Monthly Archives: August 2013

10 Street Foods to Eat When Traveling to Morocco, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Eating in Djemaa El Fna Square, Marrakech Street Food

Eating in Djemaa El Fna Square, Marrakech Street Food

Moroccan Street Food is a great way to discover Morocco’s local culture.  While the best Moroccan food is said to be found in a Moroccan home, very reasonably priced  street food is available in small stalls and roadside cafés all over Morocco. Eating Moroccan Street Food in the old medina of Fes, Marrakech and Essaouira allows for a great opportunity to meet Moroccans during breakfast, lunch and dinner or just for a snack. Moroccan Street Food is also the best way to discover local Moroccan fresh foods that are well cooked and full of flavor.

For breakfast small stands provide an array of pancakes like  beghrir (spongy bread, a bit like crumpets), harsha (buttery bread made of fine semolina) and rghaif (flaky, layered flat bread). Topped with honey or goat cheese, they make a good breakfast  snack with oven baked bread called Khobz.

Ramadan Pastries, Chebakia

Ramadan Pastries, Chebakia

During Ramadan you can break the fast at Iftar around 7 pm as the sun goes down with dates and the delicious tomato paste soup harira with chebakia, which are flower-shaped cookies soaked in honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Moroccan soups are hearty fare to be savored at any time including bessara which is fava bean soup with oven baked khobz, small eateries serve it for lunch with lemon-infused olive oil and a sprinkle of cumin and chili. Stalls selling steaming vats of snail soup are popular throughout Morocco. You pick the snails out of their shells with a toothpick and then drink the broth which is served with a concoction of spice which Moroccans believe is good for  a fever and aids digestion. hssoua belboua is barley soup with milk. It combines barley grits with milk to yield a rich, creamy soup that’s both nutritious and satisfying.  There is also Semolina  soup with milk, anise seeds and honey.

The overpowering smoke rising from various eateries on the Djemma el Fna at night is from brochettes of chicken , lamb or beef. The meat is rubbed with salt and spices, such as paprika and cumin. Spiced ground lamb or beef (kefta) is impaled on a skewer and grilled. Brochettes are served with khobz, harissa (red pepper sauce), red onion, cumin and  salt. Other delicacies, not for the faint hearted, include sheep’s heads which have been steamed for five hours sold as either a half or a whole head with or without eyes. During the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) sheep are slaughtered by the head of the family. It is a reminder that meat tends to be a delicacy. You see sheep being born home in cars, on bicycles, mopeds and any vehicle that can be utilized for the purpose. A whole sheep’s carcass will last for a month. Also served are  calves’ livers, crumbed and fried. You can also sample camel burgers, Café Clock in Fes serves it as a speciality of the house.

In many coastal towns sardines are served with stuffed with a spicy chermoula paste made of tomato, coriander, chili, garlic, paprika, cumin, olive oil and lemon juice. They are coated in a light batter, fried until crisp and often served with a fried green chili.

Vegetarians can enjoy sliced aubergine dipped in sweet smoked paprika batter and deep fried or spicy lubia (white haricot beans stewed in tomatoes, cumin, paprika, garlic and ginger) or fresh salad. Moroccan farmers produce the best quality organically grown vegetables.

You will also find sweet pastries ,biscuits and cookies  in abundance especially during Ramadan as sugar is an important source of energy, diabetics do have to beware. However seasonal fruits are also served.

Makrout with Dates and Honey is another special occasion sweet which is popular in Ramadan. A mild date paste is enclosed in a log of semolina dough, then the  cookies are sliced, fried and dipped in honey.  There are baked Moroccan Tea Biscuits known as fekkas scented with orange-flower water. Try   m’hanncha, called “snake cake” for its concentric circles.

Another favorite is triangular or cylindrical phyllo briouats. Briouats, are pan-fried to golden perfection. Some are savory, stuffed with fresh cheese and finished with a drizzle of honey, while others are sweet, filled with crushed almonds, sugar, and spices. Almond Briouats are made by folding almond paste flavored with orange flower water and cinnamon within warqa dough. The pastries are fried and then soaked briefly in honey.  Cheese briouats are served with cream cheese filling. Herbs or hot peppers can be added for more flavor.

