Monthly Archives: February 2015

Meat Free Morocco, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Ruined Garden Fes Vegetarian Cuisine

Ruined Garden Fes Vegetarian Cuisine

For travelers with specific dietary requirements, such as vegetarians and vegans, a key concern when planning a trip to Morocco is whether they will find enough variety in their meals. Part of the fun of travel is discovering the local cuisine and the good news is that even those who don’t eat meat can experience the unique flavors of Moroccan food.

Moroccans live in tune with the seasons and tend to shop fresh and local. You will see souks (markets) piled high with freshly-harvested fruit and vegetables. Much of these have not been treated with pesticides or artificial fertilizers and after a quick rinse or peel, these are ready to eat! In summer, men set up carts laden with Berber figs (prickly pears) which they will deftly peel for you right on the spot. These, along with grilled corn; boiled and salted garbanzo beans and fava beans; ma’aquda potato patties; freshly roasted nuts, or a handful of dried fruit make great vegetarian snacks and all this street food is readily available for a few dirham in a paper poke.

But let’s get on to the main affair… Morocco’s famous tajines and couscous! Can vegetarians safely eat the Moroccan national dishes? The good news is that yes, these are easily adaptable for non-meat eaters. The less good news is that Moroccans typically eat meat every day and rely on it to flavor the dish – they may find your request strange, but in tourist centers restaurants will be accustomed to requests for vegetarian tajine or couscous. Strict vegetarians and vegans may find it harder to ensure that their dish is not simply the normal version with the meat picked out. The safest way to avoid this is to order your meal in advance, for example from your riad. To make meat-free tajine or couscous more interesting (and authentic), request the addition of chickpeas (in Arabic: hoummus) or a garnish of caramelized onion and sultanas (tfaya).

Riad Dar Roumana Tomato gazpacho

Riad Dar Roumana Tomato gazpacho

All those fresh veggies are fabulous in salads. Once you’ve had enough of the standard salade marocaine (diced tomato, cucumber, onion and herbs), track down the full range of cooked Moroccan salads. These take longer to prepare, so are often found in more formal restaurants, but they are worth it! The combination of herbs and spices in a selection of small taster salads – like a Middle Eastern mezze – is a real treat and they are all generally vegan, made with olive and argan oils. Try shakchuka (roasted pepper and tomato), zaaluq (pureed eggplant with tomato) or salads with carrots, pumpkin, beets or beans.

The classic Moroccan soup, harira, is also often made with a vegetable stock (but double check to be sure!) Served to break the fast during Ramadan and a favorite as an early evening snack all year round, it is like a meal in a bowl. Containing tomatoes, garbanzos, lentils, pasta or rice and herbs, it is flavorsome and – served with dates, sweet pastries or fluffy msimen pancakes – sure to satisfy your appetite! Another popular vegetarian soup is baysara. You’ll find this thick soup of pureed fava beans, with its characteristic slick of virgin olive oil and sprinkle of cumin, only in the mornings – it’s a popular breakfast dish for workers, costing only a few dirham.

For those with a sweet tooth… You are in good company in Morocco! Moroccans love cakes, pastries and biscuits. Some may be made with butter, although traditional breakfast/teatime snacks such as sfinj (ring donuts), msimen (flaky pancakes), bghrir (full of holes like English crumpets only larger and thinner), shbakia (fried cinnamon twists) and breads tend to be made with oil or water. Pastries such as the classic ‘gazelles horns’ and other sweet treats may contain butter, so vegans will need to check. For a healthier sweet option, there are a myriad of juice and smoothie combinations and many juice bars can also make up a fruit salad on request. If you like your juice natural, ask for sans sucre (no added sugar).

To finish at the start of the day, breakfast is seldom an issue for vegetarian travelers in Morocco. Typically riad guest houses and hotels serve a selection of breads and pastries with jams, honeys and oils, perhaps some local olives or fruit and orange juice. Eggs are available everywhere and a “BM” or Berber omelet (an omelet on a base of spicy tomatoes and onions) is something every Moroccan can rustle up – even in the remotest desert or mountain locations.

