We travelled through Morocco with one of the best guides you could ever have. My friend Meera Freeman based in Melbourne runs escorted tours every year. We asked her to design and organise a private tour just for the two of us with a driver and a guide. The bonus for us was that Meera was going to be in Morocco at the same time so she was able to join us for a good part of the tour. Meera speak several languages fluently so we had special treatment from the locals with her on board. However you could still manage on your own but if you do not use the services of guides you may miss significant places and certainly information that only comes with knowledge of the well-travelled in this area and the local experts. For the first timer you should go with Meera on one of her tours. Visit her site by clicking on her name. As I also offer escorted tours to other parts of the world I am careful in recommending people but you cannot go wrong with her organisational skills and local knowledge.
Let me start with a Moroccan welcome, buy yourself some fat juicy dates, soak for about 10 minutes in Orange Flower scented water and stuff each one with a blanched almond. If you are lucky enough to have fresh milk straight from the cow or goat, you will be enjoying the authentic and memorable welcome that awaits you in many parts of Morocco.
For anyone not having made the journey to Morocco here are the very basics – a Medina is a walled city or town. A Kasbah is a market. A Souk is a commercial quarter in an Arab or Berber town. A Dar is a common term for a house and a Riad is also a house but one that always includes a garden in a courtyard, the four corners of which have trees or plants, often there is a fountain or water in a shallow pool in the centre.
There are many foreigners living in Morocco but in general, the population comprises 55% Berbers and 45% Arab.
Our tour took us all over Morocco where we stayed in many beautiful Riads, hotels and Dars, but a special highlight included camping in Bedouin tents in the desert. By the time we arrived the camp had been set up and dozens of carpets laid to prevent us from walking on the sand. Many of the textiles lining our entrance were embellished with sequins, so we were given a sparkling welcome in the late afternoon sun.
The entire campsite was covered in carpets that overlapped. We had a tent to ourselves and the bathroom facilities were of a high standard. The meal they cooked for us that night was enough for a party of ten and we were only three!
Before sunset we went out into the dunes on camels led by blue robed men, the blue clothing is dyed with indigo and said to be a deterrent for flies and insects.
Another memorable place we stayed for a couple of days was Taroudant. We had luxury accommodation in a resort that was also a working farm, so it was just outside the old city La Gazelle d’Or.
We shared the lounge chairs outside our room with the grazing sheep that belong to the estate.
We loved the street food here, you are never short of food whether you are in the towns or travelling through the country. We stopped at the Seikok seller’s stall that was on the road out of Casablanca. We were not hungry but just had to try the bowl of barley, combined with buttermilk and couscous.
On our travels we saw these strange looking objects on the roadside and when we got closer we checked them out, they were not a roadside art installation but bags of snails, a popular food source in Morocco.
Another regular sight in Morocco are the floor and wall woven rugs, in fact there are many kinds of woven textiles are everywhere,. They are so beautiful and go with traditional or contemporary furnished homes so I would say it is impossible to leave Morocco without at least one.
If trekking in the mountains is of interest you should go to La Kasbah du Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains. It is 60ks from Marrakech. Even if you do not want to trek just stay there a night or two. This place is low-key but if you want upmarket then not far away is Sir Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot.
Presentation was both traditional and contemporary.
For me a culinary person, a highlight was a private cooking class with the chefs in the small kitchen of our boutique hotel in Marrakech Dar Les Cigognes. A chance to get inside the kitchen was what I was looking for. I was astounded to find that they used a pressure cooker not an earthenware to cook the meat. It seems they are switched on in the kitchen. So ever since I have brought my pressure cooker to attention in my Australian kitchen.
It is also interesting to learn about how people from other countries have lived in Morocco in the past. So we were given a private tour inside the Tangier American Legation Museum in Tangier that houses a library and all the memorabilia of American’s who have contributed to Morocco in some way. Today it is a place now of study and friendship for travellers and students. They run an outreach programme in the Medina and offer scholarships to North African and Americans. Back in 1821 the Sultan of Morocco gave the original building to the Legation and was the first building acquired abroad by the U.S and for 140 years was the consular and diplomatic mission for the US in Morocco.
There is more to Morocco that I can fit in this post, it is just a snapshot so watch for another instalment. Roz