Having never previously visited Morocco, I was uncertain of what to expect. I anticipated warm weather and sunshine, peachy, terracotta buildings, and large plates of fluffy couscous. Those things were indeed there to welcome us, but I discovered there’s so much more to Morocco than just that. Morocco, I believe, can best be described as generous. Generous with hospitality and kindness, generous with its food, and its vast, rugged landscapes. What I took away from my time there, is that there’s so much more to Morocco than what meets the eye. Every aspect of this country was captivating and left me wanting to explore more.
I spent 7 days travelling through Morocco with 3 other bloggers, a director, and a film maker. We were invited there by Expedia and the Moroccan National Tourism Office to embrace a range of unique experiences, which were a little outside of the norm. Some activities placed me well outside my comfort zone (ie. quad biking through the Saharan sand dunes), but each time I packed my suitcase ready for the next adventure, I was left with unforgettable memories and a feeling of fulfilment.
I want to share with you today 5 Unique Moroccan Experiences Not to be Missed. These activities vary from sipping mint tea poolside, to shoe making to quad biking. They’re vastly different, but to me, these are the activities that will truly make your Moroccan adventure unforgettable.
1. A night in the Agafay desert
A night or two’s stay in a glamourous desert lodge is the perfect way to start your Moroccan holiday. We stayed at Terre Des Etoiles, an oasis, 45 minutes from Marrakech. We were warned we would be camping the first night of our Moroccan adventure. Having been scarred by some pretty horrific camping trips as a child, I was prepared for the worst. However, to my pleasant surprise, Terre Des Etoiles, was wonderful.
The tents were incredibly stylish and could challenge many 5-star hotel rooms. Each one had a spectacular view of the Agafay desert and there were plenty of cushions and seating outside where you could enjoy a drink and watch the sunset. We spent the late afternoon taking pictures, enjoying freshly brewed mint tea, and making the most of the pool. As the sun set, we made our way to a private, open tent where we enjoyed a delicious beef tajine with green olives.
The next day we woke early to make the most of the beautiful morning light. We enjoyed breakfast and coffee on the terrace before having a camel ride through the desert.
Terre Des Etoiles offers a range of activities from relaxing massages to camel rides to cooking classes. They can be booked ahead of time here or during your stay.
2. Learn from locals in Marrakesh
While it can be tempting to spend your entire time in Marrakech hunting down bargains and getting lost in the souks, I can’t recommend enough participating in a workshop organised by Ateliers d’Ailleurs. Not only does it provide you with the opportunity to learn something new, but by doing so you are also giving back to the community.
Ateliers d’Ailleurs, aims to preserve the savoir faire of traditions, and give those who are masters of traditional craftsmanship a way to supplement their income. We took cooking class where we learnt to make a chicken tajine, two types of flat bread and traditional biscuits, followed by a babboosh making class. Both workshops were fantastic and I left with a lot of respect for the local cooks and craftsmen knowing now how much hard work goes into each item or dish.
If you’d like to book a class, you can do so here.
3. Enjoy lunch in Ait-Ben-Haddou
Ait-Ben-Haddou in Ouarzazate province is famous for its Ksar, a traditional pre-Saharian village, and for being the location in which The Mummy and Gladiator were filmed. What it should really be famous for though, is its overwhelming sense of community, and a small tea room called Tawesna that’s run by over 30 women from the region.
After a 4-hour drive from Marrakech, we were there to spend the day at Tawesna. We were greeted with warmth and kindness, before being whisked away past the inviting nooks filled with cushions and colourful rugs, and guided toward the kitchen. We were put to work, whisking, chopping and stirring until my arm nearly fell off, all whilst learning about the women’s cooperative. It turns out the cooperative is multifaceted. It provides women of the region with work, it shares Amazigh culture with visitors, it encourages the sustainable production of regional produce, it passes down generations of savoir faire, and very importantly, it provides passers-by with one very tasty lunch (which we helped to make!).
Lunch there was incredibly delicious. The salads were packed full of flavour and the main was unlike no other: chicken tajine, topped with quenelles of pumpkin purée that’s been slightly sweetened and rolled in chopped roasted almonds. It’s a dish I’ll never forget!
If you’d like to have lunch at Tawesna, you can find out more information here. It’s important to note that lunch reservations need to be made at least 2 hours ahead of time for a midday lunch. There’s a lot to see in the area, so I recommend starting with a coffee in the morning at Tawesna, letting them know you’ll be there for lunch, then spend the rest of the morning exploring.
4. Visit the Atlas Mountains
I don’t know what surprised me more in the Atlas Mountains: the sheer grandeur of it, its glowing red hue, or the fact that the tiny cliff-edge road we were travelling along was wide enough for two cars ha! Anyway, I feel incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to visit. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the Atlas Mountains, but luckily, we had a fantastic driver/ tour guide, Omar, who took us to the most photogenic areas. Thanks to him we are able to capture some of the mountain’s beauty as we passed through.
Our time in the Atlas Mountains was short and sweet and definitely left me wanting to see more. Apparently, there are breathtaking gorges and waterfalls that should not be missed.
As I mentioned before, Omar is a fantastic guide and a very safe driver. You can organise the details of your trip with him here.
5. An Adventurous Saharan Experience
To get to our campsite, we had two options: 4X4 or quad bikes. I had never done either but we decided to go with the quad bikes. It was harder than I thought and after getting bogged mid-hill half a dozen or so times, I finally got the hang of it and ended up really enjoying myself.
The campsite, Camp Tiziri, was incredibly beautiful. We arrived once the sun had set so we were guided to o ur tents by rows of flame torches that created a relaxed, calm ambience. We had a delicious dinner and spent the night laughing away by the fire as locals tried their best to teach us how to play the drums – a pointless endeavour.
The next morning, we watched the sunrise over the dunes and tried our talents at sand boarding. At 7am, and before and caffeine had been ingested, we weren’t what you’d call experts, but we certainly enjoyed trying. I may still be finding sand all throughout my belongings, but that’s a small price to pay for such a memorable experience.
To book this leg of your journey, I recommend once again going through Omar to book everything from quad biking to accommodation.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Expedia & the Moroccan National Tourism Office for organising this incredible Moroccan adventure.
If you’re thinking of visiting, or would like more information on Morocco, go to https://momentsinmorocco.expedia.fr