Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Camels, Marlboros, and other things Mauritanians put in their mouths

What, you thought camels were only for riding? Wrong-o. People in Mauritania milk their camels, and eat lots of camel meat, too. Did we partake? Read on to find out...

(By the way, one thing Mauritanians do not do with camels is smoke them--Marlboro is definitely the brand of choice. And smoking is incredibly popular there. Our iron-ore-train-friend Nema said that a lot of kids start at 8 or 10 years of age. The amount of smoke in the train car attested to even if you don't smoke, you do smoke, by second-hand default in Mauritania.)

On to the pictures!

At the supermarket in Nouadhibou (we were surprised, but there were a couple) we thought the most fascinating thing was this pile of chickens loose in the freezer case.

Of course, this put Andy in the mood for a chicken dinner. Our first meal in Mauritania--chicken and chips. I think we've had this at some point in every country we've visited so far...
We also found a pastry shop in Nouadhibou where Andy got this pink, cream-filled thing. It was pretty fancy and tasty for a pastry shop at the edge of the desert.
Before boarding the train in Nouadhibou the next day, Andy had the foresight to suggest that we have a real lunch out in a restaurant. We found a restaurant that turned out to be Gambian, so our server spoke English and served us our first plates of mafe (rice with a peanut sauce and meat) and drinks of bissap, or hibiscus flower juice. Both of these are very common and popular in Senegal and The Gambia and we've had them a lot since. The camera ran out of batteries before we could photograph the mafe, but here's the bottle of bissap we got for about 30 cents. Cold and sweet and tasty!
But the true beverage of Mauritania is Mauritanian tea. It's made of very strong loose Chinese green tea, mint, and a lot of sugar. This may sound like Moroccan tea, but it's a whole different animal--much stronger, and served in tiny glasses in three rounds. But most importantly, the person making the tea must pour it back and forth between the glasses about 100 times until it has developed a foamy head to rival the one you'd find on top of a Guinness.

The whole ritual--brewing a small pot, pouring and pouring, drinking, washing the glasses, and starting over two more times, takes the better part of an hour. Everyone in Mauritania has these portable propane tanks to heat the teapot on so that you can take the tank into any room and enjoy your tea there. The most impressive, and banged-up tank we saw was on board the iron-ore train, where an old man makes tea for everyone for a small fee. Given how often the train jolts, knocking people out of their seats, the fact that he is able to do this without scalding himself or ever spilling any tea is nothing short of miraculous.
The last thing I'll say about tea is that Andy and I never paid for it once. Our new friend treated us on the train, and after that we had a round in the home of just about everyone we met on the trip. On our desert trip, our guide built a fire with sticks and made us tea four times a day. Tea is serious in Mauritania.

One random place we had tea was at our taxi-driver's house in Atar, while waiting to leave for Chinguetti. While there, we were also offered a bowl of zrig, which our guidebook describes as "unpasteurized, fermented camel milk." Yum! When I had first read Andy this description, he swore he would never taste it, but I am proud to report that hospitality got the better of him and he did try it. I have no photographic evidence of this, unfortunately, but here I am sipping some zrig. It wasn't that bad--surprisingly, I thought it tasted more like coconut milk than any animal milk I've ever had. Maybe because of the fat content?
Out in the Sahara, our intrepid guide not only made tea on the fire, but cooked us whole meals. His most impressive feat was baking this bread/pancake thing in an "oven" made out of hot sand and coals. Here he is laying it in the oven, which he will then cover over with the coals you see beside the bread.
The bread was dense and a little sweet. Usually we had it for breakfast with a runny fruit jam, but one night Dumu incorporated into a tasty vegetable stew, our favorite meal in the desert. His materials for three days in the desert were beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, and a few tomatoes (apparently there was no meat in the market the day before we left--fine by us though apparently a meal without meat in Mauritania is considered a poor meal), and considering this, Dumu did a great job of making up a lot of different dishes with pasta, rice, or bread mixed in.
In the capital city of Nouakchott, we didn't find much street food, except for some ladies selling two types of fried things which seemed popular for a late afternoon snack. The round ones were beignets, or little sweet donuts. Very good. The bigger ones turned out to have fish inside. Why these are sold together we do not know, but the common theme seems to be "fried" rather than sweet or savory...
I mentioned in the other Mauritania post that we ended up staying with a family in Nouakchott. They insisted on making dinner for us, and on our first night served up this beautiful feast with chicken, fries, and salad. Best of all, we had to eat it with our hands, using pieces of baguette to scoop up the food.
Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of our second night's meal with the family, which was a cous cous dish. To eat this one with your hand, you are supposed to roll some cous cous into a ball, grab a bit of sauce, and pop it into your mouth. The family members made this look SO easy, but when Andy and I tried to do it, we failed spectacularly. Everyone was laughing so hard at us--especially at Andy, who then refused the spoon they brought him and kept trying to learn how to make the ball, and ended up with more cous cous on his face than the toddlers had. At least if we weren't allowed to pay for our food, we felt that we paid the family back a tiny bit in entertainment value!

