While there is so much more to say about road tripping Portugal, a sidetrack to discuss an important food-related topic is in order. I thought I was familiar with Moroccan mint tea before moving to Rabat. I had eaten at a variety of Moroccan restaurants and felt confident that I knew what was up when it came to mint tea. Then came day 2 of living in Morocco wherein I realized that the REAL Moroccan mint tea tastes substantially different to what we’re served in the US thanks to a fistful of sugar cubes and mounds of fresh mint. Yes, I said a fistful of sugar. If you’re asked if you’d like sugar with your mint tea, you’re probably at a tourist location familiar with Western palate preferences.
Mint tea is a regular part of Moroccan culture and is served both with meals and throughout the day. A tea encounter can surprise you anywhere. I’ve found myself sharing tea with complete strangers while wandering the Salé Pottery Market and with Medina shop owners while discussing the various qualities of wool blankets. There is a “Salon de Thé on almost every street in Rabat, but there are a few ideal and quintessential spots for imbibing in the liquid sugar, also known as Moroccan whisky.
The Terrace in the Kasbah of the Udayas
Possibly one of my favorite spots to waste away a mild-temperate afternoon reading a book or people watching. There are two entrances to the Udayas. The first entrance takes you through the Udayas palace gardens and is the quickest route to the terrace. Nevermind the fake tour guides and women chasing after you with what appear to be hypodermic needles (not to worry, it is nothing but henna). The Udayas is filled with small shops selling argan oil, soaps, handicrafts, and art. The terrace is perched perfectly over the Bou Regreg River facing Salé. For 11 MAD (approx. $1.50) you’re served a fresh glass of mint tea and for an additional 8 MAD, you can buy a variety of Moroccan cookies.
Just outside the Udayas along the corniche is Le Dhow. The large wooden boat can’t be missed. While most people frequent Le Dhow for an expensive dinner or late night Karaoke and cocktails, it is ideal for a mint team break. On Sunday afternoons when the corniche is filled with families, vendors spinning cotton candy, and children lining up for carnival-esque rides, Le Dhow is in the midst of it all, but a bit less busy. This is shamefully expensive at 40 MAD, but it comes with the pleasure of lounging out on the deck on old boat on comfy cushions. I obviously can be easily persuaded.
A Rooftop Terrace Anywhere in the Medina
Initially I intended to write about some lovely rooftop destination where I enjoyed sipping mint tea and gazing over the rooftops at sunset. After 7 months in Rabat, I’ve learned that a good rooftop terrace in the Medina is hard to come by, yet completely worth the effort. Riad Kalaa has a rooftop with excellent tea and cookies for 30 MAD, but with a less-than-spectacular Medina view. For an excellent view, Riad Dar El Kébira is the spot to be, but I discovered that it takes some convincing for the owner to permit non-guests access to the terrace. The tea is ok and the tables and chairs have seen better days. I sat for a bit on the terrace and listened through the evening call to prayer watching a group of boys play soccer on a nearby rooftop and ladies hang their laundry to dry.