As with many of the experiences in Morocco - the Palais Chahramane was a lovely surprise!
Knowing that we were scheduled to have lunch at a 'palace', we were eager to see what was in store. Our guide took us walking through various avenues around the medina - small shops in shabby storefronts lined the streets, many were 'closed' during the call to prayer - their doors blocked simply with a scrap of fabric strung haphazard across a pole. We passed by elderly vendors selling fresh citrus fruits from dilapidated wheelbarrows. Broken down mules pulled broken down carts - both held together by various scraps of fabric which were bound around wounded legs and broken wheels, as they had been for many years. The scene was a step back into time, in an area - with people - that had at one time seen much better days. The people seemed tired - not rude - but 'tolerant' of the tourists parading down their worn streets, taking photos of their lives.
We came upon the restaurant on one of these streets - it was obvious from the doorway outside that the inside had been better maintained than most of our surroundings - although it seemed to be nothing 'grand' at first look. But behind the door - another world. The foyer alone was a stark contrast to the rustic world outside - slick mosaic tile, polished brass, bright fabrics, and stained glass complemented the ornately carved architectural details that indeed gave the impression implied in the name - that you had arrived to a 'palace'.
The restaurant was grand - and the staff attentive and well experienced in the art of 'taking care of tourists'. We passed through a hall of dancing and singing staff dressed in traditional costume on our way to the dining area - which was impressive with it's grand architecture. The meals came in courses - first a place of various vegetable salads, next a huge platter of couscous topped with veal and roasted vegetables, and finally a platter of fresh-off-the-tree tangerines for a refreshing desert. I am gluten free by medical necessity, and the staff graciously provided me a delicious tagine of chicken - slowly roasted with lemons and olives. It was all most delicious - made even tastier by the feast for the eyes in the grand surroundings of the palace.
An in-house photographer was there to take photos of each diner engaged in a traditional tableside hand-washing ritual, and for a couple of dollars, you take the 5x7 photo with you when you leave - carefully placed into a new envelope for safe keeping on your travels. Dancers and musicians performed in a larger central dining area within sight of our dining 'room'. The other diners were groups of local businessmen, along with a couple of other tour groups like ours.
The wait staff was first class - very hospitable, the food fresh and delicious, and the experience exotic! This was a wonderful dining experience in every way - making the contrast of what you see outside in the streets a different experience after exiting.
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