I also wish I had a picture because the meat in that dish was...camel! I only had one bite and found it kind of chewy, but Andy liked his a lot. He said it was pretty mild, kind of like beef. The bit that ended up in his mouth and not on his face, that is.

Here are a few not-strictly-food pictures from Nouakchott, since I have nowhere else to put them.

Here is the big mosque that the Saudis built for the Mauritanians. Its two skinny minarets are pretty. We were not allowed inside.
Nouakchott's most famous "sight" is apparently its fish market on the ocean. We visited and there sure were a lot of painted fishing boats on the beach.
And a lot of fish. I didn't even know people fished for rays. Andy says they can be used as bait.
Fish! At the fish market!
Our taxi back to town from the fish market had this Obama doodad hanging from the rearview mirror. As you may have guessed, Obama is insanely popular in Africa. In subsequent countries, we have seem people wearing Obama pins, Obama shirts, and we even saw some Obama-brand mattresses (?) for sale in Dakar...
On our last morning in Nouakchott, our host family let us take a picture together. With some of them, at least--there were so many, and some were off at work or school. But here we are with a few of our hosts, and a couple of their kids. Moulaye, our English-speaking friend from the bus who brought us home to his cousins, is the one in the baseball cap holding the kids.

That's it for Mauritania. The food probably wasn't the most memorable national cuisine we've ever had, but it wasn't bad and people made sure we never went hungry (or thirsty, or uncaffeinated). We take fond memories of the hospitality of Mauritania with us as we move deeper into Africa.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Greetings from a slow computer in a small country

We apologize for the lack of updates, but the connections have been so painfully slow for the last week that we have barely been able to check our e-mails. We are currently on the coast in The Gambia and will be offline for about a week as we travel up the Gambia river. We hope to be able to put up some new posts about Senegal, Gambia, etc. when we get to Bamako, Mali, next week!

Meanwhile, keep on commenting on our older posts. =)

Tara and Andy

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Erg, Mauritania

Greetings from a capital you've probably never heard of in a country you probably wouldn't be able to pick out on a map.

We are in Nouakchott, Mauritania, a big sandbox of a city on the Atlantic coast of the Sahara Desert. Now, for a little background...

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania has had three coups in the last decade and a few kidnappings of Europeans in the last year. Slavery was legal until 1980 (!!) and there are still estimated to be about 100,000 people enslaved here. But if you want to get from North Africa to West Africa, it's still the safest overland route through the Sahara desert. Still, I think you'll understand if maybe we weren't the most excited ever about coming here.

But I'll say it now--Mauritania kicks ass. Our week here has been way better than we ever expected possible. The people here have been nicer to us than the citizens of any other country we've been to. They are constantly inviting us into their homes to have tea, to eat dinner, to sleep for free. Plus, there are camels to be ridden in that little place called the Sahara Desert...

We entered the country from Morocco/Western Sahara in a taxi and rode down to Nouadhibou, the "big port city" of 80,000 people in the north of the country. We drove in on a side road around twilight, and the place looked rather dusty and abandoned. Hard to say whether there were more people or goats in the street.

Later, when we got to the main street, things perked up some with some open shops and restaurants, but Nouadhibou is still the kind of place where you stumble across half a goat skull in the middle of the main roundabout and don't think much of it.

But we found an unexpected ATM (yay!) and had a good dinner (chicken and fries and bread and even some salad) at a little restaurant with a pretty big TV (playing soccer on every channel, of course). Our auberge room had its own bathroom with a Western-style toilet and a hot shower (the last of both of those that we've seen). And then the next day, we were off on our first epic adventure--the iron-ore train into the desert.

