How we do it ;-)

We really love to understand every country we visit,  so we always stay for a few days with a family or at someone’s place – who has been advised by our local logistic organizer.

The other days we stay in riads mostly, but sometimes we also stayed for the night in a kasbah (qasba), a small town inside the walls, like a fortress ( they are centuries old ) and once we even stayed at an ecological lodge, as you probably read in a previous post here..

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We sometimes share rooms, other times we get a room just for each, and this is what a room looks like by the end of the day, just before cables start being pulled from all the electrical outlets 😉  Photos shot with ipad

By staying with families, or at local women’s cooperatives, we also have the opportunity, rare for tourists, to eat the real moroccan cuisine, not the usual mixed culture stuff that you often get in the restaurants, specially in big towns.

The moment when you sit at a table, or on a cushion in the floor, with people, you get closer to them, and you can really feel at home.

Eating together is an atavistic sign of acceptance, in all cultures. We are blessed with that experience in several countries. By eating together and staying at people’s houses we can model their behavior at meal time, improving  the communication and decreasing the “cultural distance”. We can expand our world that way.

“Anthropologists have long considered ways in which food preparation, distribution, and consumption authenticate both social order and moral and aesthetic beliefs and values.” wrote Elinor Ochs.

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Women’s cooperative in the south of Morocco, they hosted us for three nights, and there for the first time we ate zaalouk ( yummy). The guy with the black turban is our guide and cultural mediator

As for food, we have eaten all sorts of different tajines and all sorts of ingredients, being vegetables part of every single meal, while we rarely saw cheese anywhere. We also had shell fish and other kinds of fish, and Susan had several kinds of meat, except porc, due the fact that it is an islamic country. Sometimes we bought the food ourselves and took it somewhere to be cooked,  in very small villages or in some rather poor-dark-low profile “restaurant” advised by our guide.  In the next photo you can see shell fish we bought in the port of Essaouira directly from the fishermen, and got it cooked in one of those “dark” places. Salt and cumin in the table, not salt in pepper. The tablecloth made of rectangles of paper. A fork here and there, as we are supposed to eat with our hands 🙂

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Here we had bought shell fish in the port ( it was Susan’s birthday) and we got it cooked in a “sort of” reastaurant in the port, along with a vegetable tajine  which we had nearly every day, just varying the kind of vegetables and the spices.

The homemade bread at Ayoub’s house is just amazing, and we ate lots of it for breakfast, with honey, argan oil, olive oil, homemade butter and jam. Breakfast was always a moment of relax and preparation for the new day, no hurry, even if it meant getting up half an hour earlier. Forgive me for the quality of the photos, sometimes there was not enough light for the phone’s camera.

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Homemade bread at mealtime

“As vehicles, mealtimes constitute universal occasions for members
not only to engage in the activities of feeding and eating but also to forge
relationships that reinforce or modify the social order. In addition, meal-
times facilitate the social construction of knowledge and moral perspectives
through communicative practices that characterize these occasions. Yet
mealtimes are also objects of cultural import in themselves. They are more
or less conventional and demarcated as a kind of social practice that
requires certain sensibilities of participants. Mealtimes vary within and
across social groups in relation to participation, setting, duration, meal
items, meal sequence, and attributed significance.” said Elinor Ochs
I know, staying with a family means that you need to keep in mind that they have a routine, and you must try to respect their times, and sometimes it might be difficult to synchronize both schedules 😉 but it is possible.
Also they will surely answer your curiosities with a smile, but they do make questions that often make you think, and they never pose rhetorical questions ;-).
Paula da Silva