Moroccan lanterns

A Date with Morocco

Early evening. A welcoming breeze whisks mischievously across the dinner table, making the napkins dance and flutter like fans. The chatter of the street is distanced to a hum, four storeys below us where a river of people eddies and flows between the banks of market stalls and street hawkers trying to raise their voices above the din. On the corner, an artist sits with his canvas trying to capture the scene.


High above the street, we sit at a long narrow table beneath an awning shuddering as the wind whistles across it, playfully lifting the free corners and forcing the fabric to clap against itself. On the table are tiny bowls, decorated with thick black patterns and piled with black and green olives plump with oil and stuffed with chillies. Our first course of Harira, a Moroccan soup made with tomatoes and lentils, has left us surprisingly full already and we begin to recline like kings and debate whether we’ll manage our mains. The rooftop terrace is the perfect place for dinner. As the light fades, the oblong chunks of Marrakech’s skyline become silhouetted against a dusky sky, pinpricked with glimmering lights. Nearby, the sky above the open square Djma El Fnaa thickens with curls of cooking smoke rising from the night-time food stalls and the voices of the crowd thronging amongst the snake charmers and musicians, Moroccans and visitors alike. We enjoy an unparalleled rooftop view across the medina, the houses merging into one strange square-cornered bulk.


There’s a commotion – a flurry of excitement as waiters bearing huge steaming tagines appear and begin to distribute our dinner. The unmistakeable cones are lifted to reveal piping hot masses of meat, slow-cooked in rich sauces licked by real fires. It has that distinctive taste of something cooked by a real flame. Soon, chunks of lamb in a rich, fatty dark sauce are joined by mountains of cous cous and steamed vegetables – the meat is so tender that my cutlery seems superfluous, there for social politeness rather than any real need to cut anything. As we eat, night falls. The lamps are lit, protected from the breeze by beautiful glass lanterns in wrought iron frames. Geometric patterns covering the tiled floor become indistinct shapes, and the soft poufs in corners are enshrined in flickering shadows. A waft of shisha catches on the breeze and is carried up to where we sit. I’m vaguely concerned I’ve overeaten.


The plates are cleared and the conversation becomes more intimate. This is the first group meal of the trip, and we’re starting to edge beyond where we’re from and what we do. Two sisters travelling together share their motivations for being here; one is incurably in love with Morocco, here on her fourth visit, the other has been inspired by the first’s unquenchable thirst for North African life. We joke gently about the dangers of falling in love with travel.

We don't order any dessert, but it arrives anyway – mounds of fresh pineapple, grapes, apples and melon on huge platters, small cardamom biscuits with a buttery crumble to them and plates of sweet dates, moist and sticky – and easily the best I’ve ever tasted. They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, and after a meal like that my heart was not my own.

Fall in love with Morocco

All our Morocco adventures will spend at least one evening in Marrakech, where you can soak up the sounds of the souk, visit some of the many tombs and gardens of the city, and try some of Morocco's delicious food.

See all holidays to Morocco.

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