Did you know that the longest train in the world is in Mauritania? It transports iron ore from the interior to the coast for shipping and has about 2km of cars. It also has one passenger car, built in 1953, and for $4 you can ride 12 hours in it to the middle of the Sahara. Which is exactly what we did.

Here's the inside of the car. We were lucky and got spots on one of the benches along the wall, though it's a toss-up whether that's actually comfier than lying on the floor. Smart people bring their own carpets to lie on.
12 hours is a lot of time to kill, so when about an hour into the ride, a man came up to us and asked in halting English if he could talk to us about Islam for 20 minutes, Andy told him to have a seat. Two hours later, he was still going, and I was still translating furiously from French to English for Andy's benefit. By that point we were surrounded by a semicircle of other faithful souls who wanted to testify to us about how happy accepting Allah into their hearts has made them. My favorite was the old woman who tugged on my pants leg and gave me the thumbs up and a big smile every time the preaching man mentioned how much Islam respects women. Later on she also offered me half her sandwich and a spot next to her on her rug to sleep.
The whole thing was very heartfelt, and Andy and I appreciated that people wanted so much to tell us that Islam is a religion of peace, and that they don't condone suicide bombing, and that they really cared about our spiritual welfare. We probably won't be converting anytime soon, but by the time the session was over, we felt like we were surrounded by new friends who had our backs. Which was good, because we had to leave all our bags behind in the car so Andy could block me from view while I used the "bathroom" (an open hole over the tracks with no door separating it from the vestibule). Everything was still there when we got back!
Our best friend on the train was Nema, a computer programmer who speaks great English. We talked for many hours about everything from American music and movies to what it's like to have a secret girlfriend in Mauritania. Here we are with Nema around 1 AM, shortly before reaching our stop at Choum.
From Choum, 4x4s drive you three hours through the night to Atar, the main city in the desert. You are basically driving on sand, with four people crammed in the backseat, so sleeping is tough. Once I finally got to sleep, we were woken up for a police checkpoint. There are tons of these in Mauritania, but they have always gone pretty smoothly for us--the policeman just takes our passports for a while, records information from them, and gives them back. No third degree or anything.
We got into Atar around 6AM and were deposited in a vacant lot. A man we met on the 4x4, Mohammad, invited us in French to come back to his house to rest, and since we had no better plan, we followed him to his place in the old town. There we met two women that we're pretty sure were both his wives, and took a nap on the floor of his open-air living room for two hours. (Weirdly, Wheel of Fortune was playing in English on the TV in the background.)
Yeah, it felt a little weird, but apparently that's how things roll in Mauritania. He just wanted to be a good host, and we probably offended him by not letting him also feed us breakfast and tea. I did make use of the earth toilet outside, which was literally just a hole in the ground.
When we got up, Mohammad took us around town to show us the market, and the embankment the government build after rains washed away the whole mud-brick old quarter in 1984. He helped us find a taxi to Chinguetti, the town 2 hours away and our ultimate destination in the desert.
But the taxi wasn't ready to leave yet, so the driver took us back to his house to have tea "for 20 minutes." Two hours later... (this phrase could be the theme of Mauritania!) the tea was finished and we finally set off. (Mauritanian tea, by the way, is a phenomenon unto itself that we will have to discuss at length in the foods of Mauritania post...)

The ride was a little dusty, so I had to fashion a makeshift burka out of a towel.
Chinguetti (also spelled Chinguitty and some other ways) is an old caravan town founded before the year 1,000, and is the seventh holiest city in Islam. The oldest part of town is totally buried in the sand now, but the second oldest part still looks pretty cool.
Chinguiett was a center for scholars and is filled with old libraries with incredible books. We got a tour of one by the man whose family owns it and I put on my translator cap again for Andy. Here is a lovely illuminated manuscript page we saw.
We slept and ate at Auberge Zarga, where our terrific host Abdou plied us with many cups of tea in exchange for us teaching him new phrases in English. (His English is already pretty impressive, but we think that he developed a crush on one of the Croatian tourists he had last week and wants to be able to text her better in English...)
Abdou also arranged our three-day, two-night trip into the desert, to see amazing sand dunes, like these...
...and ride camels!
(Note my lovely new headscarf, which I bought from a young woman in Chinguetti. Turns out a headscarf is a very handy thing to have when the sun is beating down on you and sand is blowing in your face in the Sahara.)

