If magic carpets had seat belts, I would be highly suggesting that you buckle yourselves in tight. The night we spent our Dating Around World Showcase evening in the Morocco Pavilion at Epcot was an adventure that took us to a whole new world. We literally spent the entire evening as starry-eyed tourists, finding ourselves fascinated with everything around us. It may very well have been one of the best Epcot dates yet!
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Leaving Footprints in Morocco
I’m not going to lie – there is a LOT to share in this post, so I’m going to try get right to it. Brace yourselves and I apologize. Brevity simply does not fit this particular piece.
We arrived. It was a gorgeous day ~ still warm here in Florida. We first went to pick up Hubby’s annual passholder cutting board at the Festival Center and then headed to the boat launch near the Canada Pavilion. We had a little bit of a wait, but it was still shorter than it would have been to walk the promenade to get to our destination that evening.
After the three minute ferry ride across World Showcase Lagoon, we began a date that would literally knock our socks off. If you have never taken in all Morocco has to offer, you are truly missing out.
Let’s Talk about the Pavilion
The Morocco Pavilion was the first expansion pavilion added to World Showcase with an opening date of September 1984. It is also the only one out of the eleven countries showcased where the representing country’s government actually sponsored it and had a hand in the designing of the exhibit.
When entering the showcase from the six o’clock position and walking towards Mexico, it is the eighth pavilion reached. It is the fourth if walking by way of Canada and the second if entering through the Epcot Resorts entrance.
With regard to what the pavilion holds, there are two table service restaurants and one quick service venue:
- Restaurant Marrakesh: focused Moroccan cuisine with lamb, couscous, soups and more.
- Spice Road Table: Mediterranean cuisine that includes a mixture of tastes from Morocco, Lebanon, etc.
- Tangerine Café: various salads, rotisseries chicken, hummus and baklava, as well as a variety of beverages (mints, teas, coffee, etc).
There are also six shops, a gallery, a replica home and a handful of entertainment options for Guests to browse and enjoy.
As noted above, we chose to travel to the other side by boat again. Sorry guys ~ the only Disney science experiment Hubby did was validate that the boat ride is, indeed, about three minutes.
It all started with dinner
We arrived across the lagoon just in time for our dining reservation at Restaurant Marrakesh. While the Morocco Pavilion is home to two table service restaurants and one quick service venue, we chose this one because the cuisine listed on the menu seemed a little more authentic and focused to us. We learned later that Spice Road Table is more of a mixture of Mediterranean tastes, so we were very glad we made the choice we did.
We were immediately seated upon arrival and at a small table for two. At first, I was a little put off. I felt like we were right on top of the Guests next to us, which I feared would hinder conversation, photos, getting to know our Cast Member, etc. In the end, however, it all worked out and I really had no reason to feel the way I did.
TIP – When making dining reservations at Walt Disney World, should your schedule allow, make rezzies for around 3:30 / 4 PM. The restaurant is not as crowded and you will have ample time to talk with your Cast Member / Server.
Our server, Alaoui, introduced himself immediately and we were handed menus. We had already scouted out what we wanted ahead of time, but we weren’t sure what to try beverage-wise. In that light, we decided to ask for recommendations.
Beverages of choice
Alaoui recommended the Marrakesh Express, which has a Don Q Coconut Rum with both orange and pineapple juices, topped with a Coruba Dark Rum. Hubby decided to go with that one and was very satisfied.
I chose the Casablanca Sunset, which consisted of an Apricot Brandy with orange and cranberry juices, topped with an Arrow Peach Schnapps. To be honest, I’m more of a pineapple fan with my coconut rum, but I loved the name so much that I had to try it.
Yup – there’s a reason for it, too. When Hubby and I were in the dating phase of our relationship, he and one of our friends made a delicious Italian dinner for both me and our friend’s wife (my maid of honor, to be specific). We capped the evening with the movie Casablanca and the thing we remember the most?????
I fell asleep during the movie. Yup…that’s what made the evening eternally memorable. (Thank God I didn’t snore!)
Back to dinner…
We placed our order and began to just study our surroundings. It was spectacularly fascinating and exquisite. We hadn’t even had the chance to ask questions yet and were already in awe of the details. Where we were actually seated, we could take a close look at the tile and clay used in the walls. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
Let’s talk Food!
To keep costs down (we ARE visiting every country in this showcase) and to give us a little more to talk about, we chose to share two appetizers and one entree for this meal.