For those almost-vegetarians who eat fish, you are in for a treat on Morocco’s Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines in cities such as Agadir, Essaouira and Oualidia. And if you hanker a little variety and yearn for something more familiar on one night of your vacation, you will find a selection of restaurants in large cities serving everything from Thai food to pizzas; Lebanese falafel to sushi and spaghetti to curry. An entirely vegetarian restaurant, however, would be rare in Morocco!

Then there are Moroccan riads that specialize in cuisine and offer meat free options. Wonderful vegetarian and even wheat free cuisine can be found in Fes at Dar Roumana, a boutique riad run by French chef Vincent Bonnin and his wife Vanessa. Riad Idrissy and The Ruined Garden in Fes offer an interesting take on vegetarian dishes as does the famous boutique hotel La Maison Arabe in Marrakech that can serve up one of Morocco’s most tasteful Berber Vegan tajines. As a Morocco traveler you are guaranteed contemporary inspired and traditional cuisine in Morocco that is meat free.

Besawaraha! (Arabic for “Bon Appetit!” or “Enjoy!”)

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more Meat Free Morocco or A Taste of Morocco 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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The Hotel Villa de France in Tangier, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Grand Villa France Hotel Circa

Grand Villa France Hotel Circa

The Moroccan port city of Tangiers (also known as Tangier, or Tanger in French) sits on the Straits of Gibraltar, staring right across the Mediterranean Sea at Spain. Sitting just east of Africa’s most north-westerly point, it has been a key point of exchange between the African and European continents for centuries.

Between 1923 and 1956 (when Morocco gained independence), Tangiers was at the center of a 144 sq mile international zone under the joint administration of France, Spain, and Britain (and later Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States). This international status and the post-war wanderlust of many European and American travelers resulted in a large and diverse expat population of writers, artists, smugglers, bon vivants and fortune-seekers living alongside Tangier’s indigenous populations of Moroccan Arabs, Berbers and Riffians from the neighboring Rif mountain range. Foreign residents included Beat Era American authors, Paul Bowles, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

However, even before the establishment of the French Protectorate in Morocco and the Tangiers International Zone, the seafront frontier town atmosphere of Tangiers attracted its fair share of celebrity residents. One such visitor was French fauvist painter, Henri Matisse.

Hotel Villa De France Tangier

Hotel Villa De France Tangier

Matisse’s 1912 work, Window at Tangier, is a painting of the view from his window in room 35 at the Hotel Villa de France. Originally built in 1880 by Luciano Bruseaud, the Villa de France was the residence of the head of French diplomacy before becoming the main building of the hotel. It featured impressive gardens stretching to Tangiers’ Anglican church of Saint Andrew. The hotel became the favorite of an élite clique of international visitors during the period of the International Zone: French and British aristocrats, German diplomats, military officers and even clergymen are said to have stayed there for a drink or a few nights. The Villa de France only lost its pre-eminent position when Scottish businessman Lord Bute opened a larger and more sumptuous rival in 1930: the Hôtel El Minzah. The decline of Villa de France began after the end of World War II and the dissolution of the International Zone, and by the late 20th century it had long become outmoded and was in desperate need of renovation. The hotel was closed in 1992 and remained shut for more than 20 years.

Protests against the threat of demolition in favor of modern property development are said to have reached the ears of King Mohammed VI. Villa de France was finally classified as a historic monument in 2003, befitting its grand architecture and function as the urban memory of Tangier. The renovation and expansion began 3 years later to the tune of around 100 million Moroccan dirhams (US$ 10.5 million).