So, my camel was branded with the initials "M.I." so we called him Mission Impossible. Andy's roared a lot, so we called him Roary. Here's Roary:
We think this picture is way better unrotated, since the shadow is a much better view than my and my camel's backsides...
We actually only road the camels for an hour or two each day--the rest of the time, we walked. Riding doesn't save any time, anyhow, since the caels only walk as fast as the guide leading them on foot. Our guide was named Dumu, and he took this picture of us atop a dune we all climbed.
Dumu spoke a bit of French, as do I, so we didn't have too many long deep conversations...but over tea in the desert at the end of day one, we did manage to learn the following important things about marriage in Mauritania:
-If you are a Muslim, you can have up to four wives. Your first three can be white, but if you add a fourth one, she has to be black. (We never were able to get a good explanation for this rule.)
-Wives in Mauritania don't come cheap. Thge price you pay her family for her can range widely, from a few thousand ouguiya to over a million ($4000).
-A camel, by comparison, costs around 300,000 ouguiya ($1,200).
Dumu wanted to know whether you could have multiple wives in America and if you had to pay for them. I told him basically no, though I didn't go into the specific exceptions about Big Love-style sister wifery and expensive engagement rings...
We slept outside on the ground in the desert. It got pretty cold at night! The sunrise was incredible.

Wildlife of the Sahara: We found this guy on Andy's mattress right before he lay down to go to sleep. He was enormous, like the size of my fist. I barely suppressed a scream. Andy killed him after taking this picture because he thought he looked dangerous. We showed the picture to our guide the next morning, who said the spider was very dangerous! (And here I thought our biggest threat would be possibly getting kidnapped...)
Much cuter was this little desert mouse who came out to investigate our dinner droppings.
These scarabs, or dung beetles, are all over the desert. As is camel dung. Andy was especially proud of getting a shot of a beetle on a piece of dung. Matt, this one is for you.
At the end of our first day in the desert, our guide tied our camels' front legs together before turning them loose. Turns out they could still get pretty far, and he had to go off in search of them before we left. A little while later, he went off for a bit and came back with two MORE camels, which we assume had been turned loose (or broke loose?) for a few days and now were going to get returned to town. So here's a caravan of three of our camels in the desert.
On our second night, we camped near the base of the "singing dune," seen below. It's a very steep dune that doesn't exactly sing, but makes a sort of farting noise when you slide down it.
The next morning, Andy and I climbed to the top of the singing dune.
OK, climbed is an exaggeration for one of us. I crawled. It was steep!
Here is a shot of both of us on our camels. My camel and I always went first, because we are leaders.
We returned to Chinguetti for some much-needed showers and a night in a real bed. Then the next day, we made our way to the capital on the coast, which involved 2 very uncomfortable hours sharing the front seat of a car going to Atar and then 5 very comfortable hours in an air-conditioned bus with seat belts (oh, the luxury!) to Nouakchott.
On that bus, we met another English-speaker, Moulay, who invited us to come stay at his cousin's house in town, so...we did. We hung out yesterday afternoon with several women (sister-wives??), and their adorable babies, drinking mango drinks from Saudi Arabia and watching Turkish soap operas on TV. They insisted on feeding us dinner, too.
A final shot for you from down the street from chez Moulay's cousin--a goat jumping up and down on top of a car. He was basically dancing. We assume that when the owner saw the damage he had done, that goat became dinner!
Off to Senegal tomorrow. Catch ya there.

Addendum: Andy and I realized that there were a few important things I forgot to mention in this post. For starters, the title refers to an erg, which is a massive sand dune. We traversed one near Chinguetti. The major takeaway I have about ergs is that they are not so easy for camels to climb, so you have to walk over them beside your camel rather than ride.

Also forgotten...on the iron ore train, there are two other options for travel. You can ride for free in an empty ore container (reportedly a rather dusty experience) or you can pay $12 US for a berth, or bed platform, the height of luxury on this train. Well, on our train there was an old lady who had apparently paid for a berth but didnt get one on the train...and she yelled for literally the first four hours of the trip nonstop to anyone who would listen. She was yelling when our Islam conversion session started and still going when we had finished. Considering that the $12 may have been her life savings, we felt fairly sympathetic towards her, though her stamina was frightening.

