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Travel Diary of Moroccan Preserved Lemons

 

 

preserved-lemons

Preserved lemons are a staple in Moroccan cuisine and are added to slow cooking tagines, stews, and soups for a wonderful tangy lemon flavor that can not be duplicated by fresh lemons.  In Morocco, these lemons can be bought individually at a souk, or marketplace, and are very easy to find given their importance in Moroccan dishes.  Outside of Morocco these lemons may be found in Middle Eastern or international markets but are so easy to make many cooks decide to prepare their own preserved lemons at home.

The ingredients for Moroccan preserved lemons are extremely simple, all you need are whole fresh lemons, sea salt, lemon juice, and, in some recipes, vegetable oil.  There is also the option of adding additional spices to make the preserved lemons more suitable for sweet or savory dishes.  Cinnamon sticks are a common spice that is added for lemons that are going to be used in sweet dishes and pepper or bay leaves are added for lemons that are going to be used in savory tagine dishes.

 

The pickling process takes about one month and the preserved lemons will be good to use for up to six months.  A simple clean jar is sufficient to pickle the lemons in but it is suggested that if you are not planning on refrigerating the lemons that you use a proper sterilized canning jar.

To Make Preserved Lemons

Cut off both rounded ends of the lemon and make two deep cuts lengthwise downwards, careful not to cut all the way through, so that the lemon has been incised with an X.

Stuff the salt down into the cuts using about 1 tablespoon per lemon.

Pack the lemons tightly into the jar, pushing them to the bottom, and cover with lemon juice and any additional spices you choose to include.  Some recipes call for topping the jar with vegetable oil.

Leave the jar closed for one month, checking every couple of days to make sure the lemons are fully submerged in juice.

After one month the lemons are ready, the pulp and skins will have become soft and silken and can both be used in cooking recipes.  Some people use the juice as well but this is often too salty.  Rinse the lemons in water before using to wash away the extra salt and then add to any slow-cooking meat or vegetable tagine dish.

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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! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Moulay Idriss – Travel to Morocco’s Holiest City

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Moulay Idriss is a Moroccan town and important religious site and place of pilgrimage for Muslims located just an hour away from Fes. The city is named after the Moroccan saint Moulay Idriss, a descendant of Muhammad, who died and was buried in 792 AD in the city that was eventually named after him. During his life in Morocco Idriss founded Morocco’s first Arab dynasty as well as the city of Fes and is accredited with converting the majority of Morocco’s population to Islam.

The Moulay Idriss itself is situated in a valley with lush green hillsides enclosing the white-washed houses of the city on three sides, making for a very beautiful sight.

The Shrine – Moulay Idriss

Today, Moulay Idriss’ tomb is a revered site and the city is considered to be the holiest city in Morocco. The tomb is considered to be a shrine and is accepted as a substitute pilgrimage for Muslims who cannot afford to travel to Mecca which, according to the five pillars of Islam, is one of the obligations of a Muslim man. Every August an important Moussem, or Muslim festival, is held in Moulay Idriss and Muslims from around the world come together to sing and dance in celebration of their faith. Although the tomb itself is not open to non-Muslims the sight can be enjoyed from the surrounding hillside or from one of the many taller buildings surrounding it.

Sacred mouslim city Moulay Idriss, Morocco, Africa

Idriss Medersa

Located in Moulay Idriss is the Idriss Medersa, an ancient Koran school, which was built using materials from taken from Volubilis, an important outpost of the Roman Empire, located nearby. The Idriss Medersa is famous for its unusual Minaret, added to the building by a wealthy pilgrim in 1939. The Minaret is circular, an unusual design throughout the Muslim world, and is decorated with white and green geometric shapes that spell out a passage from the Koran in Arabic.

