Chasing the Tagine

Chasing the Tagine

Mmm…tagine. The reputation of the tagine precedes itself – succulent, mouth-watering dishes, prepared to perfection and served sizzling in a clay pot. It is, and is likely to always be, the symbol of Morocco. An iconic dish for which this country is so famous.

But how many of us have tasted a real Moroccan tagine? By that I mean a tagine made in Morocco by Moroccans. Of course, if you’ve been to Morocco then of course you have! Visiting Morocco without having a tagine is like visiting Switzerland and not seeing the Swiss Alps or, for that matter, a cow! Tagine is Morocco and Morocco is tagine.

The chances are, though, you learned about tagine well before you even thought about visiting the country. Watch any cooking show for long enough and, sure enough, at least one episode will be on how to prepare the perfect tagine. The same goes for cook books – tagines feature in nearly every “flavours of the world” recipe book. And you have to admit – they look amazing, sound amazing and even taste amazing, that is if you dare to try one.

So, how much better could the tagine experience be in its country of origin? It has to be incredible. Right?! Surely it is as close to a divine experience as one could get. So for me, Morocco wasn’t so much about seeing the sights (which were incredible by the way), it was about chasing the tagine. Yep, that’s right, it’s somewhat of an addiction for me – finding the best ever tagine in Morocco.

But having been to this fascinating country twice now, I’ve come to realise that the search must go on. To be frank, I’m yet to find a tagine in Morocco that has lived up to my expectations. How can that be?! This is supposed to be the home of the tagine. But in all honesty none seemed to match the westernised versions that I’d become accustomed to. In my travels around this country, I tried all the meat tagines (in my pre-vegan days) and even the vegetarian tagines but they all seemed to more closely resemble the pour country cousin called “stew” (nobody’s favourite) rather than the amazing explosion of sensations on my tastebuds, which I’d imagined Moroccan tagines to be. For the most part, the ‘tagines’ we experienced were boiled vegetables and a lump of not-so-tender meat dumped on a mound of flavourless couscous, albeit served in a beautifully decorated tagine.

So I’m left wondering – Are there any good tagines in Morocco? Or, did I just have a bad tagine experience, eating at all the wrong places on my two trips to Morocco?

Despite it all, I’m holding onto the hope that I’ll find the perfect tagine on my third trip to Morocco. Let us know in the comments if you found the perfect tagine on your trip to Morocco… and where!

The Secret Life of Alice

The Secret Life of Alice

Sprawled diagonally across the bed, my tired, aching muscles began to relax at last. It felt good to finally have some time out from my crazy schedule on the well-worn tourist trail and to reflect on how I wanted to spend the rest of my time in this quirky little town.

Reaching into my backpack, I pulled out my Rough Guide and turning to the section on Alice Springs, I squinted at the page before me.

A din rose from the communal kitchen, interrupting my thoughts. It was peak season in Central Australia and the hostel was full with backpackers from around the globe.

Dinnertime. But as I visualised the small and, from the sound of it, very busy kitchen, the task seemed almost insurmountable and I decided to wait until things quietened down a little.

Turning my attention back to the guidebook clutched between my hands, I rolled over onto my stomach and propped myself up onto my elbows. I began to reconsider the list of popular things to do here in Alice Springs.

Anzac Hill – tick. I did that on the first day.

Desert Park – tick.

West MacDonnell Ranges – tick.

Uluru Kata Tjuta tour – tick.

It seems I’d pretty much done it all.

“There’s got to be something else to do around here.” I mumbled to myself. I flicked the page.

Kangaroo Sanctuary. No thanks, I’d seen a million kangaroos before.

Reptile Centre. Maybe.

What I really longed for, though, was a different kind of experience. A chance to be a part of the real Alice Springs. But what was the “real” Alice Springs?

My mind wandered to what it must be like to live here. I still couldn’t get my head around the reality of being 1500kms from the nearest city or beach! I wondered what it must be like to crave plunging into the cool, salty waters of the ocean or have a day out shopping in the city but yet not be able to. I marvelled at how remote this town is, smack bang in the very centre of Australia.

“What do locals do for fun?” I wondered aloud.

I put the book down. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to find the answers to my questions here.

Maybe a Google search. I reached instead for my phone.

Trip Advisor offered some more suggestions of the typical tourist sites – museums, galleries, national parks. All of which I love the idea of, don’t get me wrong. But none of them sounded like they were going to give me the “real” experience – whatever that may be. The more I looked at the suggested options, the more I realised I just wanted to chill out and soak up the atmosphere and live like a local for a few days.

I soon found that I not only could but that Alice is a treasure trove in the centre of the Australian desert.

Here are just a few of the things happening in 2017! For the latest information, make sure you check out the website links).

