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10 days in Morocco

10 days in Morocco

I decided to go to Morocco after debating whether it was the right place for a relaxing type of holiday. Hint: it wasn’t

It is different, it is rich, it’s colourful and full of flavour, it is photogenic, gritty, urban, rural and you probably guessed it by now, it’s hectic

I had heard lots of views before I left, ranging from “you are going to love it” to “ you are going to loathe it”; a few weeks after our return I find that both bear some truth – I loved it but I can get why someone would not. Depending on your time frame and itinerary you will encounter a huge variation of scenery and experience

After a lot of deliberation, emails, drama, we drafted our route which I am unfolding for you below and started booking our riads and hotels. I find the process of searching for accommodation before the trip to be the most enjoyable. I am usually booking places with character that have something authentic and I am daydreaming of them months before the trip.

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Tangier

Starting from Tangier the transition from Europe to Africa was smooth – there is an “air” of Spain still apparent there and lots of people speak Spanish as well as French and Arabic (not to mention Berber – we are talking about an educated bunch). It felt part Andalucia and part Greek island. Click here for more on Tangier

Where to sleep

La Tangerina was one of the highlights of our trip. A step into an old world where luxury lays in the velvet cushions and the scented breeze that moves through the open doors. The terrace is a sun trap that made it very hard for us to abandon and go sight see

Where to eat

Le Saveur du Poison has not changed much for the last 20 years. The menu is set to delicious starters such as nuts, fish soup and tajine, the main which is a huge fresh fish – catch of the day and can vary depending on season – fresh fruit and yogurt desert, and limitless amounts of sweet fruit juice. All for 25 euros. Don’t let the queues dishearten you, the wait is worth it

What to read

Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

 

Chefchaouen

A short drive from Tangier, Chefsaouen feels like another galaxy. The small village has a calming effect as all the houses are painted blue in different shades, from baby blue to indigo. This is where the nickname Blue City comes from. After a few hectic days in Tangier, we found that Chefsaouen was exactly what we needed in order to relax before we hit the road again

Where to sleep

In Casa Perleta we loved the homey feeling and the kindness of the owners as well as the views over the terrace

What to eat

Not much choice here, apart from the touristy spots around the main piazza. All moderately good and inoffensive. Great for people watching over the balconies if you find a spot

 Intricate tile work in Riad Layalina

Intricate tile work in Riad Layalina

Fez

Travelling further down south the air starts to change and the lush forests turn to a dryer terrain. Fez has this dreamy dusty air that feels like a fairytale. The city is more than that of course, it is considered to be the cultural capital of Morocco and the medina is one of largest pedestrian-only medieval cities in the world. You should come to terms with the fact that you will be lost here as the narrow alleys are a little less confusing than a labyrinth. Thankfully while being lost there are a lot to see and do. While the city is on the tourist map, it is not overwhelmingly catered for tourists as is Marrakesh. Here, everyday life keeps on going the same way it has for centuries. There are all kinds of workshops scattered around, from handwoven scarves to leather bags and from silverware to glass. In the tiniest shopfronts and the smallest open spaces there are still coppersmiths that bang on huge pots and camel butchers that shoo the bees away

Where to sleep

We were on a bit of a budget here so we picked Riad Layalina and booked with Airbnb. As everywhere in Morocco the hospitality was top notch, the inner yard of the riad a dream and the sun terrace overlooking the walls of Fez a delight, especially in the evening. Book your fist day with Airbnb using my link and save $25

Where to eat

In the Ruined Garden, owned by a British chef we felt like we stepped into a fairy tale. The owners have done an exceptional work in restoring the garden but leaving the feeling of abandon untouched. The result is a lush garden within half-demolished walls. The food was lovely too and one of the best options in Fez

The Sahara desert

Reaching the first Dunes of the Sahara after hours and hours of driving is an otherworldly experience – We arrived late in the afternoon when the sun was still shinning but the light was not as harsh. After a brief re-grouping, we took a camel ride to the Berber camp where we were greeted with percussion music and a piping hot tajine. We spent the night in the tents which was not at all what we had in mind  I won’t go into details but let me just give you one tip: bring your own linen.

Where we slept

In a desert camp 

Where we ate

In the desert camp

Marrakesh

What can anyone say about Marrakesh that has not already been said? It is Morocco’s tourist mecca and some people will comment on that as not being a very good thing. For us, after 10 days of going up and down, from sea to mountain to desert, it felt like a well-earned vacation time (the irony of needing a vacation while actually being ON vacation does not escape me). It is indeed a city that is full to the brim with people, strange smells and noise. Hustlers will try to take you from A to B, shopkeepers will try to sell you everything that hangs from their window and you might feel ill at ease and not particularly welcome in places. Listen, don’t let this spoil the experience. Ignore the hustlers politely, get a little bit lost, use google maps at times – it works just fine. The place is exhausting but exhilarating at the same time. We were happy to find that there is a little oasis of calm almost in every corner, so whenever we felt too tired we would walk in, go to the roof garden, sip a fizzy drink and get our itinerary back together. A special mention to the lovely Maison de la Photographie which does not only hold a superb collection of photographs that will give you insight in Moroccan life, it has a lovely roof terrace and serves a simple, tasty tajine too. Read more about Marrakesh here

Where to sleep

Riad Yasmine

Where to eat

Nomad, Le Jardin, Lemonies

What to read

The voices of Marrakesh by Elias Canetti

Where to shop

Habibi living, Lalla Marrakesh

 Kids playing football on the square in Essaouira

Kids playing football on the square in Essaouira

Essaouira

You might recognise the city from Game of Thrones as the imposing castle is featured in the series. Far from a medieval castle though this is a pleasant beach destination that should cover a couple relaxing days. Essaouira is big in the music front too, the Gnaoua festival finds the little town overflown with fans from all over the world and it is the one time of the year that it is transformed from a pleasant sleepy town to a huge party. If this is you cup of tea there is more information here

Where to sleep

The highlight for our trip to Essaouira was the amazing Villa Maroc right by the fortress walls. Each room is decorated with such attention to detail! The furniture are almost all antiques carefully selected and the artwork on the wall reminiscent of other times. Special mention to one of the best breakfasts ever and trust me we have tried a fair many. 

Morocco: In Tangier we trust

Morocco: In Tangier we trust

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