Fez: eating a gluten-free tajine of kefta and egg that they probably bought at the Medina…
After a magnificent breakfast at Maison Acacias enjoying the latest views of the desert, we left for Risani with a strange feeling. A mixture of longing and satisfaction. We had spent 4 magnificent days driving on the sand. And we wouldn’t have that feeling of freedom again for another year… what a horror! I was very happy because in all the “gluten-free restaurants” where I had eaten, they had done it well. That day was starting something new for me. The last three times I had travelled to Morocco, I had returned to Spain before so that I could spend a day with Isa in Cuenca. This year I wouldn’t go, so I could enjoy three more days with my friends and travel to Fez and Chefchaouen with them.
Before embarking on the 7-hour roadtrip to Fez, we stopped to see Maymoun. Maymoun is a young man who has two species shops in Risani. One on the main avenue and the other inside the Medina. You can see that business is going well for him, as his shops were the most beautiful and tidy! In the market the ground is still dirt and the shops are very different from the ones we are used to in Spain. It was quite an experience to see how they sold meat and fish in that market!
Aurea bought a shipment of bags of different species. And then she bought dates and soaps – lucky we would only drive on road! The bags would have not withstood the rattling of the off-road tracks… With the purchases made, we set out on the road to Fez. I was really excited! Even though we’d only be there for one night, I really wanted to discover – as far as possible – that city. They had explained to me that the traffic in Fez was very similar to that in Nador. A full chaos! I didn’t like that part because it’s really stressful. But the next day, before leaving for Chefchaouen, we would visit the Medina, and we would go there in a “petit taxi”! What an adventure awaited us!
After crossing the “rabid dog zone”, the “forest of the monkeys” and Ifrane, the Moroccan Switzerland, we arrived in Fez.
We didn’t have much time to settle in the hotel. We had arrived quite late and had to get down to the restaurant quickly before it was closed. When we arrived we were surprised… the heat was off… It was quite cold…
When the waiter came with the menu, I gave him the gluten-free travel card in French so he could help me choose. It’s interesting to see the first reaction of those who read this card. Some find it really strange that someone can’t eat flour! And even more if you ask them if they use flour in dishes where they’ve never used it! They look at you with the face like: “But why would you use flour to prepare that dish!?”. Then it’s time to explain the importance of cross-contamination control. They usually respond with an “aaah, OK. I understand”; then I ask again what dishes to eat. Usually one or two of the dishes on the initial list falls apart.
I ordered a tajine of lamb and vegetables. Delicious! Tasty! Impressive! And it was really hot too! Like all the tajines, they served it in a ceramic dish that was also very hot. There were two large pieces of lamb, a potato and peas. All cooked in its juice.
The lamb was extremely tender and tasty. And the potato and peas were the perfect accompaniment to warming up in that freezing dining room.
After lunch, we went back to our rooms to enjoy a real hot shower. At Merzouga, being able to do this is a luxury we could not afford on some occasions…
We were supposed to have breakfast at 8:00 in the morning. As we were staying at the Ibis Hotel of Fez, the breakfast was quite “European”. And as with all breakfast buffets, cross-contamination was a major risk. Seeing the options I had for breakfast – very few – I went to the car to get some gluten free bread and cold cuts. When the three of us sat down, I gave the gluten-free travel card to the waiter and asked him to prepare a separate tortilla for me.
With a full stomach, we left the hotel in search of a “petit taxi”. To give you an idea, “petit taxi” is one of the most common forms of transport in Moroccan cities. And every journey is taken very seriously. And literally, it feels like being in a race. The journey from the Ibis hotel to the Medina cost us about 2€ for the three of us. And, at different times, a heart attack on each one.
We were on holiday! We weren’t in any hurry at all! But the driver of our “petit taxi” was for sure in a hurry. Or so it seemed! After 5 minutes of frenzy – skipping traffic lights, cutting roundabouts and dodging donkeys, pedestrians, cars and motorcycles – we arrived at the Medina with a typical roller-coaster braking.
Relocated again, we entered the walled market. The further we went in, the more the smell of furs became noticeable. The Medina de Fes is famous for the dyeing of its leather. Luckily they didn’t that day. If you go someday, in the middle of the market you will find an area full of colored pools in which they submerge the leather to dye them of red, yellow, blue and other colors. They say the smell is so strong that sometimes it’s hard to breathe. This time it wasn’t like that.
As we looked at bags in one of the shops, a boy came running towards me to ask me if I had been able to eat well gluten-free in Fez. I was so surprised that it took me a while to react. He knew I was celiac because I was wearing a jacket with the Gluten Free Adventures logo that Isabel’s parents gave me.
After talking to him for a while and recommending a page of Instagram from a Moroccan celiac, he invited us into his workshop. It was full of remnants of leather that would become shoes, purses, handbags or jackets, among other things. They did everything by hand, with very rudimentary machines. We thought it was very interesting!
When we left, we followed the street until we reached the food stores… that part shocked me a lot! Below you will see a photograph of one of the butcher shops we saw. There was nothing in the fridge.
In the facebook album (you will find the link at the end of the post) you will see other pictures of really amazing products. I think what surprised me the most was the milk packaged in bottles of water or soft drink. You could buy from half a litre to a litre and a half.
Continuing upwards, we saw some shops where they had the live genre. That was fresh meat!
For obvious reasons, we moved quickly from the fish area to the legumes, vegetables and fruits area. Everything was sold there in bulk. A really interesting experience. I love traveling!
Going back to the hotel cost us a little bit more, as we didn’t agree on the price for the “petit taxi”. We were just a little short of time, so we decided to eat again in the restaurant of the hotel. I didn’t need to show the gluten-free travel card to the waiter because he remembered me of the night before. This time I ordered a tajin of kefta and egg. I had already tried this in Midelt and Merzouga. This one I enjoyed much more because, being only for me, I felt more comfortable.
After lunch, we said bye to the hotel car park guard and set out on our way to Chefchaouen, the Blue Pearl of Morocco. On the way to our last destination, we discovered a much greener part of the country. We thought it was very Mediterranean! Filled with fields and crops, it was beautiful!
You can see the pictures of the trip here.
BY CLICKING ON THE GLUTEN FREE RESTAURANTS MAP YOU WILL SEE ALL THE RESTAURANTS WE TALKED ABOUT LOCATED IN THE MAP:
BELOW YOU WILL FIND THE CELIAC TRAVEL CARD:
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!
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