Moroccan treasures

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“Ssalamū ‘lekum!”

The blue fairytale of Chefchouen’s alleys and arches (the colour of purity and apparently a useful technique to keep mosquitos away) or the bright orange sand dunes of the Sahara – the vivid colours of Morocco’s towns and landscapes reflect the cooking spices of cumin, paprika and turmeric used in the tagines, cous cous, Moroccan salad and Berber omelettes. As well as the natural dyes of indigo, poppy, saffron and mint to brighten the sheepskins, scarves and rugs made from camel hair, lambs wool and agave silk.

Morocco is where European and African cultures and customs combine to deliver a diverse country in both religion and language. Spanish and Portuguese in the north and French further south – the Berber and Arabic dialects prominent in the rural valleys hidden throughout the breathtaking Atlas Mountains that surprise you every time with a striking green oasis nestled in the bottom of each full of palms laden with soft dates and trees full of fresh figs, olives, apples and pomegranates as well as crops of juicy corn, tomatoes and alfalfa. The water from the melted snow in winter is absorbed into the mountain range and slowly trickles out providing a constant water supply all year round for producing an abundance of food in an otherwise sunburnt and barren land. The intelligent irrigation channels also provide water for the donkeys, sheep and goats that occasionally pop out over a rock to surprise you, quickly followed by a concerned nomad.

The country formally found its fortune in salt but is now the world’s third largest producer of phosphate, the third biggest exporter of saffron and will soon be home to the largest solar energy project globally – a “modern King Mohammed VI” influencing many changes including women being given the opportunity to drive as we are told by our guide.

After eating a delicious pastilla in the hidden labyrinth of the medina in Fes, buying bunches of mint in Casablanca, learning how to cook cous cous in Moulay Idriss, cracking Argan nuts to make the nutritious oil on the road to Marrakech (“the city of palms”) and riding camels into the sunset and almost over the Algerian border, there’s nothing better than sitting down to a “Moroccan whiskey” with ice – green tea with fresh mint and a cube of sugar.

“Yalla yalla” (let’s go) as we run up the highest sand dune in the Sahara desert, hearts beating fast as we reach the top just as the sun emerges over the horizon after a night sleeping under the stars.

After “helping” to cook dinner, we sit back on the rooftop terrace of the family’s gite decorated in intricate mosaic designs and decorative lanterns in the Dades Valley and watch as the gorge turns from orange to red to pink to purple with the setting of the sun and the Call to Prayer transcends across the village reminding us the five pillars of Islam and the religious presence of both Islam and Judaism in this mesmorising country. The Berber men in royal blue turbans play drums as we dance into the night eating Moroccan salad and sweet melon.

The clever design of kasbahs (fortress) that are made from local materials, with low doors and high ceilings for temperature control and small windows to spot the enemy without being seen and uneven steps as a simple but yet very effective defense mechanism. An edible garden or riad (paradise) is found within the fortress and highlights the Arab architecture of designing balconies on the inside with the Jewish community opting for balconies on the outside. The hand of Fatima hangs on every hand carved wooden door made from Morocco’s national treasure, the cedar tree, to ward off the evil eye.

As you drive through the Eucalyptus plantations, for a moment, it feels like you could be back home in Australia.

“Shukran” (thank you) to the people of Morocco for providing an experience as rich as it was diverse.

Visit the Love My Salad website for the Moroccan salad recipe.

Louise FitzRoy
Founder & Director | From Paddock to Plate

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After all our recent weather events, here is a photo that is definitely worth sharing! Thank you to Barb Eulenstein at Boola in NSW for your amazing photography skills to capture this incredible moment. #FromPaddocktoPlate #feedyourmid

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