There are a lot of things to do in Marrakech, but sometimes the hot Moroccan sun can take its toll. It is in these moments that even the most hardened traveller requires a café to relax, drink a refreshing drink and maybe even grab something to eat. Situated in Kasbah district, close to the entrance of the Saadian Tombs and the Bab Agnaou and Bab er Robb Medina gates, lies the Kasbak Café. The central location of this café, just a few minutes walk from Dar Habiba, makes it the perfect place to grab a cool beverage or something to drink whilst ticking off that tourist checklist.
Spread across 3 floors including an ample terrace, Kasbah café has a large menu of hot and cold drinks, snacks and meals and, our particular favorite, a wide range of delicious milkshakes made form real ice cream and milk. Delicious.
Enjoy one of the best tasting menus in Marrakech in a relaxed atmosphere either in the spacious dining room or at a table by the pool.
Try the cous cous which is among the best in Morocco.
Fabulous, Italian owned and run and without doubt one of the top restaurants in Marrakech. Set in a spacious and beautifully designed Riad courtyard, perfect for any special occasion.
Gourmet food and outstanding service are the hallmarks of this restaurant. Not surprisingly classic Italian dishes feature heavily on the menu, there are also Moroccan favourites and seasonal specials.
Dried Moroccan fruits and dates in particular are not only key staples in Moroccan cuisine, they have a rich cultural and historical significance that goes back many thousands of years.
As early as 6,000 BC there is evidence to suggest that the date palm was cultivated and harvested in North Africa and the Middle East not only for its sweet and delicious fruit. As well as the nutritional benefits of the date palm, rope, lumber and other household items could be crafted from this important staple.
Within a religious context, the date palm carries significance in the holy Qur’aan and is particularly important in the religious month of Ramadan in the Muslim world. In this month of fasting, dates are often the first food to be eaten as the evenings fast is broken.
In the ancient square of Jemaa al-Fnaa you will discover an outstanding array of dates and dried fruits. As you explore the labyrinths which are the souk districts, there can be no better to keep yourself energised than by snacking on this sacred delicacy.
On my walk from the Riad Dar Habiba to the red city’s central square I pass this date salesmen almost every day. I buy a small bag of dates a few times a week for only a few Dirham’s and it provides a great opportunity for me to practice my Darija Arabic!
During your stay in Morocco, sampling some of these delicious fruits for yourself is something you cannot afford to miss!
The 7 Saints is a cosy Café-Restaurant in the southern reaches of the central square of Marrakech, Jemaa al-Fnaa.
At the 7 Saints you will be able to find traditional Moroccan cuisine as well as good variety of European dishes such as panini’s and pizzas.
It’s easy to glance over the name, ‘7 Saints’ and not think anything of it, however the restaurant takes it’s title from 7 holy men who came to live in the red city in times long gone past. Under the Berber Almoravid dynasty, Marrakech became the capital of an Empire that spread through North Africa and into Spain.
In this time of great prosperity and opulence, the red city became a cultural and religious magnet. Over time 7 Holy saints of Islam came to live and die within the ramparts of Marrakech. The significance of this is huge, if you were to ask Marrakshi locals which city they hail from in Darija Arabic, in passing some would reply, “from the 7 Saints” as opposed to Marrakech.
Intriguing local history aside, the 7 Saints is the ideal place to cool down and enjoy some refreshments after a day spent under the rays of the fierce Moroccan sun. Unlike many restaurants in the square the 7 Saints is equipped with mist sprays and excellent WiFi.
Ask a waiter for a café special, for only 10 Dirhams (£0.75) you will be presented with a rich, creamy and slightly sweet local coffee that makes the perfect partner to a Moroccan salad.
The 7 saints is a five minute stroll from the Riad Dar Habiba, a traditional Moroccan Riad converted into a luxury hotel, conveniently located directly in the heart of the Marrakech Medina.
Conveniently located just opposite the open air food stalls of Jemaa al-Fnaa is ‘Snack la place’, a cosy restaurant that you will discover to be humming with tourists and locals alike, night and day.
Snack la place’s menu offers a delicious variety of flavoursome Moroccan dishes at very affordable prices. Try your taste buds by ordering a bowl of locally sourced Marakshi olives for 5 Dirham’s (£0.39), these make the perfect partner alongside a traditional meal of couscous and chicken will set you back 25 Dirhams (£1.93).
Snack la Place location in the very heart of Jemaa al-Fnaa makes it the ideal space to sit and observe the thriving open air food markets that come alive in the centre of Marrakech as the sun sets over the city. If you’re not yet feeling adventurous enough to throw yourself at the the food stalls, enjoy some light refreshments at Snack la Place and scout out one of the many open air stalls to try at a later date.
