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Where to Smoke: Dar Moha Restaurant, Marrakech, Morocco

Posted: June 12, 2012

The “Red City’ of Marrakech (also spelled as Marrakesh) is the jewel in Morocco’s crown, and whether you bravely venture into the winding souks or simply marvel at the snow-peaked Atlas mountains framing the crimson city, you will no doubt fall under the spell of this unique world where snake charmers, monkey trainers and witch doctors all compete to ply their trade.

Most establishments in Marrakech are happy for their clientele to enjoy a cigar or two on the premises, with many bars and restaurants having designated smoking areas. So as the African sun sets, one can retreat to one of the stylish rooftop cafés or authentic belly dancing clubs, which vie to offer a real taste of Marrakech nights.

When it comes to eating, the city caters for all tastes. Market stalls in the main square, the Jemaa el-Fnaa, sell inexpensive local delicacies such as snails, pastries and figs, while five-star hotels serve world-class cuisine, with prices to match.

Winston Churchill, a renowned cigar lover, regularly visited the opulent La Mamounia Hotel, which he proclaimed “The most lovely spot in the whole world.” Former President Richard Nixon and famed actor and director Orson Welles are also reputed to have enjoyed a smoke or two in its expansive grounds.

The hotel has its very own Casa del Habano that stocks all the major Cuban brands such as Cohiba, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and Quintero, with such storied cigars as the H. Upmann Sir Winstons (of course) currently available.

At sunrise, and with lunch on the mind, Dar Moha restaurant (a short walk from the hotel) is the place to eat, drink and smoke. The place is widely recommended for its sumptuous food and atmospheric setting, but be sure to make an early reservation and take directions, as it is very popular with locals and tourists alike, and can be extremely difficult to find.

Locating the restaurant, after a long and circuitous route, is rather like stumbling across a beautiful oasis. The cool, thick walls of the Moroccan riad, together with its helpful, smiling hosts and formally suited staff, create an aura of utter tranquility. A flower-filled garden is a feast for the senses. Here, clutches of tables sit around a tiled aqua pool, set against a backdrop of electric blue walls. Silver cutlery and fine glass sparkles against linen strewn with pink petals, and live music is melodic and low key rather than intrusive.

Lunch is a set menu affair, and at roughly 40 euros per head, including wine, it offers a tempting array of dishes. Starters consist of plate upon plate of Moroccan specialities, prepared from the freshest vegetables imaginable and cooked in a myriad of different ways: rosewater onions, caramelized aubergine, grated carrot in orange, pickled lemon and spiced olives. The main courses are more solid affairs, consisting of a tajine of stuffed potato and vegetables with barbecued fish or meat dishes.

Local Moroccan wines can be excellent and far less expensive than those imported from France, and Dar Moha offers a delicious local rosé with its set meal. A variety of other wines, freshly squeezed juices and non-alcoholic cocktails are also available, and after-dinner drinks come in the form of strong coffee and the ever-present sweet mint tea, known locally as “Moroccan Whisky,” here infused with thick bunches of fresh mint leaves.

After dinner smoking is very much the norm, and plenty of guests end their meals with a cigar and a drink. After all, why not languish by the crystal clear pool a little longer…

Dar Moha Restaurant, La Mamounia Hotel
81 Rue Dar El Bacha (Medina)
Marrakech, Morocco
www.darmoha.ma
+212-524-38-64-00

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