One of the greatest experiences that I’ve been able to offer to my groups is the cooking class in the Atlas Mountains. Just a short hour’s drive from Marrakech through the winding mountain pass and we arrive at the home of a local Berber family. A true hidden gem tucked away in the village of Imlil, you won’t find vans full of tourists or large groups of people here. It’s one of those places that are by special invite only.
The first time I took a group there we couldn’t help but notice the stunning views that surrounded us. To say that the views are breathtaking is an understatement and borders on insulting. The family home is modest, built with stone and accents of blue and a porch that faces the mountain. Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, is front and center with the valley dipping below.
Surrounding the house is a garden full of herbs and vegetables that we use in the traditional dishes that we learn to cook. Tagine, zalouk, various salads, bread and of course, lots of tea. Tagine is one of the most well-known dishes and is named for the cookware used to make it in. Made of clay with a round base and a conical top that allows the heat to rise and circulate inside, it’s a staple of Moroccan cooking.
Zalouk is an eggplant dish with tomatoes and we also made a typical tomato salad with cilantro and onion. Spices of ginger, salt, cumin, paprika, ras el hanut and turmeric along with garlic…so delicious.
One of the hardest things to make was the bread, it’s made all by hand, with yeast, and has to be kneaded…actually beat, in order for it to be nice and fluffy. Needless to say that mine wasn’t as good as the bread made by Khadijah, but it was at least edible.
While we’re waiting for the food to finish cooking, we’re able to sit in the shade and enjoy the views, as well as each other’s company. It’s so quiet, so relaxing and one of my favorite activities. We are the only group there, we have our own private retreat for the afternoon and it’s glorious.
Once the food is ready we go to the porch and eat until the seams on our pants burst…then we have to sit for about 30 minutes before we can get up to walk around.
Words can only do so much, you just have to experience it for yourself with a few of your closest friends. Click here to see the full itineraries and join a trip.