Marrakech Dining

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Marrakech Dining
One of the best ways to get to know a country is through its cuisine. In Marrakech, you can sample the entire Moroccan culinary spectrum, from traditional tajines and inexpensive street food to high-end dining.
Photo by Danielle
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    Morocco’s Traditional Dishes
    The tajine, an earthenware dish with a conical top, is synonymous with Moroccan cuisine. Common tajines include chicken stewed with green olives and preserved lemon, beef with prunes and almonds, and kefta (meatballs) in a tomato sauce with baked egg. For the best couscous, follow the locals to their favorite spot on a Friday, the day the dish is traditionally eaten. Any street restaurant worth its salt can serve up a decent tajine and couscous. For fancier options, try Dar Mimoun, Dar Marjana, or Le Tanjia; and for a full-on traditional banquet, try Le Tobsil.
    Photo by Danielle
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    Explore Marrakech’s Food Markets
    Morocco is one of the most agriculturally productive countries in Africa, and Marrakech's markets—teeming with fresh fruits and vegetables—celebrate this fact. In the medina, the Bab Doukkala market offers top produce. But almost everywhere in the city, you'll be able to find mountains of gleaming olives and locally-grown oranges. Saturday through Thursday, stallholders yell prices for their produce, bakers stack warm loaves of bread pulled from community ovens, and cats await scraps near butcher shops (those used to buying meat at the grocery store should prepare to see loads of animal heads and hooves for sale). In the spring, you can smell sweet orange blossoms, which are used to make cooking infusions.
    Photo by Stefano Scata/age fotostock
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    Take Home the Flavors of Morocco
    Marrakech’s spice shops know how to attract customers. Pyramids of herbs and spices displayed outside the stores entice all kinds of visitors, cooks and non-cooks alike. If you want to bring back a taste of Morocco, these are the places to visit. Ask for ras el hanout ("top shelf"), a special blend of a dozen or more spices that gives Moroccan cuisine its distinctive flavor. Every shop and kitchen has its own combination, but cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves often play an essential role. Moroccan saffron is also an excellent buy. Many spice shops double as apothecaries. They offer herbs, bark, minerals, and infusions to cure anything from headaches to skin problems.
    Photo by Colin Crawford
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    Street Food in Marrakech
    At sunset every day, dozens of food stands pop up in the Djemaa El-Fna. The owners add to the square's theater as their calls for customers become a performance in their own right. You'll find everything from grilled eggplant and spicy sausages to tiny fried fish and snails cooked in broth. Hole-in-the-wall establishments tend to specialize in one dish, such as bsara, a garlicky pea soup served with cumin, paprika, and a glug of olive oil, or the traditional dish tanjia marrakshia, meat slow-cooked in the embers that heat the water for the city's hammams.
    Photo by Jodi Ettenberg
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    Winemakers and Brewers
    Despite being an Islamic country, Morocco has developed a thriving wine and beer industry, with a market that's almost entirely domestic. Drinking in public is still frowned upon, but the country’s tipples are well worth exploring in an upscale bar or restaurant. Red wines often tend toward the heavier end of the spectrum. For something lighter, try the crisp Volubilia gris or Médaillon rosé. The white Terre Blanche is also reliably refreshing. On the beer front, order a Casablanca lager or a Flag Spéciale light ale. If you're in the medina, you can find a good drink at Kosybar, Le Salama, and Café Arabe. For something a little swankier, swing by Bab Hotel in the Ville Nouvelle.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Marrakech's Top Restaurants
    The boutique riad boom has brought an influx of excellent restaurants to Marrakech's diverse food scene. El Fenn, gastro mk, and Le Salama offer some of the finest dining experiences in the medina and serve upscale reinterpretations of classic Moroccan dishes. Al-Fassia is a high-end restaurant that nods to Fes' special place in Moroccan cuisine; it's unique in that it's run, and staffed, almost entirely by women. Most riads offer their own dining options, but note that some aren’t licensed to sell alcohol. More international restaurants populate the Ville Nouvelle, the modern part of Marrakech. You'll find a strong emphasis on French and Italian cuisines, as well as sushi, which has become fantastically popular in recent years.
    Photo courtesy of the Fakir Collection
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    Breakfast in Marrakech
    Breakfast is one of Morocco's great treats. Round loaves of bread provide the base and are often served with eggs, jiben (fresh cheese made with goat's or cow's milk), and olive oil. For those with a sweet tooth, try a plate of fluffy beghrir (Moroccan pancakes) or harsha (fried semolina flatbread) topped with a dollop of local fig jam or honey. Cleanse the palate with some seasonal fruit and homemade yogurt, and wash everything down with coffee or mint tea and some fresh orange juice. Perched on the sunny rooftop terrace of a riad, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better setting to plan your day.
    Photo by Thuy Vi Gates
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    Take a Break at a Café
    Moroccans have perfected the art of whiling away an afternoon at a street café. These ubiquitous watering holes have outdoor terraces where all the chairs face the street so you can watch the world go by. Mint tea—often called Berber whiskey—is the drink of choice, poured three times from a silver pot and sweet enough to melt your teeth. Locals usually take their coffee black and bitter or nus-nus (half and half) with steamed milk, but sometimes ginger and cardamom are added. Orange trees line the streets in Marrakech, so it's no surprise that freshly squeezed juice is another favorite drink. For prime people-watching, head to Café de France or Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier on the Djemaa el-Fna.
    Photo by Patrick Escudero/age fotostock
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    Sweet and Savory Snacks
    While Marrakech's markets provide an abundance of fresh produce, travelers may want to concentrate on grazing their way through an array of sweet and savory snacks. Confectioners pile honey-drenched pastries into sticky mounds and offer gazelle-horn cookies made with almond paste and orange blossom water. Dried figs are sold by the string next to mountains of local dates and nuts. For an ideal (and inexpensive) accompaniment to an evening drink, bring back some olives to your riad. And if you can’t decide between sweet and savory, get both at dinner by ordering pastilla, a pastry of pigeon or chicken dusted with cinnamon and sugar.
    Photo by Diana Springfield
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    Learn to Cook Moroccan Food
    If you’re going to eat your way around Marrakech, why not go one step further and learn to cook like a Moroccan. You can find top-notch classes at many restaurants and riads, including La Maison Arabe, Café Clock, and Souk Cuisine. For the complete experience, sign up for one that includes shopping for ingredients with the chef. Learn the secrets of hand-rolled couscous or the special blend of spices and preserves that make a classic tajine. You may even prepare your own bread dough to be cooked in a community wood-fired oven. Just be sure to leave room in your suitcase to take home your own tajine.
    Photo by age fotostock