Lina Tariq and Moroccan cuisine
Our expert Lina Tariq is the HR mission leader in our office in Kenitra. She shares with us her passion for cooking and tells us about Morocco. During our conversation, she gave us small glimpses into Morocco’s stunning landscapes, warm and welcoming people, and food scene—the second best in the world.
Bordered by both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, Morocco is a country composed of a patchwork of landscapes that dazzle with their diversity, from snow-bound mountain towns to the vast Sahara Desert. The sea, the ancient architecture, and the melting pot of cultures, cuisines, and languages all combine to form a vibrant, colourful country. With its Berber, Arab, and European influences, there’s no denying that Morocco is a real mosaic of cultures. It’s a country with many faces, and which one you see depends on where you visit. And if you want to understand everything it has to offer, who better to talk to than a local? That’s why we sat down with Lina Tariq for this first interview in our series of posts called Humans above all. She graciously allowed us to ask her questions about her culture and get to know her better.
But, be warned: After a conversation with this manager about Morocco, you’ll want to hop on the next trans-Atlantic flight (we certainly did!). However, we had to settle for a virtual tour. During our interview, Lina told us all about Morocco’s many cultures, languages, and climates, and shared her passion for fine cuisine. She also gave us some insight into the legendary Moroccan hospitality, a simple fact of life anywhere and everywhere you go. But first things first: What about our tour guide?
Who is Lina Tariq?
For almost two years now, Lina Tariq has been working as HR mission leader in our office in Kenitra, Morocco, which coincidentally also happens to be where she’s from. Kenitra is culturally very similar to the nearby capital city of Rabat, a hotbed of Dynamics 365 experts, whom Lina recruits and onboards, while also promoting our brand. After earning a Master’s in Human Resources Management, Lina first went to work for a major automotive group before joining our team. She’s also a polyglot who can converse with you in several different languages, switching back and forth between French, English, Arabic, Spanish, and even Korean—whichever suits your fancy! And should you ever knock on her door, you’ll soon realize that her linguistic abilities are matched only by her culinary skills!
Why an XRM Vision office in Morocco?
Faced with a shortage of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform experts in Canada, XRM Vision decided to broaden its horizons, quickly landing on Morocco as the logical choice. Morocco’s status as an information technology hub helped pave the way for this move. And with French being the country’s second-most prevalent business language, communications were much easier. As an added bonus, one of our long-standing XRM Vision freelancers lives in Morocco.
Interview with Lina Tariq
In honour of Morocco’s 12 administrative regions, we asked Lina Tariq 12 questions about her country and its customs. Enjoy your visit to Morocco!
Travelling Morocco: a melting pot of cultures
1 - First of all, how would you describe Morocco?
Lina Tariq - I would say that Morocco is a melting pot of cultures. Of course, the Berber culture is the heart and soul of the country, but you’ll also see a lot of Arab influences here, not to mention French and Spanish, because of colonialism and the proximity of France and Spain to Morocco. You’ll find all kinds of landscapes in Morocco: the Sahara, beaches, mountains… Some parts of the country are more traditional, while others are very modern. Each region has its own culture. Not to mention its own distinct foods and even languages. So, it’s very easy to feel like a fish out of water moving from one part of the country to another. Even Moroccans can feel overwhelmed!
2 - And what would you say about Kenitra?
L. T. – Kenitra is a small city near the capital, Rabat. It’s a strategic hub that’s located close to everything: beach, river, lake, forest. It’s one of the most interesting cities in Morocco and the headquarters of more than 100 multinational automotive companies.Kenitra is located in the northwestern corner of the country, what we like to call the “normal” part of Morocco. If you go further north, to Tangier, for example, the culture is a lot more Spanish, because of the closeness to Spain. The people there even speak Spanish instead of French. And across the water, in Andalusia, in southern Spain, the Arab influences are plain to see.
Hospitality: a way of life in Morocco
3 - Moroccans are also known for their generous hospitality. What’s it like to be invited into a Moroccan home?
L. T. - In Morocco, hospitality is sacred. Even a family that’s quite poor, that can’t afford anything extravagant, will potentially go into debt to put on an elaborate spread for their guests.
The documentary series J’irai dormir chez vous portrays the importance of tea very well. In each episode, the host travels to a different country, where he tries to finagle an invitation from a local as a way of learning about their customs. On his trip to Morocco, he travelled to some of the country’s poorest villages. But no matter where he went, he was greeted with elaborate feasts. The people literally pulled out all the stops to make him feel welcome.
« There’s a certain quality to be found in the Maghreb and the Arab countries that I dearly miss, and that’s the hospitality.»- Driss Chraïbi, Moroccan author
A taste of Morocco: the second-best food culture in the world
4 - The Moroccan hospitality might be legendary, but your food is also known around the world. And according to our sources, you’re also quite the chef. Tell us about your food!
