Tagines, Tuaregs and a mighty big desert…

In November, I holidayed in Morocco with my fella. We had both wanted to travel in Morocco for a very long time and the completion of his MA was as good an excuse as any to jump on an Easyjet to Africa. I’d also just finished organising and promoting three festivals, so I too was in need of some relaxed adventure to far-off lands… 

The country was mighty incredible and everything I hoped it would be, and I loved every minute of the time we were there, but unfortunately some of the food for vegetarians was pretty poor and lacked inspiration and choice. At the end of the 10 days, I was close to shoving a vegetable tagine where the sun don’t shine.

The problem was – vegetable tagines are a side dish, so everywhere I ate, they consisted of exactly the same vegetables – carrots and potatoes, with some green olives thrown in for good measure. Beautiful – but not every day! For someone who loves food, and variety in food – this is deeply disappointing. In some parts of Morocco, the poverty is very apparent. Probably the most poverty I’ve ever experienced whilst travelling. Bringing in some more exciting veggie food could be a much cheaper way to eat and is clearly one of the most obvious ways forward in a world that’s exceeding 7 billion (check this out for crazy, terrifying stats!) and help curb Global Warming – this was written 4 years ago and more and more proof is coming out that Vegetarianism could be the answer in our lifetime. I was there during Ede too, so the slaughter of sheep left, right and centre during my stay certainly made for an interesting juxtaposition from my dreaded hippy-vegetarian perspective!

We travelled far and wide in the time we were there – hitting the brilliantly bonkers and vibrant city of Marrakech, the slightly more peaceful, rugged and yet charming sea-side town of Essaouira. Then we headed for the desert in Ouarzazate and did some glamping in a tent in the middle of the sahara desert in Erg Chigaga. Next stop was high up in the Atlas Mountains in an idyllic spot with views of mountains and the nearby village and then we had one more night in the bustle of Marrakech before heading home. The scenery was as diverse and spectacular as any I’ve ever experienced. I felt like I was experiencing incredible cinematography with every step.

All of our accommodation,  was incredible (bar one crazy place in Ouarzazate which was terrifying and like the hotel out of The Shining). In each riad we stayed in, we were served mint tea and delish Moroccan sweet treats on arrival. The Moroccans really love sweet stuff. And carbs. Breakfasts were a feast of pancakes, honey, yoghurt, cakes, jams and freshly sqeezed orange juice of the Gods.

Here, I’ve compiled my favourite eaty/drinky places in Morocco –

Marrakech –

Earth Café – full-on vegetarian world food and fusion feasts with ace fresh juices. One of my favourite meals of our travels. From the website, I can see there are three. We found one down a lane not far from the main square and it was 100% veggie.

Jemaa el-Fnaa – at night, this bonkers square in the heart of Marrakech; also a world heritage site, overflows with cheap food and a fair amount of choice for vegetarians, including olives galore, grilled vegetables, spicy sauces tagines and cous cous. Very Moroccan. The orange juices you can get for 40p are also a taste sensation, like sunshine in a cup and there are snacks a-plenty with stalls brimming with dates, apricots, nuts and more.

Terrace Des Epices – The food here wasn’t great, but the booths are ace and it’s a wondrous way to relax and have a mint tea above the hustle bustle of the souks below.

Essaouira –

Elizir – This pad combined two of my favourite things – food and vintage. The dude who owns it has been collecting vintage Moroccan nik naks since the 60’s and the result is swell. The food is equally as delicious and we drank Moroccan wine. WIN. WIN. WIN. I can’t find a website, but if you Google “Elizir Essaouira” you should be able to find all the info you need.

The tastiest tagine I had was in the Sahara dessert at the Erg Chigaga sand dunes when we did a bit of posh Tuareg camping with Sahara Services. They cook the tagines in a hole in the sand.

So, there we are. My Moroccan adventure in a nutshell. I’ll add the names and links to the riads we stayed in after NYE. I wanted to share Morocco before 2011 was over, so a happy NYE to ya’ll. Next up is the recipe for my favourite vegetarian tagine…


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