Open Mic Night

Where: Epilogue Lounge

When: Every Thursday 8pm – 11pm

What: Open Mic Night

AND

Where: Monte’s Lounge

When: Last Sunday of every month 6pm – 11pm

What: Open Mic Night (plus a feature act)

Feel like getting together for a jam, or just chilling over a couple of drinks while you listen to some live music? Epilogue and Monte’s host legendary Open Mic Nights where locals and travellers alike gather together to enjoy a great night of jamming, fun and frivolity. There’s some awesome talent in this remote little town and many great musicians travelling through. A night out at either of these two places, won’t leave you disappointed. Check out Epilogue’s Facebook page or the Desert Music Club’s Facebook page for more info.

The Acoustic Picnic

Where: Alice Springs Telegraph Station

When: Sundays 12pm – 1pm

What: Acoustic Jam Session in the Park

BYO food, acoustic instrument and picnic blanket, or just come down to relax and enjoy. Check out the Alice Springs Desert Music Club Facebook page for details as this event is held intermittently.

The Dirty Word

Where: Totem Theatre, Alice Springs

When: The last Tuesday of every month – 7:30pm register / 8pm start.

What: Spoken Word & Poetry Open Mic Night

Get up on stage and share your verses, literary prose, or even some a cappella, or just sit back and enjoy that of others. You’ll be amazed at the creative artistry! Find out more on their Facebook page.

Monday Movie Nights

Where: Araluen Arts Centre

When: Monday Nights

What: Art House & International Films

Regular screenings of various Art House and international films. For details and times see Araluen Arts webpage or their facebook page.

Vegan Tuesdays in Alice Springs

Where: Rotating venue, Alice Springs

When: 1st & 3rd Tuesday of every month, 6pm-8pm

What: Shared Vegan Dinner

Small donation for a big plate of food. Enjoy great company in a relaxed atmosphere. RSVP is essential for catering and numbers are limited. The address is messaged to those who RSVP. Register to attend by clicking on the Facebook event.

Alice Sings

Where: Watch This Space – 4/9 George Cres. Alice Springs

When: Every Sunday 3pm – 4:30pm

What: Contemporary Choir

You don’t need to be a great singer, or even a good singer, to come along and be apart of this contemporary choir – you just need to be prepared to have a go and have some fun. There’s a new song each week and most songs are pop songs from the 80s and 90s! How much more fun could it get?! To join the choir, send a request on Facebook.

Arunga Park Speedway

Where: Herbert Heritage Drive (Telegraph Station Road), Alice Springs

When: See website for race details

What: Speedway Car Racing

Regular speedway derby and sprint car events are held at Arunga Park. Race day information is available on the website.

U3A Creative Writing Group

Where: Alice Springs Library

When: 1st & 3rd Saturday of each month, 1:30pm-3:30pm

What: Over 50s Creative Writing Group

A creative writing group for those over 50 yrs of age that focuses on developing creative writing skills and sharing stories. Contact Margaret for more details or to register 0497 177 893.

S.A.L.T

Where: Alice Springs Library

When: 2nd Saturday of each month, 11.30am-1pm

What: Share a Lunch Together

BYO plate to share, or your own lunch, and meet new people. There is also a different guest speaker each time. For more details call Nikki on 0439 116 568.

Travelling Film Festival (TFF)

Where: Alice Springs Cinema

When: 17 Feb – 201 Feb 2017 (Held annually – dates and times vary)

What: A Travelling Film Festival

The TFF travels showcases a number of leading Australian and international films and documentaries, and travels to 18 locations across Australia. Alice Springs is the most remote screening. See the website or Facebook page for details.

Flickerfest

Where: Araluen Arts Centre – On the Circus Lawn

When: 16 Mar – 18 Mar 2017 (Held annually – dates and times vary)

What: International Short Film Festival

Join Alice Springs for three nights of short films under the stars. BYO picnic rug, chairs or bean bags. You can also bring your own food and drinks or purchase these from the stalls provided. Screening are the best Australian, international and animated short films and comedy skits selected from thousands of competition entrants. See the website or Facebook page for more details.

Blacken Festival

Where: Alice Springs

When: 15 Apr – 16 Apr 2017 (Held annually – dates and times vary)

What: Two Day Heavy Metal Music Festival

If heavy metal is your musical genre, then this is one festival you won’t want to miss. See a huge line-up of Australian heavy metal heavy weights in the open air, over two days and across two stages. Watch the clip or book tickets online here.

Aileron Bush Weekend

Where: Aileron Race Course (130kms North of Alice Springs)

When: 15-16 Apr 2017 (Annually – dates vary)

What: Rodeo, Gymkhana & Bush Dance

A weekend of Central Australian bush fun. Watch, or if you’re game, participate in the bull and bronco riding, calf roping, or gymkhana. There are also plenty of novelty races and events to keep you entertained and a traditional Aussie bush dance to show off your dancing skills. Camping included in your ticket price. More information on the website.

