Wednesday

Eyewitness Marrakech, Morocco: Entrepreneur Amanda Mouttaki

Amanda Mouttaki the entrepreneur and mother of two boys immigrated to Morocco from the US. Amanda blogs about it. She and her husband Youssef made their dream of showing tourists the best hidden spots to eat real Moroccan food in the Medina come true and founded Marrakech Food Tours in 2013. Amanda travels a lot and ever since 2007 she is the face behind the blog Maroc Mama. Amanda was so very lovely to share some of her Marrakech tips with us.


THE TOURISTIN: Three words that characterize Marrakech?

Amanda Mouttaki: Red, Chaotic, Old.

THE TOURISTIN: How do you get around Marrakech?

Amanda Mouttaki: We walk a lot! The medina can't be navigated with cars and while motorbikes are allowed it's still hard. If you're visiting count on your feet to get you around!

THE TOURISTIN: What is the best kept secret about Marrakech?

Amanda Mouttaki: Very few tourists ever make it beyond the medina. They don't realize the city of Marrakech extends kilometers beyond the center. If you want to see how people live day to day, venture to some of the neighborhoods outside the middle. There aren't lots of sites to see but taking a walk in a local neighborhood will show you a completely different side of life here.

THE TOURISTIN: What is your favourite borough/suburb/area in Marrakech and why?

Amanda Mouttaki: My favorite area is the Kasbah. Why? Well I think the personal connection helps - it's where I met my husband! But I also like this area because it combines everyday life with business. There's a mix here that you don't see in the medina as much. I also love the streets here; you really never know what is around the corner! Stop at Cafe Clock if you're in the area, or pull up a chair in one of the small restaurants that line the main street. You'll also find small shops where people are making a variety of handicrafts and everyday items.

THE TOURISTIN: The best place for a coffee or mint tea in Marrakech?

Amanda Mouttaki: While many tourists look for a "restaurant" for coffee or tea, instead drop into a patisserie. These small unassuming shops don't often have names that are visible but you'll see lots of cookies in the windows or display fridges inside. You can order coffee or tea along with a pastry or cookies. These shops are also known for their fruit and milk smoothies. Try avocado and almond, it's wildly popular with Moroccans.

THE TOURISTIN: What is one restaurant we must try out while in Marrakech?

Amanda Mouttaki: Only one?!?! I have to give three to hit all ends of the spectrum.

High end: Visit La Grande Table Marocaine at the Royal Mansour, and you'll feel like royalty if only a few hours.

Mid-range: The Amal Women's Restaurant and Training Center, a great cause to train disadvantaged women gain employment after an internship and excellent food that's affordable.

Low end: The restaurant has no name, but go to the Ta'ala area of Marrakech - a small area mixed into the leather souks. You'll find a tall, skinny man wearing a tall white chef's hat. He has a basic stove burner out front with lots of pots. Everyday he makes 4-5 items and the food is exceptional. It's real Moroccan home cooking.

THE TOURISTIN: Where would we meet you on weekends?

Amanda Mouttaki: Weekends mean my kids are home so usually doing mom things like football practice and English lessons. But when we do get out we like to head into the High Atlas Mountains to escape the city. Even a few hours there make me relax.

THE TOURISTIN: Do you have a favourite museum/gallery we all have to visit when in Marrakech?

Amanda Mouttaki: The David Bloch Gallery always has a nice rotating display of artwork. My favorite museum is the Maison de Photographie. It's such a wonderful look into Morocco that was and I simply love imagery.

THE TOURISTIN: What are some of your favourite places to shop for A) groceries and B) clothes?

Amanda Mouttaki: I always do my grocery shopping in the souks near my house. There's always fresh seasonal produce and the prices can't be beat. I would rather support these small farmers and merchants. We also shop at the AYASO concept store in Gueliz for gluten-free products (my husband has celiac disease) and if I'm in the area Le Pain Quotidien on Allal al Fassi for their their wide range of breads, pastries and gluten free baked goods.

For Moroccan wear it's normal here to have a tailor make you the long robes, or shirts to your liking (it's also very affordable). But if you don't have the time to wait I love Kaftan Queen. Modern Moroccan inspired style that's laid back. Bennina Shoes is also a great stop for custom Moroccan inspired footwear at a fraction of the price you'd pay in Europe.

THE TOURISTIN: What souvenir shall we bring back from Marrakech?

Amanda Mouttaki: A carpet! But seriously, a carpet. Maybe not everyone has the same love I do and sure carpets are a bit cliché but I adore Moroccan rugs. You'll have to haggle hard, don't get swindled and find something you absolutely love (just never let the salesman know you love it). Everyone needs a Moroccan rug!

Thank you so very much Amanda for the lovely insight. I wish you and Youssef (and your two boys) all the very best for Marrakech Food Tours. Find Amanda on Twitter.

Read Inside Marrakech's food scene with Marrakech Food Tours to get an idea about what the food tour in Marrakech is all about.

From Berlin with love

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Greetings stranger. I always try to be myself and to be a tourist as often as I can. I would love to get in contact with lots of hard travelling tourists who love to be out and about as much as I do. I am looking forward to all your comments. Thanks so much in advance.