For our first taste of Morocco beyond Rabat and Casablanca, we ventured to Meknes. We decided to travel by train, which for second-class passengers, means sharing an eight-seater car. Most of the cars were full when we boarded but, to our advantage, a snoring one-legged man sprawled across four seats repelled most passengers. This left one seat to a quiet young man in the corner and three seats for us. We slowly rolled through the countryside in relative peace.
For our accommodations, we selected a riad, a traditional Moroccan home-turned-guest house in the old city of Meknes. Though difficult to find along the winding alleyways, Riad Amazigh was quiet and serene. Our first point of attraction was the name—Amazigh. This appellation is typically preferred over the misnomer ‘Berber,’ a name used to designate North Africa’s indigenous population. The reviews we read gushed over the owner, Fatima, and her cook, Hassan. We were anxious to meet them both. Unfortunately, Fatima was away on business, but she called to apologize for her absence and assured us that the woman she left in charge would take good care of us.
After arrival and completing intake forms, we were served hot Moroccan mint tea and shebakia, a traditional fried dessert coated in honey and sesame seeds. Our spacious room on the upper level invited us with warm earth tone hues and copper-toned fixtures. We took a moment to rest before navigating our way through the maze of streets to exit the old city medina. A short stroll took us to a strip of cultural sites like the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, an art museum, and the Royal Palace. Lil’ Z was tempted by the decorated horse and carriage buggies offering tours of Meknes but rode her father instead.
For dinner, our riad caretaker prepared a lovely vegan meal at our request. On the roof terrace, a table was set for us on earthenware and colorful cloth napkins. A panoramic view of Meknes surrounded us. We started with a pureed carrot soup and bread, followed by a vegetable tajine stew with lentils and chickpeas served over piping hot couscous. It wasn’t our tastiest meal in Morocco but it fed us and served its need. For dessert, we took fresh fruit to our rooms to avoid the rainfall.
Moroccans don’t have much of a reputation for breakfast. Bread is certainly the staple at every meal but for breakfast, it can be paired with jams, honey, olives, olive oil. eggs, cheese, etc. Our beverages were freshly squeezed orange juice and Moroccan mint tea. After our modest breakfast, we paid our lodging bill of about 750 Moroccan dirhams or $85 USD and continued on our way.