This is my first blog from Morocco. Today we sit in our resort the J’nane Tamsna eating by ourselves in our rooms and waiting our return to the states. Everything was normal here until yesterday. We have heard about all the craziness in the states and were so happy to be isolated in this paradise but now the reality of the world situation has crept into our small oasis here in North Africa. Please enjoy my trip as I have broken it into chapters for you to digest and enjoy! Blessings!
Slow food. Rich Life Part 1
That is how Peggy Markel describes the food in this region of the world. She is correct but it goes a bit further than that…..it is a slow life. Right now it is dark outside at 6:20 am and I have been woken up for the first time on this trip by the morning call to prayer. I am not in our home base of Marrakech but rather a small mountain town if Imlil. Here the Berber people, who are the original people of Morocco, live in isolation and peace. In an hour and a half, we will be departing Kasbah de Toubkal via donkey and starting our 4-hour bus journey to the beach.
When we arrived a week ago, Peggy started training us in the ways of Morocco. First, the pronunciations of the most important cultural items. We would learn to cook in a Tagine (Tah-Jean) there is no “N” in the word as some of us tried to add. The downtown area was the Medina (Med-Dee-Nuh.) This was not a word that rhymed with a female body part. On the first day we both cooked in a Tagine and shopped in the Medina and were officially immersed in the Morrocan culture.
The cooking is simple here and it is that simplicity that makes the food so incredibly good. Everything is locally sourced and they adjust there cooking to the season. The don’t fly food in from somewhere else if it is out of season, they simply cook with what they have in the garden or have dried from a previous season. My body has never felt so clean and lacking in want.
Ahh…prayer just ended 6:31 am but my sister’s snoring still continues along with the Rooster crows to let everyone know that morning is on the way. Still dark at 6:45am but the moonrise at 6000 feet is gorgeous.
Our first afternoon we headed to the Medina and had an amazing guide named Hadj. His birth name was not Hadj but after a person has made their pilgrimage to Mecca, that is an appropriate way to address them. He took us through the winding streets that had doors at every elevation, of every size and color. The streets were not named and I am positive that if it were not for Hadj, I never would have found my way out. There was a sign for an escape room buried in those winding streets but from my perspective, the entire experience was a type of escape. Although the maze seemed to have no order, there were dedicated sections: Slippers, leather, metal, food. This was loose at best though but did give a small semblance of order to miles and miles of vendors. There was also no zoning. Homes, hotels, restaurants were all peppered into the landscape. One of the things that Hadj pointed out was that in this culture, the outside was unimportant lending less to a feeling of haves and have-nots. The doors generally looked the same regardless of the means of the family that lived behind it. Almost every house (Dar) was built around a Rihad (indoor garden). This was a critical feature. A place where fruit or olive trees could grow indoors and a square in the center of the house to allow light and beauty in.
The cooking class was headed by the resort chef, Bahija (Bah-hee-sha) who is a beautiful, Muslim woman who breaks all the stereotypes I have about the Arab cultures. She taught us to cook chicken with vegetables and spices in the traditional Tagine. This resort is owned by the multicultural couple who met in Mexico. Mary Ann from Paris and Gary from Michigan. Their resort is filled with working gardens, 100% sustainable and one of the most upscale resorts in Marrakech.
After our first night at the resort, I noticed a young man who seemed dreadfully out of place. He looked about 16 years old, was wearing a tweed jacket and leather loafers. He sat and had dinner by himself. I wanted to talk to Deb about him but he was within earshot. I told Deb, “There is this guy at your six.” There are only a few people who would not look confused but she knew I wanted to talk about someone behind us. We decided to call him “Bob” so we could talk freely without arising suspicion. Why was Bob there?? Why was he there alone? Did he want to be alone? I wanted to go ask him these questions but Deb wanted to keep our distance. She did not want to bother him. We both agreed by the end of the conversation that we would let Bob alone. Later that evening, Linda and I were sitting finishing our wine out in the garden when Bob walked right up to us and asked us what we were doing there. He had a sweet British accent, was from London and was as curious about us as we were about him. We explained the cooking adventure and he was amazed that we were all such recent friends. The nine of us did gel quite well in the short 48 hours we had been together. We found out that Bob was not Bob but Alastair. His school had closed due to the Covid-19 virus and he wanted to “go” somewhere. He hopped on a plane to Morocco and here he was. He had the most interesting story of how he ended up at our resort J’nane Tamsna but that story will have to wait until the next blog.