We were warmly welcomed by Mohamed and Fatima, the managers of the riads, who were quick to explain how things worked and to answer any questions we had.
Being a great fan of Moroccan food, but never being fortunate enough to travel there, I had been very much looking forward to the flavours and spices that awaited and little did I realise that not a moment would go by without something tasty being passed my way. Tagines, cakes, fruits, walnuts, home-made biscuits, salads, hummus, fresh seafood and gorgeously spiced chicken were just a few of the dishes I was lucky enough to try. If your family are foodies and you’re looking to experience a range of flavours and tastes, then this is certainly the trip for you!
Thankfully, there are enough activities on hand to balance out any excessive cake and tagine consumption (which is inevitable). The beach is the perfect playground and you’ll explore it north and south as you pad across the sand atop a camel, whizz over the dunes by quad bike, or surf the famous waves of Sidi Kaouki Beach. Essaouira provides a great balance of rest and relaxation at the riads and fun and games by the sea.
After two days of coastal exploration, we transferred inland to Marrakech. As we drove along the road, there were trees filled with goats, perched on the smallest of branches, chewing away at the nuts and leaves of the Argan trees – a photo opportunity not to be missed!
Marrakech offers a complete contrast to the more relaxed pace of Essaouira. The souks are alive with the hustle and bustle of sellers, buyers and window-shoppers alike. Anything you can think of can be found in the twisting streets of the medina; hidden stalls selling ornate lamps and lights, hand-woven silk scarves, towers of spices and trays of sweets. You can roam the souks for hours, embracing the sights and sounds and hopefully picking up a bargain or two along the way!
Your sanctuary here lies in the tranquil tented accommodation of Les Jardins d’Issil, only 35 minutes away from Marrakech. The palm-lined gardens lead on to the swimming pool, with splendid views of the Atlas Mountains, offering a nice retreat from the vibrant streets of the city. Looking at the snow-capped peaks, my thoughts turned to the adventures that tomorrow would bring with our day of trekking…
We set off in the morning, driving to the mountain village of Imlil where the hike started. The mountain guide led us through the walnut tree woods, past small Berber villages, and up the twisting mountain track. The views we were treated to were incredible – Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains, was at the end of the valley and all around were jagged peaks of towering rock, leading down to luscious, green valleys. The leisurely trek took us along an easy path, weaving through the apple and pear orchards until we ended up at our lunch stop - a wonderful Berber house with panoramic views of the mountains beyond.
Naturally, the trek finished with an amazing meal which left us fit to burst – salad, hummus, freshly-baked bread and a chicken tagine provided the ideal ending to the trek and also the perfect end to my time in Morocco. It’s a place filled with history, culture, amazing landscapes and fantastic activities. The food is incredible, the people are so welcoming and you’re bound to come away with fun-filled family memories.
Sadly I forgot to bring an empty suitcase with me, which means that I’ll just have to go back there again and stock up on all the trinkets and gifts I couldn’t quite fit in…it would also give me another excuse to enjoy a traditional tagine, or five!
To experience the magic of Morocco click here.
Photography by Alan Keohane, www.visitmorocco.com Moroccan National Tourist Office.