This year I spent Christmas in Marrakech, staying in a traditional riad the heart of the medina – the old city. Our friends and hosts were great cooks and enthusiastic entertainers and the next few days would be a celebration of Morocco’s extraordinary and exotic food.
Outside the thick, clay walls of the riad, a tangle of narrow alleys led onto the main square, Djemaa el Fna, where the hawkers, market stalls and performers tempt, hassle and entertain. At night, rows of street food vendors cook Moroccan delicacies over burning coals, and the air is filled with smoke and the scent of spices.
A few weeks ago I went to Morocco. Not the Morocco of hectic souks, dusty streets and busy traffic that I’d seen before. This time I visited a stretch of coast line where fields lead down towards the sea. A salt-water lagoon lies along the length of the coast, separated from the rough sea by a narrow ridge of land. The water in the lagoon rises and falls with the tide, and at low tide, figures could be seen stooping over, plucking clams and mussels from the sand. On the marshy shore line we collected thick bunches of green samphire and bought lobsters from the fishermen who had just hauled in the morning’s catch.