Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Day with Samira in Fes at Riad Laaroussa

The story of my day with Samira at Riad Laaroussa starts with my search for a place to stay in Fes.

My husband and I knew we wanted to visit Fes during our trip to Morocco, and we had heard that staying in a riad, or guest house, in the medina was interesting and enjoyable. However, despite many internet searches I couldn’t determine which riad would be enjoyable, authentic, comfortable and perhaps even a little bit luxurious.

So, after many frustrating and fruitless searches, I set that project aside and simply concentrated on what to eat while in Morocco. I searched “Moroccan cooking” and amazingly the blog was among the first search results.

I clicked on the link and found a charming blog written by Samira, a Moroccan woman who cooks traditional Moroccan food at a riad and posts the recipes. Even better, Samira’s blog lead me directly to the Riad Laaroussa and my raison d’être to chose Riad Laaroussa for our place to stay in Fes.

In the morning, (after an amazing breakfast of traditional Moroccan crepes) Samira asked me what we should cook for dinner that night. Wow – what an opportunity. We had a brief discussion in her excellent English and my schoolgirl French and chose lamb tagine and lentils with vegetables of the season.

When you read in the guidebooks about shopping in the Medina, it sounds quite intimidating. However, with Samira, a trip through the Medina is a completely different experience. We had our menu, and therefore our mission.

Walking through the medina with Samira made this ancient maze a completely different experience than the typical tourist shopping trawl.

We shopped for lamb and vegetables at several different vendors and at each one, Samira showed me what to look for, told me how we were going to prepare each ingredient, and introduced my husband and me to every vendor as if we were old friends.
After lunch, I went into the kitchen and asked Samira and Fatima, the other cook, for kitchen assignments. My first was to grate a large bowl of tomatoes, sliced in half as one of the ingredients for Moroccan salad, and then I prepared the okra for another of the vegetable dishes.

The kitchen camaraderie and chatter was a delightful stew of English, French and Arabic, with Samira and Fatima giving me directions and approving or correcting my kitchen technique with a “tres bien” or “regarde, Madam, comme ca”.

Spending the day with Samira and Fatima in their Moroccan kitchen broke the barrier of a typical tourist experience, and let us feel like part of a culture and a community, even if only briefly.

We will treasure this experience always, and hope to return soon.

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