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Water-dwellers - Morocco: The Charms of the Coast

[Do Not Use]DK Publishing logo[Do Not Use]DK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks

Morocco: The Charms of the Coast

If you had to pick the most well-known image of Morocco, it would be of the Djemaa el Fna, the kaleidoscopic central square of Marrakech. At night, especially, it is ablaze with excitement: the calls of snake charmers and water sellers, the sparkling robes of magicians, the jostling of huge crowds, and everywhere the smoke of grilling fires. But Morocco has a more tranquil side.

In little-known Rabat, the country’s capital and administrative hub, things are very different. In fact, this rather sedate city is not a place we would have stopped at by design. But a number of years ago we ended up spending several days there waiting to get visas to enter Algeria (rather difficult to come by at the time, since the two countries were engaged in a border skirmish). Over the course of our visit, we slowly became enamored of the gentle graces of the city—the spacious boulevards and gardens, the art deco mansions in the colonial quarter, the grand Mausoleum of Mohammed V, the small but suitably exotic medina. This was a city for strolling, free of the frenetic traffic and relentless touts that can make Marrakech and Fez difficult to negotiate. Best of all, though, were the seaside restaurants. Our particular favorite was a modest place, about a dozen tables set in single file along the sea, with brilliant fuchsia bougainvillea climbing the cracked walls. It was there that we first discovered charmoula. Draped across a procession of super-fresh fish that had spent just the proper amount of time on a charcoal-fired grill, this classic, slightly aggressive herb sauce was the ideal complement to the sweetish, lightly smoky seafood. We returned each afternoon to sit in the sun, listen to the waves, and learn from the masters how fish and strong tastes can perform perfectly together.

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