moroccan hospitality

 Moroccan Hospitality

A moment lived in Morocco by Maxime, a traveler from France.

A few months ago, my girlfriend and I travelled for the first time to Essaouira, Morocco. After a few days spent there enjoying the beach and visiting the city, we decided to rent a motorbike to go around. The sun was shining, the road was deserted, we drove through the argan trees plantation, we stopped on the way to look at the landscape, the camels, and the goats. A perfect holiday day! A couple of hours later, we saw on the side of the road a wooden road sign saying “beach, 12 km”, and indicating a dirt road.

Excited by the adventure, we turned and followed the road.

Heading for a new adventure!

The way was bumpy, dusty and full of stones, driving the motorbike was more and more demanding, but the landscapes were amazing. Small villages, rivers, we had the impression to discover a part of Morocco unknown to most tourists.

With the poor condition of the road, driving started to be more complicated, and, after an hour, I didn’t manage to avoid to ride on a stone that almost made us fall down. I managed to avoid to fall, but my foot was injured.

Finally, after another 30 minutes riding, thirsty, dirty and with a foot bleeding, we arrive at the end of the road. We were now facing the Atlantic Ocean. The sun was high in the sky, downhill the beach was deserted and the big waves of the ocean were breaking noisily. Kind of picture perfect postcard.

In front of us, a very steep road going downhill to the beach, where a few houses were near some fishermen boats. Impossible to go down with the two of us on the motorbike.

We had to make a choice. Should we go back to the main road and find a place to eat before going back to Essaouira, or should we continue downhill and hope that one of the houses on the beach was a café. We decided to push our luck and start to go downhill. Being that I was the only one that could drive, I drove the bike downhill, trying not to fall, and my girlfriend walked down.

After some cold sweats, we managed to reach the beach and the houses. By chance one of them had the word café written on it. We came in. The house was quite basic, two tables, four seats facing the beach, and a barbecue in a corner. In another corner, a cat with her kittens seemed to be the only occupants. We were disappointed, we would now have to ride back and wouldn’t be able to eat or drink anything for a few more hours.

Tired by the drive, we decided to stay a bit to relax before going back. After a bit, while we were playing with the kittens, a man appeared.

The encounter that changed the day

His name was Hussain, and we started to talk. When we asked him if it was possible to eat something, he told us the café was closed today. It was a bank holiday; the fishermen didn’t go fishing and there’s nothing to cook… We then asked Hussain if by any chance a hidden restaurant was nearby, or an easier way to reach the main road.

He explained that his café was the only here and that there was no other option to reach the next big village than to go back to the main road, and then very spontaneously he said: “ but if you want, you could come to my house for lunch”.

Surprised by this gesture, we accepted and Hussain called his wife to let her know about our arrival. He offered us mint tea before we went back to his house.

Altogether, we took the direction of Hussain’s house, located in a village at 20 min by walk from the beach.

A dozen of houses, very close together, made the village. Some donkeys and dogs were going around the houses, and some kids were playing on the street.

Our arrival was not discreet: the dogs barking and the kids screaming drew the attention of the rest of the village and we saw more and more people taking a look outside of their houses.

We arrived at Hussain’s house and he introduced his wife and his 3 kids.

The house was quite simple and welcoming. Hussain offered us to sit in the living room, on of the 3 benches disposed in U. On the wall, some paintings done by the kids. The same kind of drawing that all the kids around the world do. A house, the sun, some flowers and some smiling persons :)

To be completely honest, while we were delighted by the perspective of finally eat something, we had a bit of apprehension. Is the food going to be too spicy for us, are we going to eat things that we normally don’t like? Our host kindly offered us to share his lunch and we really didn’t want to be rude.

Thrilling lunch

Before eating, our host brought a bowl and poured some water to allow us to wash our hands. The lunch started with some bread and olives, in the kitchen, his wife was finishing to prepare the main course.

She then came into the living room, bringing in her hands an old tajine pot. We were bit a stressed. Worried about being nice with our host, but afraid about the spicy or unusual food.

The moment of truth arrived: Hussain took off the hat of the tajine pot. Inside, there was some tagine mutton and… french fries! We were quite surprised! By having a lunch with a Moroccan family in the small village, far from any touristic area, I really didn’t expect to have french fries for lunch.

We asked Hussain if his wife cooked that for us. A bit surprised by our question, he explained that the kids and him love that, so his wife cooked some from time to time. Sit together, we ate our french fries. Laughing with my girlfriend about the cliché idea that we had.

For the dessert we shared some juicy pomegranate. We talked a bit, played with kids, then it was time for us to leave this small village and go back to Essaouira.

I heard a lot of stories about my traveling friends sharing lunch with local people, praising the taste of some exotic meals. I didn’t eat anything unusual, but I learned that some things are universal, as kids drawing or the french fries!

We will remember for long the hospitality of this family and this moment shared :)

credit photo: Maxime