The food here in Morocco is unique and delicious, although I have to admit that I haven’t been daring enough to try the variety offered by the souks (sticking to restaurants…hoping that might be safer?). The national drink here is ‘Moroccan whiskey,’ which is actually green tea with mint. The Moroccans drink this tea very, very sweet—some even holding sugar cubes between their teeth as they sip the tea, which often has whole leaves of mint inside the glass. Last night, the group of us enjoyed a traditional Moroccan dinner with three courses. The first course was a delicious soup traditionally eaten as Muslims break their Ramadan fast. The second course was a variety of small dishes, not all of which were recognizable to me, but were comprised mostly of different pickled vegetables, olives, and tapenade. They were all scrumptious. Finally, the main dish was a tagine, which is a stew-like dish cooked in a traditional tagine clay pot, usually over charcoal. Tagine, along with couscous, is a national dish and can contain just about anything, but ours had olives, potatoes, and veal. It was delicious. I definitely like the food here.
Speaking of food, our Moroccan guide tells us that you cannot find frozen meat in Morocco—it’s all fresh. This is due, in part, to Muslim dietary laws about what is considered ‘halal’ (or kosher) meat. Apparently, Muslim dietary laws are similar to Jewish laws and for meat to be considered halal, it must be sacrificed and not killed. As a result, animals that are being used for food must be sacrificed in a specific way and by a person qualified to do so. To avoid hunting and killing those animals that are not easily caught, trained falcons are used to catch the animals so they can be brought back and sacrificed properly. A proper sacrifice involves pointing the animal’s head toward Mecca and slitting the animal’s throat so all of the blood is drained from its meat. This all takes place the same day or the day before the meat is sold at market. Although this all sounds like a smashing-good idea (you know, fresh meat and all), I’ve seen the meat sold at the market and given that there appears to be no effort to keep the flies off of it, learning all of this makes me a bit queasy. I secretly hope there is a special, private market for meat sold to tourists. : )
On a side note, we went to the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, who was the founder of Fez in the 8th century. Muslims believe that if you pray to Moulay Idriss as you touch a copper plate on the outside of his tomb, you are blessed as though you ‘had visited all the koubbas in Morocco,’ which is saying a lot since there are a lot of koubbas in Morocco (koubbas are tombs of saints and other important people). Not being one to miss out on all the blessings of the saints, I said my little prayer and touched the plate.