The Kasbah Chronicles
Les Chroniques de la Kasbah
en anglais et en français
Now in its tenth year! Dixième année!
Greetings from the oasis of Tinerhir, on Morocco’s Kasbah Trail
Revisiting the Kasbah Trail (cont.)
Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Essaouira and the Oualidia lagoon
Fig tales encore
My LONG YELLOW fig tree grown from a cutting, is bearing fruit!
Kitty in the mediaon A Growing Passionon KPBS
What to make with all those lemons?
Lemon syrup OR limoncello…
Food: Get ready for Mars!
Only in California
News of Morocco and beyond
JOIN ME! Become a docent
The California Center for the Arts needs docents and ushers
Profs: Programmez une visite du musée en français
The MOON in literature
Kitty is selling Moroccan artifacts and more
Thank you to those who “LIKED” the Facebook page for Dar Zitoun Riad. View our historic home and keep checking the LIKE button! Spread it around! Merci!!
And thank you to the ones who have taken the time to write a review of Mint Tea and Minaretson Amazon.com. Every little word helps.
The Kasbah Trail (cont.)
I first travelled this mythical trail when I was 7 or 8, when my father, the co-founder of what has become Morocco’s annual national folklore festival, combed the Atlas Mountains to invite Berber tribal leaders to perform on the Marrakech stage. The task took much persuasion on his part, but the fact that this English expat spoke bad French and hardly any Arabic may have played in his favor. Just another “eccentric” Englishman! And the folklore festival, now an annual event, lives on! In my last Chronicles I described our excursion to the sand dunes of Merzouga on camel back—memorable.
From Erfoud, the northernmost oasis on the trail, a narrow, two-lane road winds past dozens of fortified Berber villages, called ksour, nestled among the oases of the Dadès Valley. The Kasbah of Tinerhir, featured in such films as The Wind and the Lionand The Jewel of the Nileguards the entrance to the imposing Todra Gorges. Past the market town of Boumalne, at El Kaala des Mgouna, Damascene roses grow in profusion, and women-owned co-ops have revitalized the region thanks to the manufacture of rose-infused beauty products. Fabled Ouarzazate, once home to the French Foreign legion, has gone “Bollywood”. Golf (yes!) aficionados play on verdant desert courses (yes, and what about the water table?) and foreign film crews locate an iconic background. The Berbère Palace Hotel and its manicured grounds provide a refuge from achergui(or sirocco, hot wind), as does its vast swimming pool. Much of the lobby’s decor comes from left-over movie sets at the local Atlas movie studios.
The drive across the High Atlas mountains is always exciting—the road is quite narrow at times, and hairpin curves might make your hair stand on end (on one memorable childhood trip our car’s brakes failed, and my father rode the clutch all the way down the highest mountain in North Africa ). Stop for a selfie at the Tizi n’Tichka pass(Col du Tichka in French) at an elevation of 7,410 ft, with the mountain panorama as a backdrop. Or indulge in a freshly grilled brochette or two such as these (don’t forget to dip them in ground cumin!}
A spine tingling ride down the mountain culminates at La Ville Rose, the Pink City, Marrakech, no over a million strong. My perspective on this once glorious town has dramatically changed. The city has turned into a destination for the jet set, with all that entails: expensive lodgings, expensive food, peak traffic times leading to complete gridlock, and overrated restaurants and stores. In the rapidly dwindling palm grove, palm trees are getting scarcer as multi-million dollar holiday homes take their place. I admit, I am biased: I used to go to Marrakech as a 7-year old, and help my mother gather the Seville oranges that fell from the trees lining the streets so she could make REAL English marmalade. That Marrakech is no more—even the Jardins Majorelle –a botanic garden created in the last century by one of Morocco’s most notable painters, were taken over by Yves St Laurent.
Did you know that this iconic blue, in French called Bleu Majorelle, was first concocted by Jacques Majorelle himself?
Yves St Laurent boutique
Leave Marrakech behind to head for the Atlantic and Essaouira, a tourist destination that works hard at maintaining its soul. The town attained its worldwide reputation as an art colony thanks to André Azoulay, an Essaouira native and once an advisor to the King. Azoulay created a gathering place for international artists and musicians such as the Gnawas, descendants of African slaves who perform with the likes of Mick Jagger and other famed musicians. The medina and its Portuguese ramparts retain their authenticity (although most riads are owned by foreigners and turned into Air B and Bs). A word to the wise: the beach is TERRIBLY windy (good for windsurfing.)
Essaouira and environs is where argan trees grow wild: this is the only natural argan forest in the world. Therefore, another word to the wise about ARGAN: READ THE LABEL:You may find that the “organic” “natural” product you purchased contains a variety of chemicals—as one passenger realized when we visited an argan oil cooperative in the heart of argan country. If you purchase the product outside Morocco, check how far down argan oil is on the list of ingredients. If it’s inexpensive, it is NOT true argan oil!
argan “nuts”and harvesters:
goats LOVE argan drupes. . .
From Essaouira, I like to head north along the most picturesque coastal drive in the country, and stop for lunch at L’Hippocampe restaurant (French for The Seahorse), on the Oualidia lagoon. When I was growing up, Oualidia is where casablancaisand marrakchiswent to escape the city heat. You too, will be seduced by the panoramic view, flower-filled gardens, and fresh seafood. A second generation of family owners has upgraded the menu but still relies on oysters fresh from nearby oyster beds, sea urchins, and mounds of fresh mussels and clams. In May 2019, a new road was being built to link up with the freeway, and the detour was quite long and bumpy. Brace yourself, and stay the course: you will not regret it. I wish I could have attended this festival!
