Morocco: gluten-free tranquility in Erfoud thanks to the celiac travel card
It is shocking that a country that is so close to ours can be so different… but I can tell you that according to my experience in Morocco over the last few years, I can only define it as the country of contrasts. A country that survives in its own disorder, a country without limits and where there are rules, but they do not comply them and, in contrast, very beautiful landscapes and full of kind people in some areas: chaotic traffic with pedestrians, animal draught vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles, tricycles, cars, trucks and buses circulating through non differentiated paths; electricity cuts between provinces; vehicles loaded like you would never have imagined; low lighting; dangerous roads; and corruption, smuggling and barter; but yes, amazing landscapes and a delicious food that make it worth venturing to get lost in the mountains and deserts to get to know its more rural culture. I guess this is the reason why I have come back every year since 2014!
This year we made a route of 4,640km by car from Barcelona to Lake Iriki, in the south of Morocco. On December 25th, I took the opportunity to visit Isabel and celebrate together a little piece of Christmas. The next day, after eating some pancakes with chocolate cream that would surely be the envy of all Americans, I went to Almeria via Valencia, where I met with Carles and Aurea, a couple I met the first time I went to Morocco. After the traditional stops along the way, we got to the Hotel Gran Fama in Almería. Right after leaving our luggage in our rooms, we went straight to the Restaurant La Piedra, an Argentine Grill with a gluten-free menu recommended by Bea from Face Joven. We had a suckling pig and a sirloin “to the stone” which were delicious and, for dessert, a caramel cake to top it off. We had to take advantage of eating such good food, since the chances of not eating anything like that in the next 12 days were very too high!
On the 27th of December at 12 o’clock we had to be in the port of Almeria to board the ferry that took us to Nador so, after a good gluten free breakfast at the hotel (if you go there remember to inform them in advance so they can have everything ready for you), we went to buy the last supplies for the trip and we headed to the port. There, while waiting to board, we prepared some sandwiches for lunch, since the journey from Almería to Nador lasts 6 hours and. After arriving to Morocco and crossing the border – you never know if it will take 5 minutes or 4 hours, nor how much money it will cost to pass – we still had to drive 5h to Midelt, where we had the first hotel… we got there at 2am. I can’t tell you a lot about the hotel Taddart in Midelt because we have always arrived very late at night and have left very early in the morning. What I can tell you, and this applies to all hotels, is that you should bring your own food for breakfast – and if you go on route during the day, you should also bring something gluten free, just in case. For dinner, by showing the gluten-free travel card, you will not have any problem. At least, this is my experience.
After sleeping very few hours but knowing we had 400km of track ahead to Erfoud, we could not get up very late. Unlike last year, this year was very cold… when we got up, we were at 3 or 4 degrees below zero and that day we did not go over 8 degrees, as we crossed the Atlas in a southeast direction to reach Erfoud, where we stayed in one of The hotels of the Xaluca Group. We made the route my friends called the “Monument Valley route”, passing through eroded places like those of the USA or the Bardenas Reales of Navarra (in Spain).
The route was beautiful because as we climbed the Atlas we found areas with snow and, upon arriving at the top, we were rewarded with amazing views of the plains behind. Going down, we passed a couple of rural small villages – those made of adobe bricks, with the cattle walking around and without any kind of utilities – where we stopped to give clothes and toys for the children previously collected by Carles and Aurea in Spain. The next time we go down, apart from clothes and toys, we will also bring them pens and notebooks so they can go to school. The kids asked a lot for this material. If you remember, keep it in mind and bring some when travel there – of course, if you have space left in the suitcase. Before finishing the route and taking the road to go to the hotel, we saw the sunset from an Oasis… amazing. Sweet memories from other sunsets during 2016 came back to my mind! I missed her a lot!
We arrived at the Xaluca Hotel of Erfoud around 7.30pm. After a full day of driving, stopping for pictures, eating, resting and having very cold temperatures, a hotel like this is the perfect reward for a good rest. Hot water, heating and stable electricity is the minimum you need and, beyond all this, in this hotel there is an SPA for a better recovery. Also, if you go there in summer you will be able to enjoy the drinks from the bar inside the pool. Awesome!
At dinnertime, the maitre came straight to greet my colleagues and when I showed him the gluten-free travel card, he told me what dishes the buffet could eat. In the buffets of these hotels the risk of cross-contamination is very small because each tray has its own spoon and the separation between trays is very big. And if you do not feel comfortable with it, just talk to the kitchen manager so they can prepare something apart for you. For sure they will do it without problem. If you go on your own, let them know in advance. The same if you are going on an organized trip, just make sure the guide is aware of your diet requirements. That day I ate a couple of dishes of roasted potatoes, chicken and beef like the one in the photo. Delicious!
The next day I was surprised… the breakfast buffet is the dream of anyone who likes bakery. Of course I could not eat anything, so I took breakfast from my provisions. The maitre came to greet us and was alarmed when he saw that I had bread on my plate. He immediately told me that I could not eat that bread, as he thought I took it from the buffet. I thanked him for his attentions while I told him not to worry, that I had brought this bread from Spain. It’s nice to see how they remember and care about you. This does not happen in some European hotels…
After checking out at the hotel, we headed to M’Hamid, a village in the south of Morocco, quite close to the border with Algeria. The target was to arrive at Lake Iriki the next day, since the previous year we couldn’t arrive because we lost a lot of time helping a broken vehicle that we found along the way and another that was stucked in the Erg Cheggaga dunes. That day we crossed huge plains before reaching a mountain range. While we were eating, a flock of camels passed by our side and, after several failed attempts to speak with the shepherd, we decided to continue to the hotel Chez La Pacha of M’Hamid. To our surprise, upon arrival, the hotel manager told us that we could only stay one of the two nights, as the second night they had the hotel full… and we wanted to take us to another hotel they had close by. Aurea got really angry, and explained to the manager that we had the booking confirmed since weeks and that he should moved the other group. They took it quite seriously because we got a couple of very nice rooms, especially theirs. While checking in, I gave the gluten-free travel card to the hotel manager and he told me not to worry. He scanned it and handed it to the cook. At dinner they already knew who I was and they had everything prepared for me: vegetable soup and roasted turkey with rice and potatoes. For dessert tangerines, they are very good down there!
In the post next week I will tell you the rest of the trip. The New Year’s Eve parties in Morocco are very fun if you have the right people around haha!
In the meantime, you can see the photos of the trip here.
BY CLICKING ON THE MAP OF GLUTEN FREE RESTAURANTS YOU FILL SEE ALL RESTAURANTS WE DESCRIBED IN THIS POST LOCATED IN THE MAP OF GLUTEN-FREE PLACES:
AND HERE WE LEAVE THE CELIAC TRAVEL CARD IN FRENCH:
AND HERE WE LEAVE THE CELIAC TRAVEL CARD IN ARABIC:
P.S.: Please keep in mind that in this blog I share my trips, anecdotes and experiences about gluten free travel around the world. It is possible that, in any of my trips, I go to some restaurant not trained by the associations where the risk of being contaminated with gluten exists. I kindly ask you to also take into account that the list of references can change. Please, always double check before eating in the restaurants we recommend. Thank you very much!
TO NOT MISS ANY OF OUR POSTS, WE INVITE YOU TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER!