Road to Marakesh (Morocco) in March
I arrive in Tangiers, Morocco on March 1 and will be traveling by bus or train to Rabat, Fez and Marakesh...and return back to New York on March 22. Would greatly appreciate suggestions on where to eat and stay in those four cities, plus any other tidbits of information. thanks, bob
In Fes check out Riad Ghita for both a beautiful, intimate place to stay within the medina and amazing food - my best moroccan meals were here.
As others have mentioned, moroccans don't go out for moroccan food but the riads offer a good second best to being invited to someone's home for a meal.
Unfortunately I stayed at soulless hotels on both my trips to Marrakech, but there is excellent street food to be had in the main square especially as the sun goes down. I found myself not wanting to eat anything all day, just waiting for the action to begin in the square!
Try to get into the High Atlas mountains, an easy day trip from Marrakech or stay over night. Also I would suggest skipping Rabat and seeing Essouria instead, or spend more time in amazing Fes! I know a good moroccan guide if you need one.
Three of us ladies are planning a trip to Morocco (Casa-Marakesh-Fez-Rabat) in October 2001. Assuming you're back home now, I'd be interested to know some of your impressions. Where DID you stay in Marakesh? When traveling I like staying in the center of things. In this case, perhaps inside the Medina. How about the road between Marakesh and Fez? What would you advise...train or bus? And how long does it take between the two. We're all in our 50s, so we'd rather not have to rough it too much. Thanks in advance for whatever advice you can give me.
re: Yolanda Echevarria
I am going with a friend to Marakesh and Fes the first week in December. I am dying to know what your trip was like. I am in my fifties also. My questions are exactly the same as yours when you went. What answers did you get and what did you discover first hand? Where are reasonable places to eat where the food is native and good? Please don't say I have to go to someone's home. There must be lunch places where working people eat where we can sample good local food. Where did you eat? Help and many thanks for taking the time to reply. P.S. did you buy carpets?
Le Tobisil for fabulous blow out dinner in Marakesh. Owner/manager/host is an unfriendly arrogant woman yet despite her arrogance the restaurant is tops on every front. Very expensive($500 for 5) however if you order wine or whatever beverage it is included. WE did not know that so were very conservative and only got a few beers.
Got some amazing carpets and paid triple in Fez and Marakesh to what I paid on road to Esourara where same were available with much less pressure and truly exact same tribe's work...
My family and I just returned from M this past Saturday. In Marrakesh we stayed in the La Maison Arabe, which was excellent. It is a very small 5 star deluxe hotel in the medina. If you want to make reser. ask for Nabila, who acts as the concierge and is extremely gracious and helpful. If you need a guide I can recommend one for a tour of Marrakesh's souks and sights.
As for rest. in the evenings we ate at upscale touristy places, but ate very well. I would recommend Dar Yacout without hesitation. It was filled with tourists, partly because most Moroccans could not afford the meal, but the food was good and the atmosphere was unbelievabley romantic (Even with our kids present). There are several similar restaurants that we ate in but Yacout was by far the best.
One of our finest eating experiences in Morocco was in the Marrakesh souk where our guide introduced us to a lamb roasted similar to tandoori style, eaten on an improvised sandwhich on hot-from-the-oven bread...exquisite.
In Fez we stayed at the Palais Jamai and were dissappointed. It was OK but nothing more than a big city hotel. When I return I would stay in La Maison Bleue which now has several rooms both in the building where its renowned rest. is located, as well as in a nearby home turned hotel. Its accommodations are similar to La Maison Arabe in that they are luxurious rooms very limited in number..similar to staying in a small deluxe european villa. After we ate dinner there, the proprietor allowed us to to tour some of the accomodations. The dinner was similar to Yacout in that it was well prepared moroccan food in a spectacular setting dedicated mostly to tourists..but enjoyable none the less if taken for what it is...a fun fantasy.
Ditto on what Jim said. Moroccan society, as influenced by history and religion, is lived very much behind walls. That includes the food, which can be a frustrating thing. But there are some fine experiences to be had in Marrakech. Some tips, random and restaurant and street food-y.
The restaurant on Blvd. Mohamed V called Al Fassia serves high-quality renditions of the famed cuisine of Fez, and can make just about anything at your request.
Palace restaurants -- Stylia, Dar Yacout, etc. -- are generally overrated, but have fabulous decor.
The steamed escargots and fresh Merguez in the Jemaa el Fnaa is something to partake in. General rule: Go where the local crowds are.
Food is eaten with the first three fingers of the right hand. And, yes, it does end up being a different experience than forking in.
Sit in the cafes to meet people and soak up culture. If you prowl through old Paul Bowles writing, he has a fab essay on the sensual culture of the country as seen through cafes.
If you like lamb and beef, you'll be in heaven if you find a tiny, hidden street in the Ville Nouvelle whose name escapes me. It is filled with tiny cafes, hidden under trees and in storefronts, that serve lamb and beef in every guise imaginable, with respectable frites, salad, and the all-important part of Moroccan cuisine -- they call it simply sauce, with a bad French accent. To get there, follow Blvd. Mohammed V away from the Medina (Koutoubia at your back), through the Ville Nouvelle, passing the New Market on your right, all the way until the VN ends and then take a right. The next street on your right will be it, packed with locals and aroma.
