Why foodies should make Marrakech their next city break

Jamaa el Fna also Jemaa el Fnaa, Djema el Fna or Djemaa el Fnaa is square and market place in Marrakesh’s medina quarter.

 

Marrakech is probably one of the best cities to visit when it comes to food. Blending native traditions with the flavours of Andalusian Spain, France and Arabia, Morocco offers one of the greatest cuisines in the world.

Exotic spices and wonderfully tantalising aromas waft over every corner of Marrakech. The reason it’s such a find for foodies? There are so many eateries, from fine dining restaurants and low-key cafés to the food stalls of Jemaa el-fna square. Cooking schools in the city are also a growing trend. Most important of all, many Moroccan dishes take hours to prepare culminating in an exquisite layering of flavours.

Eating out is one of the most immersive experiences you can have in Marrakech (alongside a trip to a hammam). A food adventure awaits around every corner. But, as in every city, there are good and bad places to eat, so a bit of research before you go will ensure you get the best dining experiences in Marrakech.

 

The choices are limitless

There are so many local dishes to try, it is impossible to list them all. Many Riads offer home-cooked food, and Marrakech has its fair share of haute-cuisine restaurants. The Royal Mansour Hotel is the ultimate place for gourmet-food-lovers. It promises an unforgettable sensory experience, orchestrated by the creative French chef Yannick Alléno.

The Guardian’s recent travel guide, 10 of the best places to eat in Marrakech is a good place to start if you want to put together a list of must-try cafés and restaurants. For traditional Moroccan cuisine try Dar Zellij (a little hard to find, but a petit Taxi will take you close by) or Al Fassia (the one in Guillez).

For modern Moroccan dishes try Dar Moha and for fusion food, try Italian owned Limoni. Pepe Nero is another top-notch restaurant serving Moroccan or European dishes in beautiful surroundings. Nomad is a favourite for lunch and is perfectly situated in the middle of the souks.

Selection of very colorful Moroccan tajines (traditional casserole dishes)

Street dishes you must try

A trip to Marrakech wouldn’t be complete without a wander around the souks and a stroll around the evening food stalls in Jemaa el-fna square. For a truly authentic foodie experience in Marrakech, a snack or meal in the square is an absolute must. Food stalls are dragged into the square at dusk and the square really comes to life in the evening.

The smell of barbeques and bubbling tagines will wash over you a soon as you come close to the square. Be prepared for a dining experience like no other. Here are 10 things that you will definitely want to try.

If you’re a food purist with a penchant for luxury, this may not be the experience for you. You’ll be eating at rickety tables covered with plastic table cloths from equally rickety benches or chairs. Plates have seen a thousand dinners so expect cracked and chipped crockery. If you can handle that, you’re in for an authentic treat. Menus won’t suit all. Dishes such as snail soup, camel spleen, sheep’s head and lamb’s brain aren’t for the faint hearted.

Don’t forget the food rules

An upset tummy is one of the most common problems travellers to exotic destinations have to deal with. According to one report, about 40 per cent of all travellers are affected by unpleasant disturbances of the digestive tract. These are usually caused by contaminated water, unpeeled fruit or food that isn’t properly cooked.

Follow these simple rules in Marrakech and you’ll be fine:

  • Be discerning about food stalls – choose those where Moroccan families are eating
  • If buying from food stalls, grilled foods are a good bet – stews and tagines may be topped up daily, rather than started from scratch, so could contain food that is past its best
  • Check out the oil being used before buying fried food from street stalls – if it’s dark, it’s probably old and is best avoided
  • Don’t make the mistake of letting your guard down in a refined restaurant – most upmarket restaurants will turn out to be fine, but high end isn’t a guarantee of good hygiene
  • Drink bottled water – use it to clean your teeth, and say no to ice cubes in drinks
  • Avoid salads or raw vegetables as these will likely have been washed in water
  • Use antibacterial hand gel, especially if you have been handling things in the souks or touching money
  • Don’t use straws – they may have been used before
  • Avoid fried fish unless you can see it is fresh before it is cooked – Marrakech is land locked

Go get your next gastronomic high in Marrakech!

 

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