As noted in a prior post, Jemaa el-Fna is the largest city square in all of Africa. For the most part, it's a wild and crazy place--which I'll cover in a future post--but while our experiences there were wild and crazy, they were also thought-provoking and educational. Two contrasting experiences in particular illustrate this: our lunch at Chez Lamine and our experience with the Muslim call to prayer.
Our guide Abdul somehow picked up on our interest in food and our willingness to try new things. Maybe it's because we were so entranced by the olives and nuts and dates we purchased from vendors in the souks. Maybe it's because we were so fascinated by butcher shop windows. Maybe it's that we looked so well fed.
Or MAYBE it was because Bob was pestering him about taking us somewhere authentic, not a TOURIST place. "Where do YOU like to eat?" Bob asked Abdul.
Well, I can now tell you what authentic dish Abdul likes to eat: sheep's head roasted in a pit, served up fresh at Chez Lamine Hadj Mustapha. It may be crazy to us Americans, but it isn't wild. It's domestic.
Chez Lamine sounds innocuous enough, and the menu, if one doesn't look too closely, seems acceptable. I recognized the picture of a tangia, an urn-shaped Moroccan cooking pot that we saw everywhere. The restaurant itself was not large--maybe six or seven small paper-covered tables that could be moved around to make bigger tables--and there was nothing fancy about it. There also wasn't anything too obvious that screamed out, "WARNING! WARNING!" (unless you speak enough French to translate Tete de Mouton, which means "Head of Sheep").
Their outside decor, on the other hand, was not so enticing (although Bob would disagree). What is that sticking out of the tangia on the right?
If you thought it was an upside down sheep head, you were correct. You did guess that, right?