OK, more updates from Senegal if we can ever find a decently speedy connection and English keyboard again!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Finishing Morocco

In the interest of an even division of labor, this post contains the rest of Morocco in both food and culture. More importantly, it includes our first photographed camels. If you don't have time to read the whole post, just scoll down and see the camels and then you can go back to doing something useful. Okay, here we go:

This is the last food picture we have from Marrakech. It looks similar to another picture in the last post because I like vendors by night. This one is of a sweets vendor, though. I asked him if we could arrange a challenge where if I ate everything in this picture in an hour that it would be free, but he was clearly scared of me and declined.
After Marrakech, we went to Essaouira, which you will note has all the vowels. If you are nerdy like me, you might know other words with all the vowels, like sequoia or facetiously (my favorite since it has all the vowels and y in order). Essaouira is a beach town, but it was cold and rainy for most of our stay, so we didn't go to the beach. We did, however, have some really good food when I made us go to the cheapest restaurant I could find that had exactly one other couple dining there. This was my chicken cous cous. And on that note, we had a question about what exactly cous cous are. Cous cous is a pasta, just very small. You can then put whatever you like on it. So, if you took a hammer and crushed spaghetti until it was tiny, it would basically be cous cous. Mine is topped with chicken and vegetables here.
Tara took this picture mostly to note my extraordinarily long facial hair. And that the dessert we were eating was very vaguely yogurty. Since I hate yogurt, she was very happy to get me taking a bite on film. Like an earlier comment I made about chocolate, I guess that if you have very weak yogurt and add enough sugar and flavoring, I can bring myself to eat a few bites.
Essaouira has lots of spice sellers, all of whom like making giant pyramids out of the spices. And they all really want to sell us these spices. This might make sense if we were headed home, but we aren't. Also, it seems a sure-fire way to get searched by drug enforcement. It's spices, really!
We found a donut man who made these tasty donuts in Essaouira. The first day they were 25 cents each. The second, he tried to raise the price to a dollar. Morocco is like that and we experienced it many times. We then had to have a ten minute argument with him before finally paying 35 cents on the second trip.
Essaouira was a French fortress town on the water. The cannons have really nice views of the ocean. I took this during a couple hours of sunny weather that we had one day.
Now it is a fishing town. Here are the hundreds of fishing boats after they had returned for the day. Most of them sell their fish right there at the pier to local restaurants and buyers. At many restaurants, you walk up and pick your fish from the day's catch and they fry it for you. The many fish also make this part of town a favorite for the sea gulls.
We stayed an extra day in Essaouira because we had a nice hotel and because Tara has been trying to work on her writing. She did a good job and spent the better part of a couple of days in this area, which she dubbed her writing nook. Soon she will hopefully have a book to sell so that we don't have to find jobs when we go home next year.
Then we started our trip south towards Mauritania. We spent 24 hours on a bus (well, two buses) to get to Dakhla, Morocco, which is the southernmost major city. It was much more modern than we expected and is beautifully set on the ocean. It is in the Western Sahara, which is a disputed area that Morocco claims, but whose rule no one completely accepts. Having said that, they clearly oversee it at present.
Here is a nice sunset in Essaouira. Pictures were out of order, but I don't have enough time to fix them. It had been a bit rainy, but cleared up for sunset. These are from the roof of the hotel where we were staying.
People in southern Morocco start to dress more like what you expect in the desert. The bigger guy on the right turned out to be Omar, our taxi driver the next day for the 10 hour trip to Mauritania.
This is actually our second camel sighting, but the first that we got pictures of. Hooray for camels! Everyone thinks we are really funny that we get excited about them. Several people have been surprised to learn that we don't have camels wondering around America. Most camels here are owned by someone, but they let them wonder around the desert looking for grass to eat.
That does it for Morocco. We really like much of Morocco. We sometimes felt like the people were trying to hustle us, but the markets were amazing and the food was good. On to Mauritania!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Goat head and other fun foods of Morocco

Morocco may be Andy's and my ideal food country in certain ways. For me, there is an abundance of delicious, cheap yogurt in very fun flavors, and there are chickpeas--my favorite legume!--everywhere. Throw in marketplaces full of dates and prunes, and dinners full of vegetables, and I'm in food heaven.

