Tag Archives: Morocco

Miracle of Marrakech

In 2012 I was blessed enough to take part in a World Challenge expedition to Morocco with a group of people from my high school. We went for two weeks towards the end of March, hoping to fulfil our goal of refurbishing and painting an old school in a beautiful Berber village. Continue reading

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‘It’s the Mountains You Climb in Your Head’: Jebel Toubkal to Todra Gorge

A wise woman once said to me, ‘It’s the mountains you climb in your head that are the hardest.’ I was sitting on the edge of a bed, hyperventilating into a paper bag. It sounds like a scene from a film: bare, apricot-coloured room, Tinerhir, Morocco, 2010, 17-year-old girl has first panic attack.  But it was a reality.

The wise woman was our group counsellor, Liz. I was on my first real adventure away from my family. I’d been on girls’ holidays before, but this was different. We had already spent a week in the high Atlas Mountains south of Marrakesh, acclimatising ourselves with hikes to waterfalls followed by nights sleeping under the stars and being woken by the 4am call to prayer from the village across the valley.  The following night we didn’t sleep at all but lay on the roof of the hotel listening to the sounds of a wedding floating across the valley until 4am. After that, we had spent a day hiking to the base camp at the foot of Jebel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa at 4,167 meters. We began our ascent before dawn the following day, and we reached the metal pyramid at the mountain’s summit just in time to be attacked by an onslaught of hailstones. This was followed by a dramatic descent, our guide having left us. It rained the entire way, and our group leader did his best to keep up the dampened spirits of the twenty teenage girls he had to lead down the mountain. Needless to say we all made it in the end, albeit tired, soggy and with little sense of humour remaining as we crossed over the little stream at the foot of the mountain and were welcomed back to base camp with hot chocolate and warm food.

We reached the metal pyramid at the mountain’s summit just in time to be attacked by an onslaught of hailstones

You might be wondering how I had survived all of this before the panic attack arrived. Truth be told, there had already been a few hairy moments but nothing like the paper bag incident.  Continue reading

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Gone With the Wind in Essaouira

There is something about a tall, white-washed wall drenched in sun that brings a sense of calm. Such scenes reflect the Euro-Arabesque identity of Essaouira; a small coastal town in Morocco, found in the Tensift region and located approximately 100 miles west of Marrakesh.

If you have experienced the overwhelming and sometimes sense-assaulting cities of Fez, Marrakesh and Casablanca, you will know of the chaos that engulfs Morocco’s urban environments. However, as you walk through Essaouira’s balmy souks (markets), you will notice the comparative quietness that defines its setting. Despite the city’s fascinating multicultural mixtures, Essaouira’s tranquil allure is often related to the fact that it was allegedly visited and loved by Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens. Continue reading

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Top 5 Under-Visited Places in the Middle East and Africa

Summer is here and some of you may be considering going for a quick European city break for a holiday, some may be gallivanting around the States, some may just be going down South (being from up North, we do call going to London a holiday).

My quick guide will aim to give you some travel advice on where to go in the Middle East and Africa. Obviously, going for a quick trip down south and across the Channel for the weekend is the easier option, but if you really want to travel and see something different and go the extra mile, then the Middle East and Africa is your best shout. For some of the countries I have mentioned, for example Iran, you will need a visa if you are not Iranian. So start planning ahead for next summer, if that’s what your summer traveller heart desires.

Esfahan, Iran

This place is a hidden gem. It is absolutely astounding. Compared to the rest of Iran, it is full of all things green and beautiful. Esfahan is one of those big cities to see in Iran, being one of the top five in my guidebook at home and a top destination to visit on plenty of other tourist websites, I definitely agree and can assure you it is worth the hype. Take Naqsh-e Jahan Square, formerly called the Shah square, this attraction is situated bang in the centre of the city, the second-largest square in the world and is now a famous historical site, also being a UNESCO World Heritage Site too. The architecture in Esfahan is breathtaking, it is grand, it is wonderful. Just strolling around this city is an absolute pleasure.

