I had never been to Africa before. When I found out a friend had just finished Peace Corps in Morocco, I jumped at the chance and had to visit her. I spent some time in Spain, then headed to Northern Morocco, specifically, the city of Tangier and Chefchaouen.
Morocco was not what I thought it would be. I thought Tangier would be a bohemian escape with stereotypical Eastern “delights” like pastries and shisha and string-y music. At least that’s what documentaries make Morocco seem like, even Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode about Tangier made it seem like that. It was just a regular city, a balance of “new” and “old”, entitled men acting like fools, and everyone else trying to make it with their small wages. The average wage does not match the cost of living so again, as a tourist here I profoundly understand my privilege abroad.
I was lucky enough to have some local tour guides, and they made sure I got to try every Moroccan dish.
Moroccan food that I got to try:
Tagine Kefta – A traditional way of cooking in Morocco involves a ceramic tagine. That’s a skillet that comes with a cone-like top, which allows spices to be trapped in the dish while being cooked on a stovetop or open fire. Kefta is lamb/beef meatballs in a tomato-ish sauce. It was good but not my favorite dish here.
Bastilla – This ended up being one of my favorites. It’s chicken pie. Not chicken pot pie, American style, but imagine a regular apple pie, but instead of hot apples inside, it’s hot chicken. With cinnamon and honey on top. It’s like ten year old me dreamed of a meal, and it’s bastilla.
Bessara – A frothy soup of beans or peas. I wish the keto or paleo community would adopt more foreign soups because literally every country does soup better than the US.
Rfissa – Ok this dish was CRAZY. And also my favorite. Imagine a whole oily rotisserie chicken on top of shredded tortilla. That’s what rfissa is.
Moroccan Breakfast: Baghrir, harcha, miloui – Moroccan breakfast is basically ten types of carbs and some dip. I’m very cool with it.
Other than eating my way through Tangier, I made a small trip to Chefchaouen, also known as the most Instagrammable city (TM)
Apparently, Chefchaouen was a Jewish safe haven during World War II then which is why the entire city is painted blue. I’m not sure about that, but it remains a very picturesque little town that was a breath of fresh air, tucked into the mountains. I got there by riding a shared taxi from Tangier.
The entire town is walkable. Cars can’t even get through even if it tried because of the tiny, winding paths. The kasbah is cute. The men are less stalker-y here.
I stayed at Hotel Souika. I was feeling fancy and got my own room there. I had been staying in hostels or dorms for the past two months, it was a very affordable luxury in Chefchaouen. Warning: Moroccans do not sleep at regular sleeping hours so appreciate that cultural fact in your own way. So even if you have a private room… it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get sleep.
I met an artist and had mint tea with him. I sat in a rooftop cafe and listened to the call to prayer. I got the full body treatment at a hammam. I almost thought I wouldn’t be able to get back to Tangier, but I found a group of British tourists last minute and found myself on a taxi back to town. Chefchaouen felt like a summer camp or church retreat with how incredibly relaxing it was.