PS – Tables in Wonderland is a tremendous program Walt Disney World offers if you can make sure it works to your benefit. Click here for more details.
For our appetizers, we chose to share:
- Beef Brewat Rolls: These were baked layers of thin pastry stuffed with seasoned minced beef and fried. The rolls were sprinkled with both cinnamon and powdered sugar.
- Goat Cheese with Crispy Bread for Two: This consisted of a mixture of cheese and kalamata olives served with tabouleh, red pepper sauce and a balsamic vinegar reduction.
The beef brewat rolls were good and we liked them, but they weren’t anything that “wow”-ed us. The seasoned beef was more bland than we expected, but that certainly was not a detractor. We found the cinnamon and powdered sugar topping a unique addition and had never thought of those two ingredients being combined with beef. No regrets in trying it, but I don’t know that we would need to eat it again.
Now the goat cheese with crispy bread ~ that’s another story!! I could have eaten that all night and I think Hubby was in agreement.
First and foremost, the presentation was eye-catching. We loved it. It came out in a long, skinny rectangular platter with the crispy bread sticking up like triangular sails. Each piece of crispy bread was perfectly placed within the ball of cheese and kalamata olives. Each “cheese ball” had been topped with a red pepper sauce and surrounded by tabbouleh.
Side Note: I have Lebanese blood in me. Tabbouleh is life and I love my grandmother’s recipe (which I’m still waiting to obtain from my aunts). Though this wasn’t an exact replica, the taste brought me home.
Now, if you like goat cheese, you will love this. If you can tolerate goat cheese, I believe you would like this. Should goat cheese be low on your list of favorite cheeses, well, I still recommend giving it a try because the blended flavor blast is worth it! The goat cheese was not overpowering and each bite was quite savory. It was one of the best appetizers we’ve had so far!
Now, for the entree!
We chose to share the Rack of Lamb and Hummus Rosemary Pancakes. This was served with zucchini, tomatoes, olives and roasted garlic au jus.
The plate was fabulous. The lamb was cooked to smoky perfection, which means they were somewhere between rare and medium rare. Lamb tastes best this way. The hummus pancakes had a wonderful rosemary flavor to them and were a perfect complement to the dish. The consistency was perfect! Yum! The vegetables were just above crisp tender and juicy, which I loved. They didn’t fall apart on my fork and they were easy to cut, fork and eat. The aus jus added a nice touch and gave the meat a nice, but subtle, garlic flavor.
To see more of the Restaurant Marrakesh menu, click here.
Food allergy note: While we didn’t have to worry about food allergies this visit, we did see the Chef come out several times to speak with families who did. We were able to stop the chef for a brief moment and ask if they were able to accommodate food allergies. He said they were very capable of doing so and that they would do everything they could to ensure a safe meal for anyone who has dietary restrictions.
A little dinner conversation
By the time our dinner was done, the neighbors next to us had left, leaving us feeling a little more comfortable with trying to start up a conversation with our server. When we were able to snag him in between runs, Alaoui was more than happy to share his passion, love and affinity for his country and faith, as well as his Disney story.
Alaoui is originally from Morocco and grew up right inside the walls of the city of Fes (Fez), once the leading spiritual and and educational center of the Muslim world. He started his Disney journey at the age of 24 as part of the college program at Disneyland Paris. After two years there, Alaoui moved to Florida where, in time, he began working part-time as a Cast Member at Walt Disney World and going to school part-time for business administration and finance. When asked which Disney placement he liked more, he was quick to say that Florida, as the climate here is more akin to his home in Morocco.
Alaoui is fluent in four different languages (English, Spanish, French and Arabic ) and is looking forward to traveling more in the future as time allows. When we began to ask him about his upbringing, his face illuminated. For the next what seemed to be 45 minutes (again, it was nice and quiet inside the restaurant), he shared detail upon detail about the walled city of Fes (Fez), the purpose and structure of prayer, his great grandfather’s house (built in 1746) that still sits within those walls and his uncle who now lives in it.
Talking about Fes
Alaoui was quick to point out that the oldest university still standing in the world, as recognized by UNESCO, is found within the city of Fes (Fez). He took the time to draw the lay of the land out on our table, including the placement of the university, as well as the seven large gates and several small ones within the walls. We learned that motorized transportation is still not used within those walls and that people continue to move around town by donkey and horse.
Interestingly, Alaoui did mention that, though you may see donkeys and horses within the walls, right outside the walls you may very well see a lambourghini.
