The dairy isn’t safe!
Because there are no fridges in Morocco.
I read this after I’d settled in Morocco. “There is no refrigeration” apparently, and all the dairy foods are unsafe.
If this is the case, then I still don’t know what the big white box in my kitchen is for – the one which is cold inside.
All the little shops have fridges for their supplies of milk and yoghurt, as well as cold drinks, butter and sometimes cheese.
Don’t eat from the little shops!
You don’t know how long the meat has been sitting out.
This was news to me, especially since I’d already eaten many times from these shops. The small “sandwich” shops are everywhere, the most common and cheapest lunch or snack you can get. Called a sandwich, shawarma or taco, the difference mostly seems to be in the wrapping.
The filling can be everything from our basic spam-type sausage meat with or without your choice of salads, to freshly cooked meat already marinated.
A sandwich means it’s in a baguette. A shawarma is in a wrap. And a taco is in a wrap, then toasted. And if it’s takeout, you’re saved from having to juggle the hot chips which come with it – they add them into the contents,
All this will set you back by as little as 0.80 to 3.50 for the works – a very filling, cheap and tasty lunch time option.
As with the markets, while it may look different to what we’re used to, I have found the health standards quite decent. Remember, the food you see here is much fresher than what you are used to. When you buy vegetables, they were often in the ground still that morning. Fruit was still on the trees. The sheep and chickens were still bleating and clucking.
For most of us, the food we are used to, which we buy in supermarkets, is a good few days out of the ground. The fruit is picked from the trees before it is ripe, before it has it’s full nutritional value. It is sprayed with chemicals to make it last longer. Then it is transported, first to a central warehouse for distribution, then out to the supermarkets. The supermarkets often get their supplies twice a week. This means that the day before the next truckloads come, it has been on the shelves for 3 to 4 days. And they keep up their supplies to avoid running out.
We have to take all this care of our goods because it is already getting old. And the older it gets, the more it loses its vitamins and nutrients.
And always, not just when travelling, but also when at home, as a general rule of thumb – choose the shop which is busy with customers. The locals already know not only which ones have good quality, but also the ones which taste best.
Don’t drink the water.
In Morocco, this needs to be qualified. In some cities it is good advice, while in others there is excellent water. You need to ask everywhere you go.
Tangier and Chefchaouen both have good drinking water, which is fine to drink from the tap. Especially Chefchaouen, where it is spring water, I also always drink from the tap water in Fes, no problem.
Don’t eat with the left hand.
Many Muslim countries follow this, but Morocco is more relaxed than most.
There are 2 linked reasons behind this – toilet ablutions and eating customs.
In Morocco it is normal to eat with your hand. In fact, this is common not only across large parts of Africa and the Middle East, but also in South Asia and South America.
Eating can look very dainty. Just use a piece of bread as a spoon and eat it all together. If you try to keep to just 3 fingers you’ll get the dainty look too. But to be honest, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of rules.
However, this clashes with toilet ablutions in these countries it is also common practice to use a squat toilet and rinse parts down afterwards with water and your hand.
Traditionally toilet practices have been assigned to the left hand, so eating was strictly kept to the right hand – a very practical arrangement for the past.
However, left hand the much-increased levels of hygiene and water quality of the past half century, it is not as zealously needed as it was in the past.
While many places still frown on eating with the left hand, Morocco is one which seems to be more relaxed and ambivalent about the ‘rules’. Whatever they say, and while most will eat with the right hand (logical when most people are right-handed), I have often observed people using their left hand to handle their food with no surrounding frowns of disapproval
Alcohol and pork are haram and unavailable.
First, what is haram?
In Islam, haram means forbidden. (The opposite is halal – in Israel the word kosher gets used).
While Morocco is a Muslim country, it is a relatively relaxed one.
In the first place, pork is very hard to come by, and generally expensive. The big supermarket chain Carrefour has supplies of pork sausage meat for those who need their salami and ham fix. There is also the occasional delicatessen selling these. Otherwise, supermarket chains like Morocco’s own Marjane might have products looking like ham and pastrami, but they will be turkey meat. While it’s not an issue to have ham around, generally the attitude will be that it’s disgusting, and Moroccans simply don’t eat it.
Alcohol is a little more interesting. There are some very conservative Muslims who don’t like to be in the same room as a bottle of alcohol. So it is something about which it is good to be discreet.
There are however plenty of clubs and night bars which sell alcohol, mostly full of Moroccans. Most tourist hotels will have bars with drinks available. But you can’t drink outside or in public. Sometimes the best place to go for a drink will be a rooftop hotel bar. Being within the premises and out of sight of the general public, this is a very nice place to chill, especially in the summer.
There are also bottle shops. They are hard to find – check out my blog in https://ozzyhopper.com/ for locations in Tangier – but they are there. Your bottle will be wrapped up in paper, and then put into a black non-see-through bag. All is hidden discreet and hidden. But it is very much available. The main time you may have trouble is during Ramadan when all nightclubs are closed for the month.
So there you have it – 5 myths busted. 5 common misunderstandings about Moroccan food and eating habits you will now know about to win on trivia nights. Try them out at Blue Door Cuisine – check out one of their events and find out about what most Moroccans drink instead of alcohol, learn meat they eat and how they cook it, or learn how to make the bread, and then how to eat with your fingers to impress.