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The Best Ras El Hanout in Marrakech

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June 19, 2014 / Moroccan / By
Rachael

A wander along the chaotic labyrinth of stalls, shops and doorways that is the souk of Marrakech reveals many intriguing niches to explore. Within the medina are many smaller streets and neighbourhoods  focused on their trades. The Souk Cherratine is the leather working area and Souk Ghazal is for wool. And then there is Rahba Kedima.

At one time the square in Rahba Kedima was a slave market, attracting traders from all over Africa. Today the focus is on the apothecaries that trade here, giving advice, and using ancient remedies. Instantly recognisable by the snakeskins hanging outside, mysterious jars and conical displays of spices and dyes, this is a place to gaze in wonder, to smell the various items on display, and to purchase spices. It is said there is black magic around here too, and the containers at the back of the shop are somewhat mysterious, but today I'm after the best Ras El Hanout in town.

As I speak to Mohammed, the owner, I learn a lot about the items for sale. There are cures for snoring, impotence, and strange rashes on the shelves and a constant stream of locals looking for medicines. I learn that a clove tree takes 20 years to grow and then bears fruit for another fifty. Coriander originated from the Mediterranean and has a much stronger flavour in Morocco. Harissa, used in flavouring tagines and couscous, is a blend of pimento, rose, olive oil, garlic, cumin and coriander and is a Moroccan staple. There are rose petals, musk and incense too, and the scents hit me with their heady smell. With piles of coloured spices on display this really is a feast for the senses. Mohammed points me to his Ras El Hanout, a blend of rose, cinnamon, and cloves with other spices addded. Known as the "Head of the Shop," housewives know where to find their favourite mixes for their cooking. My mixture of Ras El Hanout has ginger as well as the main ingredients. There's a knowing look in Mohammed's eye as no spice seller is going to reveal the magic combination of spices for the best Ras El Hanout in town.With bags of spices ready to take home for tagines and fruit cakes I have memories to mix into my culinary creations.

At night Marrakech is transformed into a colourful market of food stalls as the Djemaa El Fna comes to life. As flames leap into the air from the grills of marinated meats it is clear the spice sellers have done well trading today. This is one of the great meeting places in Africa and there are crowds of people mingling, eating, and sealing a deal over a meal in the open air.

Back home, as the Ras El Hanout is mixed into my chicken tagine, the warm nights of Marrakech return with the colours of the houses and the mystery behind the narrow passageways of the souk. Just for a moment I'm back in Marrakech smelling those heady spices and trying to guess the secret ingredient of the best Ras El Hanout in town.

 


N/A

Country: Morocco

Province/State: Marrakesh-Tensift-El Haouz

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Price Guide:$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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