Breakfast in a City of Mediterranean Nights

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Tangier is a night city. When morning lavishes itself on the bay and light pours into the tight alleys of the medina there is scarcely anyone afoot to appreciate its loveliness. Even the rooftop roosters are on Spanish time, and wait until the sun is well up before making themselves heard.

Slowly the city wakes, and the hundreds of street stalls and cafés swing back their shutters and begin their daily hustle. There are several options for breakfast. The many patisseries--ranging from humble neighborhood corner shops to glitzy marble affairs--offer impeccable petit pain au chocolat and croissants, as well as an overwhelming array of Moroccan sweets. Some, usually indicated as salons de thé, have seating and are a favorite gathering place for women and families, who generally avoid the masculine atmosphere of the cafés.

For a quick bite, the laiteries offer various breads with cheese or nutella, though if you don't insist, you're likely to get La Vache Qui Rit instead of the local stuff.

What I would recommend is to head for any of the innumerable little street stalls piled with fresh griddle breads: harcha, a small round semola bread, gritty like a good johnny-cake, spread with fresh local cheese (jebne arabi), and cloudy honey from the Rif Mountains (Asal). Try beghrir, a spongy crepe rolled up with a syrup of honey and butter. There's also the irresistibly greasy rghaif, chewy layers of wheat bread with or without spicy onions inside.

These delicacies will be cheerfully wrapped up in newspaper, so you can savor them with a milky coffee at one of the classic old cafés with rows of chairs placed to watch the world go by.

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Maggie Schmitt is a freelance researcher and translator based in Madrid.  She is currently working on a book called The Gaza Kitchen with Laila El-Haddad. Learn more at gazakitchens.wordpress.com.

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