A Day in the Night Market

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Right…that doesn’t make sense, I know.

But if you’re 1) a foodie, 2) a world traveller you would know that Marrakech is home to one of the world’s most exotic Night Markets – Djemaa El Fna, and we had no intentions of missing this opportunity and so decided to pay it a visit, but in the day with our kids (hence the title).

We google’d several food tour companies in the city since we wanted to have a true “foodie” experience, and with kids that can be difficult.  Some tour companies aren’t kid-friendly.  Thankfully, we found Marrkech Food Tours, owned and operated by Youssef and Amanda who recently relocated to Morocco from the US.  Their desire to seek out the best street food in the city and the their flexibility with regards to organizing our tour made it easy for us to choose them to be our guides.

We met Youssef, Amanda at the Djemaa El Fna Post Office and it immediately felt like we knew each other for years.  Amanda was kind enough to arrange for her son to join us so our kids could “hangout” together.  As we made our introductions and mentally prepared for our 3 hour walking tour, Amanda proceeded to tell us, as we slowly wandered through the winding souks and crowds of people about Morocco’s traditional meals, their food culture as well as a bit of history in the area.

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It was quite empty during the day, which is what we preferred with 2 rambunctious children.

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Kids selling hay in the souk walkways.

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Fresh fruits and vegetable market

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Their oranges are so sweet!

It was’nt long before we started to smell deliciousness nearby.  Unaware of exactly which way were about to turn as we walked in and out of small busy alley ways, Youssef eventually lead us into a little hidden restaurant that apparently served the best tajine and couscous in the souk.  He wasn’t lying either!

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Tajine with chicken, vegetables and grilled onions.

There was a sweetness in the tajine dish that just lingered and as we ate it up with our bare hands, I couldn’t help but find myself wanting more after we left. We were offered Moroccan tea at the end which Youssef did one hell of a job pouring!

As we continued our tour through the souk, we walked passed many colorful shops filled with fabrics, clothing, souvenirs and shoes.  Lou Lou’s slippers eventually gave way and we ended up getting her a pair of Moroccan slippers.

"Red will do Mom!"

“Red will do Mom!”

And then there’s that smell that everyone loves, the smell of fresh baked bread.  Now, my hubby is a bread enthusiast which means my son had picked up this gene from his side of the family.  It wasn’t long before he was sniffing his way into a local bakery, clearly ignoring our cries to come back.  Thankfully, the owner of the shop was very welcoming and even allowed us to walk through his bakery to see how the local breads were made.  We were told that this bakery sold over 4,000 pieces of bread a day, impressive for a 2×2 meter shop.

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Making fresh Moroccan bread

As we tried to quickly whisk our child away from overturning the bread stand, they were kind enough to hand him a piece of bread.  He was all smiles!

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It was all in the plan…

Lou Lou is a fashionista and of course wanted to wear a head scarf, “just like the one Amanda is wearing Mommy.”, she says.  Amanda was great and kindly made a quick detour so she could try on some scarves.

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Trying on a salmon colored scarf

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“How do I look?”

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You look gorgeous!! 🙂

Six scarves later an eager Jaf was ready to go,  so we headed towards our next food encounter.  If you could see the faces of the kids as we walked pass goat feet and goat heads would you just giggle.  I could tell we were in for something interesting as soon as we walked up to this shop.

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Goat feet, probably boiled for a soup base I reckon?

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Where are next meal is to be served…

Tangia, a traditional dish from Marrakech is very slow cooked lamb.  Found only in this city, the lamb is placed in little jars and then baked in traditional underground ovens.  It has been made this way for hundreds of years.

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All the little jars are placed in here…

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Even this fly is trying to get a taste of some tangia! 🙂

After our brief tour of the kitchen we are taken upstairs to a little quaint dining area that overlooked the market.  The first thing to appear on our table was a little bowl filled with mixture of salt and cumin.  Cumin is a “must have” spice in all Moroccan dishes.  But this is the first time we’ve seen it served as a “dipping” salt which we would use once our slow cooked lamb arrived.

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Cumin is the must have spice in Morocco!

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Tangia is the name of the cooking pot used to make this fine lamb stew.

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Lamb tangia served with Moroccan bread (khobz). Dipping the lamb in the cumin salt is a must!

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This is a roasted lamb, called Mechwi

Once the lamb arrived hubby and I dug right in.  Both the tangia and the mechwi were tender and just melted in your mouth.  Add the cumin salt and bread and we were in lamb heaven! The kids were a bit cautious though asking, “Mom, is this the sheep head we just saw outside?”, said Lou Lou.  With a little push from Amanda’s son, she was all up in that tanjia.

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Lou Lou with scarf #2 trying the lamb

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And then a few minutes later, going for broke dipping the bread into the sauce in the tangia 🙂

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Here there are with their new friend 🙂

Full and content we lingered longer at this restaurant than expected.  Youssef and Amanda openly shared their experiences living in Morocco with their two children and how it was important for their children to learn another language.  We loved hearing their stories and could have stayed there for awhile learning more about them and their wonderful city but the kids wanted dessert, so we headed to our next location.

Our last stop!

Our last stop!

Moroccans are known to have a sweet tooth (see here).  We noticed that there is a heavy French influence with many patisserie’s around the city serving cakes and sweets. We got to sample a few desserts popular in Marrakech which included chebakia (a sesame spice cookie) and different types of tartlets.  All this was served with wonderful Moroccan tea.

Desserts from Marrakech

Desserts from Marrakech

Sampling different Moroccan sweets :)

Kids opted for something chocolate!

As our eating frenzy came to a close we said our goodbyes and exchanged numbers.  There was not enough time in the day to get to know our new friends and so we agreed to meet up later.  We not only got to sample the best cuisines from the city of Marrakech, we also made lifelong friends and can’t wait to see them again.

As the sun began to set and as we walked to our car we start to see the “real” market come to life. What goes on at night here?!!

We knew we’d have to come back again to find out.

And soon…