Insider's Guide to Morocco

Insider's Guide to Morocco
February 2018
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Morocco is a land full of exotic vignettes. A casual stroll through narrow streets into concealed courtyards with the smell of orange blossom lingering on a sultry evening. The performances of snake charmers and street artists at sunset. A mountain trek on narrow trails in the company of donkeys and a muleteer. Whiling away the hours over several glasses of mint tea in a village home. This is the flavour of Morocco and here are some of our tips when you visit this extraordinary destination.

Bustling souks, Moorish architecture, magnificent minarets and all the drama of Djemaa El Fna square, this is Morocco at its exotic best. With the background of the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains and the distant Palmeraie, this city on the edge of the Sahara is full of palaces, mosques, gardens, colourful alleyways and a vibrant medina.

The Arabs of Selman
The glamorous Selman Hotel just outside Marrakech boasts beautifully designed stables and its own Arabian stud belonging to the owner, Abdeslam Bennani Smires. Touted as equine ballet, the lunchtime performance of the stud’s magnificent Arabian steeds is legendary and not to be missed.

Cook with Tarek

Roll up your sleeves and join Chef Tarek in his garden outside Marrakech where he’ll introduce you to the secrets of Moroccan cuisine. While you’re there, wander through the little village and take in a mint tea with one of the locals before digging in to some spiceladen tagines and herbed couscous.

Spa Time
Take time out after a day’s touring and book in a treatment or two at the magnificent Royal Mansour Spa set in four hectares of Moorish gardens, orange trees, bougainvillea and gardenia. The house product is by MarocMaroc, a native brand using locally-grown dates, argan oil, rose and orange blossom. We recommend a relaxing hammam with an orange-infused massage or a desert earth purifying facial. Nonhotel residents welcome.

Eat and Empower
The Amal Centre is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the empowerment of disadvantaged women through restaurant training and job placement. Providing skills and education in all aspects of the restaurant industry, the centre gives young disadvantaged women the tools to find jobs and after four months a local internship in the hospitality industry. A meal here is home-cooked Moroccan at its finest with the menu changing daily, prices low and all proceeds benefitting this worthy cause.

Shop the souks 
Put your haggling hat on and head for the maze of colourful alleys and small squares in Souk Smarine. Home to a bewildering array of stalls and ateliers devoted to specific crafts as well as jewellery, herbs, textiles and carpets, you’re sure to pick up some wonderful mementos before ending up at the astonishing Djemâa el Fna square where you’ll be entertained by street-artists and enjoy tasting from the piles of dried fruits or the freshlysqueezed orange juice. 

Sidi Ghanem 
It’s not all about souks in Marrakech. The new industrial zone of Sidi Ghanem is the latest specialty shopping area where designer showrooms mix with art galleries, workshops and homeware emporia. There are beautiful ceramic displays, furniture and candles plus jewellery, contemporary art and much much more. 

La Pause
Simple and rustic, this Berber desert retreat 28km from Marrakech is a chance to get back to nature without foregoing basic creature comforts. Set within an olive grove, there are Bedouin tents, polished rammed earth walls with splashes of colour in the local textiles and lanterns to light the way. Desert hospitality is the theme with refined meals and adventure aplenty from horse riding and quad biking to hiking and relaxing by the pool.

Riad Kniza
This 18th century gem is situated bang in the heart of Marrakech’s old medina. Completely restored using traditional materials and artisans, this boutique property recreates the Morocco of days passed. Its 11 rooms and suites are warm and welcoming with a lavish use of rich velvet, silks and brocade with Moroccan antiques a feature. The spa with its marble hammam, sauna and pool is a welcome retreat after a day’s exploration.  

Morocco’s second city and its cultural heart, Fes is the oldest of the imperial cities with a World Heritage listed medina and one of the oldest universities. Wander through its ancient souks where donkeys cart goods through narrow alleyways and where vendors ply their trade in market stalls overflowing with colourful textiles, spices and ceramics. 

Fatima from Fes
Delve deep into Moroccan culture when you join local professor Fatima for dinner in one of the medina’s most atmospheric riads (courtyard homes). Lecturer at the Fes University, Fatima’s speciality is art and the status of women in Morocco. An engaging personality, she’ll share her views on life in Morocco and issues of current affairs over a traditional meal.

The food of Fes  
Take a step back in time to the Middle Ages when you venture into Old Fes for a special Moroccan food experience. The heady aroma of spices, the colourful mounds of dried fruit and nuts, piles of seasoned olives, barbecued meats and fresh herbs – it’s a veritable feast for the senses. With an expert guide, stop and taste the produce – orange blossom flavoured honey, khlea (preserved beef), farnatchi (oven-baked bread), preserved lemon and bissara (fava bean soup). You’ll be amazed by the variety of Fassi delicacies on offer.

Hotel Sahrai
After a day exploring the medina, kick back in the chic surrounds of Hotel Sahrai. Standing on the hilltop site of a former summer palace, the hotel successfully combines traditional with contemporary. Its 50 spacious rooms are decorated in warm neutral tones with stone walls, splashes of colour and glass-walled bathrooms. Sip a mint tea on the rooftop and gaze over Old Fes before a dinner at Amaraz of quail pastilla and trout tagine. Unwind later in the Givenchy spa.

Rabat is Morocco’s capital city which blends its Islamic, Andalusian and French-colonial heritage in a most charming way. It has a delightful seaside location and an extraordinary 12th century Kasbah which perches on a clifftop. The old medina is a hive of activity while its palm-lined boulevards lend a contrasting air of peace and quiet.

Modern and contemporary art  
Inaugurated in 2014 by Morocco’s king, the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is the country’s finest and is a tribute to Moroccan culture artists living locally and abroad. The museum is helping to promote cultural awareness and creativity with current exhibitions including a Picasso retrospective and a collection of works exploring trends in contemporary African art.

Villa Diyafa
This boutique hotel located in the embassy district has a design heavily influenced by the life of the 8th century artist and musician Zyriab who lived in Cordoba, Spain. Each of the 11 suites pays tribute to his artistic sensibility and his passion for fine living and comes with roundthe- clock butler service. Leather light fixtures and rich upholstery define the space while Eastern flavours meet European technique in the restaurant. The glistening pool sits in lush gardens and a boutique spa is an indulgent retreat. 

Located in the heart of the Rif Mountains is the tiny town of Chefchaouen. Built in the 17th century as an Arab fortress, it boasts one of the country’s most fascinating medinas, famously painted in varying shades of blue earning it the moniker of ‘the Blue Pearl’. Its relative inaccessibility makes it one of Morocco’s well kept secrets and you’ll be fascinated by all it has to offer.

Fifty shades of blue
Chefchaouen is a photographer’s paradise. With its medina and souk painted in mesmerising shades of blue, the pop of fresh oranges and pink flowerpots and the richly coloured Berber textiles, your photos are guaranteed to be bold and bright. Join a professional photographer who will guide you through the streets and help you compose award-winning shots.

Lina Ryad & Spa
Nestled in the heart of the medina, this riad enjoys a privileged position in one of Morocco’s most unique destinations. Book a bright and spacious suite with views of the surrounding peaks and the bustling medina and retire after your day’s adventure to the spa with its heated indoor pool, oriental baths and hammam. Finish your day with a drink in hand on the roof terrace or by the open fire.

Kasbahs & Caravans | 10 Days 
Twin share from $10,365 per person
Solo Traveller from $18,855

Mosaics & Medinas | 8 Days 
Twin share from $5,265 per person 
Solo Traveller from $9,795

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