For Andy...well, first you have to have lived with him for a few years and heard him say about a zillion times that he'd like a "glass of tea" when he actually means that he wants a cup of tea. Second, you have to have seen him empty three packets of Splenda (that's the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar) into every cup of tea he drinks. Once you've done that, you may appreciate how we are finally in a country where the tea is not only actually served in glasses, but is also presweetened to a point that even Andy doesn't feel the need to add more sugar. Perfection! But we also like the foods of Morocco for the regular old reasons that we tend to love food when we travel--it's inexpensive, it's tasty, and there's a lot of it to be found right out on the streets. Without further ado, here's some of what we've been putting down our gullets in Morocco!

Every dinner in Morocco includes some bread. It is round like a pita, but thicker and crustier outside, fluffier inside.

Our first dinner in Morocco, at a restaurant in Tetouan! Andy got chicken with fries (boring!) and I got a meat and vegetable cous cous. We soon learned that meat in Morocco always means lamb--fine by me, not so fine by Andy. My dish also featured chickpeas and huge fat raisins, and the cous cous itself was yellow and spiced and really delicious--the best we've had on the trip, Andy and I agree.

Accompanying the meal was our first ever lemon Fanta. Many friends have sung the praises of lemon Fanta to us through the years, and we are happy to report that it did not disappoint! Like a delicious fizzy lemonade. (And about a million times better than the red-flavor Fanta we tried in Nicaragua...)

Near our hotel, we found a street in the medina that we dubbed "candy alley" because all of the sweets-sellers were there. Andy got this large bag of assorted peanutty halva-like sweets, one more sugary than the next.

Speaking of sweets, there were a few shapes that we couldn't tell whether they were pastries or intestines. Luckily, this one turned out to be a pastry.

In Chefchaouen, we found a roving seller of coconut and peanut cookie-type things. The coconut was better, like a big macaroon.

But our favorite street food in Chaouen came from "the bread man," who sold huge warm slices of this cornbread-like bread and also traditional Moroccan pancakes from his griddle outside the medina for very cheap.
Snails! We would see groups of people clustered around these big steaming pots, slurping from bowls...and trays of live snails, slowly trying to make their getaway...

Besidse cous cous, the other staple Moroccan meal is tagine, or stew. This one is chicken and vegetables.

My favorite yogurt in Morocco, pistacio-flavored Yawmy. Why doesn't Dannon market such delicious flavors in the United States?

Here are some coconut-dusted cakey rolls that Andy got for breakfast the day of our big hike outside of Chefchaouen.And here's Andy eating one beside the lovely blue walls of the town.
Our best meal in Chefchaouen was a three-course feast on the main square in the medina. There are a lot of restaurants there--if you ever go, we recommend the one with the plush blue benches. We started off with salads, which came with the local fresh goat cheese on top. It was kind of like ricotta. Yum! (Of course Andy wouldn't eat his, so I got double cheese.) We then had great cous cous and finished with slices of sweet orange sprinkled with cinnamon. Here's a salad shot.

Honey-soaked, phyllo-dough pastries like these are a staple of our diet in Morocco. Sometimes they are filled with ground nuts, sometimes with figs, sometimes with cous cous-y never know what you're gonna get.
These have nothing in them, they're just fried stuff in honey.
More ooey-gooey goodness. This one had lots of flavor, like rosewater, cinnamon, and more spices--a little too intense for me, but Andy liked it.

Here is some "Moroccan whiskey"--aka mint tea. Made of green tea, fresh mint, and a lot of sugar, it is the national obsession...and ours. There are salons de the (teahouses) everywhere and we've been to several, but the best we've had so far was the tea that came with our free breakfasts at Hotel Bab Boujloud in Fes, below.
Romantic dinner, Fes-style, complete with Coke bottle candle-holder. Here you can see our desserts: oranges with cinnamon for Andy, fresh yogurt for me, oh, and the olives left over from the beginning of the meal. In addition to bread, you usually get a free plate of olives with your dinner in Morocco.

In Fes, soup is very popular. This soup had various legumes, a few noodles, and a couple of bits of ground lamb in it and cost less about 35 cents a bowl, with bread.

