The best sandwiches in Maastricht

“By far the best takeaway food in Maastricht.”

“Best cold entrées in town!”

“Awesome food, super friendly guy and really good prices!”

The reviews on Le Souk’s Facebook page speak for themselves. Only words of praise, for the falafel, the tzatziki and the olives. But also for the super friendly guy that runs the deli at Heidenstraat 27 in Maastricht all year round. And he does so with huge pleasure and enthusiasm. You can tell by the way his eyes are lit up, all the hands he shakes during the interview and the jokes he makes to his customers. Meet Taib El Fassi, a 66-year-old entrepreneur who feels at home in both Maastricht and Morocco.

Meet Taib El Fassi

“I sell olives, nuts and other North African products in my shop. I cater to parties, birthdays and divorces alike,” Taib laughs. “Hi, Salam!” he calls out to a cyclist waving to him. It seems that Taib enjoys life in the city’s historic Statenkwartier area. “I think it’s a gorgeous neighbourhood with nice people. Right in the city centre, but quiet at the same time. Koestraat, Tafelstraat and Onze-Lieve-Vrouweplein are my favourite places in Maastricht. The ancient architecture of Maastricht, I just find that so beautiful. The river Maas is lovely. Céramique, where I live, is the only area I don’t like.”

Origins

42 years ago, the shop owner left Morocco looking for work. He first spent two years in Paris. "But then one day, I went to Amsterdam and decided to stay in the Netherlands. I remember seeing people ice-skating for the first time in my life. I thought it was bizarre. I know the Netherlands is known for the cold. But do I find it difficult to cope with? Not at all. In fact, I struggle more with the heat here. In Morocco, it’s a different kind of heat. I came to Maastricht 27 years ago through my brother, who lives in Sittard, but I found it too small there. When I was visiting Maastricht, I came across this property, which was vacant. And that’s where it all began.”

Most at home

Does Taib feel at home in Maastricht? "Yes, but I also feel at home in Morocco. I have two countries I call home. That can be confusing at times. After 40 years in the Netherlands, I’m a foreigner in Morocco, but I’m one here as well. If I go to Morocco for a week, I start thinking about Maastricht again, about my shop, my bed. But as good as it is here, I have always said that when I retire, I’ll go back. Now I’m 66 and still in Maastricht. Going back won’t be easy. You need to prepare properly. Because when I do go, I would like to have a place of my own.”

Taib has never had any trouble integrating into the Dutch way of life. “It was because of my work. And also because of my mindset, I think. I am always open to anything and anyone, and that works. My ex-girlfriend is Dutch. I have always worked with Dutch people. Most of my customers are Dutch. But I also have lots of Surinamese, Turkish, Italian and Moroccan customers.”

A student stops, says hello to Taib and introduces himself. “I’m Soufyan. I’m from the Randstad. And believe me, I’ve had a lot of sandwiches in my time, but I’ve never had sandwiches as delicious as those from here. Something to add to the interview, eh?” He laughs and continues on his way.

Bland cuisine

The only thing Taib ever had to get used to is Dutch food. “When my ex-girlfriend’s family invited me for dinner for the first time, they had cauliflower and rhubarb on the table. It was all delicious, but it tasted bland. They didn’t have any herbs or spices other than nutmeg. I found it weird that a country like the Netherlands, which became rich through trade in herbs and spices, used so little of them. That has changed since. The menu is much more varied now.

His most important tip to integrate is to speak the language. “If you don’t speak the language, you’re left out of the game.” So, has he mastered the local Mestreechs dialect? “There’s no need. If people laugh, I laugh too,” he grins. “I speak a few words. But my children understand it.”

Open all hours

Taib’s shop is open 7 days a week, from 9 in the morning until 10 at night. He enjoys his work, but the long opening hours were born out of necessity. In recent years, he has seen his sales decline. “There was a time when I was the only place to sell olives in the city. Now there are loads of shops that sell olives. And I don’t advertise. My customers do that for me. Word of mouth is much better than any advert.” 

Walk-in consultation for internationals

(Start-up) entrepreneurs can get free consultation on questions about business accommodation, permits, zoning plans, etc. at the Maastricht Business Contact Centre of the municipality of Maastricht. Since the start of 2018, the Maastricht Business Contact Centre also has a free consultation hour especially for entrepreneurs from outside the Netherlands who want to start or establish a business in Maastricht. Visit www.bedrijfscontactpunt.nl  for more information.