Disclaimer: sorry that there are not going to be amazing pictures of falafel in this post, seen as I was mugged on our second to last night in Morocco in Marrakech and my phone was stolen. I literally lost thousands of pictures documenting this whole summer and won't have a new phone for 2 weeks. Text Michelle if anyone needs anything. But now, back to our regularly scheduled programming
Before coming to Morocco, I originally thought that this country would be a falafel Mecca, since there is a heavy Middle Eastern and Arab influence. I thought I would have an overwhelming amount to eat and write about, but I've been proved wrong and I'm attributing the vast majority of my diet to tagine and couscous for the past two weeks (no complaints though). However, located on the western Atlantic coast of the country, Essaouira is a significant port city to the Moroccan economy, as well as a fun beach town that many Europeans spend their summer and holiday vacations in. Here, I finally found the buried treasure.
Exploring the squares and medinas in Morocco is like being on a game show called "Guess My Nationality." You really can't walk for more than a couple minutes without workers from the food stalls beckoning and approaching you to eat their food in 5 different languages. All we heard was "Hola! Bonjour! Ciao! Hello! Spain? Italy? France? Are you American? Nicki Minaj is that you?" Seriously, these people are aggressive and aren't afraid to pull your arm into their restaurant and proceed to shove 4 different menus in your face, all in different languages so you'll understand what you're ordering. Coming from the salesperson in me, I'll give it to them - they're smart, funny, and as annoying as they are, they have to make money somehow, and if I'm getting compared to famous pop stars, I guess it won't hurt to sit down for an inexpensive meal.
There were several food stalls boasting falafel on big signs in the Essaouira medina, so I just had to choose the one that looked the most cleanly, because we all know to avoid street food in foreign countries. I stopped in front of one, and without fail, the only English speaking waiter approached me, handed me a menu, and started spouting off the day's specials...point of no return. He sat me down at a small table facing the medina and began making me a falafel wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber. Restaurants in the squares and medinas in every single city have very touristy/Western items on the menu such as pizza, paninis, hamburgers, and even pasta, so it was no surprise that the waiter added French fries on the side with the wrap, when there is virtually no relationship with the two at all.
Overall, definitely not traditional falafel. Instead of chick peas or rice, it was made out of couscous, which I thought was hilarious, since couscous is such a Moroccan delicacy. It really had no flavor, no seasoning, and was pretty dry without hummus or baba ganoush to accompany it in the wrap. Falafel is pretty universally recognized, so it was understandable that they wanted to satisfy this market of people in Essaouira, even if it wasn't made by traditional standards. All in all, a bit of a disappointing experience, but what do you expect when these food stalls are ran by teenagers just looking to make a few dollars. It was filling though, and only cost 25 Dirham ($2.50 USD) so definitely a post-grad diet bargain.
While I was hoping that Morocco would satisfy my falafel fascination, it just didn't cut it unfortunately. Let's see what Portugal has to offer.