The City

Despite non-Muslims being barred from entering the shrine, Moulay Idriss offers many other sites and experiences for visitors. Its winding streets, whitewashed houses, and magnificent hillsides make the city a beautiful sight and well-worth the trip. A weekly vegetable market, or souk, occurs every Saturday and is a great way for visitors to get a true Moroccan experience. As for food, The Restaurant Trois Boules d’Or offers great food and spectacular views and don’t forget to try the nougat of Moulay Idriss which is famous and can be bought almost anywhere in the city.

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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! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Harira – The Traditional Moroccan Soup

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As both a starting point and a destination for merchants along ancient trade routes Morocco developed a cuisine that has Arabic, African, French, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern influences. This blending of cultures and ideas makes Moroccan cuisine unique and often quite surprising. Extensive use of dried fruits such as dates and figs, preserved lemons, nuts, and the blending of fresh herbs and spices gives Moroccan cuisine its distinctive, and delicious, taste.

Harira is the famous soup of Morocco that is traditionally served during Ramadan at sunset to break the daylight fast. While every family has its own recipe with slight variations the traditional Harira is a tomato based soup with lamb, chickpeas, lentils, and pasta, infused with the flavors of lemon, cinnamon, cilantro, parsley, saffron, and ginger, and thickened with flour and egg. The soup is traditionally served with a lemon slice and crusty bread, a small bowl of lemon juice for those who prefer their soup with a little extra, and a plate of figs which are also traditionally served to break fast during Ramadan.

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While traditionally only served during Ramadan or at weddings Harira is a Moroccan favorite that is hearty enough to be served as a meal on a cold winter’s night, find the recipe below and don’t forget the crusty bread!

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb. uncooked meat (lamb, beef or chicken), chopped into 1/2” pieces
  • several soup bones (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 bunch cilantro (coriander), finely chopped to yield about 1/4 cup
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped to yield about 1/4 cup
  • 1 or 2 celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 1 can of chick peas
  • 1 tablespoon smen (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric or ¼ teaspoon yellow colorant
  • 6 large tomatoes (about 2 lb. or 1 kg), peeled, seeded and pureed
  • 2 to 3 tbsp lentils
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed evenly into 1 or 2 cups of water
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons uncooked broken vermicelli
  • 1 cup flour

Preparation:

Step 1 – Ahead of Time

  1. Peel, seed and puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Or, stew the tomatoes and pass them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin.
  2. Pick the parsley and cilantro leaves from their stems. Small pieces of stem are OK, but discard long, thick pieces with no leaves. Wash the herbs, drain well, and finely chop them by hand or with a food processor.

Assemble the remaining ingredients and follow the steps below.

Step 2 – Brown the Meat

Put the meat, soup bones and oil into a 6-qt. or larger pressure cooker. Over medium heat, cook the meat for a few minutes, stirring to brown all sides.

Step 3 – Make the Stock

Add the cilantro, parsley, celery, onion, chick peas, tomatoes, smen and spices. Stir in 3 cups of water.

Cover tightly, and heat over high heat until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and release the pressure.

Step 4 – Make the Soup

Add the lentils, tomato paste mixture, and 2 quarts (or about 2 liters) of water to the stock.

Set aside (but don’t add yet), the vermicelli.

Cover the pot and heat the soup over high heat until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking.

Adding vermicelli: Cook the soup on pressure for 45 minutes. Release the pressure, and add the vermicelli. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for five to ten minutes or until the vermicelli is plump and cooked.

Step 5 – Thicken the Soup

While the soup is cooking, mix together the 1 cup of flour with 2 cups of water. Set the mixture aside.

Stir or whisk the mixture occasionally. The flour will eventually blend with the water. If the mixture is not smooth when you’re ready to use it, pass it through a sieve to remove balls.

Once the vermicelli has cooked, taste the soup for seasoning. Add salt or pepper if desired.

Bring the soup to a full simmer. Slowly — and in a thin stream — pour in the flour mixture. Stir constantly and keep the soup simmering so the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom.

