Moroccan restaurants are, as you would expect, just like any restaurant elsewhere in the world. Each one offers a chance to relax, watch the world go by, and eat something delicious—sometimes even decadent. While restaurants in Morocco run the gamut from hole-in-the-wall family establishments to world-class, 5-star dining, the vast majority of restaurants are, actually, almost mirror copies. This is to say, nearly every restaurant you’ll come upon will serve the same dishes as the one next door.
For travelers, this is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, knowing what to expect before you sit down can take away the uncertainty inherent in ordering foreign fare; you already know what to avoid, since you made sure not to order it yesterday. You probably already have a favorite in mind. On the other hand, if you spend a good amount of time in the country, the food on offer may become tedious. The blend of flavors and wide variety of fresh produce, though, are likely going to keep this latter situation at bay, and you’ll be free to focus on sampling the full range of foods Morocco has on offer.
There are, of course, a few rules of the road to keep in mind when it comes to dining out in Morocco:
Tip: It is expected that you tip your server, though just 10 percent will suffice. You are, of course, free to go beyond this number if your service was truly great, but there is no need. It should be noted, however, that in many regions of the country, tipping a single dirham is considered an insult—even if that is what the tip works out to be. So, even if your coffee was only 6 Dh, it is still best to leave a 2 Dh tip.
Diner-Waiter Relations: Your server will show you to your seat, offer a menu and then make himself scarce. Don’t think that you’re being ignored; this is simply the Moroccan norm. It will be your job to get the waiter’s attention when you are ready to order, need assistance or pay.
Tajine/Couscous Etiquette: While some restaurants will have a few tajines or plates of couscous ready to go, the majority will not, especially if you’re arriving outside of peak hours. While they will be happy to cook to order, be aware that these dishes take time. Many restaurants will happily allow you to order ahead, ensuring your tagine has been simmered to perfection by the time you sit down. Ask around to find out which restaurants or cafes may be best.
Language: Nearly all restaurants, even those you would not expect, have a foreign language menu … but the language is French. English menus (and signage in general) are hard to come by, so make sure you learn a few key food items before heading out. This tip is handy across the board, not just in terms of dining. Morocco is an Arabic-speaking country, but French is still the go-to second language and is probably going to be your gateway to communicating with the locals. Brush up a bit before you go, and you’ll have a much richer experience for it.
Finally, remember to say thank you. A simple shukran will bring a smile to your waiter’s face and probably your fellow diners as well. Might I recommend the harsha?
Written by Margaret Jackson.
Photo by stevec77.