London Heathrow to Esfahan return flight approximately £530.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Everyone knows Marrakesh, everyone knows Casablanca, try something else. This little town in the north of Morocco is one of my favourite places in the country. The town is more or less completely blue: some places are like the electric blue you’d find at the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh, some are a lovely softer blue-wash. This town is quiet and just so peaceful. Being so close to Spain, you’ll hear and read quite a bit of Spanish, which can be quite fun if you’re interested in other languages. This is another place you need to just wander around. The souqs are charming, and the atmosphere in Chefchaouen is refreshingly relaxed compared to the constant energy and buzz of other major cities in Morocco.

Bus from Rabat and Casablanca approximately £4.50-£8.

Photo from Flikr user: James Clear

Photo from Flickr user: James Clear

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Castles Made of Sand

When I think about Morocco, I think about Jimi Hendrix visiting in 1969, lounging in a typical Moroccan café pondering over his lyrics, writing ‘Castles Made of Sand’, gazing over the souks and desert backdrops. But what often goes unsaid is the rich, exciting cuisine that Morocco is world famous for.

Morocco – a beautiful country with extraordinary people and magnificent food is a rewarding experience for anyone to encounter, with a combination of great weather and diversity you can get a lot out of visiting this exotic place. I discovered my love for Moroccan food on my first visit, the balance of sweet spices, pastries and clay oven cooking encapsulated my senses and imagination. As a young traveller, the Moroccan cuisine excited me to learn more and to take my experiences back to England and to take you on a journey of the food of this wonderful country.

Photo from Flikr user: Martin and Kathy Dady

Photo from Flikr user: Martin and Kathy Dady

I feel it suitable to start my ramblings on the cuisine by first mentioning the tagine; the pinnacle of Moroccan cooking and most recognized dish of the country. The art of the tagine is in the way it is cooked: named after the earthenware pot it is cooked in, it slowly stews to create a variety of exquisite flavours. My first experience of the tagine was down a backstreet somewhere in Marrakesh, the heart of Moroccan cuisine, and it was the first of many. The slow –cooked dish is famous for its spice and tender meats and has made its way into kitchens all over the world. The tagine itself is an odd-looking device made from clay, keeping all the spices inside. You can order tagines at almost all Moroccan restaurants, but finding a good one is however, relatively difficult. Head towards the Djemaa El-Fna, the cultural hub of Marrakesh, with snake-charmers and herb merchants – it truly captures everything wonderful about Morocco. In the square you can find authentic Moroccan restaurants serving the best tagines in Marrakesh and other interesting vendors selling divine street-food.

As well as the tagine there are many other delicious foods from Morocco that are definitely worth a mention in this whirlwind tour of Moroccan cuisine. The tangia; the tagines single, bachelor friend, is a hugely popular dish that is cooked similarly to the tagine, but in a longer and narrower cooking dish. The tangia is famous for its simple cooking method, which makes it popular for the bachelor men of Morocco. The tender meat infused with the Moroccan spices is an award winning combination and should be tasted at all costs.

Moroccan desserts should never be dismissed either.  Sipping an espresso at a bumbling cafe whilst munching on a kfeta can’t be missed. The Moroccan pastries and cakes are heavenly; finger-food at its finest. They take full advantage of dates, yoghurts and almond to create bite-size treats, and they are perfect on-the-run food. A fine example of the Moroccan pastry is the ktefa, a traditional Moroccan pastry, made from warqa pastry, layered with sweet fried almonds, crème anglaise and scented with orange. The Moroccan pastries symbolize how the country likes to eat – in cafe’s chatting informally whilst indulging their delights into the fine food.  Next time you think of Morocco, don’t just think about camels, souks and beaches. Think about the rich cuisine infused by French cooking, which has lead to a creation of interesting, gorgeous and complex foods. Any foodie or traveller visiting Morocco should throw themselves in at the deep end, try all sorts of street foods and be taken on a wonderful culinary journey.

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