“Good morning! How are you? When are you coming back? The weather is beautiful in Marrakech,” he said in one sentence.
“I’m counting the time until I can get back there!” I said as I fell back into a dreamy Moroccan state.
To round out the cast of characters on my Morocco trip…. I have to tell you about Abdoul.
Abdoul was recommended to me by Meryanne, owner of Jnane Tamsna, where I stayed with my students for 2 weeks in Morocco. She said I would love him, that he’s the guide of guides, knows everyone and won’t waste a minute of our time.
Abdoul is a guy who’s bigger than life in both stature and spirit. When I met him for the first time, I felt like I’d struck gold. And as the days passed, I got richer and richer.
Every day we wandered into the souk, the hub of life in Marrakech. It's full of bright color, a mix of sounds and smells of olive, saffron, mint and leather. And it's wild! Scooters buzzing by and hawkers selling everything from shoes and purses to ceramics and rugs.
On the first day, Lisa, one of my students saw a straw bag in the souk that she liked. She asked the price. I think the shop keeper wanted 100 dirham or about 12 bucks. Abdoul said, “We’ll give you 50!” at which point he handed her a 50 dirham bill and grabbed the bag. No fooling around.
“Hmmmmm “ I said kinda liking this guy. Nope, Meryanne was right, he won’t waste our time.
The next day in the medina or center of the old town, we passed the same woman selling straw bags. Another student, Susanne, decided she also wanted a bag. In Morocco, if you buy two of anything, it’s always cheaper. This time, since Abdoul got a better price for Susanne than the day before, he gave Lisa back a few dirham.
Yup, I really like this guy. He's not only a great bargainer, he’s honest, genuine and a great shopper showing us all of the best artisans. But what I loved most was that Abdoul showed us streets in Marrakech where no tourists venture. We saw the real souk, his medina.
Towards the end of the week, he came to our kitchen at Jnane Tamsna and brought all of the makings for a tangia. Don’t get tangia mixed up with tagine, a popular stew made in a conical pot. A tangia is a stew made in a tall terracotta urn that’s cooked overnight in the embers of the hammam.
In the kitchen that day, he assembled his famous tangia and carried it off to the hammam.
Was it delicious? It was as warm, inviting and wonderful as Abdoul!
Oh, delicious too!
Abdoul's Tangia6 pounds beef shanks
2 whole preserved lemons
2 heaping tablespoons ground cumin
12 whole peeled cloves garlic
5 tablespoons smen or preserved butter (or unsalted butter
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup water
Rub the beef shanks with the preserved lemon. Place the shanks on the bottom of the tangia pot. Top with the remaining pieces of lemon, cumin, garlic, smen, saffron and water.
Place foil over the top and parchment on top of that. Tie securely with twine and place in the embers of a smoldering hamman (You have one in your backyard of course, don't you?) overnight.
In the morning, remove the twine, paper and foil. Give it a stir and serve this succulent stew.