Experience Moroccan Culture

by Dee Andrews

Eating Moroccan couscous with our fingers, forming it into balls, sharing from one large platter in the middle of the low table… this meal in Zagora was the highlight of my family’s Morocco adventure.

Moroccan Food

Moroccan Couscous

We traveled about Morocco for a week in early February, curious to explore this north African country. Living in Spain, it was often mentioned as a tourist destination. Europeans have been traveling to Morocco for years to explore the souks, beaches, and flavorful food. American travel to Morocco happens much less, especially when it’s a family vacation. But it sounded warm and exotic, exciting and different, and we were a short flight away. One of the reasons we had moved to Spain was to explore the unknown.

Game for a Morocco adventure?

I admit, I was a little nervous. I didn’t know anyone who’d ever been there, and I’d only heard of the awful experiences taking the ferry from Spain to Tangiers, being hassled to hire a guide or buy a carpet. We didn’t speak Arabic or French, and I wasn’t enthused about renting a car and exploring ourselves, our typical mode of traveling. It was time to try and hire a guide.

Souks of Marrakech Morocco

Spices in Marrakech

Journey Beyond Travel was one of the best decisions I made. They put together an itinerary that included travel to Marrakesh, several days on our own to explore the souks and old medina, then a road trip over the Atlas Mountains into Zagora, and finally a camel trek and camp out in the Sahara Desert. We experienced it all: the chaos of shopping in the souks, delicious pigeon pie, old palaces, smiling snake charmers, Berber villages and the Moroccan couscous in Zagora.

The highlight of our Morocco adventure came when our driver and guide, Hammadi, invited us to his family’s home in Zagora for lunch. His aunt would make Moroccan couscous and show me how it was done (not from a box.) We were welcomed by his parents and several aunts and cousins. Hammadi was the only interpreter, none of the rest of us sharing a language. During the meal he would come and go between the women in one room and the men in another. My daughters and I were treated wonderfully, the aunties graciously showing us how to form balls of couscous and ensuring my daughters ate and ate. There were moments of nervous smiles from us, sitting around the table on the floor ~ were we using the wrong hand to eat, did our feet smell, did they find my fleece jacket as novel as I found their scarves?

Road through Atlas Mountains

High in the Atlas Mountains

Traveling back over the high Atlas Mountains, we thanked Hammadi from our hearts. Experiencing his Moroccan culture by sharing a meal with his family was an unforgettable way to learn about Morocco.

What about you? Have you shared a meal while traveling that made your experience memorable?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

travellyn May 2, 2011 at 5:59 am

Morocco and Marrakesh wow! They are such romantic destinations. I would love to visit and enjoy such an experience as you have shared with the family in Morocco. I had a wonderful experience in Japan with a Japanese family. The mother of my friend explained to us about the food, how it had been prepared and how I should go about eating it. (this was all in limited
English and I new very little Japanese) never the less it was a memorable night, one I have always remembered warmly.
travellyn´s last blog post ..Tropical Townsville Riverway

Dee Andrews May 2, 2011 at 6:18 am

Thanks for sharing your Japanese experience, Lyn. One of my daughters would love to travel to Japan and share a meal of sushi! A family favorite that would be fun to experience with locals.

Sonja June 1, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Very glad I read this. I’ve been going back and forth trying to decide if it was safe to take my kids across to Morocco from Spain when we go next summer. Glad to see you had a good experience.
Sonja´s last blog post ..Waffle Around

Dee Andrews June 2, 2011 at 6:34 am

I highly recommend traveling to Morocco! I have heard the ferry over from Spain into Tangiers is not the best experience. If there is a way for you to fly into Fez or Marrakesh, I would suggest going that route. The small regional airports up and down the Spanish coast all have relatively inexpensive flights. Check out Journey Beyond Travel too for ideas and a guide.

My Traveling Troop June 17, 2011 at 9:46 am

I’m dreaming of a trip back to Spain, and just might have to add a side trip to Morocco now! Looks like it was a trip that was as colorful and exotic as the Moroccan spices pictured above.

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