The flavoured and inventive dishes of Moroccan cuisine cannot leave you unimpressed. The smell, colours and different textures are just too appealing to not give in. But there is something you should know about food in Marrakesh and especially Jamaa el Fna food stalls.
- Tajines (with either chicken, lamb, beef or fish, adding fruits, olives and preserved lemon, vegetables and spices, including cumin, peppers, saffron, turmeric)
- Rice cooked with saffron, raisins, spices, and almonds
- Briouat (triangular or cylinder shape pastry) filled with meat (mostly chicken or lamb) mixed with cheese, lemon and pepper.
- Couscous (small steamed balls of semolina) served with vegetables
- Pastilla (pastry pie stuffed with minced chicken or pigeon that has been prepared with almonds, cinnamon, spices and sugar)
- Harira (soup: flour, tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, onions, rice, meat (beef, lamb, or chicken), olive oil)
- Chebakia (made of strips of dough rolled to resemble a rose, deep-fried until golden, then coated with a syrup made of honey and rose water and sprinkled with sesame.)
- Green tea with mint is served with sugar from a curved teapot spout into small glasses.
- Orange juice
Take care where you eat!
These are some traditional dishes I’ve seen in the Medina and especially in the Jamaa el Fna (Marrakesh, one of the most famous and busiest squares in Africa), which becomes a great place for eating in the evening.
The Jamaa el Fna food stalls are all numbered, but most of the serve the same food and look the same. The raw or cooked food is exposed in front of the stall. Each stall has a few places for tourists to sit and eat.
Hundreds of people walking around and many people eating, Moroccan people inviting you to eat at their stall, food cooking everywhere, and it seems like you cannot decide.
Pay attention to the food, if it is fresh or how it looks like.
The food is lying there for hours, flies are all around and mostly on the exposed food. There are scooters and dust everywhere, people touching your food with their bare hands. And I have to add they have no running water. They have some big barrels of water where they wash the plates and tableware. They use the same water each time!
My story after eating in Jamaa el Fna
I wasn’t paying attention to this and after eating in the area twice, I thought I have nothing to worry about. That was one big mistake. I ate a vegetable soup and some grilled vegetables, and no more than 2 hours later I started to feel sick as if I was catching a cold. Also, I felt feverish. The next day was one of the worst days of my life. I literally felt like dying and it was the day we were visiting Essaouira. I thought I will feel better later on, but I only felt worse and my only desire was to lay in a bed and be close to a toilet. The next trip I had to skip and spend my day in bed.
After that, I went online and did some minimal search about the Jamaa el Fna food stalls. It revealed that is very common to get food poisoning when eating from the Jamaa el Fna food stalls. Apparently, the locals know about this because 70% of tourists get it. It’s called “Tourista”. I was the first one to get it from my group, but by the end of the trip, most of the people from my group were feeling sick. They all ate at least once from the Jamaa el Fna food stalls.
I don’t know about others, but it took me 3 weeks to recover, and I don’t remember ever to have had this before. Good thing I got this after the Desert Trip. Read more about Camel Trekking in the Moroccan Desert.
How to stay healthy
Use common sense, don’t eat from a place you wouldn’t eat back home, stick to your diet. Don’t try things you wouldn’t normally try. And I would stay away from the open air food market. Sure walk around, take photos (they will try to make you pay even for taking a photo), but please be careful and watch what you eat.
Do you have a similar story? I hope not!