Dépaysement - one of Jean-Marc's favorite French words!
Invisible People (aka SDF, sans-abri, sans logement, va-nu-pieds)

Afin de + When, just like that, a cultural curiosity is demystified

Nador Morocco fisherman beach red cap

In order to express thanks and gratitude, in Arabic, the term "chukran" is used. (Hear this sentence in French, below.) Photo taken on the northeast coast of Morocco, at Tmadet Sidi El Bachir. 

Today's word: "afin de"

    : so as, in order to, 

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following sentence in French: 

Click here to hear the sound clip

Afin d'exprimer remerciements et gratitude, en arabe, c'est le terme « choukran » qui est prononcé. -- L'Arabe facile.fr


    by Kristin Espinasse

I told you recently about Jean-Marc surprising me with a trip to.... Nador. As soon as he revealed the destination, I quickly googled for more info only to learn that Nador is "a non-touristic town" on the northern border of Morocco--very near the Algerian border. 

"Non-touristic"? I felt uneasy about traveling to un tel endroit.  After all, the U.S. Passports and International Travel site warns "against travel to remote areas of Algeria due to the threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping". Wasn't the border of Morocco/Algeria a bit remote?

As we waited at the airport for our passport verification, the line to our left (travelers going to Rome--where we were initially headed before the surprise switch-a-roo) were whisked forward--quickly passing the checkpoint. Looking around our own slow-moving queue, which zigzagged back 3 lines deep, I noticed my husband and I were the only non-Moroccans headed for Nador. I began to pick-up on something else, too... all the women in line wore headscarves (except the youngest girls and one other woman who resembled a Moroccan pop star (she wore bright red lipstick, stylishly painted eyebrows, and her long hair was as glossy and as straight as her stilletos which peeked out beneath tight leather pants. It was reassuring to see her at the other end of the Moroccan Dress Spectrum, and I now felt I fit in somewhere on that spectrum, hélas not too close to the other's red-lacquered freedom of expression. I am most comfortable blending in with the scenery (don't get me wrong. I don't want to be dull, rather, more like one more blossom on a Bird of Paradise plant). But blending in with the Nadorian scenery is something that would be impossible for the next 4 days (on our entire trip, besides an alarming amount of refugees, we saw only 4 other foreign-looking people in Nador--a couple who may have been French and two women, from Holland?)....

Seated on the airplane, now, next to a woman whose head was covered with a black scarf, I was surprised when my seatmate asked me if the headscarf which she had just readjusted looked OK. Est-ce que ça va comme ça? She innocently asked.

Was she talking to me? I can't even tie a French scarf!

Seizing the demystifying and honorable moment I gave my best assessment of the complex-to-me head-and-neck covering--and then showed a thumbs-up for extra reassurance.

As we deplaned I regretted the missed opportunity to have asked my seatmate for her opinion and knowledge as well. There were so many enigmas swirling in my head. Mainly, I needed to know how to say hello and thank you in Arabic, because you can go a long way in any culture with those two magic words.

Kristi vegetarian couscous
Jean-Marc loved the couscous that we were served, nightly, at our Riad Dar Nador. This beautiful bed and breakfast cost around 100 euros per night including breakfast and dinner. The staff (two women) were so kind, as was the owner.  When we returned to France, I tried to recreate those simple vegetarian couscous dinners that Jean-Marc looked forward to each evening.

Vegetarian couscous morocco pumkin zuccini grains raisins onion honey garlic tablecloth

Here is a quick recipe I jotted down on Facebook. I'm working on it, so do let me know what you think would be a good addition to it! It's already very good in this simple way:

You'll need a jar of "couscous spices" (link below). Next, boil in a medium saucepan, some pumpkin (I used butternut), zucchini, and raisins (add the couscous spices, to your liking), then pour the cooking water over the couscous grains (I used one cup grains, one cup liquid. Steam for 5 minutes. Transfer the couscous to the plates and arrange the boiled vegetables on top. Top with sauteed purple onion (cooked with garlic and honey). Update: I added chickpeas next time around! Will be making this regularly now. It will be a nice break from all the chili we've been eating!

You can help support this word journal by using these links when you shop at Amazon. Many thanks in advance!

COUSCOUS SPICES-Ingredients from over 30 different herbs and spices include: Grains of Paradise, Lavender, turmeric, ajawan seeds, kalajeera, ginger, galangal, oris root, rose buds, monk's pepper, cinnamon and more

TAGINE--beautiful Moroccan clay cooking pots, see a selection here

Travel Baggage--Onboard waterproof spinner suitcase

For those who know and love Cattier French beauty products, you can find them here on Amazon.


