Wide Angle

Once upon a time, a love story in Marrakech

Once upon a time, Aneesa Waheed and her husband met in the aspiring city of Marrakech, fell in love and got married but their story did not end there. The couple now owns two Moroccan restaurants in Schenectady, New York, sharing with their community their experiences, love for the Moroccan cuisine and culture. Love Story.

Once upon a time, Aneesa Waheed and her husband met in the aspiring city of Marrakech, opening later a Moroccan restaurant in teh USA./Ph. DR
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Love can do miracles and for Anissa Waheed, owner and founder of Tara Kitchen, the beauty of Marrakech is the secret ingredient to her success story. The American national who has nearly been to Morocco a thousand times cannot forget how the country inspired her to open her restaurant in the USA.

The Schenectady native has an interesting story to share about Marrakech, her marriage and the Moroccan cuisine. Aneesa Weheed and Muntasim Shoaib met in the Kingdom’s «red city» and after falling in love they married. The couple who were blessed enough to find love in Marrakech then left to the USA to tell their story in a very unique and delicious way.

Visiting Morocco 

«I got married in Marrakech in March 2007. I love the country and literally I went to Morocco for twenty times», said Aneesa when contacted by Yabiladi. «I first went to Morocco in 2006 with two of my girlfriends and we travelled all along the country visiting Casabalnca, Rabat, Fez, Ouerzazate and of course Marrakech», said Aneesa.

Aneesa Waheed, owner of Tara Kitche./Ph. DRAneesa Waheed, owner of Tara Kitche./Ph. DR

After one trip to Morocco, Aneesa was hooked on the spot, the food, culture and heritage inspired her all at once. «When I first came to Morocco I really loved the food and I wanted to learn how to cook it myself», she recalled. Years before opening her first Moroccan restaurant located in a county near New York, Aneesa was just enjoying the uniqueness of the local cuisine, the flavors and the heritage.

In 2009, and after returning to the USA with her husband, Aneesa wanted to make use of what she learned in Morocco and immediately thought of cooking. «I was working in Technology, so I quit my job and told everybody that I wanted to do something with food», said Aneesa, adding : «I originally was thinking of Indian food because I was raised next to India and I am originally from Pakistan, but then I said Moroccan food is not well represented in the area where I live».

Tara Kitchen and Moroccan cuisine

In 2012, the young woman along with her husband opened Tara Kitchen after offering for three years Moroccan food in Schenectady and Troy farmers markets. «It took us a couple of years to open our first restaurant (…) It was really unique and different as I made everything from scratch, the lemons our Harissa and people loved it», she told Yabiladi.

Tara KitchenTara Kitchen

Serving Tajines, Moroccan sauces and a number of other traditional dishes, the couple succeeded in attracting clients who were curiously trying to discover the North African kingdom. Loved from the first bight, Aneesa was enthusiastic describing her clientele : «90 per cent of our customer base is American, people who never experienced Morocco and who are exploring the cuisine».

«I would say that the majority of our clients have not been introduced to the Moroccan culture, but many of them are Moroccans who come to the restaurant bringing more friends (…) they simply love it».

Now Tara Kitchen is offering a number of traditional dishes in the area. «On the menu, we have a ton of traditional stuff but I also sort of incorporated some elements bringing in American ingredients and making the cuisine more appealing», described Aneesa who extended the boundaries of the traditional Moroccan food.

A Moroccan spa in New York

Recently, she opened her second restaurant and is working on opening a Hammam or a «Moroccan Spa» as she prefers to call it. «I think that the most amazing thing that one can do in Morocco is going to a Hammam», stated Aneesa who thought of bringing the idea all the way to her county in New York. «I love the concept and I wanted to do something again that would represent Morocco, the whole idea of a Hammam is crazy and people are excited about it», she added. And to provide the right elements of a Hammam ritual, Aneesa will be sourcing «kees» (a glove that people use in the Hammam to scrub their skin). She is also making the Moroccan traditional soap at her place.

Tara KitchenTara Kitchen

Aneesa’s love for Morocco does not stop there and she has other plans in mind that she told Yabiladi about. «One of the things that I want to start doing after opening the Hammam is organizing traveling tours to morocco», she explained.

«I would like to get a group of people to on a tour to Morocco (…) show them the history, culture, the people and all these kind of things».

To put it in other words, Aneesa wants her community to get to know Morocco the way she did. Starting with a love story and moving to a restaurant, a Hammam and other projects, Aneesa remains faithful to the country that she loves visiting the most.

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