“Ode to Hole-In-The-Wall” by Isabel Spence

After living here in Morocco for well over two months, I’ve come to realize that this country is full of fascinating places, exotic sights and smells as well as savory foods. I’ve met some of the friendliest people ever and learned in challenging classes as well as had amazing conversations out on the streets. There are gems everywhere in Rabat in particular and every day seems like such a treasure. Yet recently, I’ve come to really appreciate one spot in the area I live in, Agdal, as a particular delight in regards to Morocco and Moroccan culture.

The area of Rabat I live in is well known as a Westernized area where there are a plethora of imported shops and even has such American standards as MacDonald’s and KFC. The Moroccans who stroll by are dressed sharply in outfits that color-coordinate their shoes, shirts and hijabs. Many women sport highly European outfits as they shop for the latest looks from other countries. Agdal reminds me a lot of Boston’s famous lane with high-end stores, Newbury Street. Compared to the winding corridors of the old medina, Agdal is a modern district in a fairly old-school city. Coffee and meals can be steep here, but recently I’ve come to really adore the marvelous snack stand that is only about a minute walk from my host family’s house!

Darling Hole-In-The-Wall!

Darling Hole-In-The-Wall!

If this snack stand has a name, no one on my program is aware of it and none of us are inclined to question its name. Instead, we have adapted the name that it was fondly called last semester, “Hole-In-The-Wall.” In an area where most food establishments require sitting and fancy tables, Hole-In-The-Wall is just that, a snack stand happily cozied into the façade of a building, between a barber’s shop and newspaper store. When you approach the window, there is a display case where several traditional Moroccan breads can tempt you and you can even watch the frying of Moroccan doughnuts, called Sphinj.

There are many charms to Hole-In-The-Wall and as a student on a budget, a big one is the awesome price you can get delicious, fresh-made food at. A piping-hot piece of flaky bread that just came out of the oven is only about the cost of an American quarter. For the same price, you can get a delicious Moroccan doughnut, or Sphinj, which of course it is generously sprinkled with large pieces of sugar and is quite the charitable portion for only a bit under 25 US cents! For a little more, you can accompany it with a refreshing glass of Moroccan mint tea. Now you’re eating like a true Moroccan!

This plaza in front of Hole-In-The-Wall is great to bird-watch, people-watch and enjoy your treats.

This plaza in front of Hole-In-The-Wall is great to bird-watch, people-watch and enjoy your treats.

Another favorite treat of mine is the delicious Shorba (soup) one can sample from Hole-In-The-Wall. It’s basically a soup composed of ground up white beans, garlic, and spices and is always generously topped with olive oil. One can imagine, as a vegetarian I find this to be a wonderful alternative that also manages to be authentically Moroccan! The texture is always spot on and just the right temperature for a quick and filling lunch. Indeed, I find this soup to keep me going well into the evening without any qualms.

Enjoying this soup is also part of the joys that makes Hole-In-The-Wall a unique and refreshing spot in Agdal. Customers are handed their soup in colorfully decorated bowls with classically large spoons and all huddle around the ledge in front of Hole-In-The-Wall or the counter that is located directly to the establishment’s left. From here, the employees pass over a Moroccan tray laden with spices: salt, cumin and paprika. From here you watch as your friends and Moroccan companions sprinkle their own perfect mix into their soup and happily begin chowing down. Often I’ve found Moroccans eager to chat with a girl who is there to enjoy soup with them. I’ve met several friendly souls at Hole-In-The-Wall. Once you complete your filling meal, you hand back your bowl and head out, though knowing you’ll be back soon.

In an area where it is easy to forget you are living in a vastly different country, Hole-In-The-Wall is a refreshing and deliciously fresh reminder that I am somewhere completely unique from the land of my birth. So: Hole-In-The-Wall, here’s looking at you, keep being delicious, charming my stomach and pleasing my wallet as a rare and valuable gem of a Moroccan eatery.

Hmmm, Moroccan mint tea, a delicious classic.

Hmmm, Moroccan mint tea, a delicious classic.

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1 Comment

Filed under Area & Arabic Language Studies, Isabel Spence, Morocco, Rabat

One response to ““Ode to Hole-In-The-Wall” by Isabel Spence

  1. jamila

    can you describe the location of “hole-in-the wall” I’ll be in Rabat for the summer and looking for inexpensive, authentic, vegetarian food. alf shukr!

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