L. T. - It’s true, Morocco was named the second-best travel destination for food lovers by the travel magazine Worldsim. Our most famous dish is couscous, and we even have two kinds. And the best tajines can be found in Morocco: beef, lamb, fish, and even vegetarian. Tajine is cooked in an earthenware pot of the same name, typically over a wood fire.
5 - When a Moroccan invites a guest for dinner, what’s likely to be on the menu?
L. T. -Usually, when you know the person, you ask them what they feel like eating. Especially if they like your cooking! The whole point is to treat them like royalty. But if you’re hosting someone who isn’t familiar with Moroccan food, you’ll typically cook several dishes so they can sample a little bit of everything. For example, you might prepare a spread of different Moroccan salads and appetizers, which are all laid out on the table mezze-style—everyone helps themselves. So, there are salads with boiled and marinated carrots, and a salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. You might also make a spinach or mallow salad. Finally, there’s zaalouk, a cooked eggplant and tomato spread. That’s followed by one or two main dishes, which might be lamb and prune tajine sprinkled with toasted almonds, or chicken tajine served with fries. Harissa is also a staple, to add a little spice, along with bread, preferably homemade. Of course, let’s not forget the mint tea.
6 - What goes into a great tajine?
L. T. – There are a million recipes for tajine. Every region, every family, basically every person has their own recipe! Most importantly, you need good-quality olive oil. But you don’t want the sauce to be too watery. You need to reduce it down until it’s thick and concentrated. Like fireworks in your mouth!
7 - Couscous is a very ancient, symbolic dish in Morocco. It was even recently added to UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. How and when is couscous eaten?
The main ingredients in couscous are semolina and a sauce containing some kind of meat, for example, lamb. The semolina is also typically cooked in vegetable broth. There’s also couscous tfaya, which is topped with caramelized onions and raisins, and garnished with toasted almonds. During family dinners, the entire family eats from a huge plate of couscous. Some people even eat with their hands, shaping the food into little balls. So, first you would take a piece of chicken. Then you would shape the couscous around it to form a small ball. If ever you’re invited over to someone’s house on a Friday, couscous will definitely be on the menu. It’s a bit like France, where roast chicken is the traditional Sunday dinner. In Morocco, couscous is Friday lunch! But couscous is a social dish. Not only is it eaten every Friday, it’s also served at funerals or on special occasions where a lot of guests are expected.
8 - If someone wanted to try their hand at Moroccan cooking, what would you suggest they try for their first recipe?
L. T. - I would say chicken with olives. It’s no harder than making soup. It’s a safe bet!
9 - Morocco is also famous for its pastries. What desserts are you likely to serve to guests?
L. T. – Pistachios, almonds, honey, dates, sesame, cinnamon, and orange blossom are all main ingredients in our desserts. So, there’s mhancha, milk pastilla (or Jawhara), and seffa.Originally, some pastries, such as sellou, chebakia, and briouat, were meant to be eaten during Ramadan, because they’re all hearty desserts perfect for breaking your fast. But they can be eaten year round. Of course, once again, everything is served with tea!
10 - The orange blossom is a symbol of joy and celebration in Morocco. Is it mostly reserved for desserts? How is it used?
L. T. - It’s used in tea. But it’s always best to use real orange blossom. It can also be added to desserts as a substitute for vanilla. Finally, it’s also used in savoury dishes, especially ones made with fruits like apricot.
11 - What if you stay overnight? What’s for breakfast the next morning?
L. T. - There are a ton of breakfast options in Morocco. Of course, we don’t go all out every day, because we don’t have time. But if our guests have never tried our traditional breakfast foods before, then we take the time to prepare them. So, we might whip up an omelette with cured beef or lamb—a little like bacon. And tea... always tea! You’ll also find jam, honey, and olive oil on the table. Baghrir, which means “thousand-hole pancake,” can also be served in the morning. The yeast is what makes them similar to pancakes. We serve them drizzled with honey. The most important thing is to make sure they’re moist and not dry. Finally, there’s amlou, the Moroccan version of Nutella. It’s actually a spread made of almonds, argan oil, honey, and orange blossom.
A legacy of knowledge
12 - Recipes and culinary traditions are passed down from generation to generation. Is this the case in your family?
L. T. – Food is very important to us. Everyone has their own specialty. For example, my mother’s is tajine and my father’s are snacks and European-style foods. I’m somewhere in the middle, between international and traditional. Typically, there’s a time and a place for traditional dishes, for example, special occasions, holidays, or even weekends. We pull out all the stops. Of course, when people work, they don’t have the time or energy for all the bells and whistles. You can’t rush perfection!
Thank you, Lina Tariq!
Finally, we’d like to thank our expert, Lina Tariq, for generously agreeing to speak to us. Not only did she supply us with enough daydream material to last a lifetime, she also helped us understand what makes her native country tick. And who knows? Maybe she’s given you some ideas for your future trips to our Morocco office. In the meantime, why not consider a meal at a Moroccan restaurant right here in Québec?
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