Photo Courtesy of Jun Bin Ho.

How to Navigate being a Broke College Student AND a Foodie in AD: Meknes

A kickoff with my favorite restaurant in town.

Feb 13, 2022

I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t kick off this column by suggesting my favorite restaurant in town: Meknes. As a disclaimer, I will say that I am very biased in that choice because it is Moroccan food and reminds me of home, but it definitely is worth it, should you follow my recommendations.
My love story with Meknes started in my first semester on campus when homesickness hit an all-time high. I was missing my friends, my family and most importantly, home-cooked meals. Following the recommendation of a friend on campus (shoutout to you Ghita), I called Meknes and had my four favorite dishes from back home delivered to my old A2A abode: Zaalouk, Taktouka, Cheese Briouates and a Chicken Bastilla. I did not have any grandiose expectations. I was just craving food from back home and was too lazy to cook.
As soon as I took my first bite of Taktouka, tears of joy streamed down my cheeks. I have pictures for proof but I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself by including them. It tasted like my grandma’s cooking. I tried every other dish bite by bite and proceeded to invite my entire group of friends to come over and try it.
Photo Courtesy of Jun Bin Ho.
About a month later, I organized a dinner at the restaurant with my closest friends and we practically ordered the entire menu, sharing each dish turn by turn. We ate so much and ended up paying only around 50 to 70 AED per person and I’ve spent even less during the four or five times I returned there. Here’s a look at the menu for an idea of prices. We get there by taking Bus 170 from campus and getting off five stops later at Al Zahiyah, Hamdan Street. From there, it is approximately a 10-minute walk to the restaurant. Google Maps should be your best friend. I’m terrible at giving directions in person, so I won’t even try writing them down. After your little stroll guided by Google Maps, you should arrive in front of a small restaurant with a big white shiny "MEKNES" inscription, named after the imperial city of Morocco.
Photo Courtesy of Jun Bin Ho.
The interior of the restaurant screams old traditional riad. The left is mostly colored in blue in the back of the restaurant, with a bizarre combination of colors to the right, where the larger tables are. The ceiling is carved out with inscriptions in Arabic and traditional arabesque carvings. The restaurant is always playing Moroccan cha3bi (popular) music or Amazigh cha3bi. If I had walked into that place back home, it probably would have been too much for my taste, but in Abu Dhabi, I always feel a strange sense of familiarity with the restaurant.
You don’t need to order much to walk away from Meknes with a food coma, which is why I recommend going with friends and ordering different dishes to try a little bit of each and share amongst yourselves. Start with light salads like Zaalouk, Taktouka, the Moroccan salad and Batata Hara, perfect options for vegetarians and vegans as well. Don’t eat too much bread with that or you’ll be full by the time your main dishes come and you really don’t want that. For the mains, if you’re craving something sweet, go for the Chicken Bastilla — honestly, one of the best I’ve had in my life — or the Prunes Tajine, which comes with lamb meat. If you want something very meaty in taste, go for Boulfafs, which are bruschettas of mutton or beef liver rolled in thin pieces of fat and grilled over coal fire. This is a traditional dish that is always served for Eid-Al-Adha, cooking which is often a communal exercise. If you want something more savory, the Merzouga Tajine, the Special Chicken Tajine and the Tajine MHammar are the ways to go, in that order of preference. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, I recommend asking for the Special Chicken Tajine with only vegetables, but ask them to put in a wider variety of vegetables. The staff is very friendly and will be happy to assist you if you have dietary restrictions and want to experiment.
The golden rule when eating a Tajine is to squish the food with the bread and eat it with your hands. It might be challenging at first if you’re not familiar with it, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it. I would personally steer clear of the Couscous, the Rfissa or any of the Briouates; they’re too dry and you’d be quite disappointed in the taste. For the same reasons, I wouldn’t recommend any of the pastries.
Photo Courtesy of Jun Bin Ho.
Of course, you should finish off your meal with a nice mint tea. Post food coma, I personally love taking a little stroll at the park near the bus station and sitting there for a while to digest before heading back to campus.
I’d love to hear back from you if you decide to go there after reading this and as we say in Morocco, "BelsseHa ou la’afiya."
Rania Kettani is Deputy Columns Editor. Email her at
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