Sellou is a  Moroccan sweet  served during Ramadan made from toasted sesames, fried almonds and flour that has been browned in the oven.

For More Information about a Fes Food Tour of Moroccan Street Food

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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The Tissa Horse Festival, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Horse riders perform with guns during the El-Jadida International Horse Show in El-Jadida

During the year, the small town of Tissa,on the edge of the Rif region, in the province of Taounate, is a quiet rural community, tucked away in the hills of the Moroccan countryside, fifty kilometers away from Fez. From 11-15 September 2013, the town will be transformed, as it is each year, in to one of the premier horse festivals in Morocco.

The culture and tradition of horses and horsemanship is deeply rooted and widespread in Morocco. The Fantasia or Tborida are contested by competing teams dressed in colorful traditional gandouras and djellabas, charging the full length a field only pulling up at the last minute whilst firing their djezail flintlocks with a thunderous explosion. The Tborida teams led by a ma’alem, or teacher,form up Into a single line and at the signal begin the charge. In the closing stages they must rotate their djezails with one arm at full gallop before pulling up and firing.

They are assessed by the judges for horsemanship, maintaining their line during the charge and successfully pulling up at the end. The horses are trained to do this, but even so, riding at full gallop with the reins in one hand and the djezail in the other is an impressive feat of horsemanship. Very rarely a horse may run on after the halt. To stand in front of the charge even though it is behind a barrier is to sense something of the fear these riders inspired in the enemy. The firing of the djezails is very loud and the smoke billows in the air,along with the occasional wad from one of the djezails dropping to earth.

The French Romantic painte, Eugène Delacroix, immortalized the Moroccan tribal horseman riding into battle following his first visit to North Africa in the 1830’s and the son of the Pasha of Marrakech, Hassan El Glaoui, famous for his paintings of Moroccan riders and horses once remarked that his father who died in 1956, went to war on horseback.

The large tent city erected for the festival also provides traditional music and dancing as well as displaying artifacts, ceramics and jewelry and providing food and drink. The festival is an important event for the local economy and has been held in Tissa since medieval times. It coincides with the mouassem of a local saint, Sidi Muhammad ben Lahcen who lived in the 15th century.

Like all good horse shows the different breeds of horses are the subject of close attention; pure bred Arabian stallions, Barbary mares and Arab-Berber horses are bought and sold. To bring the Horse Festival of Tissa to a close, there is a huge parade in the stadium. The international horse show at El Jadida under the patronage of King Mohammed VI has done much to reintroduce the Barb horse , which has great strength and endurance , back into international breeding circles.

Tissa has a great reputation as a horse show with a fair, sometimes a circus, a huge bazaar, and finally the official folklore of the region “Hayti”. It is visited by 4,000 spectators each year and is a great opportunity to enjoy an important regional event and mix with the locals and Moroccans who have brought their horses from all over the country. Moroccans living abroad in France, Spain and Italy also participate in festivals such as Tissa.
Tissa was garrisoned by the French during the protectorate because it was on the way to Fes and has an upper Tissa on the hill with a church and other buildings and lower Tissa lies at the bottom of the hill.

For More Information about the Tissa Horse Festival or a Fes Tour

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Riad Star, A New Boutique Riad in Marrakech, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Riad Star, Marrakech - Patio with Dipping Pool

Riad Star, Marrakech – Patio with Dipping Pool

Riad Star opens in September 2013 after two years of renovation by a team of Marrakech’s finest craftsmen. It was part of the palace once owned by the Pasha of Marrakech, Thami El Glaoui who in the 1940s invited Josephine Baker to live there. She was inspirational vaudeville star, singer and dancer of the jazz era. She was also a French resistance heroine and civil rights pioneer to come and live in it and Riad Star’s seven rooms have been decorated in Art Deco style with memorabilia sourced from the Parisian music halls of the twenties and thirties. Riad Star is a unique addition to Moroccan Riad and Boutique Hotel offerings.

The Riad is attached to the former Menebhi Palace which is now the Marrakech Museum, for many years it was used to accommodate distinguished guests.

