Regular readers will know I am a huge fan of food tours when I travel. That’s why one of the first things I did when planning my trip to Morocco was to look for Marrakech food tours.
A food tour offers an insight into the day-to-day culture of a city and a country. It is an opportunity to spend time with other people who are passionate about food and travel. Our hosts Youssef and Amanda from Marrakech Food Tours certainly fit that bill.
This is a food tour that seeks to go beyond the standard restaurant fare of Marrakech and discover the types of food eaten by real people in real Moroccan homes. Food that made everything we ate in restaurants on our Morrocan holiday seem bland by comparison.
You’ll see the dish tanjia on a lot of menus in Marrakech but there’s only one place to eat the real thing and that was our first stop on the tour.
There’s a little street just off Djemaa el Fna where four generations of Marrakechis have roasted whole sheep in underground ovens and created delectable claypot tanjia. The flavours of saffron, lemon and cumin produce a constellation of taste sensations.
Wandering Kiwi Jr was a huge fan of the melt-in-the-mouth lamb and even tried a piece of the sheep’s head. However, we had to leave it to a braver team member to scoop out the eyeball…
As the sun set we plunged into the teeming souks of Marrakech. We shopped for gleaming olives and tasted traditional street food like snails.
We sampled modern street food with the hugely popular sardine burger pocket sandwich. Then there was the pocket heart attack: doughnuts cooked as we watched and dipped in honey!
The grand finale of our Marrakech food tour was as unexpected as it was special. Deep in the heart of the souks is a small square that was once the slave market of Marrakech. Here we were welcomed with warmth by a family of women who serve couscous, a dish traditionally served for a family midday meal on a Friday in Morocco.
Several hours of loving preparation, sifting and fluffing the grains over and over again make this meal are nothing short of an expression of love. Mr Wandering Kiwi joked that he’d never eat my couscous again. It takes five minutes to make couscous in my kitchen so I can see his point.
Of course you can’t experience the food of Morocco without drinking plentiful amounts of ‘Berber whisky’, the special mint tea Morocco is famous for. Yes it is poured from a silver tea pot and served in ornate glasses. Yes it is delicious and a great digestif. Yes it is drunk at all hours of the day and night by Moroccans.
Youssef was also happy to advise tour participants on shopping in Marrakech. He pointed out places where Moroccans would buy things. We made spontaneous stops in response to the interests of the participants, for example to buy argan oil (for cooking) and a delicious almond spread.
Apart from being loads of fun, one of the benefits of the Marrakech food tour was that it gave us the confidence to eat street food in the Medina. Sitting down to a feast at one of the little stalls in the Djamaa el Fna was one of our best experiences eating out in Marrakech.
The smoke from the grills and the hubbub of happy diners muffles the evening call to prayer. It’s quite a crazy scene and the stallholders can get quite pushy as they try to persuade you to eat at their stall. But I remembered Youssef’s advice.
He said it’s best to eat where the food is being cooked by women. Then you know it will be made with love. For male chefs cooking is just a job. And food should never be treated as a sideline but only as one of the most vital, profound pleasures in life.
By Natasha von Geldern
I was a guest of Marrakech Food Tours but my opinions and appetite for food, culture and travel remain my own.
Have you got a favourite food tour to recommend?
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