Review: Cafe Mama Afrika, Marrakech Morocco

If you get sick of Marrakech souvenir stall sellers hounding you about entering their shop to check out their buckets of spices, genuine Moroccan argan oil, handmade leather goods, or gimmicky knick-knacks that will end up gathering dust on your shelves at home, you can always walk twenty minutes up the road from the main square in the Medina to what is known as “New Marrakech”.

Here you might still be followed by guys on the street trying to sell you a watch or belt, or insisting that they shine your shoes for a fee (guys, I’m wearing sneakers. Shoeshine is entirely unnecessary.). But you can also make the most of air-conditioned shopping malls and centres where shop assistants won’t follow you around the store insisting that you try everything on. It’s honestly a bit of a relief to not be hounded and to just have some room to breathe as a tourist.

There’s plenty of cafes in the area where you can grab a casual bite to eat of mainly quite Westernised food. There’s pizzas and sandwiches galore. If you want something a little more local but still accessible, Cafe Mama Afrika is a great choice.

Coconut Kiss cocktail (Pineapple, banana, coconut milk, desiccated coconut), 20 Moroccan Dirhams
Coconut Kiss cocktail (Pineapple, banana, coconut milk, desiccated coconut), 20 Moroccan Dirhams

While it’s always well-patronised by young holidaymakers taking advantage of the cheap drinks on the menu, it’s also popular with locals with a few younger and more modern Moroccan couples dining there.

I made the most of their non-alcoholic drinks – there’s plenty of fresh juices on the menu, but I chose the Coconut Kiss cocktail of pineapple, banana and coconut milk. Like a tropical party in your mouth, only tastier.


We got the traditional Moroccan khobz bread of course, that’s a given.


This was a nice surprise though – a little appetiser of marinated olives to start. I liked the green olives which had a little extra chilli spice stuffed into them, but found the black olives a bit too sour for my liking.

Mama Detox (rice, onion, green red yellow peppers, eggplant, cheese, pineapple), 40 Moroccan Dirhams
Mama Detox (rice, onion, green red yellow peppers, eggplant, cheese, pineapple), 40 Moroccan Dirhams

I chose their healthy vegetarian menu option of the Mama Detox, which actually turned out to be a surprisingly Asian-African fusion kind of dish. The peppers, onion and pineapple was fried in a sauce not dissimilar to a Cantonese sweet and sour sauce, and served on a bed of white rice. With some slices of fried eggplant and a healthy sprinkle of cheese on top, it was a deliciously tempting dish – I could have eaten much more! This is of course, not to mention its entirely adorable presentation as a mini-map of Africa!

Reggae Fish (Vietnamese Rice Cake, Fish Fillet, Eggplant, Onion, Pepper, Tomato), 50 Moroccan Dirhams
Reggae Fish (Vietnamese Rice Cake, Fish Fillet, Eggplant, Onion, Pepper, Tomato), 50 Moroccan Dirhams

K chose their fish dish – the Reggae Fish of plump juicy fish fillets wrapped in deep-fried Vietnamese rice paper. Served on top of a bed of lettuce leaves and a little scoop of corn and cucumber salsa, the fish was enhanced by the drizzle of sweet teriyaki-esque sauce on top. Yet another nod to Asian-African fusion that works extremely well!


This little stray cat takes up its residence in Cafe Mama Afrika, winding his way through peoples legs under tables and standing up to place his front paws on your lap in a reminder of ‘hey I’m here, feed me!’. I gave him some pieces of fish fillet which he gobbled up hungrily!

Cafe Mama Afrika is a reasonably-priced cafe bordering old and new Marrakech, offering local cuisine with an international twist. It’s nothing fancy but it is hearty and filling, and the whole cafe is very relaxed so it’s very possible to just grab a seat and while away the afternoon with a few drinks. Take a break from the hustle (and bustle) of old Marrakech, and chill out at Cafe Mama Afrika.

Cafe Mama Afrika is located on Rue Oum Errabii Gueliz in Marrakech, Morocco.

Review: Kaowa Snack and Juice Bar, Marrakech Morocco

If I can give one piece of advice about visiting Marrakech, it’s to be aware of the orange juice racket in the central Jemaa el-Fnaa square in the Medina. There’s two elements to the OJ racket that’s designed to hurt travellers – one is that when you ask for an orange juice (4 Moroccan Dirhams), the seller will give you a blood orange juice and demand that you pay them 10 Dirhams. They won’t take no for an answer, and you’ll quickly be surrounded by their mates demanding that you pay for the more expensive juice.

