Al-Jazira cafe/restaurant – Morocco
Now this is my kind of category – food and travel! I note that the prompt is “most memorable”, not “best”, which is a very different thing in so many ways.
Among several candidates, I am going to choose a lunch we had in Morocco, on the way back from our trip to El Jadida and Azzamour to our hotel in Casablanca. Up to this point, we had been very disappointed with the food in Morocco, despite reading so much about it and it being one of the things I’d been most looking forward to. Even restaurants heartily recommended by the guide books had turned out to be poor, and we were getting a little fed up of bad food. We were subsequently told that this is a common thing that visitors to Morocco found (although I am led to believe things are getting better now) and that the fantastic Moroccan food you read about was mainly only found in people’s homes, not in tourist restaurants. In fact, we only ate two really good meals during our fortnight in the country, one at the restaurant I wrote about in a previous Travel Thursday post, and this one. Ironically, a destination that generally disappointed so much in terms of food provided the best and most memorable travel meals!
On the day in question, we were with our guide, a man who told us to call him Lucky, and driver in a battered old Mercedes taxi (probably imported after reaching the end of its service life in Germany). The day was very hot, and we were tired and hungry from sightseeing, which had included clambering around a ruined Portuguese fort. In the middle of nowhere, we pulled over to a rather unpromising building by the side of the road. It looked quite run down, with peeling paint, very old furnishings and no sign of modern facilities. It gloried in the name “Al-Jazira”, the same as the Arabic TV channel, which incidentally was playing on the ancient television set inside.
Lucky explained to us that we would be having lunch here, but with a slight difference. As it doubled as a restaurant and butcher’s shop, you can choose your own meat, which is then grilled on a barbecue for you and served with fresh bread and salads. After so many disappointing meals, this at last sounded like something that would be impossible to get wrong, so we enthusiastically chose some juicy-looking cuts of meat and enjoyed a cool drink in the shade outside the restaurant while waiting for the owner to cook them up for us.
The meal was delicious, somehow made more so by the fact we had chosen the meat we wanted. We had travelled to Morocco dreaming of mouth-wateringly exotic dishes, full of spices, colour and richness. But, as things turned out, the one that sticks most in the memory from the trip was a simple, freshly cooked lunch at a fairly nondescript roadside place in the middle of the countryside, shared with friendly and welcoming local people. And, when all said and done, that is really what travel meals should be all about.