The highlight of my time spent in Marrakech was definitely the walking food tour I took with Marrakech Food Tours. My favorite thing about the tour is that we visited places I know that I would not have discovered on my own. Places that maybe only locals know about. Places where the language barrier would have prevented me from ordering. Places that don’t have menus in English. Real, authentic Moroccan eateries with delicious traditional foods that I likely wouldn’t have found or tried on my own.
I met Amanda, one of the owners of the tour company, at the centrally located post office in Jemaah el Fna Square. Introductions were quickly made and I was happy to learn there was another blogger on the trip. Georgette from Girl in Florence and her husband would be joining us to eat our way through the city.
We quickly made our way through the square to our first stop where we learned we’d be trying roasted sheep. I’m always a fan of any kind of roasted meat but I have to admit the display out front was a bit intimidating.
The owner of the restaurant met with us and explained the cooking process and showed us the oven. The oven is actually located below the restaurant and is accessed through a hole in the floor. The unassuming entrance to the oven opens up into a huge cooking space. The interior could hold up to 40 sheep at a time for roasting. However, as it was explained, it is not common to cook this many at once. That is usually for weddings and festivals.
After being seated we were served two different dishes. First up was tangia which is sheep cooked in a clay pot. It was interesting to learn that the clay cooking dishes are actually buried overnight with the same charcoal that heats the hammams (bathhouses). Next we tried mechoui which is from the whole roasted sheep. No utensils were used- we tore into the dishes with our hands and scooped up the meat with the fresh bread that was served alongside our meal. The mechoui was also served with a roasted sheep head. We all eyed this plate nervously as we ate the dishes that weren’t staring back at us.
Finally Amanda asked who wanted to be brave so of course I volunteered. I began to try gently removing the meat before she demonstrated the proper way to go at it. You have to grab the lower mouth/jaw area and literally peel back the face of the sheep to get to the meat below. I know it doesn’t sound appetizing but it was actually delicious, especially with the cumin and bread. This first stop of the tour was so great that I actually returned two days later with friends so they could try it. The second time we stuck to just the roasted meat and skipped the sheep head.
Next we stopped at one of the many stalls in the medina selling olives. I really wish I liked olives, these were all so gorgeous. Some were spiced, some were sweeter, some were colorful, some looked like the ones I’m used to seeing. We also learned that Morocco is the worlds fourth largest producer of olives. Most Moroccan olives are not exported but instead consumed locally. I tried one just to be sure- I still don’t like olives. Everyone else agreed they were delicious.
We continued making out way through the winding streets of the medina to our next shop to try msemmen omara. This is a flat pancake filled with onions and spices. It’s usually only prepared in the evenings as there is a plain one served in the morning and throughout the day. It was really flavorful and delicious. I could easily see snacking on these while further exploring the shopping stalls found all throughout the medina.
When I heard the next stop was for sardine sandwiches (Hout Quari) I wasn’t excited. I don’t usually care for sardines. I figured I’d be polite, have a bite or two, and wait for the next stop. This turned out to be one of my favorite stops of the tour.
The sardines are deboned, seasoned, then made into something resembling a meatball. Next they’re stuffed into bread and served as a sandwich. I was so busy inhaling the sandwich I didn’t even notice the hot sauce on the table that I could have added. Next time I’ll try with the hot sauce as that’s the only thing that could have made it better. And there will be a next time for this sandwich. It was truly delicious. I even tried looking for a similar shop in other Moroccan cities I visited but I couldn’t find one.
By this point of the tour I was feeling full, really full. It’s a shame because our stop for couscous was with my favorite shop owners of the tour. Picture two grandmothers behind the counter of a small, dark restaurant that only serves two dishes. They made a big fuss over Amanda when we first arrived. Lots of greetings, hugs and kisses were exchanged as they chatted away. And, just like walking into any grandmothers house, they soon started preparing a meal for us. They served us a huge shared portion of the most delicious vegetable couscous I’ve ever had. It was full of seasoned veggies and topped with caramelized onions and raisins. Sadly, as I mentioned the restaurant is fairly dark so no couscous photos! Trust me, it was delicious.
Our last savory stop of the evening was for stuffed cow spleen. The spleen is filled with ground beef, other organs, spices and then roasted. Maybe it was because I was so full or maybe because I knew it was spleen before I ate it but this was just ok to me. I had a bite to try it and that was enough. But, judging from the way local people lined up for this dish, this must be a good version of it.
Ending on a sweet note-
Our final stop was for fresh cookies and made to order smoothies. As I’ve said before I’m not much for sweets but these were pretty good as they’re not overly sweet. I loved the fresh smoothie though. There were several different varieties to choose from, even one known as Moroccan Viagra if you’re interested in that sort of thing. I went for a fruit smoothie and halved several cookies with the other tour guests. It was a great way to end a delicious tour.
Book your tour-
I would recommend this to be at the top of any itinerary for a trip to Marrakech. You’ll learn so much about the history of one of my new favorite cities and you’re guaranteed not to leave hungry. Bookings can be made by following this link.
The owner of the tour company has a story as interesting as the tour herself. She is an American expat married to a local and together they are living and running a business in Marrakech. They have two children and are all avid world travelers. It was interesting to spend the evening chatting with her and learning her story. You can check out her blog at marocmama.com .
You can see more photos from Chris Griffiths at chrisgriffiths.eu