Fridays are a special day here in Morocco, and today was the best one yet. Friday is the holy day in Islam, so once a week after Friday morning prayer, families across the country gather together to eat Couscous. People come home from work and kids get a few hours off work, and the whole country goes on pause in order to sit around a round little table and share a plate of Couscous. Couscous Fridays is such a special cultural tradition that you can’t order Couscous any other day of the week in Rabat, though more touristy cities offer it to tourists.
Normally, I go with some friends to a restaurant here called Dar Naji, who apparently serves the best Couscous in town. It’s always a lot of fun and absolutely delicious, but today, Mackenzie and I were invited to my old host family’s house for Couscous.
We arrived just after the prayer at 1:15 and the family welcomed us in and sat us down on their little couches. Abdelmajid chatted with us in French, but other than that the TV and conversation were in Darija, so I spent my time watching everything happening around me trying to make sense of it, and having flashbacks to last summer when we ate every meal there. One of the son’s wives was busy making the thin layers of philo pastry that would eventually be turned into Pastilla, a Moroccan pastry type dish stuffed with almonds and chicken. There were two little girls: Inez, who we met last summer, and what appeared to be her cousin. They were chasing each other around the room and laughing and playing. More and more people kept coming in and out of the house. I recognized most of them, but there were also some new faces.
Once everyone had arrived, Abdelmajid carried out the massive plate of Couscous and placed it on the table. Normally at Dar Naji, we each get out own plate, but here we all shared a massive plate full of more Couscous I’d ever seen in my life. I was grateful when one of the daughters – I think her name is Sanae – handed me a spoon to eat with. Last summer we ate everything with our hands, but I wasn’t sure how eating Couscous with your hands might be done. Everyone took a spoon except Abdelmajid, who explained he eats everything with his hands. And then we dug in. It was by far the most delicious Couscous I’ve ever had. Somehow, they get the vegetables so well cooked that they just melt away, and this Couscous was especially fluffy. The best part was sharing the giant plate with the whole family, because everyone just ate what they wanted. Since there were so many family members, there wasn’t enough room around the table, so they had this sort of unspoken system where once one person was done, they would leave their spoon and get up, and another person would pick up where they left off. I couldn’t believe how quickly the massive pile of food disappeared off the plate.
It was great to eat with the family again, and especially nice to experience such an important Moroccan tradition with a Moroccan family.