In Morocco, this soup is known as b’sarra; it's traditionally eaten for breakfast at stands that specialize in it. Cooking teacher Tara Stevens tops her version with pickles, which add wonderful tang. Plus: F&W's Ultimate Guide to Soup
In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cumin and paprika, season with salt and cook, stirring, until the spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the split peas and 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring, until the peas just start to soften, 20 minutes.
Add the chopped cilantro to the saucepan. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the peas are broken down and the soup is thick, about 40 minutes longer. Season with salt, garnish with pickles and cilantro and serve with crusty bread.
The soup can be refrigerated for 3 days.