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The Lady Place

June 16, 2014

“I have to go,” I said to a friend with whom I was recounting my day at the souk, “I’m meeting some friends for dinner.” “What?” he responded. “You’re like some Brit ex-pat. Two days in North Africa and you’re amazing the colonials with your dizzying social schedule.”  While I half love and half hate the imagery, I wasn’t heading off to the ambassadors residence or anything quite so lush, but I was meeting Beth from WNYC and her travel companions, Jen and Barbara, with whom I’d shared the flight over.

We met at the roof bar overlooking the main square, which was hopping. The views of the sunset were stunning over the square and mosques in the distance (I’ve come to love the call to prayer). Over soft drinks we recounted what we’d each been doing for our first days in Morocco and we were headed next. Though I work with Beth from a distance, this was the first time we’d spent any time together, and of course I didn’t’ know Jen and Barbara at all, but the sunset had the travel magic of creating fast friends. We laughed at each others foibles in at negotiating deals in the souk; debated the pros and cons of a hammam; pondered our upcoming treks in the desert; and, barely mentioned our lives in New York or at work.

And, like any good social gathering, we talked about food. Far more prepared than I, they had done their research. Barbara pulled out print outs from Conde Nast’s best restaurants in Marrakech and we unanimously agreed the woman owned an operated Al Fassia was the one for us. And we began to refer to it as The Lady Place.

The teeming square with it’s monkeys and henna ladies and drum circles was wonderful to watch from above, but as the four of us tried to keep track of each other wondering through it to the taxi stand, it was less charming. Just past the circle of men and kids with fishing rods aimed at coke bottle (the point of the game seemed to be to “catch” and knock over a bottle, but after they did, the just started again), we jumped in a cab to the “new” part of town.  Not exactly jumped in. Jen negotiated a rate that the driver attempted to re-negotioate mid-ride which led to threat of us jumping out of the cab or his throwing us out, but we made to the restaurant (and indeed, paid his higher rate). It never occurred to us at 9pm that we’d need a reservation, but the 20 minute wait sapped us all of energy.

We quickly revitalized when the selection of salads, which was really a bunch of small servings of vegetables made its way to our table. Beets, carrots in three preparations including one with orange water that tasted a bit like old lady perfume (in a weirdly good way), caramelized tomatoes, eggplant, turnips, and more all with deep moroccan flavors. The tajines of chicken and beef (mine with almonds and shallots) were delicious and comforting that we almost didn’t care that he morocco wine, was a miss. A big miss.

The night was like any with old friends over a long dinner – which is to say, absolutely wonderful. It turns out that they are staying just a block from my riad (oh, how I should have taken them up on the offer of a ride from Casablanca).

I leave shortly for the Sahara. Not sure what my internet access will be, but I will post when I can.

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