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you, getting a taste of the local cuisine is the
best way to discover the singular flavors and
subtle nuances of a region. In Morocco,
this is enticingly true.
From its boisterous markets teeming
with fragrant spices to its steaming
tagines (stews) and esteemed tea
rituals, this colorful North African country has enchanted
visitors for centuries.
Due to its location on the ancient Arabian spice route,
Morocco has long been known for its spice-infused cuisine.
Among the most popular spices: karfa (cinnamon), kamoun
(cumin), kharkoum (turmeric), skignbir (ginger), tahmira
(paprika), kasbour (coriander), and zaafrane beldi (saffron).
You’ll taste them in the exotic stews, the sweetened salads,
and the savory pastries that are mainstays in Moroccan
homes and on restaurant menus.
In the ancient capitals of Marrakech and Fez, begin
your culinary odyssey with a stroll through the seductive
spice souks (markets). Prepare yourself for a kaleidoscope
of colors, a cacophony of sounds, and a collision of
intoxicating aromas. This is sensory overload at its
best — and a photo op if ever there was one. Indeed, there’s
something almost unreal about those cone-shaped mounds
of blazing red paprika, fiery cayenne pepper, and bright
yellow turmeric that rise from baskets or pots at the front
of the shops. Look for ras el hanout (“best of the shop”), a
mixture of spices — anywhere from ten to one hundred —
that vendors make exclusively for their shops. The recipes
for ras el hanout are always a secret, and no two are ever
the same. P
The spice of
a Feast For tHe eyes anD paLate
V i r t u o s o i n s i g h t s 27 V i r t u o s o i n s i g h t s 26
by anita Carmin
A kaleidoscope of spices give
life to a Marrakech souk.
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V i r t u o s o i n s i g h t s 28
HAL I NSERT
in the Market for spices?
Where to shop
Fez – No trip to Morocco’s culinary capital — and its
best-preserved imperial city — is complete without a visit
to el Attarine. In this, Fez’s most vibrant spice market,
handcrafted pottery and textiles can also be found.
Marrakech – The best spice souks in Marrakech are located
behind the Djemâa el Fna, in the medina quarter (old city).
Shop for spices in the morning, then return at dusk for
a taste of the lively street theater that includes acrobats,
magicians, snake charmers, and henna painters.
savory and sweet
A happy marriage of savory and sweet flavors, Moroccan
cuisine incorporates a mix of Berber, Spanish, Corsican,
Portuguese, Moorish, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and
African influences. Dishes are often combinations of meat
and fruit (think chicken and apricots, or lamb and dates)
all subtly enhanced by a blend of aromatic spices.
What to try
tagine – This is the name of the dish — as well as the
conical earthenware pot in which it is cooked over a
charcoal stove. Essentially a stew, tagines are made with
meat, poultry, or seafood; fresh seasonal vegetables or fruit;
and exotic spices. Popular combinations include lamb with
prunes and honey seasoned with cinnamon; and chicken
with preserved lemons, saffron, and ginger.
Mechoui – This classic dish is made from lamb shoulder
roasted on an open fire with ghee and spices.
Couscous – Traditionally made by hand from freshly
ground grain and steamed in a couscoussier (double boiler),
fluffy and buttery couscous is Morocco’s national dish. It is
usually served on Friday, the Muslim day of rest.
More Morocco on page 30 P
I nSI DER TI p: For the full sensory impact — and the experience of bartering — nothing tops a visit to a spice
souk. For the best (and clearly marked) prices, however, consider buying your spices in one of the local supermarkets.
A Berber man prepares
a tagine of lima beans.
Spicy kebabs served
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We invite you to feast. To captivate not only your
palate, but your eyes as well. To dine in a manner
not easily forgotten; to release your inner sous-chef;
to indulge the notion to have breakfast appear daily
on your private verandah. We invite your senses to
be delighted, time and again, in ways large and
small. We invite you, and we are at your service.
For reservations, please call your Virtuoso
Asi \ x P\ti iit
Intrigue your senses.
Ships’ Registrv. Te Netherlands
V I R T U O S O I N S I G H T S
Our friends at Mountain Voyage Morocco have
a collective one hundred years of experience
introducing travelers to the colorful treasures
and culinary pleasures of this exotic country.
Working with your Virtuoso travel advisor, they
will be happy to create a private culinary tour
tailored to your unique tastes, and supply English-
speaking guides to help you navigate the labyrinth
of narrow streets in the medinas. They also
can secure reservations at any of the country’s
acclaimed restaurants, including Yacout and Al
Fassia. Contact your Virtuoso travel advisor for
Formerly the palace of the Grand Vizir Jamai,
the legendary Sofitel Palais Jamai offers 142
guestrooms and suites, most with balconies.
Amenities include the renowned Al Fassia
restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool, and
hammam (steam bath) with massage and
beauty treatments. Virtuoso guests receive
a complimentary upgrade, if available; buffet
breakfast daily; choice of a hammam or sauna
spa session for two, once during stay; early
check-in and late checkout, if available; and
a special, keepsake gift. From MAD2,356
(approx. US$325) per room, per night.
Located amidst palm and olive trees, Amanjena
(translation: peaceful paradise) features a
swimming pool, hammam, and exquisite dining.
Virtuoso guests receive a complimentary
upgrade, if available; continental breakfast daily;
one lunch for two once during stay; and private
transportation to and from the Marrakech Airport.
From US$900 per room, per night. Also visit
Sir Richard Branson’s walled retreat, Kasbah
Tamadot, which boasts ambrosial gardens, two
pools, and terrace dining with breathtaking views.
Virtuoso guests enjoy a complimentary upgrade, if
available; buffet breakfast daily; a complimentary
hammam for two; and early check-in and late
checkout, if available. From EUR320 (approx.
US$505) per room, per night.
THREE WAYS TO
Where to Dine
In Marrakech: Yacout – This romantic restaurant — a
favorite of European celebs — is tucked away in the medina.
Saffron-scented tagines of beef, veal, or chicken are the
house specialty, and patrons are invited to eat the traditional
way — with their fingers.
In Fez: Al Fassia – In addition to excellent food (its
pastilla — a blend of shredded chicken, cinnamon, saffron,
and herbs in a flaky puff pastry — is said to be one of the
best in the entire country), Al Fassia is known for its smaller,
à la carte portions and its all-female ownership — highly
unusual in an Islamic country. Morocco boasts five Al Fassia
restaurants, including one in Fez’s posh Sofitel Palais
A Sweet Finale to a Spicy Meal
Meals in Morocco always end on a sweet note — with a
steaming glass of tea, flavored with Moroccan mint and
plenty of sugar. The tea is poured from a great height into
clear tea glasses. More than a mere beverage, Moroccan tea
is a symbolic acknowledgment of friendship. The green of
the tea is said to bring good luck; the high sugar content is a
blessing for continued good health. Incidentally, you will be
offered mint tea wherever you go. Never turn it down; to do
so is considered a discourtesy. In fact, when invited to tea in
a private home, you should drink at least three cups to show
your hosts you have accepted their hospitality.
From great heights:
Moroccan mint tea.
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