Moroccan Medley

Sue Kirkham on 26 April 2017
Morocco has long been a destination on my wish list, conjuring up mystery and adventure. In March of this year I was invited to travel to Morocco and experience three completely different aspects of this fascinating country.

MARRAKECH First stop was Marrakech, known as the Red City due to the striking colour of its buildings. Our hotel, the Movenpick, was a calm and beautiful oasis in the bustling city, yet only a short journey to the must-see Medina. The hotel is modern and contemporary with a fantastic pool area, a great place to cool off at the end of a busy day sightseeing.

The Medina in Marrakech is famous for its maze of alleyways and the opportunity to barter for all kinds of goods including carpets, ornate lights and lamps, leather goods and spices. Remember to leave some space in your suitcase for all the extras you'll no doubt be tempted to buy! We had a guide with us to help navigate our ways through the Medina and I would highly recommend this, as they can show you places you may not discover on your own and also make sure you don't get lost!

While there we visited the El Fnaa Square at dusk when it comes alive with all kinds of food stalls and all kinds of wonderful entertainment including snake charmers! There are many restaurants and bars in the area and I would recommend stopping for a drink or a meal and enjoy watching the world go by.

We visited the Royal Palm Hotel Resort, part of the Beachcomber group and one of the Leading Hotels in the World. It is located just out of town and offers luxury accommodation in peaceful surroundings, and a top class golf course.

The Royal Mansour was another highlight for us too, a stunning hotel comprising Riad accommodation of the highest quality. Very ornate and beautifully decorated, the perfect place to stay and enjoy complete privacy, with outstanding service. The location is excellent too, just a short walk from the Medina.

I would recommend a visit to Salama restaurant, just off El Fnaa Square, it has great views from its roof terrace and offers excellent dining and traditional belly dancing! Another favourite is Le Palace, one of Marrakech's premier club-restaurants offering fine dining, cocktail bar and dancing.

If you are looking for something different during your stay, just an hour outside the city is Go Karting which is great fun for all. Or why not opt for a cooking lesson to learn how to make the local cuisine and use all the wonderful spices.

ATLAS MOUNTAINS The Atlas Mountains can been seen from Marrakech and make a beautiful backdrop. We travelled an hour or so from the city to visit L'Amandier, a brand new luxury boutique style hotel, located in the foothills of the mountains in the Ouirgane Valley. Two British brothers found this land and decided to fulfill a dream by building this wonderful retreat which consists of just 6 hotel rooms and 13 pool villas with rooftop cabanas.

Arriving here you really notice the fresh mountain air and tranquility, a perfect place to completely unwind. Walks in the countryside can be enjoyed here or yoga on the terrace or simply relaxing by the pool and soaking up the picturesque views. The food is of the highest quality and they often use traditional clay ovens to slow cook meats for hours, making the food very tender and delicious.

Argan Oil is produced in Morocco and it's very interesting to visit one local communities where you can see the process taking place. En route from Marrakech to Essaouira we stopped to see this for ourselves and also saw a very unusual sight, goats in trees! They climb the trees and eat the fruit and this really is a funny sight as you drive through the countryside.

ESSAOUIRA Located on the Atlantic coast, Essaouira is a charming place to visit and has bags of character. Blessed with an often breezy, wide expanse of beach, it is a beach-sports lovers paradise and very popular with kite surfers. Our hotel, The Atlas, was right on the beach, and not only offered a great location, but access to a gorgeous spa too. Essaouira has its own ancient Medina and a lovely walk along the wide promenade will take you there. Here it was much more relaxed than in Marrakech, with an interesting choice of shops where you can often enjoy browsing without being hassled to buy.

There are many beautiful Riads to stay in here, the traditional houses of Morocco. We visited L'Heure Bleue for the evening, located in the Medina itself. Recognised by Relais & Chateaux for its excellence, it offers luxury and colonial charm. Guest rooms and the restaurant surround the stunning central courtyard and there is also a heated roof top pool with ocean views. The dining here is of the highest quality and a visit to L'Heure Bleue is a must when in Essaouira.

Away from the beach area we also visited the Sofitel Mogador Golf & Spa Resort which is about half an hour from the town. It boasts beautiful gardens together with a relaxing spa, a perfect place to stay if you just want to relax or play golf, but also enjoys easy access to the beach and shopping.

Morocco certainly lived up to my expectations and it was so interesting to see three completely different aspects of the country. I was surprised by just how clean and well kept everywhere is and the friendliness of the people. At just over 3 hours flying time from the UK Morocco is perfect for a short break or twin centre and with its excellent weather its a real alternative to other winter destinations. I will definitely be recommending it to clients looking for something a little different, and as for myself, I look forward to my next visit.