Wining & Dining in Morocco
The Islamic call to prayer echoes off the white washed city walls of Tangiers, Morocco in the heat of the afternoon. The sites, the sounds, and mainly the smells are so different from other places in the Western world. And in this place, despite the differences, everything coexists in peace.
It is the nexus of three religions, of different cultures and two separate continents. Morocco has long been regarded as the “gateway” to Africa. The Strait of Gibraltar, which divides the two continents, is the divider between the Islamic Northern Africa and Christian Southern Europe.
We took a ferry ride from Southern Spain into Africa in late July. We were on holiday in Marbella, Spain and with the Rock of Gibraltar looming in the distance of just about every view, it seemed foolish to be so close to Africa and not step foot on its red soil.
In less than an hour we were in the middle of Tangiers, street peddlers begging to buy their latest wares, snake charmers street side, hundreds of boxes of dates stacked along the road on sale as the Islamic world prepared to celebrate Ramadan the next day.
There is magic here.
The scent of sandalwood, herbs and mint fill the hot air. The angles of the building absorb the tilt of the sun in such a way that everything radiates. Flashes of blue paint are seen on buildings, on doors, on windows. This harkens back to the The Tuareg people; a Berber people with blue dress, with a traditionally nomadic pastoralist lifestyle.
And in this meeting point of three religions, of various cultures and people is food and wine. Like so many other Mediterranean countries, this is what brings people together around one table.
Escaping the heat of the afternoon, we ducked into a traditional restaurant for lunch. Portions of olives, couscous, lamb tangine, figs, roasted vegetables and gooey metaxas were served family style. Traditionally, food is eaten with one’s right hand out of the same dish, using bread as utensil. The focus is on breaking bread together.
While Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, wine is made in Morocco. The Atlas Mountains, hovering over Tangier and running through the northern African country separate the vast Sahara Desert and the cool expanses of the Atlantic, making perfect conditions for wine making.
Morocco, as a former colony of France and Rome shows evidence they were the first makers of wine on any scale. While under French and Roman rule, the art of wine making was given to the people.
Today, the people of Morocco boast they have the best wine in the world. We tasted it with our couscous, a Rosé from the Guerrouane region. Cool, crisp and not unlike those of the Provence region of France.
The majority of Moroccan wine is red but a small percentage of white is produced and made in the style of Chenin Blanc and the southern French Muscat and Clairette.
As our meal ended, we were given a traditional mint tea; a symbol of friendship and hospitality. A perfect way to end our day in a faraway land.