Marrakesh (Marrakech), Morocco

June 25 – 27, 2019

We found that Moroccans had the penchant for al fresco dining. Many restaurants set up tables on the sidewalk and diners took their sweet time finishing their meal or sipping their coffee. Was it French influence or Mediterranean culture in general? So when in Rome, so to speak, Ki and I did the same at all times. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner outside facing the street. The bonus was that mealtime was invariably people-watching time too.

Tajine @ Restaurant Simohamed, Marrakesh
Imperial Holiday Hotel & Spa Marrakesh

Smile Food

Our stay at Imperial Holiday Hotel & Spa in Gueliz did not come with petit déjeuner (breakfast in French). It actually worked for us because it allowed the chance to try restaurants in the vicinity and take in local scenes and flavors of Marrakesh.

TTT and Ki @ Smile Food, Marrakesh
Smile Food Menu @ Marrakesh

I could actually live by bread alone. The set menu at Smile Food Restaurant was after my dough-loving tummy. I had my fill of Moroccan flatbread – both the flaky pancake msemen and the fluffy pita batbout – served with olive oil along with butter and jam. We downed it all with cups of hot cocoa. The carbo-loaded meal was just what we needed to to jump-start our day of exploring the city on foot.

Msemen (Moroccan Pancake) @ Smile Food, Marrakesh
TTT and Ki @ Smile Food, Marrakesh

Espace Fruits Othmane

Snack Othmane next door took care of our all-day breakfast fix. The restaurant was rather compact but always packed both times: in the morning upon leaving the hotel and in the evening upon returning. They served omelette in a pan, generously topped with the richest of cheese and filled with cuts of dried meat. Warm batbout and dried olives rounded off the meal, which I downed with hot coffee (morning) or avocado smoothie (evening).

Espace Fruits Othmane @ Marrakesh
Breakfast @ Espace Fruits Othmane, Marrakesh
Ki and TTT @ Espace Fruits Othmane, Marrakesh
TTT and Ki @ Espace Fruits Othmane, Marrakesh

Café Caravane

In our walks around the medina, we met a Berber artist and restaurateur who introduced himself as Nabil Couscous. I could not ascertain if that was his real name; I knew couscous to be a North African dish. Business was slow in the middle of a hot afternoon. We had the restaurant’s terrasse panoramique, terrace with a view, on the second floor all to ourselves. The rooftop doubled as an art gallery, though seemingly unprepared for guests. Paintings depicting Berber life on canvas and fabric were scattered about as in storage.

TTT and Ki @ Café Caravane, Marrakesh
With Nabil Couscous @ Café Caravane, Marrakesh

The colorful artworks occupied our attention while waiting for our order of mixed salad with large grains of rice. Nabil, most likely, whipped it up from scratch as we were the only diners at that time. The call to prayer soon blared from a nearby mosque, giving an auditory dimension to the already-thick traditional atmosphere. Then I felt something nibbling my shoe. I looked down to see a tiny tortoise exploring the floor area inch by inch. It was the cutest of the many surprises I experienced in Nabil’s Café Caravane.

Café Caravane’s Terrasse Panoramique @ Marrakesh
TTT and Ki @ Café Caravane, Marrakesh
Tiny Tortoise @ Café Caravane, Marrakesh

Pizzeria Bab Doukkala

Predictably, we got down to craving more familiar fare, such as pizza. A pizzeria within the walled quarter came to the rescue. The meat pizza with generous toppings delivered but the owner or staff was not the friendliest geezer in the medina. He flat out denied us a photo of the restaurant. For what strange reason, we would never know or understand. Our ninja moves came in handy for taking selfies for documentation.

Meat Pizza with Dried Olives @ Pizzeria Bab Doukkala, Marrakesh
Ki and TTT @ Pizzeria Bab Doukkala, Marrakesh

Kech Foods

We were so tired and famished at the end of exploring the walled city that we settled for the first restaurant we saw outside the gate. It was named Kech Foods, perhaps a short form of Marrakech. Despite the local name, we wolfed down a good-sized chicken burger stuffed with huge tomato slices and lettuce. The side fries were freshly hot. I noticed that, in general, they served proper burgers – bigger with more stuffing – in Morocco unlike fast food chains in my country.

TTT and Ki @ Kech Foods, Marrakesh
Chicken Burger @ Kech Foods, Marrakesh
A Bee-sitor @ Kech Foods, Marakesh
Ki and TTT @ Kech Foods, Marrakesh

Restaurant Simohamed

We got to our penultimate day in Marrakesh and I had yet to try Morocco’s main dish, tajin (sometimes spelled tajine or tagine). No worries as the eponymous earthenware used to cook and serve it was as ubiquitous as the Golden Arches where I was from. We jumped at the chance when we saw them at Restaurant Simohamed, smoldering on charcoal embers by the sidewalk.

Ki and TTT @ Restaurant Simohamed, Marrakesh
Restaurant Simohamed Menu @ Marrakesh

This traditional North African dish was named after the clay pot in which it was slow-cooked. The conical lid was its identifying feature for me, but a bit of research schooled me on its purpose: the form most efficiently trapped moisture while cooking in this arid part of the world. Ingenious! Ingredients varied from meat and poultry to fish but all were garnished with any combination of vegetables, spices, dried fruit, and nuts.

Tajin or Tajine @ Restaurant Simohamed, Marrakesh
Tajin de poulet au légume (R) @ Restaurant Simohamed, Marrakesh
Ki and TTT and a Pussy @ Restaurant Simohamed, Marrakesh
Dried Fruit @ Restaurant Simohamed, Marrakesh

I opted for tajin de poulet au légume, the chicken variety served in the same clay casserole it was cooked. Its consistency and tenderness were similar to Filipino adobo without the vinegar and soy sauce marinade, of course. The dish was bright yellow, perhaps from turmeric. Instead of rice I was more accustomed to, I paired it with batbout, the Moroccan pita. In the end, tajin was a taste of both the foreign and the familiar. It was a tasty realization that, even halfway round the world, our cultures shared more things than we imagined.

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