Photo by Sarah Afaneh

AD Secrets: Meknes Restaurant

Tables filled with chicken pastilla, madfouna, and chicken couscous to share — Meknes Restaurant provides a glimpse into Northern Morocco and a new space to breathe.

Sep 28, 2019

Amidst tall buildings in the bustling streets of Mina Road, lies a small, almost hidden, Moroccan restaurant. From the perspective of a passing car, the restaurant is an overlooked store-front on the side of the road, surrounded by baqalas, banks and a few hotels. Neon green lights spell out Meknes Restaurant in both English and Arabic, contrasting with the red lights of the car rental store beside it.
Named after a city in Northern Morocco, Meknes Restaurant's interior decor mirrors the city’s architecture and design, giving customers a complete cultural immersion. The blue doors immediately drew me into the restaurant, reminiscent of stores in the old souq’s cobblestone roads. The space is a glimpse into life in Morocco, separate from any prior notions of familiarity I had in Abu Dhabi. And of course, the decoration lent itself to an aesthetically pleasing Instagram story that received plenty of love.
Moroccan music fills the room, loud enough to hear, but quiet enough to speak over. With this tranquil setting, the restaurant allowed me to pause, reflect and simply sit in a world separate from the one beyond those blue doors.
Photo by Sarah Afaneh
Meknes Restaurant is, in one word, hospitable. Nostalgia for home overcame me as I walked into a cozy space filled with couches and chairs. There is a sense of comfort associated with the welcoming nature of the staff and their authentic meals. Tables filled with chicken pastilla, madfouna, and chicken couscous to share — the total bill per person usually ranges between 50 and 75 AED.
A main staple to order is the chicken pastilla, a crunchy outer pastry stuffed with chicken, cinnamon and orange flower water, sprinkled with shaved almonds on top. Moroccan dishes are frequently both sweet and savory, with cinnamon a common ingredient in many dishes. This flavor combination is overwhelmingly present in Seffa Medfouna. Medfouna is the Arabic word for buried and describes the saffron-flavored chicken dish that is buried under a mound of steamed broken vermicelli, garnished with raisins, cinnamon, almonds and powdered sugar.
Moroccan tea is a post-meal necessity to tame an fast-growing food baby — believe me, you’ll have one. No matter how many times I see it, I continue to be left mesmerized at the controlled method in which the tea is poured from a height into small tea cups with perfect amounts of sugar. These minor details reveal the employee’s mindfulness to give customers the full Moroccan experience, leaving me with a “home away from home” feeling.
Photo by Sarah Afaneh
Displayed in elegant national gold plates with intricate designs, under breathtaking artwork from Morocco, the dessert was what intrigued me most in Meknes. The manager, a kind, smiling man who speaks more Arabic dialects than you would imagine, recommended “kaab el ghazal,” a sweet pastry stuffed with almond paste and sugar. Many other desserts also had a pastry base and sugar, cinnamon or dates, each more flaversome than the one before.
Abu Dhabi is a city that encompasses many cultural hubs that are often left unexplored. With Google Calendar driven lives, it can be easy to reside comfortably in the bubbles we create for ourselves. Hop into a cab towards Al Diar Capital Hotel for only 30 AED, a quick 15 minutes away from campus. Meknes Restaurant provides a new space to breathe, and an escape from essay-writing, Starbucks coffee and convenience store runs.
Sarah Afaneh is Deputy Features Editor. Email her at
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