The second element is that even if you manage to get a proper orange juice, it won’t be fresh. The seller would have made it earlier and diluted it with water or ice beforehand and given that this water and ice will be straight out of a Marrakech tap, it’s a one-way street to diarrhoea-town for most travellers!

To avoid all this, do yourself a favour and drop into Kaowa Snack and Juice Bar when you have a craving for a fresh juice. While it’s further away and outside the walls of the Medina, it’s also conveniently located right opposite the beautiful Jardin Majorelle. That means that after you get your freshly squeezed juice in a hygienic takeaway cup, you can take it into the beautiful gardens and sit back and relax with a cool drink in a stunning and quiet location.


There’s outdoor seating for all those who want to soak up the winter sunshine. Marrakech enjoys fine weather throughout winter with average temps of around 18 degrees, which was positively balmy for us after having made our way over most of frozen continental Europe!


There’s a wide range of juices, smoothies and milkshakes on the menu, categorised under headings such as “Les Tops”, “Les Orientaux” and “Les Detox”. I chose the Top Minceau known as a slimming juice – cucumber, apple, pineapple and fresh mint. While the combination looks less than appetising with its muddy brown colour, it’s the perfect refreshing mix to have in hot and sunny Morocco. K’s Palmeraie smoothie of dates, almond milk, banana and cinnamon was much more of a sweeter drink reminiscent of a meal-replacement shake rather than a refreshing juice.


I ordered the Couscous de Lala Rachia (vegetarien aux legumes) – there are chicken, mince and mixed meat options available if desired! Served in a little individual tajine, the dish was unfortunately quite disappointing. The cous cous was drier than it should be, the vegetables weren’t cooked evenly (the turnip was still quite hard while the zucchini was much too soft) and the sauce lacked depth of flavour. Unfortunately I wouldn’t order this again.


K ordered the dish of the day which was a Quiche aux Blettes Chevre – a goat’s cheese quiche with a small garden salad on the side. This was a much better choice – light, healthy and simple, a refreshing change when compared to the heavier cous cous and tajine meals you usually get in Marrakech. The quiche was ready-made and displayed in the cabinet (alongside a few other grab-and-go sandwiches, paninis and snacks), so it could make for the perfect light meal to take into the Jardin Majorelle for an impromptu picnic lunch!


We finished off our meal by sharing the Crumble Aux Fruits de Saison which was a bit overly sweet with the amount of sugar syrup used in the fruit mix…which was hardly ‘seasonal’ as it just seemed to be made of apples! I don’t mind an apple crumble, but I was hoping for more variety given the way it was advertised. I wish we’d gone for a more reliable off-the-shelf dessert like carrot cake with argan oil or cheesecake with dates. A crumble really should be made fresh each day, and this crumble tasted like it had been made several days earlier and just stored in the plastic cups.


The highlight of Kaowa Snack and Juice Bar is definitely the fresh juices and smoothies – a delicious and reliable liquid treat in Marrakech that won’t try and cheat you like the others by wilfully overcharging or mixing in tap water! The food is a bit more hit and miss – the cold ready-made foods on display seem to be a better bet than ordering off the hot menu.

I think that if I were to visit Marrakech and the Jardin Majorelle again, I wouldn’t bother sitting in Kaowa having a hot meal. I’d rather buy myself a fresh juice and a freshly made sandwich from their to-go section and take it into the gardens for a more relaxed picnic lunch! I’d suggest you do the same.

Kaowa Snack and Juice Bar is located opposite the Jardin Majorelle at 34 Rue Yves St Laurent in Marrakech, Morocco.

Half Day of Pampering and A Traditional Meal at Hammam Rosa Bonheur, Marrakech Morocco

The first half of this blog entry is completely unillustrated with photos – largely because I was clothed in only a paper g-string for most of it and that’s an entirely inappropriate image to share with anyone but my husband and middle-aged Moroccan ladies. You’ll just have to use your imagination for the next bit!

So K and I were keen to visit a few different hammams while in Marrakech. Our stay in the city was designed to be a relaxing holiday rather than a jam-packed action trip, and what better way to relax than in a Moroccan hammam with steam rooms, body scrubs and massages? We visited Hammam Rosa Bonheur first, as it was one of the hammams that offered a reasonably priced ‘couples experience’, rather than separating guests by gender from the start.

