Endlessly signifying a crossroads between Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Morocco is home to a vivid fusion of cultures. From the Atlas Mountains to the sparkling blue ocean and the golden desert sands, this is a country of rich contrasts, full of colour, warmth and charm.
Read on to discover SENTIDO Hotels & Resorts in Morocco:
At the foothills of the Atlas Mountains lies a city whose name carries the sound of exotic adventure like no other place in North Africa; Marrakech! The ‘Red City’ embraces the vitality of bustling souks, the piety of a madrasa and the meditative spirit of lush royal gardens. The SENTIDO Kenzi Menara Palace, built in Arab-Moorish style with ochre colours and dark woods, is like a welcoming cool breeze. A luxurious oasis to return to after a round of golf – or after tasting local delicacies in the historic medina of Marrakech. Relax at the hotel’s generous spa area.
Unlocking the secrets to Moroccan cuisine with L’ibzar’s Assia Kabous
Self-taught chef Assia Kabous of L’ibzar combines tradition with modernity in her cooking, bringing delicacy, finesse and plenty of fragrance to her interpretation of Morocco’s culinary heritage. The story of her career — and her restaurant’s success — is one of hard work, patience and faith.
Over the course of seven years, it’s paid off. Today, guests at L’ibzar can not only enjoy Kabous’ culinary expression, they can also learn how to create her dishes for themselves during a hands-on cooking class in the light-flooded pavilion of her restaurant, located in the suburb of Gueliz, a 25-minute taxi drive from SENTIDO Kenzi Menara Palace.
Over the course of a morning, we join Kabous for an insightful, mouth-watering introduction to Moroccan cuisine, beginning with a fresh mint tea ceremony, followed by a presentation of Moroccan spices and a bread making demonstration. Then it’s time to get hands-on, preparing market-fresh vegetables — aubergines, peppers, peas, cauliflower and potatoes — for a tagine. Treated with care, simple ingredients and spices simmer down into a delectable meal that inspires the taste buds and leaves us looking forward to impressing friends with our newfound culinary skills back home. Throughout the class, Kabous finds the time to answer our questions, shedding light on the story behind L’ibzar.
Q: What does “L’ibzar” mean?
A: L’ibzar is pepper. It’s the only kind of spice that you find in all Moroccan dishes. It provides a taste which awakens and energises — similar to chili. This corresponds to my personality — I’m a worker, always moving, going forward. I’m a fighter. In Morocco, it’s rare for a woman to own a restaurant. I’ve had to pave my own way.
Q: As a self-taught chef — how did you launch your career?
A: Cooking is a passion — one which I decided to find a way to make a living from. I studied commerce, which of course has nothing to do with cooking, but my dream was always to have my own establishment and to be able to do what I want, create the cuisine I like — authentic Moroccan food. I did a lot of things before opening L’ibzar. I ran a BnB, and had a jewellery store. I worked a lot, but all with the aim of opening my own restaurant. I have two children and L’ibzar is my third [laughs].
Q: What can diners expect on the menu?
A: I make the most common kinds of traditional Moroccan dishes with local and seasonal ingredients. I make all types of tagine — with chicken, lamb, beef or vegetables, which are my signature. I love preparing vegetables — there are so many different ways to prepare each one. That’s what makes Moroccan cuisine so varied — each household has its own recipes. Moroccan cuisine isn’t taught, it’s transmitted. I didn’t study it in a book, it was my mother who taught it to me. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in the kitchen. When my mother was peeling potatoes, she would give me one and say, “peel it”. At first it was like a game for me. She would tell me how to do it, and I would learn without realising I was learning techniques. I’ve always loved it.
Q: How did you build up the restaurant, and to what do you attribute your success?
A: It’s all down to work, and more work. That’s what counts. I want to set an example that everything is possible — hard work is the only thing that pays off. That’s how I succeeded in what I wanted to do. I never stopped. I would wake up at 6am every morning, then go to the market. I went back to my kitchen, as I didn’t have the means to pay people to help me. There were three of us in the kitchen. So I cooked, I went to check if everything was ready in the dining room, I did my own accounting — everything. It wasn’t easy.
Q: What led you to start offering cooking classes at L’ibzar?
A: I started offering cooking classes at the beginning of 2018, at the request of customers. Before, we had a communal table around which we’d prepare a tagine together. Then interest grew, and as I had space here in the restaurant complex, I decided to create a cooking studio, although I didn’t have the means to do so at the time. Then I took part in COP 22 [the international climate conference, which was held in Marrakesh in November 2016], and participated in a prize called “Good for the Climate”. My restaurant was amongst the winners — we were chosen as we use a lot of vegetables in our cooking, we limit our electricity usage, pay attention to compost and waste disposal, and we cook with the seasons.
I received coaching from COP 22 ambassadors on how to go about developing the classes. So for the first time in the history of the restaurant, people were queuing outside to eat. I would go out and say, “there’s no room here tonight”. But they wanted to wait. I had to pinch myself.
Address: Corner Rue Ibn Aicha et 28 Rue Moulay Ali, Marrakesh, Morocco