Local Adventures: Hunt for the Rosemary [Casablanca, Morocco]


Another night of cooking. Me and a couple girls were walking on Ibnou Nafiss getting fresh ingredients from the local merchants. One of our items on the list was rosemary, but we had forgotten how to say it in French.

We asked around the various spice shops, forcing one vendor to open 10 cans of herbs and spices for us to whiff only to be continuously disappointed as we continued down the street. Even saying “rosemary” with a French accent didn’t help much.

I was determined to find this herb, and more importantly, the word for it. After all, this had been one of the only times that the language barrier had really affected me, where my French had finally failed to guide me to exactly what I wanted. After buying fresh mangos, I decided to ask one of the merchants about it. I tried to compare it to other herbs whose French names I was familiar with, but he still seemed puzzled, just like the butcher and the spice vendors. Intrigued, he insisted we follow him down the street to an apartment. He rang up, speaking rapid Arabic. A women came down, offering us dried lavender, went back upstairs and down again several times with various herbs and spices, none of which we were looking for. Another man came down, welcomed us in as we were greeted by two Moroccan women. We attempted to explain further, that we really didn’t want to bother, but the woman insisted and ran up one last time, bring back down with her an entire bowl of fresh rosemary. Romarin.

Not only did she absolutely insist that we take some, but the whole gang was very curious as to where we were from and what we were doing here in Casablanca. We had a lovely conversation and they welcomed us to their home any time for couscous, so we grabbed the number of the merchant who had lead us there as the women were already trying to set a couscous appointment with us for next Saturday.

We left, very thankful and with a generous portion of rosemary. Nowhere else in the world have I felt more welcomed, more taken care of than here in Morocco. I have traveled a decent amount and I can say confidently that this is the first destination where anyone and everyone would drop anything and everything to help out (or at least inquire about) me, as a tourist. I try to play out the same or similar situations as they would appear in America or Canada. It doesn’t fit. I won’t even open my door for the Mormons anymore, much less if a strange foreigner came to my doorstep looking for herbs.
This, I would say, is culture shock at its finest.

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1 comment

  1. Posted by Sheena Melwani, at Reply

    I’ve had SUCH a similar experience here in Malaysia – people are so willing to help – and it’s so different from Canadians and Americans. I know that when I get back home I am going to play it forward! I hope I get the chance to show tourists the kindness that I have been shown while abroad :)