One story that fascinated us involved fountains. If you walk through the Morocco Pavilion, you will notice MANY fountains spread throughout – in the restaurant, right outside the restaurant, in the replica Fes (Fez) house, etc. Each and every house in Fes (Fez) had a fountain. The city itself was built in a basin with mountains surrounding it. Outside the walls were man-made lakes that would catch the snow and rainwater that would flow down from those mountains. Out of those lakes, the waters would find their way over the city walls and into a system that transported water into every house located within the city. That water would accumulate in the fountain that could be found in each house.
What fascinated us even more was that no house saw a water overflow. There was no flooding and no one had more than they needed. Each fountain was equipped with a drain pipe that would catch the overflow as it reached the summit. It would then travel down the drain pipe, into the system and on to the next house, where the same process would occur.
Now, it is important to note that these fountains inside the homes were where everyone in the house would gather ANY water they needed for WHATEVER purpose.
Time for some Tile Talk
As I mentioned above, the government was intricately involved in the design of the pavilion in Epcot. Alaoui shared with us that the king gifted Disney with craftsmen to come over and manually cut each and every tile piece that you will see as a part of the structured exhibit.
Each – and – every – piece.
Each tile was cut by hand and each mural put together by hand. In fact, there are pictures inside Restaurant Marrakesh depicting this. The clay design was also manually constructed and, when you look closely, you can see how unique and original it really is. It is gorgeous and stunning.
I loved looking up at the archways in the restaurant to see the beautiful ornamentation. Honestly, we were mesmerized.
In fact, we found ourselves fawning over it for the rest of the night!
Segmenting our conversation with Alaoui was one portion of the evening’s entertainment. Between 5 and 8 PM, on the hour, Restaurant Marrakesh has a young woman come out who entertains the crowds with belly dancing. While I admit this had actually been part of what kept me away from eating here at one point (I have teenage boys), I was much more comfortable after having watched it myself. My goodness ~ the things that woman could do with her abdomen!!! I had cramps just watching it!
She danced beautifully and even drew a few women onto the dance floor with her at one point.
Yes ~ I was one of them, but I embarrassed my big self so much that I didn’t last but two minutes before laughing myself back to my seat. And no ~ we will NOT be showing that video any time soon. Carry on…..
Did we get Dessert?
You bet we did!!! Before heading out to explore the pavilion with a whole new perspective, we ordered the warm beignets with chocolate and caramel sauces.
OH ~ MY ~ GOODNESS! Delish and soooo good. They were the perfect density with a sweet cream filling that had a custard consistency. Soooo good. The slivered almonds tasted so fresh and the beignets were warm and sprinkled just right with cinnamon sugar.
Out of the two sauces, we liked the caramel best. Which one would you choose?
Time to Explore
In fear that we were going to wear out our welcome, we decided it was time to bid our new friend adieu and explore with a renewed sense of vigor and curiosity. We could not be any more grateful to Alaoui for EVERYTHING he shared with us and wish him all the best as he works on his degree and sets out to see the world.
Of course, it was difficult to even get out of the restaurant simply because we had pictures to view and placards to read. What we had learned about the tile inspired us to take a much closer look everywhere we went, including the foyer of Restaurant Marrakesh. We even found this letter from George Washington to the King of Morocco on the wall of the foyer.
TIDBIT: Did you know that Morocco was the first country to recognize the USA as a nation? The two countries have been allies and friends since 1787 and can boast having the longest unbroken treaty relationship.
Within the Walls
As soon as we got outside, we began to take an in depth look at every gate, every fountain and every wall. The intricacies were intriguing and we honestly could not get enough of what we saw. Something else Alaoui had shared is that the pavilion past the front archway is designed to represent the actual city of Fes (Fez). In fact, you literally walk through a representation of the Bab (gate) Boujouloud, which is the main gate to the city. As you walk around, you will see more gateways, fountains and a replica of the Minaret of Chellah that one visiting the actual country would find within the walls of that ancient city.
We strolled through the marketplace where they were selling an assortment of Moroccan clothing, jewelry, shoes and lamps. I really wanted a magic lamp ~ Lord knows, I could use a genie willing to grant me three wishes right about now.
I loved these shell necklaces, which can be engraved with your name in Arabic. I believe the cost was about $13. Sounds like a great gift idea for someone back home…don’t you think?
