Exploring Dakhla’s Food Scene at Oasis Into the Wild Festival
When thinking of Morocco, travellers might be used to the usual cultural hotspots more known internationally: Casablanca, Marrakech and the capital of Rabat. But much less known is the city of Dakhla: a small territory on the coast of Morocco heavily influenced by its proximity to water.
It's also the site of a burgeoning music event headed up by creators native to the country. This autumn, we headed to Oasis Into the Wild Festival – a multi-day music event spearheaded by creator Marjana Jaidi. Into the Wild is the first of its type to hit the area; a boutique spin off festival making its launch after the pandemic, Jaidi launched the event with the aims of introducing festival attendees to more unique travel destinations in the country.
And in an area so linked to water it’s only natural that the region would have a unique food culture. Into the Wild teamed up with Moroccan chefs and restaurateurs – such as Yasmina Ksikes of Lalla Mina and Aniss Meski of Mouton Noir – to bring Dakhla’s cuisine to festival-goers. “The local produce in Dakhla is mostly ocean driven, and the rest is brought from either Mauritania or southern cities like Laayoune or Agadir,” Yasmin explains. “The abundance of ocean produce is truly unique, and the flavours are wonderful.”
Read on for our main takeaways from Dakhla's food scene and Oasis Into the Wild.
Opt for seafood
In an area with an abundance of water it only makes sense to try the seafood. Seafood culture is a highlight of the area with many local places using Moroccan oysters sourced from Dakla farms, amongst other fish such as croaker. “If you are a traveller, I recommend you try Morrocan oysters,” Meski says. “Dakhla has a lot of fish and seafood to work with, that's why I used a lot of local products for the festival. Their lobsters are crazy good and really fresh!”
But try the camel meat too
We got the chance to try other local delicacies in Dahkla such as m'semen – a form of flatbread – and other types of meat sources less popular abroad. Local food is largely influenced by the presence of the desert and its “nomadic style of cuisine”. Yasmina tells us, “Seafood culture is the highlight of Dakhla for sure, but what a lot of people don't know is the area is known for camel meat.” A native animal to the area, camel meat as well as its hump fat (referred to as daroua) are often used in local meals and cooking, such as camel tagines.
“Do not miss the tea ceremony. The tea is incredible and unique to the area,” she continues. “Dakhla people use the unique verb ‘to tea’, which means spending long hours making and drinking the very rich and sweet drink. I also love the very refreshing Bissap drink, which is a version of hibiscus, lime and mint iced tea.”
Be prepared for travel challenges
All in all, to get the best taste of Dakhla it’s important to be prepped. The area is largely remote and not without its caveats. Oasis Into the Wild Festival faced its own challenges in its launch with transport, and international travellers might struggle to gain internet access or source a local sim without speaking Arabic – or at least some conversational French. “Getting around Dakhla can be a bit challenging, as everything is really spread out,” Marjana admits. She advises to stick with hotels that arrange and source trips for you based around the seafront, or lagoons that might offer a range of activities.
Dakhla Club, where the festival was located, offers kite surfing, boat rides and quad biking, and many others may have the option to provide some or all of the meals as an in-house package. “Choose a hotel that you can use as your main base from which to explore everything that the region has to offer,” she continues. “Taxis can also be a good option if you’re staying in the city centre but they can be less reliable if you’re staying at a hotel on the water. You can also visit certain points of interest by boat that can be arranged through your hotel too.”