Cafe Prince near Jemma el Fnaa has great pastry.
If you can source a place to have dinner, talk to the chef and make sure he uses smen on your food or couscous. In a country and a cuisine where sweetness rules, this traditional preserved butter is a crucial cooking element, providing balance and acid, bitterness and body. But they think foreigners hate the stuff.
Go South. It's by all accounts the "real" Morocco, less watered down culturally, less agressive.
Try argan oil and amelou.
Get to Essaouira if you can. Only takes 2 1/2 hours by grands taxi from Marrakech. Stay at the Villa Maroc or Riad Al Madina. Such a friendly, open-arms city you hardly need help getting good eats, and the restos here are fab, with chefs willing to cook like they do at home. Fish tagines and seafood bisteeya. Argan oil. Mmm.
For Morocco, by the Cadogan guidebook by Barnaby Rogerson. Details are missing, text is rich and wonderful. Culturally astute.
And, yes, the Amanjena is fun for a blow-out meal, though oddly relaxed and unpopulated b/c so few people can stay there at once -- or afford the place. But escapist in all the right ways.
We just got back from our honeymoon in Morocco, so I can give you a little info. Since it was our honeymoon, we did it a little more upscale (and therefore more touristy) than we might ordinarily, but here are my thoughts, for what it's worth:
Fez: We stayed at the famous tourist place, Palais Jamai. Enjoyed it. Especially the view over the medina. Best meal we had was when our guide (and you should definitely have one, if only to minimize the pestering you'll get) took us into a local house. My wife asked to see the inside of an average building, so our guide asked the next person on the street, whom he slightly knew. She took us in, gave us mint tea and a delicious hot mashed chickpea and olive oil stew. For lunch the next day, our guide took us to the store where we'd bought some lamps, and we shared their couscous.
The famous touristy eatery is La Maison Bleue. Don't go there, do the similar thing in Marrakech, which is Yakout. Incredibly beautiful, cool music, very very pricey by local standards, but a memorable touristy experience. Also good in Marrakech is Al Fassia, which is run by women (very rare there). Good food, you don't have to get the whole prix fixe thing, which is good. Also, our guide in Marrakech (who was very good, I can give you his info, if you like) took us to a local grill, where we had various kebabs, some better than others. He also took us to a place where we could get the local breakfast, which was a very good pastrami-like meat, served either in an omelette and in a crepe-like thing.
We stayed, again, at the touristy joint, La Mamounia. Was nice, but you could also just go there for lunch, and save yourself some money. The most beautiful hotel gardens I've ever seen, heated swimming pool, and probably the best gym in Morocco (where we worked out alongside Bono of U2, which gives you an idea of the place).
You could also drive (an hour and a half or so, I think) over to Essaouira, which is relaxing and very different from the places you'll be. You'll see a completely different side of the country.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
re: Evan Oppenheimer
probably the best English language general resource on Moroccan cuisines is Paula Wolfert's Couscous and other Good Things from Morocco, which I believe is still in print and wonderfully evokes the country.
Ive attached a link to an article on her website recounting her 1999 return visit to Tangier. Virtually no nuts and bolts touristic info but once again very evocative of place.
Have a lovely trip and tell us what you find!
Bob--you're not going to get a ton of tips because though Moroccan food is one of the best cuisines in the world, the good stuff is not served in restaurants. Locals eat at home, and when they do go out, it's for chinese or italian or burgers or kebabs.
There are a (very) few noted restaurants (easily found in all the guide books), but they're almost exclusively for infidels. If you want the real cuisine, you need to make friends and be invited home. Which is not all that difficult, but it can be hard to sort the genuinely hospitable (there are many in Morocco, especially south of Tangiers/Tetuan) from the con men (many of whom are forced into that sort of life because of the desperate poverty).
One gambit is to find expat Americans who live there and may be hip to more underground eating possibilities.
Good luck, and please report back.
re: Jim Leff
not about food, but way interesting info I excerpted from an interesting web page (linked below):
"And, if you should become separated from your guide while strolling through one of the marketplaces, here is a tip to help you find your way out of the maze of small streets and passageways. Look at the cobblestones on which you are walking. You will see an arrangement of stones with either two or three rows of stones right down the middle of the walkway. If you follow a walkway with two rows of stones, you will never get out and will probably end up in a dead end or something. However, if you follow a walkway with three rows, this will lead you out of the marketplace!"
I've been told that the chef at the Amanjena in Marrakech is a future star. My source on this is somewhat prone to hype (don't worry, it's not a publicist), but I'd still guess that it's well worth checking out if you're looking for a high-end, tablecloths-and-silverware kind of meal. The hotel, too, is said to be fabulous, but pricey.
Other than that, I can tell you that I spent nearly a week in Rabat trying to replace a stolen passport, and I'd advise you NOT to do the same. 24 hours should do it.