We chose their special offer, which included a 45 minute traditional hammam experience, 1 hour and 15 minute massage, a 30 minute facial, and a three-course meal for only 95 Euro per person. A bargain by most accounts, as it’s a two and a half hour pampering experience with a meal for only about $150 AUD!

So how did our morning play out?

  1. We arrived at Rosa Bonheur and sat down in their lounge with a glass of mint tea to start.
  2. We were shown to our own private massage room and undressed there, putting on provided paper G-strings (which made K somewhat uncomfortable!) and a bathrobe.
  3. We were led down to their heated hammam room with slabs of hot marble to lie on in only our paper G-strings.
  4. A Moroccan woman came in to pour water over both of us before soaping us up in the famous Moroccan black soap and leaving us to lie down and soak the soap into our skins.
  5. She returned with a colleague to scrub the soap off us with an exfoliating glove. I’m pretty sure she removed about ten layers of dead skin from me, it was quite disgusting.
  6. After that, we got wrapped in a mud wrap for further beautification before we were completely rinsed off, re-robed, and led back upstairs for our massages.
  7. Our massages were equal parts painful and relaxing – my masseuse got right into my muscles which were quite tight after months of sleeping in beds of differing qualities on our travels! They use a lot of argan oil, so make sure you wear old clothes when you go, as your clothes will get quite oily when you put them back on afterwards!
  8. We had two different face masks applied during our facial which was quite relaxing. I may have even fallen asleep during my facial!


After these hours of pampering, we got dressed back into our street clothes and went to their rooftop terrace, where we had a private dining booth of luxurious red velvet set up for our meal. There were a few other groups dining there at the same time as us, with one particularly rowdy party of English ladies who must have been there as part of a 40th birthday celebration. Actual overheard quote: “They’re taking naked photos of each other in the massage room!”


We started off our meal with the typical Moroccan Harira Soup, a protein-rich blend of lentils and chickpeas, seasoned with plenty of cumin and pepper. The chickpeas were kept quite hard and nutty, which made for a particularly hearty soup.


We also got these little morsels of samosas to start – so small that you could probably fit four in the palm of your hand! There were two varieties – one with a soft white cheese filling, the other with a tomato-based vegetable filling. The cheese was my favourite – while quite rich on its own, it was particularly delicious when eaten with a single mint leaf. Mint plays such a large part in Moroccan cuisine, and I can see why – it really helps to enhance so many of their dishes!


Our side dish was a stewed eggplant dish in a crushed tomato sauce – very simple, but particularly delicious when eaten on the Moroccan khobz bread that accompanies every meal. This is the type of vegetable side dish I’d like to make more of at home, especially when eggplants are going for cheap! While technically Moroccan in style, it could very easily be adapted to suit other cuisines – with some chilli and chives for Chinese dishes, extra garlic and basil for Italian…the options are endless!


The star of the meal was the chicken tajine, cooked with olives and citrus peel in the classic Moroccan combination. Interestingly, this tajine didn’t seem to be properly glazed inside, which meant that all the flavours of this dish and dishes before it were baked into the base of the tajine to create a particularly tasty sauce base to be sopped up with our khobz bread.


This was the dish – one piece of chicken maryland each, as well as some olives on the side. The chicken was unfortunately not as tender and tasty as the one we’d had the day before at Nomad Cafe, but was still quite enjoyable. We had a stray feline visitor during our meal who also enjoyed the little bit of chicken we gave her!


We finished off our meal with our dessert – some simple orange slices with sliced almonds. Simple and refreshing, especially with the nutty toasted almonds.


Our feline friend wasn’t impressed that we didn’t have any more food to feed her! I don’t think she actually belongs to the hammam – she just prowls the rooftops of the hammam and the adjourning buildings, hoping for some handouts!

A half-day of pampering with an included meal is a must-do while you’re in Marrakech. You really learn to let go of any personal inhibitions, especially as Moroccan women casually manoeuvre your body into various positions to make sure that they reach all nooks and crannies with the black soap. Rosa Bonheur is the place to go if you want to package up a hammam experience, massage and a facial into one experience to be shared with your loved one!

Hammam Rosa Bonheur is located at 79 Derb habib allah Quartier in Marrakech Medina, Morocco.