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She winked as her graceful body hazed by, whirling and turning like a desert dervish. The explosions of colors swept right by my eyes leaving little trails of dazzling light. She was wearing devilishly red silks and satin harem pants, a crimson flower playing in her long curls. Her skirt rebelled around her, its golden beads flickering in the light of a dozen lamps, each with their own shade and variety and temperament. Her hands weaved and waved a thousand ways, while her hips jerked from side to side in motions too mesmerizing for my thoughts to comprehend. Her feet glided as if she were dancing on the water of a desert oasis. 

And for much more than just a moment, I was there, inside the tent of some wealthy caravan trade prince, the guest of honor, feasting… laughing… Living!

El Morocco

El Morocco

What: Moroccan Restaurant
Where: 2203 Morello Ave. Pleasant Hill, CA, USA
Phone: 1(925)671-0132
Open: Tues – Sun 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Price: $29.95 for a 5 course feast or about half that for à la carte entrées.
Be sure to: Mention if it’s your birthday, they’ll give you a red fez to wear!
Try the: Lamb braised in Honey Sauce with Almonds, hold the raisins. Magnificently gratifying!
Web: www.elmorocco.net 

I hope you enjoyed my little narrative. That is exactly what it feels like when I’m over at my friend Fadil’s Moroccan restaurant located in the pleasant hills of, well, Pleasant Hill.

I have a lot of respect for Fadil, who was a musician before he became the proprietor of this amazing establishment. He is truly a magnificent host and unlike most restaurant owners, he is at El Morocco every night greeting its guests at the door, initiating the party for anyone celebrating a special occasion, and introducing the guest bellydancer of the night. Did I mention the bellydancers!?

Almost every night at around 7 pm and again at around 9 pm, a special guest bellydancer comes out to the dining area to place the guests under an exciting, sensual trance (appropriate for all ages, this is a family restaurant!) as they dance to the tune of lively and exotic Middle-Eastern music. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a captivating performance from my friend, Zahara, who performs here occasionally. Please don’t forget to tip them (In the Middle East it is customary for the male to kneel before the bellydancer while placing the tip on her waist. Warning, she may continue to bellydance making a game of it as you attempt this.)


The enchanting Zahara, an award winning professional bellydancer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, performing at El Morocco.

As you are sitting there enraptured by the show and awaiting your 5 course meal, you get the feeling that you’re inside a giant tent at a banquet held in your honor. The low tables are brass, round, Moroccan designs accentuated by a peregrine candle lamp. There are expensive Persian rugs and carpets all over the place as well as Moroccan poufs, which are round leather seats, to emphasize the festivities going on around you. As you sit (or lay) there, surrounded by a motley of vibrantly hued pillows, your supper binge begins…

Dining Table

Exotic dining table at El Morocco.

The servers bring out a basin and wash your hands in refreshingly warm water. Any meal such as this that you can eat with your hands must truly be deserving of your attention!

The 5 course feast starts off with some Harira, a traditional Moroccan soup with tomatoes, lentils, herbs and heartily spiced for flavor. Dip it in bread or drink it off the cup, here you are the sheikh!

Afterwards, you are served with a selection of choice Moroccan salads, including a mix of tomatoes, green peppers, parsley and eggplant puree with cabbage slices to use as scoops.

Next up, comes out the Bastilla, a flaky dough pie baked with Chicken, eggs and almonds and served sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Scoop up bite sized pieces with your hands and experience the sensation of flavors you never knew existed!

I hope you’ve built up some appetite, because at this point comes out the main course. You have an ample list of options to try your taste buds on, including chicken prepared in unique ways, lamb braised in honey sauce and topped with almonds, couscous which is a very fine cracked wheat served with meat or vegetables, or how about some hearty shish kabobs to fill your belly?

Time to eat!

Time to eat!

If that’s not enough for you and you’re feeling really adventurous then perhaps something unique such as Cornish hen braised with onions, lemon juice and green olives? Or why not braised hare in a lemony tomato sauce served with olives?

Ah and finally, for dessert some scrumptious Moroccan pastries with freshly brewed mint tea.

A delectably mouthwatering dinner, spellbindingly entertaining belly dance performance, loads of laughter and fun, and all for about thirty dollars. No wonder I feel like a king whenever I’m at this gem of a food and show palace!

Just being here has inspired me. I really need to add Morocco on my bucket list of places to travel to for my quest.

Thank you Fadil, for running such a wonderful place. You can bet your red fez I’ll be back often!

Let the vibrant lights, foreign sounds and exciting smells of El Morocco take you far, far away!

Learn to belly dance (or just get a better view!)