(Kingston, Ontario, Canada)
My visit to Morocco involved quite a road trip. After visiting Casablanca, Safi, Marrakech and the Oukaïmeden ski resort, we drove through the sparsely settled interior to my friends’ place in Ifrane. Ifrane is an atypical Moroccan town: it was developed as a winter sports resort and is home to a proportionately very large expatriate population. One of the reasons is the modern Al-Akhawayn University: you can see it in the picture at the top of this post.
The long journey from Oukaïmeden to Ifrane contained two of my most vivid memories of Morocco: the discovery of a watercourse called “Oued Ouaoumana” and my very first encounter with “kefta”. The watercourse’s name highlights the fact that “W” is not a letter that occurs very often in French (the colonial language of Morocco). As for kefta…
We had been on the road for quite a while and we were all getting quite hungry. However, as we were definitely off the tourist trail, dining options were extremely limited. Near the town of Beni Mellal, we found a roadside stall (not even a shack) that appeared to be patronized by truck drivers. My friend told me that they served kefta – something I had never heard of before. He ordered some for me, explaining that they take ground raw meat and serve it in a kind of pita.
I felt myself go very pale. I was starving but I had never been much of a red meat eater. The prospect of eating it raw from this remote, ramshackle and unrefrigerated roadside stall made me very uneasy. We were still several hours from Ifrane – wasn’t this asking for trouble? This is precisely the kind of thing that all the travel books tell you not to do! Upon receiving my order of kefta, I found out that my friend had neglected to tell me one very important fact: they do in fact cook the meat before putting it in the pita. I don’t think I have ever felt so relieved. It tasted good, too.
My trip to Morocco reinforced just how much variation (from palm trees to ski resorts!) there can be within a country, even one that is relatively small by Canadian standards. And Morocco, of course, is only one small part of a very large and diverse continent that straddles both the northern and southern hemispheres. Speaking of the southern hemisphere...it’s almost time to go! Did I mention that I might do some skiing this summer?