I short for my long legs, making me feel

I was
supposed to travel to Morocco with a friend. Elaborate plans had been made and
accommodation booked and paid for. But just a few days to our trip, her husband
‘frog marched’ her to the restaurant we were meeting at to plan visa processing
and sat in the car while she walked over and broke the news that he had barred
her from taking the holiday. Oi!

The best
part about Morocco was the food – spicy warm comforting culinary delights whose
memories still make my mouth water. No matter which city we were visiting, each
restaurant we ate in proved to be a gastronomic journey through memorable tastes
and flavours.  

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We ate in many memorable restaurants during
our 5 days stay in the beautiful North African country. They included el gousto
(a local fish restaurant where I paid a shocking 65 DHS (Ksh700) for a glass of
juice), Basmane restaurant (whose décor Christina from Spain thought was too
overdone and a belly dancer who I observed didn’t have particularly good rhythm
entertained us during an elaborate traditional dinner), Ricks’s café (a popular
bar and restaurant
designed to recreate the bar made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman
in the movie classic Casablanca and La Cabane restaurant in the 5
star Mazagan Beach resort in El Jadida with its classic Asian menu.

The traditional Moroccan desserts at La Cabane,
a variety of
flaky shortbread pastries, rich cakes and sticky sweets were
tantalising. But it’s the food at Dar Rbatia that Ieft a lasting craving in my
taste buds.

Famished and starting to slow down from an
entire morning touring Rabat with its impressive Mausoleum of Mohammed V and
the unfinished Hassan Tower, we walked
from the serene narrow whitewashed and blue streets of the Oudayas Kasbah edifice
to a hidden quaint local restaurant whose chairs were too
small and tables too short for my long legs, making me feel like I was eating
out of my Kindergarten daughter’s class furniture – never mind that everyone
else in the restaurant looked comfortable.

Dar Rbatia is pretty and enchanting. We didn’t realise how popular it was
until it packed up and guests had to wait their turn outside. The meals were as
sumptuous as they looked, served up in large trays for group eating. Our
starters consisted of crispy and flavourful salads combining potatoes, capsicum,
cucumbers, and olives with a dash of light and tangy vinaigrette served with freshly
baked bread that felt, smelled and tasted like heaven.

Next was the main course – spicy and succulent
chicken and lamb tajines (fragrant Moroccan style meat dishes slow cooked with olive
oil, onions, olives and a touch of lemon juice), as well as a spicy stew made of French beans,
carrots, chick peas and cucumbers. Moroccan tajines are
typically flavoured with garlic, pepper,
ginger, paprika, cumin, turmeric, saffron and cayenne pepper and cooked in a traditional
clay pot, imparting an earthy essence to the food. More bread was served to
accompany the tajines, which we quickly wolfed down hungrily.

After the main
course was a typical Moroccan dessert – freshly baked
Moroccan cookies and a fruit basket filled with fresh grapes, tangerines and
pomegranates, washed down with fresh mint tea. To say our lunch at Dar Rbatia
was divine would be an understatement. I would have loved to linger on my small
seat, which had somehow ceased being too uncomfortable, and I was just starting
to notice the chill Moroccan music playing in the background, but the waiters
quickly cleared the tables, signalling our time was up as they had to let in
other guests waiting their turn outside.

The solo trip turned out to be the best fun
I’d had in a while. I made friends other tourists from China (who I mostly used
a translator to talk with) and Thailand. And then course there was Christina, a
vegetarian food chef from Barcelona, Spain who was travelling with her mother.

I was the only black tourist in the group and
hilariously became a special attraction to the Chinese visitors who all wanted
to be photographed with me.

On one morning during a bathroom break en route
to El Jadida, Christina nearly lost her cool when an old Chinese woman rubbed the
skin on my hand and felt my breasts while we queued up to use the bathroom. I
didn’t get worked up. I in turn rubbed her skin but skipped the breast touching
part and led her to a translator to answer why she had touched me
inappropriately.  

“Her skin is very beautiful, I just wanted to
feel it and see if it’s real,” she responded.

Then there were the classic incidences of hotel
staff coming after me whenever we walked into a restaurant.

“Are you with the group?” they would politely
ask.

“Is it coz
I’m black,” I would respond amid laughter between Christina, her mother and
I.”

Morocco is an
enchanting country. But it’s the city of Rabat with its rich history and
distinctive architecture that left the warmest memories for me.
There’s not a place I visited in the scenic country that wasn’t Instagram
worthy, and if you are a foodie, Morocco will be worth your culinary while.