Subscribe to France Today or FrenchEntrée magazine and you'll also receive a copy of 'PARIS Cityscope' absolutely FREE! 272-pages of insightful advice on where to visit when in Paris, written by leading Paris-based author and blogger Adam Roberts. Click here for more info

Max and Jean-Marc at Vin Sobres
Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland! 

Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss 
seeing them.

Houston,  TX : December 13th at 7 PM
- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence13616 Memorial Drive. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed. 

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed


A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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I love your column and read it regularly. Your North African trip sounds truly exotic and love the flavours of the coous cous recipe. I am just about to head off to Florida to Orlando. Greatly exciting for me as at the age of 78 I have never been to a Disneyland
Park. My granddaughter is dancing in parades there this week and I am so looking forward to being with them and enjoying the buzz. I too shall be eying fellow travellers to see whether the dress codes are in line with my assembled wardrobe. Good health and happiness to you and your family and do keep writing. An Irish Francophile.



From pictures I have seen, where you went is very beautiful. It was nice the woman felt comfortable to ask you if she looked ok. I think if more of us would be more comfortable who knows what could happen in this world of fear and uncertainty. I hope you had a nice visit.


She was asking a chic person, yes you, advice! Love it!!

Gwyneth Perrier

What an adventure! I loved reading your post about venturing into this little known area of Morocco. It sounds like it was an unforgettable experience.

John Hawke

We were at the Blackbird wine shop earlier this year. Too bad we live in FL and Houston & Portland are so far away.
Some day I hope to see Jean-Marc at work! to see Max would be an added bonus.
Best to you all

Gerald Pierson

This is quite interesting. When I first started studying French a l’Allience Française in Houston Texas.


Great trip Kristi - never been there but certainly interested!
Some thoughts for your future couscous recipes.......rather than boiling the vegetables, we bake them (30 - 40 mins) and add chickpeas to the baking vegetables for the last 20 minutes. Sometimes i will add cubes of haloumi cheese and bake these with the vegetables also (or fry / char them in a pan). Serve with crumbled feta (if you did not use haloumi) and hummous - mmmm

marlies wilding

now that is an adventure! i spent 3 months travelling around morocco when i was 20.. during the "marrakech express" years, and i would give just about anything to get back there... alas, the times have changed, and i am left with my memories of the awesome colors, fragrance, arts, food, textiles, and religions of that part of the world.. their colors resonate with the colors of the southwest usa..... and i love them still. i hope you get to go back there again!


I love your china, Kristi. It's subtle, but beautiful and elegant, like a blossom on a bird-of-paradise plant. Like you.

Joanne Ablan

Bonjour, Kristi,
Thanks for the exotic, healthy, and tasty recipe. What a pleasure that
you have open borders for your leisure; that is a great freedom which
we, here in the USA, need to cherish.


Our dear Kristi,
Today's post is like a fresh air,especially with these delicious recipes.
I am unfamiliar with both this area and also their cuisine.
Thank you for transporting us there to share the fun!!
Natalia XO
PS Birds of Paradise were my dear Mama's favorite flower(living in Arizona they were to be rare and cherished--rare and cherished reminds me of you!)


Nyom, nyom! I discovered couscous dishes while on foreign study in Caen, many years ago. It was always delicious, made with lots of vegetables but also lamb, or maybe chicken, and super "hot" with a ton of cayenne pepper!

joie in Carmel

And the third magic word is "please". When in Europe for the first time (for 5 months, 42 years ago) I learned those three words in the language of every country I visited....including Greece, Morocco and Hungary. Morocco today is not at all like when I was there. We were given a tour of the Casbah by a very nice Frenchman we met on the bus from Ceuta to Tangiers. He sort of became our protector after the bus from Ceuta to Tangiers was boarded by some Bedouins on horseback in the desert. I think today it is more difficult to find a places in most countries that have not been "touristified" (my word!). They are there and that is where you can truly experience the culture of a country. You can find the areas of the locals in the cities also if you are willing to venture off the given path. And in the end it is so worth it. Jean-Marc seems to like to take you to places like that.

Kent Benson

"In order to express thanks and gratitude, in Arabic, the term "chukran" that is pronounced."

I can't seem to make sense of this sentence. Is something missing?

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Ken. Looks like I left a few words out of that one. I will fix this now. Thanks! (Should be: In order to express thanks and gratitude, in Arabic, the term chukran is used.


What lovely adventures you and Jean-Marc have enjoyed! I also feel nervous, at times, about going off the beaten path, but it's well worth it for the cultural lessons we acquire in the process. As for the lady on the plane, she saw a stylish woman and was right to ask for her opinion. Thank you for the recipe suggestion. It's been a while since I have had good couscous and will be sure to try you recipe.

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