Recipes, Travel

Moroccan Pride, Bahia Palace, & Fish Tagine

“Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.” Rumi

If I were to sum up Morocco in one word, it would be, pride.  Moroccans are extremely proud of their heritage, their culture, their food, their hospitality, their foreign relations; they’re even proud of their pride.  It’s certainly not without good cause, either.

Morocco is not Turkey

Most shops and restaurants in the medina are not marked with signs to tell you where you are.  We sought a decent ratio of tourists and locals at any given cafe: locals, to prove it wasn’t just a tourist trap; tourists, to prove that our sensitive stomachs would handle the menu.  At one such cafe, we sat for a late breakfast, and I ordered a Moroccan coffee.  As the waiter brought my coffee, my husband asks him if it’s anything like Turkish coffee.  “NO! It’s nothing like Turkish coffee,” the waiter, clearly disgusted by the idea added, “it’s MOROCCAN coffee.  Pure Morocco.”  He walked away.  The husband asked for a taste, which I granted.  He takes a sip, stares me in the eye, and says, “it’s Turkish coffee.”

Later, we stop by the hammam in our hotel.  The hammam attendant asks us if we’ve ever had Moroccan hammam (spa) before.  The husband says he’s been to a hammam in Turkey but adds that it’s my first time. The attendant scoffs and asserts, “Moroccan hammam are much different!”  I have nothing to compare it too, but my lovely husband assured me after it was done that it’s nearly the same.

Bahia Palace

The Bahia palace is breathtaking.  Tickets are only 10 dirhams per person ($1 USD at the present exchange rate).  The palace is worth every penny.  Built in the late 19th century by a grand vizier of the sultan, the Bahia palace was intended to be the greatest palace of its time.

The gardens of Bahia Palace (photo by Thirteenth Knight Photography)

The gardens of Bahia Palace

Immediately upon entering, you are greeted by a beautiful garden.  Gardens are central to Islamic architecture: they represent heaven.  Wander around and, if you’re lucky, get here early to get a few shots without the crowds.  This palace is a popular tourist attraction for a good reason!

Most noteworthy of the palace is the intricate woodwork and mosaics.  The intricacy of Moroccan architecture and design certainly reflects their pride.

bahia9

Imagine reading a novel perched in this window

Each room is unique

The palace does feel a bit like a maze, but they’ve tried to alleviate the feeling of being lost by posting signs to direct your movements.  As you twist through rooms once reserved for the harems of the grand vizier, you’re left with the impression that each room reserved something special for the woman who occupied it. Where in one, you may see brilliant stained glass, another is decorated with beautiful Arabic verses from the Qur’an.  After crossing over what appears to be a grand ballroom, you find yourself in a beautiful, stark courtyard.

Courtyard

Courtyard

One of many beautiful doors

One of many beautiful doors

Every crevice is decorated, no corner left bare

Every crevice is decorated, no corner left bare. This overhead arch is decorated with beautiful Arabic cursive.

 

The star motif is found throughout

The star motif found throughout

More stars

More stars and a common flower motif surround this fountain

Beautiful stained glass windows

Beautiful stained glass windows

Mind your manners!

The beauty of this palace cannot be adequately articulated.  You simply have to see it for yourself to understand how grand it is.  However, despite its beauty, I found its labyrinth a bit vexing by the time we found the courtyard; I’d suddenly worked up the need to pee.  I passed by what appeared to be a men’s bathroom a few rooms back but had not unearthed the feminine counterpart yet.  Finally, I decided I had to return to this men’s bathroom to settle the matter.  Spotting it from a distance, I saw other women exiting the restroom and beelined to a stall.  A woman mopping outside stopped to protest, but I was determined.  Behind me, my husband apologized.  Apparently, I had cut off a man waiting for the stall.  When duty calls, right?

Fish Tagine

As I mentioned in my last post, our wandering in the Mellah had worked up quite an appetite by the time we returned to our hotel room.  We walked over to the hotel restaurants, and each ordered a tagine and mint tea.  The husband had a kefta and egg tagine, and I had the most fabulous fish tagine.  The depth of the flavor was incredible, and I decided it would be my first dish to attempt to recreate when I got home.

fish tagine-3

A typical Moroccan meal is nothing short of a feast. Always served with bread, a small dish such as a salad, and a small tagine of olives.

Served with a Moroccan-style tomato salad, the fish tagine was a success

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Moroccan Fish Tagine
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Instructions
  1. Cover the fish in chermoula marinade, seal in an airtight container, and allow to sit for two hours to overnight. Reserve the leftover chermoula marinade.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a tagine or a heavy bottom pot (a dutch oven is best), and layer the onion slices on the bottom.
  3. Arrange the potatoes around the sides and bottom (on top of the onions) of the tagine. Top the potato with the tomato slices, then cover with remaining chermoula marinade.
  4. Add the fish the center of the tagine, and arrange the strips of pepper on top of the fish. Top with lemon and olives, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cover the tagine and cook over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the fish and potatoes are done.
  6. Serve directly from the tagine or pot it was cooked in.
Recipe Notes

Chermoula recipe is found here

Homemade preserved lemons recipe is found here (sous vide recipe)

For more travel pictures, from my husband’s perspective, please check out Thirteenth Knight Photography.

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