Following a painstaking renovation, Riad Star now continues that tradition of hospitality as a boutique Riad hotel with just seven guest rooms. Riad Star blends traditional Moroccan style with Art Deco and modern elements.

Riad Star, Josephine Room

Riad Star, Josephine Room

The riad has original cedar woodwork, exquisite hand carved plaster and a host of other features have all been retained while discretely incorporating air conditioning, Wifi, power showers and other creature comforts. The individually named rooms include the Josephine. Unusually for Marrakech this room has a window onto the street. It is believed the Pasha of Marrakech paid children to sit outside Josephine’s window and read for her while she was convalescing.

A private roof terrace offers a further seating area with outdoor fireplace, a space to relax and loungers to soak up the Marrakech sun. Best of all is the Riad’s hammam and massage suite, the ultimate Marrakech luxury just a few short steps from the comfort of your room.

Riad Star offers extremely versatile accommodation. All rooms can be double or twin, most can be triples making the Riad perfect for groups of friends. The Josephine and Star rooms can interconnect which is great for families. The dining room features full length mirrors and makes a stunning dance studio. The dipping pool can be covered leaving the patio free for yoga, or special occasion parties. There is also the option of covering the patio with a secret rolling roof guaranteeing the success of your event in all weathers.

The Riad Star Collection comprising memorabilia, art and documents celebrates the Music Hall era and the extraordinary life of Josephine Baker. Highlights includes a stage costume created for Josephine’s spectacular last performance by Andre Levasseur from a design by Niki de Saint Phalle.

A 19 page manuscript, hand corrected by Josephine, setting out her ideals and her vision of universal brotherhood.Letters, news cuttings and photographs from throughout Josephine’s career including a polaroid taken in the kitchen at the Chateau des Milandes with her Rainbow tribe of twelve adopted children.A stage costume created by designer Gessmar for the legendary singer Mistinguett around 1920, a jewellery box and Costume Jewellery belonging to Mistinguett.Gauches by Erte, Wittop, Bib, Zig, and other leading designers for the Casino de Paris. Some of these items may be on loan to international exhibitions.

If you want to enter into the spirit of the roaring twenties you can find costumes, many of which were worn on the Paris stage you can wear in a dressing up cupboard.

English owners Mike and Lucie Wood are passionate about sharing Josephine’s vision of the potential of the world’s peoples to live together in harmony. There is no better place to appreciate diverse cultures than Marrakech, an ancient trading post which sits at the intersection between Europe, the Arab world and Sub Saharan Africa.

For More Information about a Marrakech Riads or a Marrakech Tour

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Getting to know Morocco for the first time, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Marrakech Gnaoua Musician

Marrakech Gnaoua Musician

Morocco has a diverse and vibrant culture close to Europe just 13 km from the coast of Spain yet with growing ties with the Middle East where the oil rich Gulf countries are investing substantially in Morocco’s tourism industry.

Morocco also has close contacts with Africa. It is at the crossroads of many cultures absorbing  the  commercial dynamism of the West  in building its growing  tourism industry with  enhanced infrastructure such as  auto routes , trains, airports and ports whilst maintaining its  ancient traditions and  Arab and Berber culture. It still has an aura of ancient oriental mystery and originality whilst also being highly accessible and attractive to tourists.

Tourism has more than doubled since 2002, to nearly 10 million visitors in 2011.  Under the Vision 2020 Plan King Mohammed VI wants to increase the annual visitor numbers to 18 million by 2020. It is the only country in North Africa to have successfully maintained its tourism industry in the face of the global recession.

Morocco is a stable and peaceful country . It is the only country in North Africa to have enacted a new constitution in response to the  Arab Spring and King Mohammed VI remains central to the lives of his subjects.  It is important for tourists to respect Morocco’s traditions and culture.

Morocco is a Muslim country committed to allowing other religions to practice their religion freely , particularly Christianity and Judaism which are recognized as  religions of the book, to practice their religion freely. Morocco is a conservative society but its people are very welcoming, friendly and easy going. During Ramadan whilst you can always have a meal in restaurants in the tourist cities it is best not to eat and drink in public during day light hours as muslims cannot eat or drink or smoke until they break the fast when the sun goes down.