Grand Hotel Villa De France  Dining Room

Grand Hotel Villa De France Dining Room

The Grand Hotel Villa de France was officially re-opened in September 2014, after a soft launch over the preceding summer. Along with its erstwhile rival, El Minzah, it is now owned by Iraqi-born British businessman, Nadhmi Auchi. The aim of the renovation has been to maintain the character of the original architecture, while acknowledging Tangier’s pinnacle of the 1950s and 60s, in a modern 5* hotel setting. Room 35 has been reserved as an homage to Matisse. The renovation is sympathetic to the original charm of the 19th century design, while incorporating traditional Moroccan craftsmanship and modern amenities (such as independent apartments and a new pool).

Today, as in yesteryear, the new Grand Hotel Villa de France enjoys unfettered and impressive views of both the Tangiers medina, the Mediterranean and its own extensive gardens. Sitting on a hill above the city, it is the perfect escape from the bustle below – either for a drink on the beautiful terraces, or for a longer stay.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about the Hotel Villa De France or a Tangier 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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Fes Festival of Sufi Culture and Music April 2016

Fes Sufi Festival of Culture and Music

Fes Sufi Festival of Culture and Music

Morocco’s ancient city of Fes (Fez) was Morocco’s first imperial capital. Fes was established and developed by Idris I – founder of the Kingdom of Morocco and credited with the Islamization of the country – and his son, Idris II. More than a millennium later, it remains Morocco’s spiritual heart. In some parts of the ancient medina, little has changed since mediaeval times. As such, the ancient palaces, Koranic schools and gardens make magical settings for two key festivals in the Fassi year: the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music (22-30 May 2015) and the Fes Festival of Sufi Culture (18-25 April 2015).

Sufism is typically defined as the mystical dimension of Islam and is such is often opposed by the followers of more conservative or literal Islamic philosophy. Many Sufis, however, maintain that the spiritual essence of Sufism transcends and pre-dates religions.

Sufis typically live and worship in orders or brotherhoods gathered around a Master, such as the famous Gnaoua of Morocco, or the Mevlevi Order of Turkey known for their whirling dervishes. Unlike mainstream Muslims, who believe that their communion is directly with Allah (God) through prayer with the purpose of bringing themselves closer to God in Paradise, Sufis believe that spiritual practice (such as charitable acts and self-discipline) can bring them closer to Allah in this life and that they can communicate with Him via certain practices in addition to prayer (eg song, dance, trance, whirling or others).

This practice of meditating on God through a focus, for example on repetitive beats or dancing is known as samaa. This is said to bring forth a person’s love of God and purify the soul. The aim is to reach a trance-like state of ecstasy which is hoped to lead to deeper spiritual knowledge.

The 2015 Fes Festival of Sufi Culture is the 9th edition. Under the banner “The Religion of Love”, the festival will celebrate the life and work of renowned Sufi scholar, Rumi. Jalaladdin Muhammad Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic. He was the inspiration for the creation of the Mevlevi Order, which practices samaa through music set to Rumi’s poems and whirling. At this year’s Fes Festival, here are several round table events and performances dedicated to discussion of Rumi’s work and the Mevlevi. The Festival will also make tribute to Rabiaa al Adawiya (Rabiaa el Basri), who was an 8th century female Muslim saint and Sufi mystic from Basra, Iraq.

The Sufi Culture Festival also draws on indigenous Moroccan cultural and spiritual traditions, featuring Sufi Amazigh culture and poetry and the musical traditions of al Andalous, the Moorish Empire of the Middle Ages.

Sufism is an open, welcoming aspect of modern Islam and is more accessible in Morocco to non-Muslim audiences through Festivals, spiritual practices and the zawiyas (homes of the brotherhoods) than mainstream Islam whose mosques and cemeteries are typically closed to visitors. Whether your interest is in music, poetry, dance, religion or spiritual aspects of Sufism, the emphasis of the Sufis and of the 2015 Fes Festival of Sufi Culture on love is powerful and appealing. This year’s Fes Festival of Sufi Culture is promises to be a stimulating and inspirational event!

