I talked Paul into yet another cooking class in Marrakech. It’s not all about the food, we find these classes often give a greater insight to the local culture. This was definitely the case at Amal Women’s Training Centre, Morocco.
Choosing a Cooking Class in Marrakech
I researched a number of local classes that include visits to the spice souks or trips outside the city. There are an overwhelming amount of cooking classes in Marrakech, all promising to teach you how to cook that perfect tagine.
Book an excellent class while supporting a good cause, with the Amal Women’s Training Centre. They run a hugely popular restaurant, (bookings essential), tagine cooking classes in Marrakech and also baking classes. You’ll get a great experience and support a truly exceptional cause.
Amal Women’s Training Centre
The Amal Centre is a non profit organisation dedicated to the empowerment of disadvantaged women through restaurant training and job placement. Amal was founded in 2012 by a Moroccan woman.
In Morocco, women in difficult social situations, in particular widowed, divorced, single mothers, or orphans, find it very difficult to find employment and are discriminated against daily. There are also many women that have not received an education, after being removed from school at a very young age. They are frequently sent to work as child maids.
Empowering Women through Education and Training
Amal empowers these women with a 6 month training programme, teaching them the necessary skills to work in the hospitality industry. After the training programme they go to an internship. Then Amal finds them employment in restaurants, hotels, riads or private homes, allowing them to be financially independent. Throughout the training they receive a living allowance, transport, meals and holistic support. The programme is truly life changing for many women.
The restaurant in Guadiz is very popular and a second centre was opened in Targa, here they run the cooking and baking classes. The extra space allows them to support more women through the training programme. The restaurant, cooking school, school lunches and catering programmes at Amal help fund their training programme.
You can pay lots of money to a 5 star hotel for a tagine cooking class, or you can come here and genuinely make a difference with your Moroccan Dirhams. Your contribution to their cause is genuinely appreciated and needed.
Getting to the Cooking Class in Marrakech
Now on to the class. We had to wake up a bit earlier than we’d been used to in Morocco! During breakfast we were planning our walk to Guadiz. Then I realised the class isn’t at their restaurant as I had assumed, but in another location. We needed a taxi, something that we had been avoiding in Morocco because they are notorious for their overcharging of tourists. But it was ok. I bargained a bit, accepted that the price was ok, and we weren’t in a position to argue for long! The driver was friendly and patient. We didn’t know where we were going and he didn’t either, but he asked someone for help and we got there in time.
Tagine Cooking Class in Marrakech
We had a choice to cook lamb, fish or chicken tagine and we chose lamb. The way the class is structured you get to observe the preparation of the other tagines and prepare your own. So the lesson covers the three types of tagine.
All the spices and ingredients were neatly presented at our cooking benches before we arrived. The process of assembling the tagine is quite straightforward.
The lamb tagine was prepared first as it takes longer to cook, followed by the chicken and fish. We used traditional charcoal burners under the tagine, and had great fun with the hand bellows getting our coals glowing.
Moroccan Tea Ceremony
Once all the tagines were underway, we went to the garden to collect herbs for a traditional Moroccan, mint tea ceremony. One of the woman demonstrated the ceremony while Warda the Communications Manager explained everything in English.
Then as we all enjoyed our sweetened tea, (Moroccans love lots of sugar in their tea!). Warda told us more about Amal, and some of her own, inspiring story. The first woman in her family to graduate high school, to go to University and get her Masters. She studied overseas in Italy and America. Her relatives were often concerned about how she might change after this overseas influence, and gave her Dad a lot of grief about him allowing her these freedoms. But she has proven that she can remain true to her values and those of her family, while having an education and a successful career.
It was a humbling reminder of the freedoms myself and many women I know, have enjoyed in our daily life, our education and our careers. Of course many of us still fight for equality in the workplace, but on a different level to the discrimination that Moroccan women deal with. Warda was incredibly generous and open. Sharing her story freely and answering our questions. At the same time she was truly respectful of the women at the Amal Centre. Telling us a little of the stories of some of the woman that have trained there, but always mindful of their privacy and dignity.
The Best Bit, Eating our Tagines
After the tea ceremony the tagines were almost ready to eat. We prepared a simple salad and all sat together at a long table in the gardens to eat lunch.
If you go to the Amal Cooking Class be sure to say ‘Yes’ to the dessert of the day. Ours was a divine almond tart, still warm from the oven. We received a recipe per person to take away, so we were able to choose two different ones. When we finally have a kitchen ( and a house!) again I am looking forward to making another lamb Tagine.
If you want to do the class, or visit the restaurant, be sure to book in advance as they are very popular. Find out about Amal and book at their website. If I go back I will be signing up for the baking class for sure, and will hopefully learn how to make that delicious almond tart!
Read more about our time in Marrakech. 4 days in Marrakech.
And our top 10 tips for Travel in Marrakech