Why I Keep Going Back To Morocco
A sun-drenched land of sea and sand, blazing desert and mountain passes, Morocco has fascinated travelers for centuries – including myself. I’ve visited the sublime slice of North Africa a many times before but this trip had a focused purpose - researching genuine experiences and moments that reveal Morocco and its culture. I proposed to seek out golden travel tips for our travelers on their Morocco tours. I also planned on finding a richly coloured Persian rug for my living room.
Kensington’s Imperial Cities Discovery tour includes the destinations I most wanted to explore: Fes, Marrakech and the High Atlas Mountains. No better places to satisfy my desire to stroll through ancient medinas, sip mint tea with Berbers and take in the scenic pleasures of the High Atlas Mountains. With an itinerary packed with lyrical landscapes, vibrant souqs and riads, mouthwatering food and exquisite architecture, I quickly discovered even more reasons for returning to Morocco.
Welcome to Café Clock in Fes, where travelers and locals alike come to share in food, music, art, conversation and laughter. Originally a 250 year old courtyard house that has been restored, Café Clock houses plush lounges and multi-level terraces where you can enroll in a cooking class and learn how to make tagine, enjoy local cuisine or get in to the musical groove of the bands that play nightly. If you’re musically inclined, learn how to belly dance or take guitar lessons! Settling into a mound of pillows, I savoured a rich coffee and watched locals and tourists mingling as they smoked shisha pipes, made new friends and caught up with old ones. In this lively oasis, I had found my first golden experience!
A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden or courtyard. All rooms open in to the central atrium space and it is this inward focus expressed by the architecture that I find captivating. There is usually a terrace on the roof and the one at Riad Le Calife offers a stunning panoramic view of the Medina of Fes. Le Calife has all the ingredients of a guesthouse that makes for a home away from home. The friendly and welcoming service, charming suites and fantastic views of the medina made it tough to leave.
Outside the riad, Fes el-Bali (Old Fes) remains chaotic and buzzing. A private-guided city tour revealed a labyrinth of narrow streets and covered bazaars. I was transported in to a glorious past of restaurants, mosques and workshops (blacksmithing, leather working, ceramics, silk, tapestries, and sculpting). I would highly recommend an artisanal tour as you’ll get the chance to see and appreciate ancient crafts and techniques. My Kensington Tours guide acknowledged my love for leather accessories by taking me to a leather workshop where I marveled at the tanning process. After perusing the multitude of finished products, I walked away with a beautiful handbag. It still carries a fragrance of spices that brings me back to the very street I bought it from.
Marrakech is a buffet of sights and experiences with no real beginning or end. My guide was a true asset in dealing with this (fortunate) predicament. We started with a full day tour to Agafay Desert, just an hour drive away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. A perfect destination for a little adventure, Agafay is a rocky desert with rolling hills that offers opportunities for 4x4 off-roading, camel and horseback riding, or choose from a variety of accommodations (including eco camps) where you can spend the night or pause for a peaceful retreat alongside palm and olive trees.
Moroccan food and cooking is a highlight at Jnane Tamsna, a villa property in the Palmerie near Marrakech. I absolutely love the succulence and spice of Moroccan cuisine. I wanted to learn how to cook a few Moroccan dishes so I could recreate it for myself, family and friends back home. I enrolled in a cooking class at the villa and learned how to make vegetable tagine, one of my favorite dishes. Most of the ingredients used were organically sourced from the villa gardens. Under the tutelage of chef Bahija, I chopped, roasted and ground herbs and spices while learning about the central role of food in Moroccan culture.
Toubkal, the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains, becomes visible after an hour drive south Marrakech. It is a reminder of the extensive mountain range that separates the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert. Home to a majority of the Berbers, an indigenous ethnic group of North Africa west of Nile Valley, the range is an ideal destination for traditional and cultural immersion.
Our driver was from one of the mountain hamlets of the region and knew exactly where to stop for the best photo opportunities. The scenic drive is rewarding but the exposure to the local people and culture is what made the experience truly enriching; stopping for a freshly prepared lunch in one of the highly perched villages, seeing how bread is traditionally made in the area and sipping mint tea while taking in the mountainous scenery.
An eclectic café, rooftop breakfast overlooking an ancient medina, a camel ride on a desert adventure, watching the traditional practice of leather making and learning how to make tagine - these are just a handful of experiences that I gained on this trip. With my Kensington guide leading the way, I unexpectedly stumbled upon places and adventures that were special because they were real and honest experiences – and I’m a sucker for the genuine article. I left Morocco knowing that there is much more mystery to unravel and for someone as curious as I am, this is totally intoxicating.
I came back with a beautiful Persian carpet and enough golden tips to make your next trip to Morocco unforgettable. Email me at email@example.com and let’s chat!
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