The fusion of Occidental and African cooking styles imparts a distinct and spicy flavour to Moroccan cuisine.
Meals, especially dinner, may last for hours, typically beginning with a vegetable salad or b'stilla (meat and almond filled pastry cooked with onions and covered in a sweet glaze).
The dining event traditionally consists of numerous specialty plates. Meat mixed with sweet ingredients, is a very important element of Moroccan cuisine. Beef skewers are common and often served with a pepper hot sauce called harissa . Cous cous is served in many different ways, though traditionally with vegetables and mutton. Moroccans usually eat cous cous on Friday, their Holy day, but it is almost always served at some point during a meal.
Tagine, or tangia, is a specialty dish originally made popular by workers who would stew meat or fish mixed with sweet fruits in terra cotta dishes buried in hot ashes. Tagines are made of meat, fowl, or seafood, and fresh seasonal vegetables or fruit, and flavoured with exotic herbs and spices. Tender cubes of lamb or beef are simmered to melting point with prunes, honey and sesame seeds in a sauce lightly tinged with cinnamon. Tagines are served from a communal dish set in the middle of the table, and chunks of warm 'kesra' are used to mop up the sauces.
Mechoui is lamb roasted slowly over a wood fire until tender. Other typical specialities include: harira, a rich soup, and pastilla, a pigeon-meat pastry made from dozens of different layers of thick flaky dough.
Of the numerous varieties of Moroccan dessert pastries, some of the most popular include kaab el ghzal, and griouch. Also briouates prepared with honey and almonds are not to be missed. The ghoriba variety is covered in almonds or sesame seeds and mhanncha is sprinkled with cinnamon.
Most Moroccan meals end with trays of fresh, seasonal fruit. In December, Morocco's famed tangerines (named from the city of Tangier) appear on every table. In the spring they are replaced with peaches, pears, and cherries grown in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. In summer, nothing beats slices of sweet, vine-ripened watermelons.
The national drink is mint tea made with green tea, fresh mint and sugar. It is very refreshing and its consumption is an integral part of Moroccan social courtesy. Coffee is made very strong, except at breakfast.
Bars can have either waiter or counter service. Laws on alcohol are fairly liberal (for non-Muslim visitors) and bars in most tourist areas stay open late. Wines, beers and spirits are widely available. Locally produced wines, beers and mineral waters are excellent and good value, but imported drinks tend to be expensive.