A Tree of Many Cities

“The immature fruit clings tightly to the branch because,                                                              not yet ripe, it’s unfit for the palace.                                                                                         When fruits become ripe, sweet, and juicy, then, biting their lips,                                           they loosen their hold.” – Jalaludin Rumi

So Far, I have visited Casablanca, Marrakesh, Fez, Volubilis, and Meknes. Despite the different architecture and landscapes in each of these cities, one piece of scenery always seemed to catch my attention: orange trees. Each city I explored had orange trees, either in parks or simply lining the sidewalks. However, these trees are not just the scraggly orange trees you see in the backyards of some American homes, but carefully pruned trees boasting bright, orange fruit.

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Orange trees lining a walkway in a Marrakesh Park

At first glance, I thought a person could simply jump up and grab an orange whenever they wanted. To my surprise,  Iman, the assistant director for ISA-Meknes, told me that the oranges were extremely sour and would not be pleasant to eat (a fact we discovered when my roommate accidentally ate one). Yet, instead of simply letting the oranges ripen and decay, Moroccans juice the oranges, distill the juice, and then bottle it as orange blossom water.

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Orange Trees along a road in Meknes.

Orange blossom water finds its way into many different Moroccan delicacies, including Makrout (a cookie made with dates and honey), almond milkshakes, and even savory chicken bastilla. Out of all the delectable pastries Morocco has to offer, I think my greatest weakness so far is the bastilla. This flaky treat must be eaten warm! The delicate, crunchy shell envelopes a savory filling made with chicken, cinnamon, other spices, and usually ground nuts (like almonds). The top is lightly dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Bastilla may also be made with ground pigeon or, on special occasions, seafood.

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Clockwise from left: chicken bastilla, orange blossom water, Mabrouk.

To me, the prevalence and use of these orange trees underscores not only Moroccans’ love of beauty, but also (in some respects) their thrifty, practical nature.

Until next time….Ma Salama!!

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