Pizzeria Best Wishes: Unexpected Beauty on a Rabat Side Street

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Between the Medina and Morocco’s ornate Parliament building, there’s a humble side street bistro called Pizzeria Best Wishes. Aesthetically, Best Wishes is a study in contrasts. Populated with unassuming metal chairs, frayed woven place mats and faded ketchup bottles, I didn’t expect much from the atmosphere. In fact, I almost walked past the place on my first visit.

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When I entered, though, I was surprised to see abstract oil paintings by the artist Chamlani covering the walls, musically backed by the wailing simplicity of Oum Khaltoum and visually by the glow of a stone pizza oven.

My companion, a visiting Fulbright character, added to the surrealism of the surroundings by encouraging me to close my eyes while listening to Oum Khaltoum, and to hear how she “draws her music from the earth and nature.”

After thoughtfully considering the laminated menu, I chose the very earthy kefta (ground meat) tagine with egg:

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While the scholar ordered his regular chicken and the intern picked pizza (Italian, with an olive in the center, though it looks like a cockroach here. Don’t worry, the place wasn’t that earthy):

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My tagine (pictured with my beautifully unbreakable brick phone) was a bit heavy on tomatoes, but that didn’t stop me.

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The scholar enjoyed his chicken and the intern loved her pizza — which, both aesthetically and by smell, seemed like the best choice.

As we ate our food, a graduate student working with the scholar on a thesis about Palestine joined us. As he knew little English but had spent his whole education in Modern Standard Arabic, he and I discussed his thesis and our lives in the best Fus’ha I could manage.

After the restaurant, the four of us roamed Rabat for a while before heading to our respective homes. The scholar has now left my building, where he stayed temporarily, and the intern will soon leave her Moroccan host family to return to school in America. The graduate student is staying, though, and we have become steady language partners. More on language progress later, if he doesn’t object to being blogged about.

Next week: Beach day at SKHirat! (Emphasis on the kh.)

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