Earlier this year, Melissa and I travelled to Morocco for ten days, and journeyed mostly by train to the vibrant and unique cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier, Marrakesh, and Essaouira. While each city held its own unique personality and allure, a common theme throughout them all was their distinct and rich aromas that follow you everywhere you go.
Sights, Sounds, and Scents of the Cities
Walking through the cities and medinas, you could feel the history and unique stories told at every corner. The architecture throughout the old and new cities draws your eyes everywhere around you. The call to prayer coming from the mosques ring out throughout the day. Children running in the streets, the café crowds sitting with their tea and coffee, watching the bustle. Women in groups walking with a purpose to their next task, or strolling easily with friends. Varied scents waft from every corner – mint tea brewed fresh in your riad, aromatic spices like coriander and cinnamon through open restaurant doors, citrusy tangerine from the trees lining the street, delicate rose from shops in the medina.
Influences on Cuisine
Moroccan cuisine is heavily influenced by the country’s diverse and rich spices, and is a product of its many historical influences. A significant impact is of the Amazigh, often known as the Berbers, the indigenous people of North Africa.
Dating back thousands of years, many of Moroccan cuisine staples, including couscous and tajine (tagine), are traced back through their roots and customs. We got to try a wide variety of dishes, both traditional and new, which spoke to this cultural blend of influence from the many people who have stopped at this gate between continents.
Exploration and Experiences
Our trip was filled with moments of adventure, exploration, and kindness. On the train from Casablanca to Marrakesh, when we couldn’t find our seats, a fellow rider walked with us up the narrow corridor, until we found our compartment – and, upon seeing a family already in our seats, travelled back down with us until he found us somewhere free. In Rabat, we finally tried bargaining for the taxi fare, and graciously accepted a ride from the driver after settling on the price, laughing together at the fun of it.
In Marrakesh, the expert at the Musee du Parfum paused as she was teaching us about perfume making, because she heard sounds coming from the street. After realizing what it was, she whisked us outside in excitement, to watch a celebration around the birth and health of a baby. And in Essaouira, we attended a weekend-long festival to celebrate sisterhood. Fellow women from Morocco and all around the world gathered at the beautiful and generous Sisterhood Café, where we shared stories and partook in various workshops.
For the next few months, we’ll be posting some of the scents and dishes that we experienced during our trip, which have inspired new flavors and experiences. So much of our inspiration in the lab comes from our travels, close to home and abroad, and we’re excited to share some of them here!