Jamila, the manager, housekeeper and chef at the riad we are staying at in Marrakech, has been our go-to girl in this magical Moroccan city, providing us with local tips, advice and directions each day.
Born and brought up in the kasbah of Marrakech, Jamila, 35, is the daughter of a businessmen and a mother who by all accounts is very beautiful. Jamila has run things at Dar Rocmarra since she began working at the riad just over a year ago, and she runs a very tight ship!
A multi-tasking marvel of a woman, Jamila might be baking myriad trays of biscuits one minute, as she was when we went downstairs to photograph her, and supervising an electrician the next, as she was last night when the stove broke under the pressure of her impressive output.
While most cooks would freak out at a stove not working, Jamila improvised and a gas burner became the source of some fine Moroccan dishes. This may be an intimate property, but this is a woman happy to make individual three-course menus for every guest — for lunch and dinner if they choose — rather than churn out the set menus find even in the city’s best restaurants. And they’re all exquisite!
When Jamila has time, her favourite non-Moroccan cuisine to cook is Thai, which she learned to make from a French chef in her last job. Her favorite dish? A green chicken curry — “for the rich flavour”, she says.
Q. What do you most love about your work?
A. Everything! But I really love meeting people.
Q. Why should people come to Marrakech?
A. To really discover the city, to see somewhere really different, and to discover Moroccan culture, food, people and places.
Q. 3 words to describe Marrakech?
A. Romantic, charming… fantastic!
Q. And the Marrakech locals?
A. Hospitable, friendly, honest, and sincere. That’s four!
Q. Top three recommendations for visitors?
A. People must visit the Royal Palace, they must spend time on the square and exploring the souqs, and eating the food.
Q. Best memento from Marrakech?
A. A Moroccan carpet of course!
Q. Must-do eating experiences?
A. People who stay here must eat my food, and they must also eat on the square.
Q. Most essential thing to learn?
A. People need to learn how to get a taxi because it’s something that can be stressful for foreigners if they don’t know how.
Q. Most important phrase to learn in Arabic?
A. There are so many… but when foreigners say ‘shukran’ (thank you) it makes Moroccans smile.
Q. Other advice?
A. People should try to be a patient and tolerant and accept Marrakech and its people for what they are and they will have a better time here.