Marrakesh's culinary scene has improved considerably with a flurry of new restaurants opening in both the medina and Ville Nouvelle. That said, as traditionally Marrakshis don't eat out often, most medina restaurants are aimed squarely at the tourist market and meals can be hit-and-miss. In middle-class Gueliz, there's more of a local dining vibe with both Moroccan and international restaurants.

Snak Attack

The street-food scene is thriving in Marrakesh, so don't be afraid to jump on in. Hard-working souq workers with no time for a long lazy lunch head to a snak (kiosk) to feast on peppery merguez (spicy sausage), teyhan (stuffed spleen) and brochettes (kebabs). Join the queue at the one thronged with locals for the freshest, tastiest food.

At lunch time in the Ville Nouvelle, local office workers head to the string of restaurants along Rue Mohammed Bakkal for barbecued meats, caramelised tajines and offal.

Riad Dadas

The dadas (chefs) who work in the medina's riads are the unsung heroes of Marrakesh's culinary scene. Many riads open up their courtyard or rooftop restaurant to nonguests so you can sample different dadas' takes on Moroccan specialities. In nearly all cases, you have to book ahead because of both limited seating and so the dadas can plan the menu in advance.

Street Food Smarts

Enjoy street food and stay healthy with the following tips:

  • Make a beeline for busy stores Marrakshis are sticklers for freshness and know which places consistently deliver.
  • Look over the ingredients Check the food on display, especially if ordering meat or seafood.
  • Clean your hands before eating Much of what we call ‘food poisoning’ is actually illness caused by bacteria transferred from hand to mouth while eating.
  • Use bread to scoop up food This is how Moroccans eat, and it makes sense. Utensils are usually only briefly rinsed in cold water so not your best bet hygiene-wise.

Moroccan Menu Decoder

Let’s get one thing straight: Moroccan cuisine is more than tajines and couscous, though you’ll find these in abundance. Decode those sometimes rather befuddling Marrakesh menus with the list of popular dishes below.

Savoury Specialities

Beghrir Pancakes with a spongy crumpet-like texture. Usually served for breakfast.

Bissara Mashed broad beans with cumin, paprika, olive oil and salt.

Briouat Cigar-shaped or triangular pastry stuffed with herbs and goat’s cheese, meats or egg and then fried or baked.

Harira A hearty soup with a base of tomatoes, onions, saffron and coriander, often with lentils, chickpeas and/or lamb.

Kwa Grilled liver kebabs with cumin, salt and paprika.

Pastilla Savoury-sweet pie made of warqa (filo-like pastry) layered with pigeon or chicken, cooked with caramelised onions, lemon, eggs and toasted sugared almonds, then dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Sfenj Doughnuts (sometimes with an egg deep-fried in the hole).

Tajine The famous Moroccan stew cooked in a conical earthenware pot. Classic options are chicken with preserved lemon and olives, meatballs in a rich tomato sauce, topped with a sizzling egg and lamb with prunes and almonds served in a saffron-onion sauce.

Tanjia Crock-pot stew of seasoned lamb and preserved lemon, cooked for eight hours in the fire of a hammam.

Sweet Treats

Kaab el ghazal Crescent-shaped ‘gazelle’s horns’ cookie stuffed with almond paste and laced with orange-flower water.

Orange á cannelle Orange slices with cinnamon and orange-flower water.

Sfa Sweet cinnamon couscous with dried fruit and nuts, served with cream.