Home » Have You Walked Right Past This World Showcase Hidden Gem?

    Have You Walked Right Past This World Showcase Hidden Gem?

    All of the pavilions at the World Showcase are spectacular. Some of them have better food, others have superior shops, and a lucky few even offer entertaining attractions. Only one of them is the work of a king, though. His passion for the project along with his financial backing is why this pavilion is such a showstopper at the World Showcase. Here are five reasons that explain why the Morocco Pavilion is so majestic.

    The history

    Image: DisneyThe first thing you need to know about the Morocco Pavilion is that this themed area is 100 percent authentic. The good people of Morocco made sure of that. They had an unprecedented role in the development of the Pavilion. How this happened is an interesting story.

    Disney park planners had tried for years to persuade various countries to pay for a presence at Epcot. They only found one interested party, and he didn’t arrive until after the World Showcase had officially opened. When the world entered Epcot for the first time, they discovered nine pavilions that were all Disney’s representations of other cultures rather than ones with a personal touch from the respective nations. The Morocco Pavilion was different.

    King Hassan II wanted the American people and other world travelers at Epcot to admire and appreciate the artistry of his people. To that end, he commissioned the construction of a pavilion at the World Showcase. He also offered to pay for everything, making it the only Epcot pavilion where The Walt Disney Company didn’t have to pay any upfront costs. Because of the king’s largesse, Disney execs were thrilled to learn that their original plan for Epcot’s pavilion nations to pay their own way was once again in play. They simply had to assure the Moroccan king that they’d honor his people, their customs, their heritage, and even their religion.

    The build and style

    Image: DisneyPark planners felt a tremendous amount of pressure to construct Morocco the right way. After all, they believed at the time that this could be the start of what Disney had always wanted. Nations would pay to have a park presence at the World Showcase as long as Morocco looked great. In hindsight, this philosophy seems ambitious bordering on naïve, but it was definitely true at the time.

    For his part, King Hassan II refused to take any chances with the pavilion. He sent 19 of his people to America. Their express purpose was to build edifices and artworks that would seem right at home in Fez. To show respect to the customs, these artisans went so far as to crack some of the mosaic tiles they had crafted. It’s a philosophy that only Allah can perfect anything, so the Moroccan people intentionally damaged their own creations…not much, mind you. They did just enough that if you study each mosaic carefully, you’ll notice the cracks.

    In terms of style, the Morocco Pavilion is opulence personified. Many of the structures are recreations of architectural triumphs from the home country. The showpiece of the area is the Koutoubia Minaret, a prayer tower replica of the actual building in Marrakesh. Believe it or not, Disney and King Hassan went so far as to make it the same size as the original.

    Image: DisneyOther geometric patterns throughout the pavilion are 100 percent authentic in style. The Bab Bou Jeloud gate would seem right at home in Fez, because that’s where the actual structure resides. In Morocco, it’s a gateway to Fes el Bali. At Epcot, the structure signifies a bridge between the old and new portions of Moroccan civilization. The front of the pavilion is the new city, while the other side of Bab Bou Jeloud gate is the old city, if you were wondering.

    The Morocco Pavilion also respects another of the country’s customs. This area doesn’t have any special lighting during Illuminations. To accentuate the show, Epcot would have to add lights to the Koutoubia Minaret, and Muslims would consider the action sacrilegious. Disney certainly wouldn’t want to disrespect their guests in their own pavilion. That’s why the area remains respectfully dark. 

    The food

    Moroccan food is admittedly an acquired taste. Once you have it, however, you’ll drive your friends nuts anytime you’re at the World Showcase. They’ll ask what you want to eat, and you’ll scream, “TANGIERINE CAFÉ!” I’ve seen this happen. Moroccan cuisine has destroyed friendships.

    Restaurant Marrakesh actually has the most acclaim. It’s the primary Table Service restaurant at the pavilion, and its Mediterranean cuisine will blow your mind. So many kababs and couscous options are on the menu that you’ll feel like you’re Indiana Jones on a grand adventure that takes you through the city. As a matter of fact, Raiders of the Lost Ark actually filmed in Marrakesh.  

