Moroccan Hospitality

Morocco with palm trees and mountains

Image courtesy Moroccan National Tourist Office

Moroccan Hospitality
| Published February 25, 2014 |

By Krista Tani
Thursday Review contributor

The upbeat music blasted through the door to the family room and Fatima grabbed my hand as she tried, in vain, to teach my companions and me how to dance. The contrast between her quick, perfectly timed shoulder shimmies and our clumsy ones was comical. As the night wore on, we ended up laughing together more than dancing. As the final song ended, we at last made our way to the room where we would eat a late dinner.

We made ourselves comfortable on the soft blankets covering the floor and Fatima entered the room carrying a teapot and a basin of water. One by one, she poured warm water over our hands, rinsing off the dust that had accumulated in the dry mountain air. She then set a tray in front of our host and he began the long process of preparing the traditional Amazigh tea. Many Moroccans with Amazigh heritage take pride in their culture, particularly their language, Tashelhit, which is distinct from the official Darija (a dialect of Arabic) of Morocco. Their unique process of preparing green tea was no different, and our host proudly declared that this was “Berber” tea as he added mint leaves and three large cones of sugar to the worn silver teapot.

After several rounds of tea, Fatima brought in our main course: chicken tagine. Tagine refers to a special ceramic dish used to cook a variety of dishes, but primarily includes some sort of meat topped with vegetables. In Morocco, meals are served on a central dish and each person uses bread to scoop up the food directly in front of them. Our host tore fresh bread into large chunks and distributed them around the table and we dug in.

First, we had to accomplish the daunting task of eating all of the vegetables if we were to reach the meat underneath. If we started losing steam, our host would say, “Eash!” (Eat!) and gesture to the tagine. Once this first step was complete, our host put the chicken into a separate bowl and tore it into more manageable pieces. He placed it back into the tagine, making sure to place the most desirable pieces of meat in front of us, his guests.

Once the empty tagine and leftover bread was cleared from the table, we socialized for a bit longer and then headed off to bed. Fatima and her cousin Hannen brought us blanket after blanket, wanting to make sure we would be warm enough during the night. Fatima jumped into one of our sleeping bags and laughed hysterically as she wiggled around in the slick polyester. We finally got all settled in and the two girls came and tucked each of us in and said goodnight.

This is only a glimpse of one experience in one home, but we backpacked for a week through the Atlas Mountains and encountered the incredible hospitality of the Moroccan people again and again. One woman, whom our guide had never met before, stood on her porch and insisted that we come in for tea and snacks. Another man yelled at us from across the valley and asked if we would spend the night in his family’s small house. Our hosts always went above and beyond to make sure we felt at home. By the end of the week, we had never felt so full (we often swore we would never eat again) or so welcomed. Hospitality looks a bit different in every society, but I am glad I was able to experience this beautiful dimension of Moroccan culture.