PROGRAM OF FESTIVAL OF SUFI CULTURE & MUSIC APRIL 2015

Saturday 18  April 16.00

Opening ceremony General introduction by Faouzi Skali followed by a musical and artistic moment. 

20.30 Concert : Mystic recital dedicated to Rabiaa al Adawiya 

Sunday 19 April10.00 Round Table and poetic readings. « Tribute to Abdelwahhab Meddeb: Sufi moments ».

16.00 Round Tables: “Is there a revival of Sufism in the Muslim world?”

20.30 Samaa of the Tariqa Boutchichiyya  Qadiriyya ( Morocco).

Monday 20 April 10.00 Round Table: ‘Persian Mystical Poetry and the Message of Love’

Hossein Gomshei Discussion led by Faouzi Skali with Hossein Gomshei, Leonard Lewisohn, and Alan Williams

16.00 Round Table: ‘Rumi and the Mevlevi: Poetry of Ecstasy and Love in Persian and Turkish’ Leonard Lewisohn, Alan Williams, and Roderick Grierson Discussion led by Faouzi Skali with Leonard Lewisohn, Alan Williams, and Roderick Grierson

20.30 Concert:  ‘Aşkın Sesi: The Voice of Love’  :  Mevlevi music for the ney:  Kudsi Erguner.

Tuesday 21 April

10.00 Round Table: ‘Rumi and the Legacy of Persian Music’ Jane Lewisohn (with recordings)

Discussion led by Faouzi Skali with Jane Lewisohn, Leonard Lewisohn, and Hossein Gomshei

16.00 Round Table: ‘“Listen to This Ney”: Music of the Mevlevi Kudsi Erguner

(with recordings and live performance) ‘Visions of the Mevlevi: Eastern and Western Depictions of Semazens’

Roderick Grierson (with illustrations) Discussion led by Roderick Grieson with Kudsi Erguner and Faouzi Skali

20.30  Samaa of the Tariqa Khalwatiyya :  Chaykh Nur Allah Fath ( Turkey).

Wednesday 22 April

10.00 Round Table: « The scriptural foundations of the Religion of the Love ».

16.00 Round Table: « Presence of  Rabiaa » .

20.30 First part : Samaa of the Tariqa Rifaiyya ( Turkey) Second part: Samaa of the  Tariqa Naqchbandiyya (Bosnia). 

Thursday 23 April 10.00 Round Table: « Sufi Amazigh culture and poetry »

16.00 Round Table: « Bards of the spiritual Love of East and West ».

20.30 Samaa of the Tariqa Charqawiyya and of the Tariqa Wazzaniyya.

Friday 24 April 10.00 Round Table: « Writings and poems about spiritual love in Morocco and Andalousia  » .

16.00 Round Table: « Culture and expressions of spiritual love in Sub-Saharan Africa  » .

20.30 First part: Samaa  of the Tariqa Siqilliyya Second part: Sufi singings of Alep: Homage to Jalaleddine Weiss

Saturday 25 April 10.00 Round Table: « Love and Futuwwa,  the path of the Spiritual Chivalry » .

20.30 Sufi Samaa and  Andalusian Music. Conferenciers Lecturers ( alphabétique order ) :

Abdelillah Arafa, Abdou Hafidi, Abdellah Ouazzani, Abdussamad Romero,

Alan Williams Bariza Khiari, Eric Geoffroy, Hossein Gomshei, Ines Safi, Jaafar Kansoussi, Jane Lewisohn, Katia et Gabrielle Legeret,  Kudsi Erguner, Lila Anvar, Leonard Lewisohn,  Michael Barry, Michel Boivin, Mounir El Kadiri, Roderick Grierson, Saad El Khiari, Saïda Bennani, Salamatou Sow, Souada Maoulainine, Suad El Hakim, Touria et Layla Iqbal, Xavier Guerrand-Hermès.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about the Fes Sufi 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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Filed under Morocco Travel