You will notice the soup beginning to thicken when you’ve used approximately half the flour mixture. How thick to make harira is your own preference. I like to thicken the broth so that it achieves a cream-like consistency.

Simmer the thickened soup, stirring occasionally, for five to ten minutes to cook off the taste of the flour. Remove the soup from the heat.

Serves 6 to 8.

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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! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca: A Morocco Travel Special with Piano Bar & Old Hollywood Dining Experience

The 1942 classic Hollywood movie Casablanca is full of romance and political espionage set against a backdrop of wartime conflict in Casablanca, Morocco. Deceit, danger, love, and betrayal are all common themes in this critically acclaimed and Academy Award winning film starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid. Its characters, dialogue, and music have become iconic in the film world and Casablanca is now considered to be one of the greatest films of all time.

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Rick’s Café Americain, the gin-joint owned by the bitter and cynical Rick Blaine (Bogart) in the movie, was an upscale nightclub and gambling den that attracted the likes of French and Nazi officials, thieves, and refugees. This rough and tumble joint played a central part in the movie Casablanca and, thanks to one woman, the fantasy place has now become a reality…

The Real Rick’s Café

In an old courtyard-style mansion set against the walls of the Old Medina in Casablanca the mythical Rick’s Café was brought to life by one woman’s dream to demonstrate true American values. Kathy Kriger worked for the US embassy but, following 9/11, decided that she wanted to leave the government, stay in Morocco, and pursue her dream of recreating Rick’s Café from the legendary Casablanca movie. After two years of development and building, in 2004, Rick’s Café finally opened its doors to rave reviews.

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Music Nights at Rick’s Café

The extraordinary pianist Issam Chabaa sits in the grand piano bar at Rick’s Café surrounded by architecture and decorative details reminiscent of the famous gin-joint from the film. Visitors sit and enjoy the music at elaborate tables surrounded by curved arches, balconies, a sculpted bar, and elaborately beaded and stenciled brass lighting. Four fireplaces and tables with a view of the fishing port add elegance and ambience to this upscale joint.

Chabaa can be found playing music reminiscent of the 40’s and 50’s nightly from Tuesday through Sunday including classic French, Spanish, and Brazilian songs. The famous “Time Goes By” song from the Casablanca movie is inevitably played several times a night and, with the lyrics up on the café’s website, patrons are more than welcome to help Chabaa sing along.

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Jam Sessions at Rick’s Café

Rick’s café also hosts jam sessions every Sunday night, inviting artists, both local and foreign, the chance to hop onstage and showcase their talents. Jazz is widely appreciated in Casablanca and Rick’s Café offers yet another venue for jazz musicians to practice their art.

Don’t forget the food!

The international menu at Rick’s Café specializes in Casablanca’s fresh fish, vegetables, and fruit. The full menu offers three-course meals such as goat cheese salad with figs and roasted salmon with tomato vinaigrette all to be finished off with Rick’s famous cheese cake. As well as the set menu the chef also offers a specials menu that changes daily.

Let the Drinks Flow

The champagne never seemed to stop flowing in the film Casablanca and at Rick’s Café there is certainly no shortage of it with champagne by the glass a staple on the bar menu. Along with the champagne a full range of spirits and cocktails are offered, including the special house cocktail, the Sour Jdid, a delicious mixture of whiskey sour with red vermouth, mashed lemons, and a splash of sparkling water. This delicious and unique cocktail, named after the Boulevard Sour Jdid where Rick’s Café is located, has proven to be a hit and, is so refreshing, that it is offered as a two-for-one deal! I guess you really can’t drink just one.

The combination of the elegant atmosphere, nostalgic music, excellent food, and the fully-stacked bar make visitors feel as though they have stepped back in time and into a scene of Casablanca that they just might not want to leave.

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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! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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A Taste of Morocco: Vegetarian Dining The Amanouz Cafe

amanouz cafeAfter reading all about the traditional cuisine and sweet mint tea of Morocco I was more than ready to experience it myself when I headed to Amanouz Café in Northampton, Massachusetts. Located on Main Street this unassuming café specializes in the mouth-watering aromas and sumptuous tastes of Moroccan cuisine transporting it from the North African Sahara to this small New England town.