    Fans of lamb will also find multiple options, too. The real winner, however, is a dessert dish that’s available at all three Morocco Pavilion restaurants. Baklava will blow your damn mind, and Restauarant Marrakesh offers multiple variations of it! Also, this establishment has belly dancing performances if that sort of thing interests you. Hey, I’m not judging. I’ve eaten there, too.

    The other Table Service restaurant is the newest entry. Spice Road Table is all about small bites that pack huge flavors along with scenic dining. It features Mediterranean sliders, wraps, and skewers that you can grab and go. It also has a remarkably good view of Illuminations if you want to have a late dinner some night.

    The culinary star of the pavilion, however, is the Quick Service option, Tangierine Café. If you’ve seen The Avengers and wondered about that post-credits scene discussion of shawarma, THIS is the place where you can see what the fuss is about. As far as Quick Service restaurants go, the menu here is limited but divine. The platters are all served in bowls. You and your friends won’t be able to keep your utensils out of each other’s food. These dishes are meant for sharing. The entire experience is equal parts communal and belly-filling. There’s a reason why most lists of best World Showcase Quick Service restaurants include this Mediterranean classic.

    The characters

    Aladdin and Jasmine technically live in Agrabah, but their Epcot locale is so similar in many ways that it reminds them of home. As you head over to the Restaurant Marrakesh, you’ll notice a marketplace area with a sign off to the side. This is the Meet and Greet entrance for Lamps of Wonder at the back of the pavilion.

    Aladdin is one of the most popular Disney movies of all-time, and Jasmine is not coincidentally one of the most frequent DisneyBound subjects among all Disney princesses. When you visit them, Jasmine will relay her favorite tales from Arabian Nights. As you talk to the happy couple, be certain to ask them where Abu is.

    The shopping

    Bazaars are the name of the game at the Morocco Pavilion. You’ll feel like you’re on the bustling streets of Marrakesh as you wander from shop to shop. To add an authentic Moroccan touch, the stores are more open in design, and they also employ fans rather than air conditioners. The one caveat here is that if you’re looking to escape the glaring sun on a hot Florida day, Morocco isn’t the best option. If you’re looking to shop with a purpose, however, the shops here have some of the most distinctive items at Walt Disney World.

    Disney took the shopping at the Morocco Pavilion so seriously that they did the inverse of King Hassan II. They sent cast members to Morocco to buy actual bazaar goods. Disney imported brassware, ceramics, leather goods, and other handicrafts on display there. They even brought Moroccan rugs and jewelry for resale at Disney.

    Over the years, that same dedication to authenticity has remained a staple of the pavilion ever since then. Six stores comprise the merchandising opportunities at Morocco Pavilion. Two of them have ‘bazaar’ in the title so that you know what you’re going to get. Those stores are Brass Bazaar and Outdoor Bazaar. The latter is the choice when you’re trying to find a genie in a bottle (but aren’t Christina Aguilera). The former is merely the outdoor extension, a place where you can shop for fine decorative items and maybe even a Moroccan musical instrument.

    Tangier Trades is a bit hardcore. This place sells daggers and camel bones among other oddities, making it the go-to World Showcase shop for skullduggery and witchcraft. To the rest of us, it’s known as a great place for Moroccan clothing. Two of the remaining shops are Casablanca Carpets, whose products may or may not fly you into a whole new world, and Medina Arts sells fine ceramic Moroccan goods. 

    The final shop is unabashedly sexy by Walt Disney World standards. Souk-Al-Magreb sells wine and tea sets plus many of the ingredients and utensils used to make couscous. It also has…belly dancing lessons. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to combine the couscous, the beverages, and the belly dancing when you get home from vacation, but I’m confident you’ll figure something out.

    The Morocco Pavilion is one of the most exotic and engaging locales in all of Walt Disney World. When you visit here, you’ll feel as if you’ve entered a movie set, only you’re whichever one of Rick Blaine or Ilsa Lund you prefer. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if you prefer Casablanca, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Aladdin, you’ll feel perfectly at home when you visit here. The King of Morocco himself made sure of that.