Moroccan men treat their café is their local club where they meet socialize and discuss business while drinking coffee or mint tea and watching the world pass by. If you buy pastries or cakes in a bakery it is ok to eat them in the café at no extra charge.

Moroccan Royal Couscous

Moroccan cuisine is renowned for its delicacy and abundance with traditional tangines, couscous, mechoui (lamb) salads and desserts and an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. In the main cities there are also French and european cuisines available, a multiple choice is available.

Most Mosques are closed to non believers however you can visit the impressive Hassan II mosque in Casablanca, the Berber mosque at Tin Mel outside Marrakech on the way to Ouarzazate, the former Islamic college the Medersa Ben Youssef in the Marrakech Medina and  the old Medersas in Fés Bali, the Bou Inania  and the El Attarine . These sites will give you some idea of the glories of Moroccan Islamic architecture.

Most Moroccans in the cities speak French as well as Arabic or the Moroccan dialect Darija. The French Protectorate was established in Morocco in 1912 and lasted until 1956.  French remains the language of business whereas Darija is spoken in the street and at home, Darija itself is a mixture of languages including French words and Moroccans happily switch from one language to another in conversation. Spanish is spoken in the north and south as there was also a Spanish protectorate. However there has been a marked increase in the number of young people speaking english as it is taught in schools. Those working in tourism will probably speak good english and the business centers of Casablanca and Tangiers  also has more english speakers.

On a first trip to Morocco it is important not to try to do too much in a limited amount of time. The ancient  Medinas  of Fes el Bali of Marrakech can be combined by other nearby locations in the case of Fes, the imperial city of Meknes and the ancient  roman ruins of Volubilis, or in the case of Marrakech, the nearby  fishing port and beach resort of Essaouira, no hassle and cheaper than Marrakech it is just  two hours drive away, Agadir can be combined with the Sous Draa valley with its Kasbahs  or the desert town of Ouarzazate. Further South  you can visit the desert at Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi sand dunes. Tangier can be combined with  trips to Tetouan and Chefchaouen Morocco’s blue and white town and the Rif mountains.

There is an infinite choice which is a tribute to Morocco’s development of its tourism industry and you should try to plan your trip with your travel agent.  On your first visit it is best  to avoid driving hire cars yourself as Moroccan traffic is very different from driving in Europe or  America. A car or 4X4  with a good Moroccan  driver is a better  bet or  you can  travel on Morocco’s ONCF railways  in first class airconditioned carriages.

Many tourists like to stay in small guest houses called Riads to be close to the ancient Medina which have been restored by local  berber craftsmen . Roof top views offer an insight in to the life of the Medina.

In Marrakech,  Vanessa Branson’s Riad El Fenn has prime views of the Koutoubia Mosque minaret lit up at night with a laser beam nearby , whilst  five-star La Sultana overlooks the Atlas Mountains.

Palais Faraj, Fes

Palais Faraj, Fes

In Fes  three riads are Dar Roumana, a traditional restored Anadlusian palace style Riad with library and Chef that specializes in Moroccan cuisine, Dar Roumana is well-located in the central medina, Riad Maison Bleue and Riad Fes are other luxury guesthouses comprising e beautifully restored riads. They both have a pool and Spa.

Others prefer  the many fine hotels in the modern part of town many of them from well known international hotel  with restaurants,  swimming pool and gym and there are a number in most cities. The choice is yours. The Accor group has Sofitel properties located in Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech, there is a Four Seasons in Marrakech and a new, modern boutique hotel in Fes called Palais Faraj.

When visiting the souks in Marrakech and Fes  for the first time you can pay an official tourism  guide from the government  ONMT tourist office who can help fend of hustlers and take you to shops of interest, although he may take a commission from the shop which will be added to the price you pay. You may want to memorise the Arabic phrase “La Shukran” , No thank you.

After the first visit when you know your way around in the souk and the maze of the medinas of Fes and Marrakech you can enjoy the adventure but be sure to keep to the side of the narrow streets and derbs, as the narrow alley ways are called, to avoid motor scooters and donkey carts who may cry “andak!” which means watch out.

For More Information about a Morocco Tour or traveling to Morocco for the first time. 

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Leave a comment

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