

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And this morning sunset and ride out.

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On our way home we stopped to photography some local musicians. Not a bad looking crew.

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After having breakfast and a shower, we left the desert town and made our way back to Skoura where we spent the evening relaxing in the most beautiful accommodation with amazing home-made food. All Moroccan food is made fresh, so you wait, but always enjoy.

Our tour has technically ended but both See Ying and I are continuing on to Darren’s home town on the coast for a couple days before heading back to reality. It has truly been an amazing experience both from a cultural and photography point of view.

As I am exhausted, I am signing off for the evening. Tomorrow will just be a long drive so I will check in after I have had a day or so to explore Essouira.

Everyone should ride a camel at least once.

A few more snaps from my last morning in the tunnels of El Khorab.

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Posted by curlygirl 15:35 Archived in Morocco Tagged desert morocco camels Comments (3)

HUMAN KINDNESS IS OVERFLOWING….

THE STREETS OF EL KHORBAT

sunny 32 °C
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Finally a few minutes of down time. With two days here we actually have some time to just relax. It is extremely hot so it probably best that I have squirreled away in my room for a bit.

We got up early this morning to photography the tunnels before they got too crowded. This festival is actually a week long and starts at 10 am daily so things are hopping early. Photographing the tunnels was pretty challenging from a technical perspective and I had no clue how to get set up. Darren was a great help. Since he also uses a Pentax camera, he is familiar with the settings on my camera and I learned a few quick tricks in the process. After getting some directions, we spent a couple hours just waiting for the “right” people to walk into the light and I am pretty happy with what I got for a first try. I do think I will go back in the morning for another attempt.

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We did have lots of young kids watching us the entire time and we were recognized by some of the ladies from yesterday so the whole process was quite social. We met a 15-year-old girl named Aisha who was looking after her 10-month-old brother. She really wanted us to come see her home. Her older sister Fatima was also home and as is the tradition, we were offered tea. Offering tea is standard here. It has come in many forms, mint, sage, thyme and is always served with sugar. The art of pouring is beautiful. No matter where we have been, it is always the same. The tea is poured into a glass and then back in the teapot several times, assumingly to blend the sugar, and finally poured very high so the tea runs like a waterfall into the cup. I was wishing I had my camera but managed a couple shots on my phone. Again, this was not about a photo opportunity but a very special experience being welcomed into local life. And that baby Abdula was the cutest. I must mention that every home that we have been in has been spotless despite being made of mud. Even the rugs look very clean, but of course, shoes are removed before entering a room with carpet.

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I did manage a shot of Aisha and Abdula when she brought me back to the tunnel to find my camera.

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This afternoon I went back to the music festival mostly to relax and to enjoy the music. I do admittedly have an affinity for the Moroccan men.

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At the festival people remembered us from yesterday and came by to chat. Others, surprised to see tourists mixing with the crowd would come by, as they do, and hold my hand and say, “Salam”, or kiss my cheeks or simply giggle and make the hand gesture indicated that I am pretty and most welcome. I wondered this evening why the Bette Midler song from the movie, Beaches, was stuck in my head….”human kindness is overflowing…” but upon reflection, it is obvious.

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We were asked to participate in an interview with a Moroccan national television station about our experience at the festival. As it turned out it was more of a filming of us interacting with the woman’s cooperative. I did buy a giant woolen bowl that will be challenge to get home.

From there, we did a walk through the streets of the small village of El Khorbat. It is a small village that I could not even find in my Lonely Planet guide. Thankfully, the tourists are few and It feels very unspoiled. Street photography can be a challenge for the obvious reasons so you really have to engage people. Again, grateful for my French, I behaved like a royal visitor and walked up to people, took their hand and said “salam” began to chat and sometimes, just sometimes, they would let me take a picture. Other times no, but almost always, we attracted a crowd of curious locals. We were invited into at least 4 homes for tea in the one hour walk. One group of women invited me to sit on the curb and roared with laughter when I did. They loved seeing a picture of Isaac and couldn’t believe I only have one son. They proceeded to point and tell me which ladies had 4 children, 5, 8 and 14 and loved my shocked reaction. They explained it was difficult to be married and let someone take a photo but I really didn’t care because they welcomed me into their community in a genuine and unforgettable way.

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I have really enjoyed my time here in El Khorbat. This fortified city that once lived divided ( Jews, Blacks, Arabs all had their own tunnels) has shown an entirely united front to me.

The village also has beautiful windows and doors.

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I will be off the grid for the next day or so as we are taking camels and riding into the desert where will be sleeping. Can’t wait for that!

Note: Sometimes the internet can be very slow. I could not get any pictures to upload last night and it took hours to load the blog this time. Thing we take for granted.

Posted by curlygirl 23:37 Archived in Morocco Tagged festival el morocco khorbat Comments (12)

NOMADS AND FESTIVALS

YET ANOTHER GLIMPSE INTO LOCAL LIFE

sunny 29 °C
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It was another fantastic day in Morocco. With yet another local connection, we managed to sneak our way into a very traditional way of life. We were hoping to find a nomadic family but as the name suggests, they move around a lot so this is not guaranteed. Fortunately, the hotel owner knew of a family and offered to show us the way. It was relatively close to the road but you would never find it unless you knew where you were going and even if you do, there is no guarantee that anyone would be home.

This was simply amazing. Although the daughter and son-in-law were out herding the cattle, the mom was home with her grandchildren, a set of twin girls and a boy who was initially terrified of us. Her husband was away nursing a broken wrist.

It took a while to warm things up, but of course, we were welcomed with tea. She quickly whipped up a fire and made us a fresh pot. Tea in Morocco is typically mint but often made with local herbs. I did, admittedly, take every opportunity to pour some out just in case the boil didn’t kill the unknown bacteria. It would be very rude to refuse. After shouting away the chickens and allowing us to explore the camp, she took the time to show us her homemade loom and taught me how to weave some fabric. Not as easy as it looks. We then took our time taking pictures. The beaming sun made this challenging but here are a few snaps from this awesome experience. I couldn’t imagine living such a lifestyle.

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After leaving there, we walked through the Torda Gorge where we saw a few crazies climbing to the top. I don’t get rock climbing but I am a chicken for heights.

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Next it was on to El Korbat with a quick stop to see an old town that was left to crumble away while the new built up around it.

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El Korbat brought some more wonderful surprises along with more photographic challenges. We arrived at the only hotel the Kasa El Korbat built inside the fortified village. It is a maze of tunnels and I have already gotten lost a few times, even in the hotel which is the original Kasa. My long climb up the stairs is rather steep but opens to a gorgeous suite. I am happily here for two nights.

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This week in El Korbat, there is a festival. Despite all the French speakers, no one could explain the reason for the festival only that it occurs once a year and is a festival of music. The entertainers were primarily men and the audience was a sea of women who were delighted when I plunked (gracefully) down in the middle of them. We shared pictures and stories and I felt an incredible sense of community. As the day went on, a few of them brought their children to meet me. This village is quite different. Even the women were open to pictures and often asked us to take one. The light was brutal though.

I am not as happy with the pictures today as I was yesterday but I feel no regret because I had the most amazing experiences. I sometimes have to pinch myself to prove that it is all so real.

The pictures do allow me to share a little of my day. Enjoy.

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Posted by curlygirl 16:05 Archived in Morocco Tagged the in sun el morocco images kasa korbut Comments (5)

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