Something else unique was a very aromatic fragrance wafting through the marketplace and, in particular, one shop. I could see how it may be hard for some people with sensitivities, but we enjoyed it. We’re just not sure if it was the wood or an incense. We should have asked.
During our exploratory excursion, we took notice that Jasmine was meeting with Guests. Being the photo sucker that I am, we ducked in to snap a few memories with her. Aren’t I lucky to have such a good Hubby who tolerates my craziness? Fortunately, the line was quite short and we were able to get through within a few minutes. While we were waiting, I had fun taking pictures of just about everything in sight.
The Fez House
From there, we made our way through the marketplace a little more and finally found ourselves inside the Fez House. This section of the pavilion shows Guests what a house within the walls actually looked like. There was an open space in the middle, a room off to each side and a running fountain there against the wall in the open spaced room. Be sure to read the placards on the walls because they hold such valuable information that will only enhance the experience of walking around the exhibit.
While we were there, we met this beautiful family enjoying their day at Epcot. To be honest, this is where I saw Hubby’s excitement grow exponentially. He was so enthralled with the information he had learned that evening that he literally could not keep it contained. Hubby shared with them all he knew about the tiles, about the fountains, about the city of Fes (Fez) and whatever this adorable family was willing to hear him talk about.
They were so patient and seemed intrigued with the information themselves. It was nice to have that moment to share Disney excitement with someone.
You know ~ that’s one of the magical things about visiting this place. You could meet a complete stranger one second and feel like you connect the next because of the mutual love for Walt Disney World.
As we walked out of the Fez House, we grabbed a few PhotoPass pictures in front of the fountain in the center of the pavilion.
If you have Memory Maker, please do not hesitate to take advantage of the PhotoPass photographers who are there to capture these pixie dusted memories with you and for you. You will never regret it!
Once done, our ears heard music and ~ well, I’m drawn to all things music. So, we decided to go check it out. Sahara Heat was playing on the open stage to the Japan side of the Morocco Pavilion. They had drawn quite the crowd and there was rhythm, dancing and beautiful instrumental tones. The performance was captivating and many stayed at the end for photos with the artists.
The Gallery of Arts and History
If anything can be said about Moroccan style it is that they have put quite a bit of thought and symbolism into the way they adorn themselves throughout history. Symbolic jewelry has been used to ward off evil or protect the wearer. Henna tattoos have played an integral role when it comes to weddings. The layers of jewelry a woman would wear also spoke to her social standing, marital status and spiritual beliefs. Even for men, the hats they wore (such as the actual fez) could have even spoken to the individual’s intelligence.
All of this is captured in the exhibit called Moroccan Style: The Art of Personal Adornment. To walk through this section will give you such an education on the culture. It was fascinating to read about the Fantasia, the Hand of Fatima and the colorful wardrobe and garb.
Where did the time go?
Honestly, we had no concept of time during this date. We thought we would be just a few hours ~ eat dinner, roam through, grab a few more pictures and then head home. Wow ~ it was quite the contrary. Alaoui had spent so much time with us during dinner that we walked away with so much to think about, explore and appreciate about this pavilion. You should have seen Hubby’s face. It was glowing ~ no joke!
Once we had strolled through the shops on the water’s edge (some Moroccan wines, more clothing and gorgeous pillows), we decided to make our way back to the front of the park. It had been a long evening and there were more people there than we had anticipated. Plus, we needed some time to absorb and process everything we saw. Needless to say, it was not a night for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth and we were okay with that.
Have you had the chance to explore the Morocco Pavilion in World Showcase at Epcot? Did anything in this piece intrigue you and maybe even inspire you to take a deeper look the next time you visit? We cannot recommend enough taking the time and speaking with a Cast Member native to the showcased country. The more and more we do, the more we learn and become immersed in our experience. The Cast Members may love working for Walt Disney World, but they miss and love their home country very much. They more than appreciate the opportunity to share that passion with Guests and perhaps may even inspire a desire within Guests to travel there some day themselves.
ليله سعيده ، المغرب (Good night, Morocco)
Morocco is a country of magic, contrast and timeless wonders. It boasts both beaches and deserts and is rich in more ways than one. It has a history that is captivating, a culture that is intriguing and a faith that is inspiring. Take some time during your next visit to Epcot World Showcase to explore the intricacies of this spectacular pavilion. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised at what you find ~ and maybe even discovering a whole new world.
Be sure to check out the other Dating Around World Showcase Posts ~ or check out the complete series by clicking here!!