Spain and Morocco: Part 2

Let’s pick up where we left off.

To go from Seville (in southern Spain) to Morocco is actually more challenging than one might think, despite the proximity of the Strait of Gibraltar (which only takes about 45 minutes to cross on the fast ferry; and trust me, you want to take the fast ferry).  In fact, it is so time consuming to take a bus from Seville to Algeciras, catch a ferry, spend a night in Tangiers (my least favorite city on Earth), then catch a train the next day to Fes, that James and I decided to take a train back to Madrid for a night and catch a flight the following day.

So, James and I returned to Madrid and had one quite fancy (if not all that delicious) meal in the city.   The restaurant (I don’t even recall its name; wouldn’t go back) gets a 10/10 for presentation but probably only a 6/10 for actual taste.   However, since blogging is ALL about presentation, here are some food-porn photos for you to enjoy:

Some filet thing on a bread with vanilla mousse on top. Tasted pretty good.

Weird spinach + something almost pate like dish with a shrimp on top. Wasn't a big fan.

Then, after a night in Madrid (which was more-or-less uneventful as we were pretty tired), we hopped a flight the next morning to Casablanca and immediately hopped on a train for Fes, which arrived four hours later.

Suddenly, we were back in one of my favorite places on Earth.  If you don’t know anything about Fes, I recommend reading this and getting familiar.  Cliffnotes:  it is a still-functioning medieval city, complete with handmade goods, local farms and butchers, narrow streets too narrow for two donkeys to pass (no cars here), the heart of Moroccan cuisine, a UNESCO world heritage site, and home to the oldest still-running university in the world.  The old Fes Medina, over a thousand years old, is also considered among the most densely populated places on the planet, as well as being a labyrinth of monstrous proportions (read:  I’ve spent months there and I still get lost all the time).

Our first night in Fes involved us eating our first Tagine d’Kefta (there would be many, many more).  In fact, I have so many photos of Tagine d’Kefta’s that I don’t know which is which, so I’ll just post one.

A tagine d'kefta is a spiced meatball stew in a tomato-base with eggs. One of the greatest things ever.

Dinner that first night was at the Kasbah restaurant by Bab Boujloud (fun note:  Bab is the word in Arabic for “door” or “gate”.  So, it kinda makes sense that Ali Baba opened the magic gate–his name means roughly, “Ali the Door Guy”).  Bab Boujloud is a pretty epic gate into the old city:

Bab Boujloud, the southern entrance to the city. I didn't take this photo, hence the quality being somewhat decent.

The Kasbah restaurant has terrace seating overlooking the gate.  It’s a really phenomenal view and experience in general to be sitting up there.  Of course, the food is all incredibly cheap (5 dollars a plate is very common in Morocco, even at relatively touristy places).  As we were finishing our meal at the Kasbah, a big cat started eyeing our table.  James and I did our best to shoo it away, but it was pretty persistent.  Eventually we just figured it would just sit there eyeing us forever, but it didn’t.  Instead, it leapt up onto our table and snagged our remaining chicken.  Welcome to Morocco.  Fortune favors the bold!

The next day, we toured the city, got thoroughly lost, and eventually ended up at our desired location, the most wonderful restaurant in Morocco.  It has two names: Palais de Fez (Palace of Fes, in French) and Dar Tazi (House of Tazi, in Arabic).  Given my preference for Arabic over French, I always just call it Dar Tazi.  Dar Tazi is legitimately high-end and wildly expensive by Moroccan standards (even expensive by US standards at $50 for the full meal).  That said, I cannot stress enough how *worth it* it is.  I ordered my favorite there (I’ve been many times), the prix fixed meal with Moroccan Salad, Pastilla d’Semek (fish pastilla, a rare adaptation of the traditional pigeon-or-chick pastilla), and fruit for dessert.  James assumed that the “Moroccan Salad” has the same meaning as the word “Salad” and was looking forward to seeing his dish.  When they brought 14 different dishes, together comprising the “Salad”, James was pretty excited (even though the food can indeed be overwhelming).  Here’s a great photo showcasing the pastilla and the salad:

Pastilla in the foreground, salad dishes in the background. Again, forgive me for eating most of it before taking photos.

Then, during our meal, one of the more incredible elements of Arabic culture caught us by surprise–the call to prayer began to emanate from the city.  It starts at the Qaraouine mosque, the largest and most centrally located mosque in the city, and spreads outward like water ripples until over 300 unique voices are calling the faithful into prayer.  From the Dar Tazi’s hillside terrace, you can hear them all clearly.  It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Breathtaking.

 

View from Dar Tazi

We spent the rest of the day walking off the ~2 lbs of food, checking out the Qaraouine mosque (we can’t enter; non-Muslims cannot enter mosques in Morocco).  Here’s another quick Qaraouine pic:

 

Qaraouine Minaret

This last photo was taken from the terrace of the Nejjarine Square museum.  Nejjarine Square is a small public space in Fes that, in ancient times, used to receive camel caravans and provide lodging for weary travelers.  It has since been turned into an ancient artifacts museum.  James and I had a great time drinking tea on the terrace in the sunshine, as well as exploring the museum itself.

Nejjarine Museum

 

Anyway, there are many more stories to tell, including a) the entrance of Brahim; b) the crazy Jewish conspiracy guy; and c) all of Marrakech.  And of course, more food.

Part 3 coming soon!

Andrew

One Response to “Spain and Morocco: Part 2”

  1. Elizabeth Lincoln says:

    Love it! More, please.

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