Eating Pastilla & Swatting Flies In Marrakech's Djemaa El Fna

I initially baulked at the perfect formation of flies that greeted us, but I managed to get used to them when the food turned up...
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I initially baulked at the perfect formation of flies that greeted us, but I managed to get used to them when the food turned up...

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‘Just looking, looking is free.’ We had just been jumped by the next person to thrust a menu in our faces on the endless trail of tourist restaurants and stalls lining the Djemaa El Fna, Marrakech’s main square. We politely declined and continued along in search of some authentic cuisine without the tourist price tag.

Along a dark alley of market stalls and tiny shops we stumbled across a modest cafe. A small elderly gentleman handed us a menu but did not try to wow us with typical claims of ‘cheaper than Primark’ or ‘5 Michelin stars’. Allowing us time to read the menu, the food spoke for itself.

Peering inside, the only diners were flies feasting on a left over tagine pot. The radioactive colours from the strip lighting created a nuclear ambiance, reflecting on the white (ish) plastic table covers creating an unnatural glow.

Despite the unappealing décor and possible health warning, we were intrigued by the fantastic menu and the friendly man who seemed so proud of his establishment. We decided to boldly go where no tourist had ventured (at least this lunchtime).

Peering inside, the only diners were flies feasting on a left over tagine pot.

As the friendly man kept telling us, the food, at a fraction of the price of the basic food we had found on the popular Djemaa El Fna was ‘tres bon’! My first taste of a pastilla is one that I won’t forget and its quality was certainly not repeated during my entire trip. The dainty sweet, cinnamon pastry resembled that of a patisserie but gave way to beautifully tender chicken. An odd combination but it was truly wonderful.

Next I was presented with a tagine of the most tender and moist chicken, swimming in a delicious meaty sauce topped with a sticky tomato jam. This wholesome dish could have commanded a fortune in a UK restaurant and made me forget my not so high quality surroundings while I indulged.

Finished off with a fine mint tea and patisserie, this was the best meal I ate in Morocco. Whilst tourists ate in overpriced restaurants on the main square, we found the true Morocco and a taste of heaven, even if we did have to share it with flies.

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