For those who haven’t tried the Moroccan dish, Tanjia, Snack La Place is an ideal restaurant to do so. Tanjia is a delicacy that’s specific to the red city of Marrakech, where pieces of lamb or chicken are marinaded in Moroccan spices and slowly cooked in an oval shaped pot. This process is often carried out over several hours above the scorching flames used to heat local Hammam’s and it awards this dish a remarkably flavoursome taste.
At Snack la Place this dish can be tried in average portions and at fantastic value, 25 Dirham’s (£1.93). After a five minute walk from the Riad Dar Habiba you will find yourself in the thick of Jemaa al-Fnaa, which acts as the beating heart of the red city of Marrakech and the central hub for anything from Moroccan cuisine to street performances.
During your visit to the red city of Marrakech, one thing you cannot afford to miss are the olive sellers of the central square. You will find them lined up in the Northern reaches of Jemaa al-Fnaa as the square and the famous Souk district connect with one another.
It’s important to note that Morocco is a country of regional delicacies. Between Essaouria and Agadir, Argan trees paint the landscape in a luscious green. This is where the nutty and intensely flavoured Argan oil originates from. The same notion applies to dried fruits and dates, these sacred Moroccan staples are at their most delicious when grown in the deep Saharan South, from the regions of Goulmima to Zagora and the Draa Valley.
Therefore, whereas you might have to travel a little way to sample the freshest portions of oils and dates, some of the finest Moroccan olives are at your doorstep. Hand-picked from the groves of the Atlas region, the olives that grow around Marrakech all four seasons and, as many Marrakshi locals would tell you, the olives that find their way to the market stalls of the red city are of some of the highest calibre in the country.
Olives are picked at various stages of ripening to determine their colour and subsequent flavour and texture. After this is complete the olives can be marinaded using a host of Moroccan herbs to create an array of different flavours. For around 5 Dirham’s (£0.39) you can purchase an entire bag of olives, so why not sample all the different olives on offer?
The central square of Jemaa al-Fnaa is but a 10 minute stroll from the Riad Papillon in the heart of the Marrakech Medina.
El Waha Café Restaurant is located on the eastern side of the central square of Marrakech (Jemaa al-Fnaa), a convenient 5 minute stroll from Riad Dar Habiba but only a 10-15 minute walk from any of our other Riad’s.
El Waha offers a similar selection of traditional Moroccan dishes as other Café Restaurant’s in the area such as Taj’in Darna, what distinguishes El Waha however is it’s rooftop terrace which is one of the highest in Jemaa al-Fnaa.
After a short climb to the terrace you can enjoy stunning panoramic views of Jemaa al-Fnaa and the high Atlas mountains that surround the red city whilst enjoying a glass of Moroccan mint tea.
Another charming characteristic at El Waha is the option of being able to enjoy local cuisine and refreshments on a set of Moroccan sofas towards the back of the terrace. From this cosy corner you can still gaze over the bustling hub of the red city whilst enjoying a gentle breeze and some respite from the intense Moroccan sun.
Taj’in Darna is a cafe/ restaurant located on the Eastern side of Marrakech’s central square. Serving a variety of traditional Moroccan dishes and refreshments it’s cosy rooftop terrace is the ideal space in which to stop and refresh your batteries after a day spent exploring the red city.
Due to the stunning panoramic views of Jemaa al-Fnaa from Taj’in Darna’s terrace you can expect to pay just a few more Dirham’s for a meal here compared with nearby snack bars such Snack Toubkal. A Moroccan chicken tajine is around 45 Dirham’s (£3.44) and a glass of sweet mint tea is 15 Dirham’s (£1.15).
As Taj’in Darna is located in the cities central square it is only a short walking distance from any of our hotel Riad’s. I often went there during the holy month of Ramadan to enjoy a salad with the seclusion that the Cafe’s terrace offers. If you are feeling adventurous, I would recommend that you try the range of Moroccan Pastilla’s that are on offer at the restaurant. Combing both salty and sweat this hand-cooked meat pie is baked and sprinkled with both sugar and cinnamon for a unique, delicious taste.
The ideal time to visit Taj’in Darna is as the sun starts to set across the red city. As you enjoy the rich and flavoursome dishes that Morocco has to offer you can look across the square of Jemaa al-Fnaa and watch it burst into life as musicians, storytellers and performers pour out onto the streets to prepare for the night ahead.
The centre of Marrakech (Jemaa al-Fnaa) is not only the cultural hub of the red city, it’s also a thriving centre for cuisine. Here you will find restaurants, cafe’s and open air stalls to match any budget.
Tucked away on the Eastern side of Djemaa al-Fnaa as you enter the square from Rue Riad Zitoun Lakdim is ‘Snack Toubkal’.
Day and night, Snack Toubkal is a bustling eating spot for tourists and locals. As one of the waiters guides you to your seat don’t be surprised to overhear a melting pot of different languages conversing with one another whilst enjoying a range of traditional Moroccan dishes.
Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of Snack Toubkal is it’s incredibly cheap. A Moroccan salad (tomatoes, onions and parsley infused with a range of spices from fresh dill to Ras el Hanout) costs only 5 Dirhams (£0.38) and a home-cooked chicken or lamb tajine is 25 Dirhams (£1.91).
For this reason Snack Toubkal is the ideal location to try a variety of different dishes you might be unsure about in the higher budget restaurants. Go with a group of friends and mix and match each others dishes to discover what appeals most to your taste buds whilst recharging your batteries from a day spent in the Marrakshi souks.
Conveniently placed in the central square, Snack Toushkal is easy to locate and only a five to ten minute walk from any of our Riads hotels. If you visit the cafe during the day, I would highly recommend trying the classic Moroccan soup dish ‘Harira’. Full bodied and fragrantly seasoned with ginger, pepper and cinnamon, Harira is again a cheap and truly delicious dish that will make your trip in Morocco all the more special.
Served in a peppery broth called ‘babbouche’, the white snails of Morocco must be cooked slowly over a low heat using a balanced mixture of over 15 different spices. Babbouche is popular with the locals and you may be greeted with a smile (as I was) upon approaching a snail stall, as not many tourists pluck up the courage to try this wonderful dish.
Although you may be tempted to veer straight towards the open food stalls of Jemaa al-Fnaa, I would urge that you to make a quick stop and try a small bowl of babbouche. Although admittedly I was nervous at first, this dish soon won over my taste-buds and is one of the most intensely flavoursome delicacies I’ve had the pleasure of eating here in Marrakech.
At only 5 Dirhams (£0.38) a bowl, this is an experience you can’t miss out on. Jemaa al-Fnaa is only a 10 minute walk from Riad Cinnamon, Papillon and Star and as the central cultural hub of activity in Marrakech it will be one of the highlights of your trip to Morocco.
Camels have played a important role for North Africans for thousands of years. In ancient times they were crucial as a mode of transport and this tradition continues today in more rural areas of Morocco.
The guardian of the Riad Dar Habiba tells me that throughout Morocco these majestic beasts are universally respected. A camels hair can be made into an incense and this is used to treat nosebleeds, it’s hide is often tanned and used to make prayer mats. Some Moroccans also believe that a camel is the only sentient being that is able to see the Djinn, spiritual creatures mentioned in the Qu’ran that exist alongside humans and angels.
Of course the other uses for camels are their meat and their milk. Although I have not yet tried camel meat, I have been assured that like it’s milk it has a delicious and unique taste that’s quite difficult to compare to anything else.
Camel meat can be found in the Marrakech Medina, however milk is perhaps more widely available. Whilst visiting a supermarket on Rue Dar Daou just five minutes walk from the Riad Dar Habiba, I am intrigued to try this staple that is otherwise nearly impossible to find back home in the UK.
What many had assured me turned out to be entirely true. Although there are certainly similar characteristics to cattle milk, there is a completely unique and actually quite sweet aftertaste that is very difficult to compare to anything I have tried before. At only 13 Dirhams (£1) for half a litre I can say that I have made this rare and pleasurable staple a normal part of my diet!
Just a five minute stroll from the Riad Cinnamon and the Riad Star is the Cafe Arabe. Nicely situated in a sleepy neighborhood just north of the renowned souk district, Cafe Arabe offers traditional Moroccan cuisine in a modern and sophisticated environment.
I have been to the Cafe Arabe a few times now during my stay in Marrakech but I always find myself returning. The atmosphere inside the cafe/ restaurant is relaxed and welcoming and an hour spent here makes a refreshing contrast to the hustle and bustle of the souks.
On the menu are a variety of traditional Moroccan dishes, including salads and tajines. Cafe Arabe also offer a fantastic selection of alcoholic beverages, ranging from fresh fruit cocktails to a selection of Moroccan wines.
Whether it’s to enjoy dinner or simply to relax and have a drink whilst the cool Moroccan breeze washes over you from the terrace, there certainly is something on offer for everyone at the Cafe Arabe.
Chebakia is a sesame based cookie, hand folded into the shape of a flower and then fried and coated in honey. During the holy month of Ramadan, Chebakia is one of the many specialties that’s widely consumed throughout Morocco and Marrakech is no exception.
Chebakia isn’t only eaten because it’s delicious, for many Moroccans Chebakia is the first thing that is eaten as the days fast is broken as the sun sets. This is because many people believe that by breaking their fast with this sugary confectionery will expand their stomachs and allow them to eat more as the night progresses.
