A curious phenomenon occurs every evening about an hour before dark on the sidewalks near the intersection of our street, Charia Wafa, and the main route out of town to the small city of Sefrou. This street is named Avenue Moulay Rachid. By the time night fall occurs, there emerges a number of enterprising retailers offering all sorts of consumer products. Among the independent small-business operators are a number of food-service providers. The food offered is eclectic, limited to only a couple of choices by each provider, and in some cases outside the usual fast food fare found in the many “snack” restaurants.
Most of the providers have a cart of some type that enables them to transport their product and whatever equipment they use to prepare the food they sell. For example, there are always at least two or three venders with the ability to boil fairly large vats of water. Popular among the dishes prepared simply by putting the food in boiling water are chickpeas and escargot. Evidently, there are lots of snails that can be located in the environs outside the city because it appears to be a popular request and I am unaware of any stores that make them available. To be honest, some of the supply looks pretty sketchy.
I went out and talked with a couple of the vendors last week, including a young man named Azidine (picture below). His particular specialty is a type of sandwich. He has a large supply of a type of processed canned meat. It appeared to me much like Spam or some type of luncheon meat. He offers the sandwich (the bread used is a baguette) with just the meat product, or a boiled egg can be added for an extra couple of dirhams. He has a supply of bottled water he sells, but also is capable of preparing mint tea. I have to admit I passed on the canned-meat.
Moroccans also like a type of soup called harira. During Ramadan, many families eat it every night. There is another provider who limits his product line to harira and bread. Of course the soup must be prepared beforehand, but a buta-gas hot plate and a large pot enables him to keep the soup hot the three hours or so he is open for business.
Some of the food is not prepared food as the pictures of the dates and nuts indicate. And some folks bring in a single product when it is in season like the purveyor of figs. There are always a number of fruit vendors with larger carts who might have three or four types of fruit available, while others are specialists like the apples and oranges guy below.
Although it is not an example of a person purchasing food for immediate consumption, I told Denise I saw what has to be one of the toughest sales jobs imaginable for making a living. I saw a guy in a neighborhood where a friend lives on the other side of town who had one of the push carts with some produce. Dressed as he was, I inferred that he had probably brought some of his own crop in to sell in the city. The problem as I saw it was that he had only radishes. I have no idea what the demand for radishes is on any given day in that part of town, but I would guess it’s difficult to count on a lot of volume to ensure a decent profit on his labor. I did notice that he had washed everything well and had a nice presentation.
One other food that is popular as a walking around snack is a “sphinge.” They are usually sold from a fixed location, but one walks up to a counter and from the sidewalk places an order. Denise and I were introduced to this very unhealthy but tasty snack in 1971. Having lived in Kenitra with only a month’s experience in cross-cultural living, we decided to venture out on a city bus to the Atlantic coast city of Mehdia Beach. I remember it being a Sunday afternoon and we thought it daring of us to try to make the 30 minute or so trip on our own. This was during February so it was pretty cool, but we walked along the coast, sat down in a café and had a coke, and then noticed people purchasing something that looked like a doughnut from a little store. We investigated and decided to try them. They proved to be deliciously greasy, and sufficiently sweet to satisfy the fairly well-developed sweet-tooth that we each have. Denise has visited the one on our street more than once this trip.
To be honest, we are pretty careful about the things we eat, especially something that we are less than sure about it being safe to eat. I can assure you that no snails are on my list of new foods to try, even if available in a restaurant and called escargot. Goofy though we are, there are some standards we try to maintain. Nevertheless, all these food vendors in the street create something akin to a carnival atmosphere most every night. Life could be less interesting.
Pictures by Denise