1. Ride a camel across the desert // 2. Watch the sunrise over the Atlas mountains // 3. Experience a Hammam // 4. Drink thé à la menthe // 5. Stargaze in the Sahara // 6. Watch the sunset over Marrakech // 7. Almond blossom festival // 8. Browse the souks // 9. Visit Ait Ben Haddou // 10. Eat tagine // 11. Go to Chefchaouen // 12. Hassan II Mosque
RIDE A CAMEL ACROSS THE DESERT
Riding into the desert after the sun had set with the stars as our only source of light was by far the most ‘pinch me’ moment of the entire trip. There was something extraordinarily magical about riding a camel into the unknown because truthfully we had no inclination of where we were to sleep or what we were to eat. The sign of a real adventure! But fret not, the accommodation and food are superbly planned by the tour guide and an evening of traditional Berber dancing will await. Oh and sand surfing in the dunes is a very fun activity, if you’re so inclined.
WATCH THE SUNRISE OVER THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
When in the centre of Marrakech you’ll notice that the city is framed by the high Altas mountains so getting to the top of them after seeing them from the distance is a great feeling. Watching the sunrise through the mountains is a beautiful start to the day.
A visit to a hammam (Turkish baths) is a blissfully relaxing experience and a must when in Morocco. Go after the camel tour as your muscles will ache for a full body massage with local Argan oil. I guarantee it will be an experience that you shan’t ever forget, just make sure to leave all inhibition at the door and be prepared to step out of your comfort zone on the nudity front (don’t worry though it’s always segregated by sex). The hammam photographed below is one of the most luxurious in Marrackech, found at la Mamounia hotel yet open to everyone if a reservation is made. It is a breathtaking spa and would be the perfect place to fully unwind, yet comes with a bit of a price tag. Otherwise at the local hammams, which can be found all over the city, you’ll get access to the sauna, a full body scrub with black soap and massage for about 20 euros.
DRINK THE A LA MENTHE
The Moroccans are very fond of the thé à la menthe and you’ll often see them perched on a stall drinking it on the busy streets. It’s a sign of hospitality and will no doubt be offered to you as a welcoming gesture.
STARGAZE IN THE SAHARA
The desert is an extraordinary place, so far from civilisation yet with the stars up above and your friends by your side you’ll feel the least lonely you ever have done. Sometimes it’s important to be reminded of the banality of the materialistic and vanity-obsessed world we live in; and stargazing in the openness of the desert was a good way to ground us and put everything back into perspective.
WATCH THE SUNSET OVER MARRACKECH
Marrakech is a very flat city with the Koutoubia mosuque being the tallest building therefore there isn’t really a vantage point as such, however the bonus of this is that pretty much most buildings have rooftop terraces with views spanning over the whole city. I’d recommend watching the sunset from the top of the Maison de la Photographie which is also a fascinating photography gallery with in an insight into North African culture.
ALMOND BLOSSOM FESTIVAL
We were lucky enough to be in Morocco for the almond tree season in late February when the flowers begin to bloom. It sure was a pretty sight to behold, especially with the snow-peaked Atlas mountains in the background. However we weren’t quite fortunate enough to catch the Almond Blossom Festival, held in Tafraoute, and which is supposed to be the best way to experience traditional Moroccan folk music and dance. After researching it online, the dates are apparently only shared by hearsay and can vary but usually falls in February.
BROWSE THE SOUKS
The souks are a sensory overload; from the smell of spices which pervades your nostrils to the colours and textures of the fabrics. It is something which must be experienced first hand and nothing can describe the chaos which lies within. Stray cats roam the cobbled alleys, motorcyclists don’t take care not to run over your toes and arms flail at you in every direction from over-enthusiastic owners trying to encourage you into their shops. Yet nothing quite beats perusing the souks with your eyes wide open in wonder and taking it all in.
VISIT AIT BEN HADDOU
This world heritage site is a fascinating visit; the mud-like architecture of the Ksar is surround by a multi-hued terrain of fiery oranges and reds. We hopped over pebbles across the river to reach it and marveled at the fortified city for quite some time thinking back to scenes in the Mummy and Gladiator, just a couple of the many blockbusters which were filmed here.
Part of the joy of travelling is to experience the different cuisines from all over the world. Moroccan food is delicious, it’s full spices without being overly hot. The traditional tagine is full of flavour and unique to North Africa, it arrives in the ceramic pot it’s cooked in and sizzles and smokes when the waiter proudly removes the clay cover. Something else you must try is their ever so simple dessert of sliced succulent oranges sprinkled with freshly ground cinnamon and mint leaves.
They always say to leave a country with at least one thing that you wanted to do but didn’t get around to. Alas, my desire to visit Chefchaouen, also known as the blue city still remains high on my bucket list. It’s very close to the Spanish border therefore would make more sense to do when in the south of Spain which means that a return to visit to stunning Seville and Granada might have to be considered.