Nine foodies met in Yaffo for a blogger’s night out. The restaurant planned on was closed, but the one right next door was open for business. We sat down at an outdoor table and feasted on mezze salads, couscous, fish, lamb shishlik, fried potatoes and fiery merguez sausages.
There are better and more expensive places to eat, but I liked sitting where local people eat, liked eating popular Middle Eastern food in the night. In Yaffo, next to the sea and in the middle of the Old City.
I hadn’t counted on the street being ripped up for repairs of some kind, but we were a few steps away from the flea market, which was celebrating summer by keeping shops, eateries, and galleries open till midnight.
Behind us on Yefet Street, the illuminated Ottoman clock tower kept time. At nine o’clock it struck nine tinny notes, surprising us. A little later, the muezzin call to prayer echoed and swirled up and down the neighborhood.
There was music in the air while we were eating – loud Moroccan music, coming from somewhere nearby. I got up and wandered past the restaurant and its Moroccan decor, seeking the musicians.
See the guy in the striped shirt?
He’s entering a little cobblestoned alley. Set out in the alley are tables and people are eating fish and drinking wine.
A nargilah and a stack of shesh-besh (backgammon) sets waited for company.
I drew closer to the source of the music, feeling the plaintive oud, shivery violin, and thump of the darboukah drum in my bones.
A sign proclaims: Every Thursday: Moroccan Haflah (get-together)! Every Tuesday, Middle-Eastern Night! Fridays, Kabbalat Shabbat with Oriental Singers! Fish and Mezze Served Free.
Across from the musicians, an open door. I peek in and behold a magical cavern hung with colorful rugs, set with tables invitingly holding tea glasses and coffee finjans.
What with the winding, nasal quarter notes in my ears and the lanterns swaying from their ceiling hooks and being full of shishlik, I felt I had been transported to Morocco itself, or maybe a movie version of it.
The Moroccan Dive, I called it. And went back to the restaurant, asking everyone to come see.
A large man wearing a cap backwards ushered us in, probably expecting us to order an ample meal. But we only had room for tea with sprigs of mint in it, and coffee. It turns out that the Moroccan Dive is managed by the same restaurant where we had dinner.
Four local guys in shorts sat near the front door, clapping and shaking to the music.
This old man wandered back and forth, dancing with gentle verve, stopping sometimes to talk to his friends.
We Anglos sipped our hot drinks and just soaked up the atmosphere…
…confident that we were well protected from the Evil Eye.
As we left the magical Moroccan cavern, we glimpsed this row of nargilah smokers lined up in the street, enjoying their perfumed tobacco, the smoke of which passes through water and is said to be extremely pleasant (if you smoke).
Have a nargilah, have a nargilah, have a nargilah, ve n’smecha…
The streets were moving with people seeking pleasure, music, a cold drink, a hot bourekas, something to gawk at. We moved among them.
No food photos, true. The ones I took were blurry. But you can see the kind of food we had in my previous post on a trip through Yaffo. And you’ll see the street in daylight. As for the restaurant: reasonable prices, food quality good but not exceptional, service obliging but a little lacksadaisical. Once the street gets fixed, it’ll be much more pleasant to sit there. But it was Yaffo, it was a night out with the bloggers, and it was great fun.
The bloggers: Sarah Melamed, Michelle Nordell (and husband Mr. B.T.), Hannah Katsman, Liz Steinberg, Ariella Darsa Amshalem, Mirjam Weiss, Irene Sharon Hodes and myself.