As I made my way to Amanouz Café on a sunny March afternoon I started wondering if I would be able to find anything on the menu that I would actually be able to eat. As a non meat-eater I have found myself in many situations at restaurants where I am forced to nibble on a few lettuce leaves or find myself, once again, ordering the tuna melt because every other option on the menu is loaded with meat. Having read up on Moroccan cuisine I knew that many of the dishes were stews that focused on meats such as chicken or beef and that lamb was often the king of the Moroccan table. Needless to say, Amanouz Café was not about to disappoint me and I walked away from my lunch incredibly full and tremendously satisfied.

Amanouz Cafe

vegetarian tajine Sitting at one of the small tables in the casual dining area at Amanouz Café I let the soothing Moroccan music wash over me as I surveyed the scene. The walls of the café are lined with the work of local artists and a small bookcase contains pictures and informational books on Mediterranean and Moroccan cultures. Having arrived just before the lunch rush the atmosphere is calm and hushed with many customers sitting alone with a book or a laptop, sipping on their tea and enjoying a moment’s peace. The kitchen is at the back of the dining area, allowing patrons to see and smell their meals being prepared with a large counter sectioning it off from the dining area. The counter itself is covered with sweet Mediterranean and Moroccan treats, from honey-filled pastries to pistachio nut-covered cakes. The aromas wafting from the kitchen remind my stomach how hungry it is and I turn my attention to the menu…

A Vegetarian Moroccan Meal

To my surprise, and delight, the menu at Amanouz Café was full of vegetarian options and vegetarian versions of classic Moroccan meals. What I didn’t realize is that meat is often a specialty item, especially for Moroccan peasants, and so many dishes featured vegetables and couscous with fish rather than meat. Fresh vegetables, herbs, breads, fish, couscous, and olives are main staples in Moroccan cuisine which means that as a vegetarian I still get to enjoy the traditional, and delicious, Moroccan meals.

Moroccan Mint Tea

The tea came served in a traditional metal tea pot with a water glass that had fresh mint leaves at the bottom. The sweet minty flavor of the tea was absolutely delicious and made me understand the reason for its popularity in Morocco.

Moroccan Sardine Salad

The Sardine salad came next, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, a hard boiled egg and peppers topped with a Moroccan salsa, fresh sardine fillets, and sprinkled with fresh cilantro. Delicious, fresh, and simple, the perfect start to my Moroccan meal.

Moroccan Pizza

Next came the Amanouz pizza, a Moroccan twist on an Italian classic. This individual sized pizza, made on Moroccan pita bread rather than pizza crust, had an ingenious assortment of roasted peppers, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, onions, and olives; needless to say it wasn’t left sitting on the plate for very long!

Traditional Moroccan Lentil soup

The soup of the day at Amanouz Café was traditional Moroccan Lentil soup. A thick, dark, and rich soup chock full of tender lentils and finished off with a swirl of olive oil. The soup made a surprisingly delicious, and extremely filling, contribution to the meal.

Tagine Fish

To my delight I found that not all tagine dishes in Moroccan cuisine focused on meat, this tagine was a stew that consisted of rice, tomatoes, grilled green peppers, and finished with large balls of fish meat on the top. The fish balls were topped with slices of fresh lemon, grated carrots, and fresh parsley and cilantro. It was presented in a traditional tagine by the server who ceremoniously took off the top of the dish allowing the amazing aromas to waft out.

Moroccan Couscous

To accompany the tagine I had a side order of traditional Moroccan couscous. The couscous was light and fluffy and seasoned with just enough salt and pepper and finished off with a sprinkling of parsley. It made a great addition to the fish tagine but was also delicious enough to eat on its own. It is quite obvious why Moroccans serve couscous at every meal, as a versatile and delicious dish couscous can make a great addition to any meal or be a meal by itself.