Something Somewhere Film Festival

Where: Alice Springs (various venues)

When: 20 Apr – 23 Apr 2017 (Held annually – dates and times vary)

What: International & (mostly) Documentary Film Festival

Featuring a mix of indigenous, non-indigenous and international documentary films screening across four different venues in Alice Springs. Visit the website for more details.

 

Heritage Week Festival

Where: Alice Springs – various locations

When: 21-28 Apr 2017

What: A Week of Heritage Events & Activities

Enjoy the rich heritage of Alice Springs over this week long festival. There’s a multitude of activities and events, from informative bus tours of heritage sites, to film screenings and information sessions on important moments in the history of Alice Springs. Alternatively, watch the town criers doin’ their thing, or admire the costumes in the Heritage Fashion Parade. See the town council’s website for more information on what’s on.

Nearly Anything Goes

Where: Totem Theatre, Alice Springs

When: 22 Apr 2017 (Held multiple times each year)

What: A Night of Music & Performing Arts

Music, dance, cabaret, spoken word, comedy, monologues…nearly anything goes. This is a night of short, punchy performances by the artistically inclined members of the local community. Find out more on the Alice Springs Council website.

Wide Open Space (WOS)

Where: Ross River Resort, Alice Springs

When: 28 Apr – 30 Apr 2017 (Held annually – dates and times vary)

What: Music, Arts & Performance Festival

Whatever your taste, WOS has it all. For those who love good music, the event showcases a wide range of musical acts – from live bands, to acoustic acts, DJ’s, Hip Hop, and Reggae, to yodelling quartets. Throughout the weekend, the festival also hosts a wide variety of performing arts acts including burlesque, circus, spoken word and roving talent. A number of visual art installations and projections are also located throughout the grounds. WOS is a festival for “the extraordinary, the interactive and the very quirky.” To find out more or to purchase tickets to one of Alice Spring’s best kept secrets, visit the website.

Bang Tail Muster Parade

Where: Alice Springs (Begins Todd St Mall)

When: 1 May 2017 (Annually – dates vary)

What: A Street Parade

This is a parade to celebrate the rich diversity and lifestyle enjoyed here in “the Alice” – a town like no other. Now in its 56th year, the parade draws huge crowds. Check out the website for more info.

The Big Sing in the Desert

Where: Ross River Resort, Alice Springs

When: 11 May – 14 May 2017 (Held annually – dates and times vary)

What: Four Day Singing Camp

Choral singers from across the country gather together for this workshop of musical and cultural sharing between indigenous and non-indigenous singers in both English and indigenous languages. Places are limited. See the website and Facebook page for details.

The Big Day Out in Harmony

Where: Alice Springs Town Council Lawns

When: 13 May 2017

What: Multicultural Event

Celebrating the diversity and cultural richness of Alice Springs, the Town Council and Multicultural Community Services are hosting an afternoon of music, dance, food, and fun activities. See the town council website for details.

Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow

Where: Araluen Arts Centre

When: 18 May 2017 (Held annually – dates and times vary)

What: Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival

Melbourne’s renowned comedy festival takes to the road, travelling to numerous locations Australia wide, including Alice Springs. A mix of Australian comedy stars, international guests and talented newcomers. See here for more details.

NT Writers’ Festival

Where: Alice Springs (Alternates between Alice Springs and Darwin each year)

When: 18 – 21 May 2017 (Annually – dates and times vary)

What: Northern Territory Writers’ Festival

This Writers’ Festival is “unique for profiling Indigenous Australian, South-East Asian and Northern Territory voices.” (NT Writers’ Centre). Without doubt, the festival incorporates inspiring workshops and presentations for writers and readers alike. See the website for program information.

Tatts Finke Desert Race

Where: From Alice Springs to Finke (and back)

When: 9-12 June 2017 (Annually – Queen’s Birthday Weekend)

What: Off-road Race

This is a two day, multi-terrain off-road race for buggies, quads, cars and bikes. The race course stretches from Alice Springs in the north to Finke in the south-west and back to Alice – approximately 460kms return. It has the reputation of being one of the most difficult and remote desert races in the world and with 500 plus entrants, and no-end of spectators, it is one of the biggest annual sporting events in the Northern Territory. This is reported to be Australia’s greatest off-road race and something not to be missed! See here for more information about the race and weekend events.

Sustainable Couture

Where: Central Australian Aviation Museum, Alice Springs

When: 22 Jun 2017 6:30pm (Annually – dates and times vary)

What: Fashion Show

A fashion show with a difference. All garments are made from recycled, repurposed textiles and homewares made by both local and interstate designers. For more information visit the website.

