By Audrey Sykes—
Downtown Marrakesh is bursting in flavor, from the colorful riad hotels to the lively and entertaining Djemaa el Fna. It’s easy to be overwhelmed, especially when it comes to dining. To help ease you into dinnertime, here are five things to remember when dining out in Marrakesh.
1. Wash your hands
It’s a given for locals, but visitors often forget—washing hands before meals is an crucial prep move in Morocco. Clean hands mean clean utensils, as many Moroccan dishes are devoured using the right hand. Also, shopping around the busy souk market is a hands-on activity for the millions who drop by; it’s smart to sanitize. Every café and restaurant should have a small sink with soap in the restroom, so lather up before chowing down.
2. Say no to alcohol
Don’t expect a frosty beer selection or fine wine list to pair on every Moroccan menu: Most restaurants do not sell alcohol. However, cocktails and the like can be found in the many bars and clubs within Marrakesh. Luckily, there are a variety of other beverages to choose from (see below).
3. Say yes to mint tea
There will never be a restaurant without hot mint tea on the drink menu, so order one upon sitting down for a cultural nightcap. Fresh mint leaves are brewed best in the intricately decorated silver-plated pots. The pour—a single stream cascading from the spout a half-meter down to the cup—is essential and easily the most impressive performance of the evening. Be aware that Moroccans drop an abundance of sugar cubes into this steamy nip, so get ready for a minty sweet sensation.
4. Shop around
Getting lost in Marrakesh’s souk streets might bring you to a local culinary find, but it probably won’t. It’s best to stick to the busy and bustling areas of the center and surrounding area. Yet, like every city center, there are many over-priced cafés reeling in passersby, so shop around before deciding who will get your business. Do not feel pressured to eat somewhere because someone’s giving an arm tug; look at the menu, the price, and then decide if it’s worth it.
5. How the locals eat (cheaply)
Cheap eats bursting with as many sights as smells are found at the many food tents that open in the Djemaa el Fna by nightfall. Offering everything from snail soup to grilled veggies and other specialties, these small tents are equipped with benches for seating and an open kitchen to watch chefs at work. These open-air restaurants have menus cheaper than other establishments and offer savory dishes in an entertaining atmosphere.