My vegetarian Moroccan adventure came to a close with more Moroccan mint tea and a few nibbles of the delicious sweet pastries from the counter. Extremely full and more than satisfied by my delicious lunch I walked away from Amanouz Café that afternoon already planning what to order during my next visit. With so many delicious vegetarian options I was happy to know that I could enjoy traditional Moroccan cuisine in such a wonderful atmosphere so close to home.

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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! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Safi Pottery – Travel to the Moroccan town of Safi

man-painting-pottery

 Walking through the chaotic souks of Marrakesh you will find stall upon stall of beautiful Moroccan ceramics of all shapes and sizes. From large round plates with bright orange flowers to traditional tagines of cobalt blue, the intricate designs and astonishing colors make it hard to believe that most of the pieces were made by hand in a town called Safi.

Safi

Safi is the pottery capital of Morocco. This quiet coastal town has a diversified industry known for its sardines and seafood as well as its ceramics. While it is an industrial town don’t let that discourage you from visiting, it still boasts beautiful architecture, most of which are remnants of the Portuguese occupation including the old medina and Portuguese Citadel – or Kechla. There is also the potter’s quarter which is home to all of the potters’ workshop and is a popular destination for tourists.

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The Potter’s Quarter

Despite Safi being an industrial town life goes on as it has for centuries for the potters in the old potter’s quarter. Safi boasts the oldest pottery kilns in Morocco and the potters there are famous for their plates and tagines with turquoise, white and cream-colored backgrounds and also for the famous green tiles that can be seen on roofs in all the major cities. All of their pieces are still made by hand and are a major source of income for the town of Safi. Row upon row of potters’ workshops can be found displaying their breathtaking works of art and tourists are welcome to watch the potters at work as they create their masterpieces.

Moroccan Pottery

Pottery and ceramics have always been produced and used in Morocco. In early Morocco unglazed earthen pots were used to store food and water and were key to survival. Glazed and painted ceramics however, were always made to be decorative and only sometimes useful. As imports of fine china became more common Moroccan pottery became more decorative which allowed for potters to create more elaborate designs on their pieces.

Pottery-making is truly an art form and Safi pottery is appreciated for its intricate paintings and beautiful colors and can be found in homes world-wide.


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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! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Moroccan Saffron In TheTaliouine Mountainside

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For all of you foodies out there I’m sure you’ve heard of a little thread-like spice called saffron. I’m also sure you know that its deep red color and pungent aroma can set you back a few dollars. But, for all you true spice lovers, the benefits definitely outweigh the cost.

What it is

Saffron is a deep red spice that comes from the purple Saffron Crocus, or Crocus Sativus, and is found in many Moroccan food recipes, is used as a dye, and is believed to have medicinal benefits. The spice itself comes from the tiny thread stigmas of the flower which are traditionally hand-picked and then sun-dried to bring out the aromatic flavor. It takes 140 flowers to produce just one gram of saffron which accounts for its high market price, in fact, saffron has been said to be worth its weight in gold, literally!

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Moroccan Saffron

The most famous place for saffron production in Morocco is in the town of Taliouine which is located at the heart of the Sirwa Mountains between Ouarzazate and Agadir. In ancient times the women of the village would harvest the saffron, a painstaking and time consuming job, from the wild flowers that grew on the mountainside. In the 1960’s the Jews of Taliouine helped finance saffron production and today coops dominate the saffron scene in Taliouine.

Taliouine Saffron Coops

While saffron is available for purchase at any one of the souks throughout Morocco visiting a saffron coop in Taliouine is truly a worthwhile experience. Each coop offers a tour of the village, a history of saffron and the farm, and the opportunity to sample one of the most prized spices in the world. The bulbs of the flowers are planted in September and come to bloom by the end of October transforming the chalky landscape into a sea of purple and green, it truly is a sight to see.

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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! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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