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Old, but always fresh

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Traditions: Old but Always Fresh

We started off to our last destination in Morocco. We were heading for the large town of Imintanoute and the village of Boulouane. The Berber Camp, where we were going to spend the night is in an even smaller village: Iguentergua. The camp is located 200km from Marrakech and half way between Marrakech and Agadir. This is the southernmost point on our itinerary. On our way we saw many fields with grapes (I am sure they do not make “Ice Wine”) and also fields of wheat.

We arrived at the village and had to leave the bus on the main street and walk to the cultural centre. The bus was too big to be able to maneuver the very narrow streets. We were going to stay at the Berber Cultural Center for the night. This accommodation had rooms for 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 people. We split the group up and then were given a demonstration of Mint Tea making which is made according to a strict ritual.

Mint tea is practically the national drink. It is drunk throughout the day in small glasses. When sipped slowly, you can small the aroma of the mint. Wormwood and orange flower can also be added but we did not see this. This tea is usually very sweet, with large chunks of sugar added to the brew. We also enjoyed wonderful flavourful coffee in the morning. I found out that the local people would go the store and have spices like: cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg, black pepper and ginger ground along with the beans. It was a really nice change to regular coffee we have at home.

We then went on an hour walk around the village. We saw a beautiful valley with flowering shrubs and bamboo being grown. The students had an opportunity to photograph the local women and children. I don’t know which group had more fun. Those being photographed or the photographers! One thing we noticed was all the doors to the homes. They were all different and very colourful. We crossed a small stream and saw little frogs and tadpoles.

Back at the center, the staff has set up tables in sets of three for us to have a competition for tea making. We were all given the ingredients and were asked to follow the ritual we had seen earlier. We had lots of fun and three of the first year students won a lovely teapot and were given a certificate for their ability of making a very good tasting tea. Sarah, Lacey and Kerrin were our lucky winners. Congratulations!

Our dinner was a traditional dish of Couscous and vegetables. It was so simple but so tasty. Couscous is given its name from the dish it is prepared in. There is a lower pan where vegetables and meat are cooked with a perforated cover where semolina, made from flour is placed and steamed. The flavours from the lower pan are infused into the couscous.

The night finished off with local people joining us for music, singing and dancing. Family, friends and community are very important to the Berber people. It seemed like everyone who came to the center was a relative or knew a relative of the family. The people are very gracious and the hospitality they offer is next to nothing I have seen in North America.

The following morning we woke around 9AM. It was a noisy night with dogs barking and the rooster next door crowing at all hours. It was comfortable but a little hot for most as there were no fans to move the air. Today we were going the help the women with the preparation of the Tagine, bread and almond butter we would eat for lunch. A group also took two little donkeys to the well to fetch water.

Each group followed the instructions of one of the women to learn how to make the food for the day. The Tagine group cut and chopped and prepared the delicious dish of Chicken Tagine. This dish also takes its name from the earthenware bowl with a cone-shaped top in which this meat dish is cooked in. The recipe is at the end of this blog. The bread was the best I had ever had. Its ingredients are flour, yeast, salt and water. The students kneaded the bread and baked it in the stone oven located outside away from the center. The students who made the almond butter roasted and ground the almonds with traditional motor, pestles and grinding equipment. These recipes have been passed down from Mother to Daughter for over a thousand years.

This experience was the most authentic and appealed to the students. I think many of them would have stayed longer here just to play with the children. It was wonderful to see how a typical family lives in this country, away from technology and the interference of TVs and Wi-Fi. (Although these are available but limited).

We left the village after lunch and headed back to Casablanca on a 4 hour drive.

The Website for the cultural Center is: www.berberculturalcenter.com if you want to see what is here or leave a comment.

And now for the recipe for Tagine.
4-5 pieces of chicken
Green olives
Red onions (2)
Fresh Mint and Parsley
Tomatoes (skinned)
Garlic Cloves (2)
Salt and Pepper
Turmeric and Ginger

Place the chicken in the bottom of a tagine. Peel and slice one red onion and place on top of chicken. Peel and dice the garlic and add this to the tangine. Chop a handful of mint and a handful of parsley together. Add to pot. Season with a teaspoon of black pepper and ginger and half a teaspoon of salt to the top of the ingredients. Add a tablespoon of Turmeric and also of Ginger. 4 Tablespoons of Olive oil and 2 tablespoons of Safflower oil. Cover and put over hot coals for half an hour.

Slice the second red onion and the tomatoes lengthwise. Check the tagine and add half cup of water. Turn chicken, cover and continue to cook for half an hour more. Turn chicken again and add the sliced onion; sliced tomatoes; peas and olives (in that order) to the tagine. Add 2 slices of lemon and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Keep a watch on the liquid. Do not allow the chicken to burn. After an hour and a quarter, check the chicken for doneness. Serve with bread.

A vegetarian variation can be made by using Couscous with sliced potatoes; zucchini; carrots; cabbage; parsnips; eggplant and the same seasonings as above.

Posted by Scrossman 08:50 Archived in Morocco

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