moroccan hospitality

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El Fenn Hotel, Marrakech

An old Riad turned into a stylish boutique hotel, where the charm of the preserved heritage meets a contemporary decor: with eclectic furniture and modern art. The luxury hotel includes 20 individually styled rooms, three swimming pools, a library, traditional hammam, an outstanding view terrace and three courtyards.

10 things I love about Morocco

1. The hospitality—The hospitality of people here is incredible! Ever since I arrived in Morocco a year ago, I’ve been invited into homes and served tea, bread and yummy traditional dishes like couscous, tagine and rafissa. They order me to “Kuli! Kuli! Kuli!” (“Eat! Eat! Eat!”) until I am stuffed. When I get up to leave, they are always surprised: “Where are you going?” I love how I can stop by my neighbors’ and friends’ houses at any time of the day and they welcome me. When I don’t stop by for a couple of days, they ring my doorbell or yell out into the street “Rosana! Rosana! Rosana!” until I answer. They sweetly ask how my parents, my sister and I are doing and then demand that I go over to their house right away to eat. This happens very seldom in the U.S. Back home, I have to be invited to someone’s house at a specific day and time.

2.  Atay—I think Moroccan hospitality and people are represented in the sharing of atay(Moroccan tea)— always served when there is a guest in the house. It is green tea with mint or other herbs like wormwood, sage and verbena, with lots of sugar to counter the bitterness. The tea is as sweet as the people. People drink atay at all times of the day and have special ways of preparing it that involve soaking the tea leaves in cold or hot water, boiling the tea again and pouring it in and out of glasses. They always pour it from a high place so that it foams at the top. The tea is served in small glasses that you can find with all the designs you can imagine at the souk (market). Atay serves to cool off on a hot summer day or stay warm on a cold winter night.
3. Khobz—There are so many types of khobz in Morocco—basic khobz (white bread), hhobz dyal zraa (wheat bread), khobz dyal smida (semolina bread), khobz belboula (barley bread),batbout (pita bread equivalent), harsha (corn bread), msemen (square crepe), meloui (circle crepe) and baghrir (pancake). All the Moroccans I know make their own bread at home and send it to the neighborhood communal oven to be baked, or sometimes they bake it in a pan or oven at home. They’ve given me lessons on making all these types of bread, but I normally buy it from the bakery once a week. I have my favorites—msemen, which I like to eat withvace de quiri cheese and fig jam. Youssef’s (my counterpart) mom makes the best msemen, bigger and lighter than normal. Once Youssef slipped in a bag of warm msemen into my backpack at the dar shebab (youth center) and I had it for breakfast or snack every day the following week!

4. Eating with my hands—In Morocco, khobz or your right hand is the eating utensil. After a year of living and working in Morocco, I now know how to tear pieces of bread or hot vegetables or meat apart with my right hand. (The left hand is Hashuma (shameful) and meant to be used only for cleaning.) It wasn’t too difficult to learn how to eat with bread or my hand. I just watched how others did it and practiced. I like eating with my bread or my hand much more than eating with a fork, knife and spoon because the bread is so good and you can soak up all the juices from the vegetables and meat.

Read the rest of the list here.