The Beanie Festival – Weaving the Magic

Where: Alice Springs

When: 23-26 June 2017 (Annually – dates and times vary)

What: Beanie Exhibition & Market Stalls

This is a festival dedicated to the beanie. Here you’ll find all types of beanies from the most wacky to the most finely crafted piece of artwork. There’s beanies for adults, kids and even the most choosey beanie-lover. It’s the beanie at its best. Enjoy the exhibition and wander through the various competition categories, or browse the many stalls in search of your perfect beanie. Check out the website for more details.

DesertSMART Eco Fair

Where: Alice Springs (various venues)

When: 11-13 Aug 2017 (Annually – dates and times vary)

What: Environmental and Sustainability Fair

Organised by the Arid Lands Environment Centre, this multi-day fair is Central Australia’s leading science and sustainability event. There’s workshops and guest speakers on a variety of topics, quizzes, fresh food and eco markets, gardening tips for arid zones, and a whole lot more. For more details check out the website.

Henley on Todd Regatta

Where: Alice Springs – Todd River

When: 19th Aug 2017 (3rd Saturday in August every year)

What: A Regatta (…of sorts)

This is definitely a boat race with a difference. Held on the (nearly always) dry Todd River, the whole town and tourists from far and wide gather together to watch the most hilarious boat races and competitions imaginable. Enter in one of the competitions on the day, or buy a ticket at the gate and relax on the river banks and simply enjoy the fun. This is the longest running iconic event in the NT and it’s probably safe to say unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Check out some of the videos from previous years here.

Alice Desert Festival

Where: Alice Springs (various venues)

When: 18 Aug – 7 Sep 2017 (Held annually – dates and times vary)

What: Music, Arts & Performance Festival

This festival focuses on sharing the stories, songs and unique lifestyle of Central Australia. See artists, dancers and musicians from some of the remotest communities around perform enriching and enlivening acts. Find out more on the website.

Stuck in the Middle with Yous

Where: Ross River Resort, Alice Springs

When: 25 Aug – 30 Aug 2017

What: All Women Camping Event

A five day camping event for members of the women-only group Rolling Solo. Attendees have the chance to participate in setting a world record for the most women camping together in one spot. Included in the ticket are a number of workshops and activities from knot tying, to bush tucker, Qi Gong to first aid and lots more. If you’re a woman and you like to travel solo, then this is definitely an event for you. See the website for details.

Red Centre NATS – Ultimate Festival of Wheels

Where: Alice Springs

When: 1-3 Sep 2017 (Annually – dates and times vary)
What: Automotive Festival

A car festival complete with competitions, street parade, action and entertainment. There’s something for everyone with the display of elite show cars, classics, hot rods, super cars, hobby vehicles and, of course, street machines. See the drag racing, street cruising, grass driving, burnouts, the show-and-shine competition, or just enjoy the live music. Enter your beloved machine on the website or purchase spectator tickets.

Alice Springs Pride Carnivale

Where: Alice Springs (various venues)

When: 2 Sep – 3 Sep 2017 (Held annually – dates and times vary)

What: A Festival Celebrating LGBTIQAP and Diversity

Join the local community in the celebration of sexual and gender diversity. Art exhibitions, workshops, fair day, pride party and film festival – there’s lots to see and do! Find out more here.

Molly’s Bash

Where: Old Andado Station (330km South East of Alice Springs)

When: 9-10 Sep 2017 (Annually – dates and times vary)

What: Overnight Camp and Bush Entertainment

Think bush camping, bon fire, country/folk music, and good company. BYO camping gear, food and drinks or grab something from the bar. Molly’s Bash is an annual fundraiser for the Old Andado Charitable Trust and all proceeds go to maintaining this heritage-listed homestead. See the website for more information or visit their Facebook page.

Parrtjima – Festival of Light

Where: Alice Springs Desert Park

When: 22 Sept – 1 Oct 2017 (Held annually – dates and times vary)

What: Light Show of Indigenous Culture & Artwork

This festival celebrates the culture and traditions of the local indigenous people. Accompanied by music and narration, indigenous art work is projected onto a 300 year old natural canvas, the MacDonnell Ranges. Festival goers can also see a number of other indigenous installations displayed throughout the festival grounds. More information can be found on the website.

And this is only some of what goes on in this small town in the middle of the Australian desert! There seems to be a never ending stream of touring bands, performers and artists! And, the best way to stay up to date on what’s happening is to check out these websites – Red Hot Arts and the Alice Springs Town Council Events. These sites are regularly being updated with upcoming one-off events, shows and performances.

Alice really is the best kept secret in the desert!