During our day at the Market, we met a Moroccan vendor who was about our age. He was very friendly and invited us to join him for tea in the back of his stall. We had read that this was traditional in Morocco and since we were still visible from the street we figured there was no harm. Our new friend told us he was training to be a tour guide and invited us to join him for dinner at a local restaurant so that we could learn more about Morocco and he could practice his English. I’ll admit, we were a bit dubious but figured there was no harm in meeting him at a restaurant and it would be interesting to get to know a local better so we agreed. In order to protect all those involved, we will call our new friend “Bob” for the sake of convenience.
The restaurant we met Bob at later that night specialized in Tangine, a traditional Moroccan dish of meat and vegetables that is cooked in a funnel shaped clay dish. As Bob explained, at these type of restaurants the patrons usually provided their own ingredients, and the restaurant cooks and prepares the meal.
So our first stop that night with Bob was the local night market to get chicken, spices, olives, potatoes and the other necessary ingredients. I would have had no idea where to start, but Bob was an expert. He guided us from stall to stall helping us choose the right ingredients and pay. Picking out the chicken was particularly traumatic since the vendor asked that you select the chicken and then he slit its throat, plucked it and chopped it up in front of you.
The rest of the market was delightful. Plenty of fresh vegetables and olives which the vendors were more than happy to let us sample before purchase. But, it was starting to get late and we were concerned about catching our early morning bus to Marrakesh the next day. The three of us were eager to eat dinner and get back or our Riad, so we urged Bob to wrap up his purchases so we could head to the restaurant.
Unfortunately, when we got to the Tangine Restaurant we were greeted with the unpleasant fact that Tangine is not a quickly cooked meal. Bob dropped off our groceries and then suggested we go get tea – for two hours. As 8pm became 9pm and 9pm became 10pm we tried to get Bob to give us a definite time when the food would be ready. By that time we were all concerned that we had been caught in a scam and that we were going to end up paying $100 for this meal. Even worse, conversation with our new Moroccan friend had reach unprecedented levels of awkward. We had literally discussed every possible topic in the last 3 hours and were sitting in silence thinking of how to make our escape.