This little bowl of chickpea soup was only 1 dirham, or about 12 cents, out on the big square in Fes at dusk.
Also on the square was a man grilling up sausages. For 65 cents, you could get a pita-full--half red, half white. We postulate that the red ones were made of lamb and the white ones...well, we don't want to know.

The market in Fes is overflowing with dates of many prices. Who knew there were so many grades of dates?
Also, many shops full of spices, legumes, and grains......and we saw plenty of these shops, which seem to be selling buckets of fat.
If dates, spices, and fat are too tame for you, just head straight on to the goat head vendor.
On to Meknes, where we had our first taste of pastilla. We bought this flaky triangle-shaped, sugar-dusted pastry thinking it would be filled with sweet stuff, but when we took a bite...chicken!
It was the prophet Mohammed's birthday that day, sort of like a Muslim Christmas, and Meknes was apparently the place to be. There was a big carnival and lots of street vendors out with special foods. Here is a man with a cart full of prickly-pear-like cactus fruits. For 1 dirham, he'd peel you a fruit and put it on a toothpick like a lollipop. Lots of seeds, but not bad.
The lip-staining effect came free of charge!
Right outside our hotel was a cafe selling potato galettes, or little deep-fried pancakes, for 1 dirham apiece. I think we ate 12.
And a few doors down was a pastry shop selling this crumbly delight, which we think was made of cous cous? It was delicious. We went back the next day, but there was no more.
We finished the festival night with high tea on the main square in Meknes. Overpriced, but atmospheric.
This seems to be the favorite yogurt in Morocco based on how many containers I've seen discarded in the streets. It's supposed to be pomegranate flavored, but it's bubble-gum pink and tastes mostly like sugar to me.
In Sale, the city right next to Rabat, I got this giant fried fish and salad sandwich. OK, actually, due to a miscommunication (my French has not been so great lately), I ended up with two. Oops.
Fans of birthday cake would like Morocco. You can get these slices of cake everywhere, in many colors (flavors?) and based on my sample in Rabat, they are moist and tasty.
Hawai is a popular soft drink in Morocco. It is orange-flavored, with maybe a bit of a tropical twist. Pretty good, though it's no lemon Fanta.
A much better beverage was this fresh "strawberry juice" that our couchsurfing host Hamid made for us in Rabat. Strawberries, milk, and sugar. We drank that blenderful right down!
Hamid took us to one of his favorite restaurants, which had these fun scroll-of-parchment menues. "The king has a message for you!" he joked.
My tagine of lamb with prunes and sesame seeds was fantastic, one of my favorites in Morocco.
On to Casablanca, where we ate our way around the medina for dinner the one night we were there. We started at a hole-in-the-wall soup place, where we got very nice blended chickpea soups and two big hunks of bread each for about $1.00 total. We think we got special "tourist treatment" because were the only ones who got our bread served on paper instead of straight on the not-so-clean tabletop...
Just outside the medina was a man squeezing fresh orange juice for 35 cents a glass and another man serving up hot spiced chickpeas for 12 cents a cone. Score. (I should also note that the chickpea cone was made of printed scrap paper, maybe from an internet cafe...we applaud the reuse of paper, though wonder if that means we're eating toner...)
The main square of the medina in Marrakech is full of dried-fruit vendors. The prices are definitely tourist prices, but the displays are pretty.
Better priced are the snail-steaming stands--65 cents for a small bowl of snails. You get a bowl of snails in some broth and a toothpick for picking the critters out of their shells. My husband, who will not eat cheese, yogurt, or lamb, is apparently just fine with eating snails.
Snail face, snail face, gaahhh!!
The main square is full of food stalls, and if you can handle the aggressive touts all trying to pull you into their place, there are some deals to be found. There were a couple of soup stands, and we chose this one because they gave you fun big spoons for ladling the soup into your mouth.
Andy got sucked into this dessert stand, where he had a very strong ginseng tea and some weird sesame paste stuff for about 65 cents. I did not care for either, and since he had a cold, he claimed he couldn't really taste them, anyway.
So, overall, food in Morocco is fun and good value. Andy's gotten a little bit tired of cous cous and tagine after a couple of weeks, but I'm still enjoying all the veggies and fruits, since I there won't be so much produce when we get into the desert. There may well be more goat head, though. Stick around to find out!