On Rue Derb Toureg, a five minute walk from Riad Dar Habiba I discover the patisserie ‘Tera isa’, where Chebakia is specially made during Ramadan. The owner of the shop whose name is Hassan allowed me to film the various kinds of confectioneries and of course the Chebakia. I learn that the demand for sweet dishes in Morocco extends further than just for their sugary content but rather it holds a deep cultural significance that runs through the fabric of the Moroccan families.
For I discover that the time-consuming process of making Chebakia is more often that not a family affair. As the cookie’s are folded into the shapes of flowers (usually a rose) I learn that this design symbolises the respect and love that the family hold for each other.
If your visit to Morocco doesn’t fall under the fascinating time of Ramadan, don’t worry! Chebakia is still eaten outside of the holy month on special occasions and patisserie’s such as the ‘Tera Isa’ may still be selling.
Herb shopping is a hugely important role in Moroccan day to day life and during a trip through the souk’s you simply have to get talking to someone in order to discover the fascinating culinary, spiritual and medicinal uses for the herbs you can buy in Marrakech. Here is a list of just a few remedies that are on offer:
Nigella Seed (Sanouj)
The guardian of the Dar Habiba Hotel Riad who accompanied me on this trip expressed that this herb was particularly important as the Prophet Mohommed testified that this seed can cure any illness except death. Ranging from everyday uses from healing toothaches to promoting contractions during labour, Nigella seed is also said to be to be composed of anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
Water of the rose is a key ingredient in Moroccan cosmetics and cuisine. Used to flavour dishes and hydrate facial skin to stop anti-aging, Rose water is arguably one of the most popular holistic treatments used on a day to day basis in Morocco.
Lemon Verbena (Louiza)
This greenish herb is said to warm your very blood and is to be taken before and after birth for a smooth and safe delivery of a child. It’s also believed to be an effective holistic remedy for insomnia, asthma and stress.
Lavender’s unique smell makes it a popular candidate in cosmetics not only in Morocco but all over the world. Although the Dar Habiba’s guardian explains to me that in North Africa, Lavender is one of the key ingredients in a powerful aphrodisiac for men.
Whatever your ailment, if you don’t mind haggling then there is a holistic treatment to be found from one of the many herbs and spice salesmen during your visit to Marrakech.
There are 18 souk’s which employ over 40,000 locals of all backgrounds, ages and ethnicity in Marrakech alone. Although that makes for an almost uncountable number of wares to explore and choose from, no adventure in the Marrakshi souk’s is complete without a trip to the poultry market in Marché de Volaille, just a ten minute walk away from Riad’s Cinnamon and Papillon.
As you enter the poultry market the first thing that will demand your attention is that most of the wares on offer are indeed still very much alive. Scorching temperatures in the ancient city mean that the only way to trade in live goods is of course by keeping the produce this way up until the very point of sale. Not only does this entrench the poultry markets with a sense of realism that is somewhat lost to us in the commercial supermarkets of Europe, it also guarantee’s the buyer fresh, unadulterated and delicious produce.
Upon my first entry to the market the squawking of chickens, the constant flow of Arabic and the rich smells of spices and olives gave me a momentary overload of my senses. However once I re-composed myself and pressed on through the souk the defining feature that I took away from the market wasn’t the fruit and chicken that me and my colleague Mostafa had come to buy but instead was the overwhelming hospitality of the salesmen.
As Mostafa haggled prices the owner insisted I come behind the stall, offering me a chair, a fresh orange and a knife as I sat with the salesmen’s son. Although the young man didn’t speak English or French, I discovered his name was Abdullah and he was delighted when I asked if I could take his photo.
As we shared an orange our conversation was reserved mostly to hand gestures and smiles but was proud to tell me he was an avid supporter of Barcelona football club. When I pointed towards myself and said ‘Everton FC?’ Abdullah shook his head, laughing and let out a sigh.
It goes without saying that that some language barriers were made to be broken and that they should never put you exploring Marrakech!
As Marrakshi women will tell you, food and its preparation is more than just about eating. It is a lifestyle that brings together families, friends, and any visitors to this wonderful city that are open to new experiences.
Taking a freshly bought red onion in her hand and a knife in the other, away from any counter top, Fatima, the chef and henna artist of the Henna Café in Marrakech, begins frantically but precisely to chop lines in the onion one direction then the vertical other, barely missing her fingers and palm. Horizontally slicing the onion sprinkles perfectly regimental shaped pieces into a bowl which this time was mixed with tomato, olive oil, cumin and salt, making a very common and deliciously simple local Marrakshi salad.
Cutting an onion Marrakshi-style
A technique to be admired at by all and a symbol of an ingrained hospitable lifestyle, for this any for so many other reasons, the women of Marrakech are truly valued and prized possessions of this beautiful culture and further assist in making the city and its traditions the special experience that it is. Getting to know the hospitable riad staff of Marrakech-riad is truly insightful and offers a unique education into Marrakshi life and all it’s passions.