One of the best things about our trip to Marrakech–among many great things–was the food. Food seems to be everywhere, particularly in the medina (old walled part of the city). In the morning, the grand Djemaa el Fna square is covered with carts selling dates, nuts, and other fruit, freshly squeezed orange and blood orange juices. In the souks themselves, vendors have stalls that specialize in everything from herbs to spices, olives to lamb, and more. We passed one particularly fragrant stall selling absolutely nothing but mint.
Even better, in the evening the Djemaa el Fna transforms to a food wonderland, with the smaller wheeled carts moving to the edges to make way for a couple of hundred tented stalls, many with water and electrical hookups, all with seating, cooking some of the most delicious food we’ve ever had. It’s easy to tell the tourist traps from the good food: the red-and-white check plastic tablecloths and hawkers cries of “Shish kebab, very good, here!”, not to mention the groups of fanny-packed, white sneakered folks, told us to keep walking.
Going deeper into the middle of this open-air bazaar, we found what we were looking for: quiet but large stalls with several serious looking men cooking on grills, and nothing but locals–couples, families, groups of men–sitting there. Grabbing two stools at a likely looking place, we were asked what we wanted, and we managed to communicate well enough to order some kefta and sausages. Spiced tea, loaves of flatbread, and a flavorful fresh salsa were quickly placed in front of us. No utensils, because the custom here, for this type of food–grilled meats–is to use a piece of bread as your utensil, scooping it up with some of the salsa. The best sort of finger food! We tried to remember to only use our right hand (as is the etiquette), but that proved harder.
In the end, despite feeling a bit out of place taking our seat at first, this was one of the best memories of the trip. The cooks behind the counter were friendly (and not in that “come in, American tourist” way), especially once they saw how much we enjoyed the food. We went back another night, and tried a different but similar stall. (One of the things about this vast marketplace, with row upon row of stalls that look quite alike, is being able to find the one you want again.)
While we do enjoy the occasional splurge meal, I’ve yet to have a fine dining experience that was any more satisfying than some of the simpler meals we’ve had in places like Marrakech, Madrid, or Managua.