Oualidia Lagoon and some of the local seafood:
Next issue: Back to Dar Zitoun and Azemmour
Makes about 10 skewers
In Morocco, beef or lamb (or chicken, or fish) is cut into 3/4-inch cubes maximum, unlike the large chunks served in the Middle East. Smaller pieces make it easier to slip the meat off the skewer with a piece of bread. Slip 5 or 6 cubes on the same stick (don’t forget a piece of lamb fat!) Dip each cube in cumin for an authentic Moroccan experience.
1 pound boned leg of lamb, trimmed of fat (reserve the fat)
1 tablespoon preserved lemon pulp
½ onion, grated
15 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped
10 sprigs fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Extra cumin, for dipping
Harissa, hot sauce, for serving (optional)
Combine meat with preserved lemon pulp, onion, cilantro, parsley, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and garlic. Mix with the cubes of meat. Marinate for 2 hours or overnight.
Heat coals or grill to the red hot stage, or preheat a broiler. Grill to desired doneness. Serve with cumin and harissaon the side.
adapted from Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from my Moroccan Kitchen by Kitty Morse.
Kitty in the media:
Watch for my article on The Kasbah Trail Revisitedin Wine, Dine, and Travel, a beautiful, online, travel magazine.
Again, thank you to Nan Sterman host of A Growing Passionon KPBS: A rerun of the show is always a lovely surprise: need a refresher on how to preserve lemons?
FIG TALES (redux);
We had to cut down our first fig tree because it was so prolific that the tree bent over under the weight of the fruit! We planted a cutting in another location: My Long Yellow is thriving, and I am awaiting a new crop to make raspberry fig jam. I kid you not, the first fig was as large as an orange:
I am trying to find use for all the Meyer lemons still hanging from my tree: preserved lemons; marmalade, lemon syrup, and now, LIMONCELLO! Anyone have other ideas?
Edible Book Festival: A hoot!
Have you discovered Run for Cover bookstore in Ocean Beach (San Diego)
Located two blocks from Sunset Cliffs. Marianne, the owner, speaks French, and promises personalized service. Pay her a visit then take a walk along Sunset Cliffs.
Speaking of Sunset Cliffs:
These cliffs are brittle, and disintegrate regularly. Signs abound warning how dangerous that is: So, what do visitors do? Step over the warning fences to take selfies on the edge of the cliffs. Will I feel sorry for them if they tumble into the sea? I don’t think so:
Only in California:
A woman led Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputies on a brief chase, hit a utility pole and then did a series of yoga poses in the road after exiting her vehicle. Willits News
The California Center for the Arts in Escondido, CA. needs docents and ushers
Profs de français, cette visite peut être programmée pour tous niveaux, même les tous petits : Encouragez vos élèves à pratiquer la langue parlée. Rendez-nous nous visite pour l’expo de dessins d’Edgar Degaset de ses contemporains.
Edgar Degas etchings are on exhibit this month. And if you haven’t experienced one of the county’s art treasures, now is the time: Queen Calafia’s Magic Circle is a world-renowned installation in Escondido (CA). Scale model of the Magic Circle on display at the Niki de St Phalle retrospective.
Become a Museum Docent! It’s fun, educational, and you can do it on your own time.
The California Center for the Arts, Escondidomuseum seeks to provide North County San Diego with wide-ranging exhibitions that highlight contemporary artwork. Each show is accompanied by a dedicated Student Gallery Wall as a commitment to supporting young artists in the community. Tours are scheduled on demand for all ages. Please contact Mikee Ferran, Museum Program Coordinator, at [email protected]. Would your group like to practice speaking French? I will be happy to accommodate with a tour en français. Email Mikee to schedule.
News of Morocco and beyond:
Amine Kabaj is trying to push a conservative Arab society forward by showcasing contemporary artists. https://www.ozy.com/provocateurs/the-man-modernizing-morocco-through-art/81268
A Legacy of the Arab occupation in Spain: Water conservation
La Normandie et le débarquement recréé en OHIO!
Normandy landings and Recreating D-Day in Ohio. AUG 15 to 17, 2019
How we are faked out on Food ads
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BD-a6Xy8dog&feature=youtu.beFor WW: https://www.independent.com/2019/07/17/betty-fussell-is-fierce-funny-and-frank/
A new twist on the French version of The Amazing Race: La Carte aux Trésors en Amérique
A good question: Pourquoi les Americains sont-ils si généreux avec Notre Dame?
SAY FROMAGE:Now, that’s a tour I would LOVE to take!
TRAVELERS AND READERS REJOICE!Airport bookstores are seeing the light:
Good news for travelers: a number of airport bookstores have a “read and return” program that will give you a 50% refund on a book purchased at one of their stores within six months.
SPACE SPACE AND MORE SPACE:
As you know, I played at being an astronaut at SPACE CAMP (www.spacecamp.com) in Huntsville, AL, last Valentine’s weekend.
Moon, Mars, orSan Carlos, CA??? Are you ready for food grown by robots?