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getting to know

Morocco
bound
Only an hour away from Spain, Morocco feels like a world away
from Europe, says Robert Seymour. But if you want to
experience a different way of life, this could be the perfect choice.

M
orroco, especially Moroccan in many ways) and Fez gave me
Marrakech, was for an appetite to return.
many years a must-
stop on the old hippie World Heritage Site
trail. Although the Fez – a former capital of Morocco - may
magic that brought not have the international fame of
the tuned-in and dropped-out crowds in the Marrakech and is rather more traditionally
1960s and 1970s is still here, things have conservative, but it is more than a match for
changed, not least that instead of spending it architecturally and is arguably the coun-
several days in a crowded minibus travel- try’s intellectual centre, home to probably
ling overland, you can now fly direct from the world’s oldest university and nearly 800
the UK not only to Casablanca but to Fez, mosques: the Al Qarawiyin Mosque,
Agadir and Marrakech itself. It’s also very Morocco’s oldest, retains its original
good value for money, though it would minaret, built in 956. The city has over 8km
sound strange to describe it as a budget of fortified walls but it’s the medina, the
holiday destination. whole of which is a UNESCO World
Despite decades under Spanish and Heritage Site, which is absolutely unforget-
French colonial rule – which produced the table, not least because it’s so narrow and
new town quarters to mirror the old Medina mazelike that first-time visitors are almost
districts in the major cities - this is still obvi- guaranteed to get lost within it.
ously very much a traditional Islamic culture
with the vibrant indigenous Berber way of
life in no sense under threat. My own first
introduction to Morocco was as a 19-year-
‘...that Tardis
old student when I spent the whole of a sum-
mer wandering around the country. It was a
feeling of hidden
marvellous experience, one that I’ll never
forget (especially as it was my first introduc-
depth and light is
tion to the art of haggling: see below for
some hardwon advice!). You could easily truly astounding...’
spend six months travelling around the
country and only scratch the surface – on It’s also a bustling and very much work-
that first visit I spent most of my time in ing area where transport is by bike or don-
Marrakech and the High Atlas mountains key, never car, and you can happily stumble
and while I didn’t regret a minute of it, the around for others, enjoying the specialities
brief time I then spent in Tangier, of each district, whether they be dyers, pot-
Casablanca (which feels more French than ters, woodcarvers or weavers. As in the rest

6 The Travel & Leisure Magazine
of Morocco, if you get the chance of quick
peek beyond these labyrinthine walls into
the patios behind, make the most of it – that
Tardis feeling of hidden depth and light is
truly astounding. As well as being famous
for the high standard of its handicrafts, Fez
is also home to one of the world’s most
important music festivals, the annual week-
long Fez Festival of World Sacred Music
which attracts internationally famous musi-
cians such as Ravi Shankar and Youssou
N’Dour. A great blog about Fez is The View
From Fez at http://riadzany.blogspot.com.

Tangier, like many of Morocco’s famous
cities, has a strong eccentric and cosmopoli-
tan feeling to it: once it was famously an
international zone which was home to writ-
ers such as Paul Bowles and particular pop-
ular among artists such as Matisse, as well
as being religiously very multicultural. It’s
still good to factor in a visit to the city
today, especially as it is so close to Spain.
But the focus of many travellers’ attention
is Marrakech and the first stop is almost
always the Djemaa el Fna.
During the day, this square in the epicen-
tre of the medina is fairly quiet. It’s pleasant
to do a bit of people watching from one of
the many café terraces around the square

The Travel & Leisure Magazine 7
with a nice hot and sweet mint tea or try an markets any time of the day, and it’s maybe
orange juice from one of the sellers on carts.
Later on you could try out one of
Eating and drinking wiser to try them in daylight hours for the
first time to get your bearings, in the early
Marrakech’s bathhouses or ‘hammams’ (your You can eat and drink well in evening they become a whole new world
hotel will be able to give you details of the Morocco on a low budget in places without end. They’re loud, they’re colourful
best local ones as well as opening times). But around the older parts of town in the and they’re terribly tempting (a good blog
as the night begins to draw in, it becomes a medinas although it’s worth splashing about Marrakech and shopping in general
real festival spectacle space with musicians, out to try out a more upmarket there is My Marrakesh at http://
dancers, acrobats, storytellers, snake charm- restaurant or two.The country’s moroccanmaryam.typepad.com).
ers and dentists (complete with pulled teeth signature dish is tajine, a kind of stew, There are maps of the souks and it is well
in a massive bag to indicate how successful often with lamb, prunes and almonds, worth consulting them before you go in for
they’ve been…), all enclosed within circles eaten with couscous, and traditionally a general feel, but the joy of them is simply
of spectators as they pull off their finest with your hand rather than a knife wandering around (don’t worry about get-
tricks. There are also endless food stalls and fork: remember, eat only with ting lost – the ubiquitous ‘guides’ will seek
where you can pick whatever you like and your right hand in someobody’s you out and give you a helping hand). Each
see it cooked fresh right in front of you – eat- house. Also delicious is the spicy bean area specialises, so look out for:
ing out is a great way to get genuine feel for soup harira and there are always ● Souk Smarine, if you’re interested in tex-
the city. Once it’s properly dark, look out for delicious pastries available. Personally, tiles which leads onto a section selling
the Gnaoua musicians who play trancelike I enjoyed the pigeon pies but can see herbal remedies
hypnotic music on drums, flutes and three- why these might not be everybody’s ● kissarias, the covered markets which tend
string guitars. These are a revelation. Take it first choice of dinner.You mustn’t to sell more expensive goods, interesting
all in from one of the rooftop terraces, such leave the country without several but not really what you’re here for
as the Café de France’s or the Hôtel CTM’s. mint teas inside you either.This is ● Souk des Bijoutiers, for jewellery
brewed simply – a massive bunch of ● Souk Cherratin, for leatherwork
To Go Exploring mint and an equally vast amount of
The Djemaa is a great place to start your sugar – but is lovely. Orange juice is Haggling
exploration of the area. Close by is the mar- widely available, but it’s often wiser to And when you buy in a souk, you are
vellous Koutoubia Mosque (nearly 70m ask for it without ice or water if your expected, almost encouraged, to haggle for
high and a useful landmark if you get lost, stomach is delicate.Tread carefully everything. For the uninitiated, you should
it was begun around 1150 and is atmospher- with alcohol – it’s not possible usually first choose your haggling spot carefully. In
ically illuminated at night) and Avenue for example to find it in medinas. Morocco, the deeper into a souk you
Mohammed V, the street which takes you up However if you get the chance to try explore, the less likely you are to encounter
into the newer areas of the city known as some of the country’s red wines, inflated tourist prices. Above all, avoid mid-
Gueliz. And of course, it’s right next to the you’ll almost certainly enjoy the taste. dlemen like guides – their commission for
souks. Although you can visit these ancient delivering you to their ‘brother’s’ carpet

The Travel & Leisure Magazine 9
with a nice hot and sweet mint tea or try an markets any time of the day, and it’s maybe
orange juice from one of the sellers on carts.
Later on you could try out one of
Eating and drinking wiser to try them in daylight hours for the
first time to get your bearings, in the early
Marrakech’s bathhouses or ‘hammams’ (your You can eat and drink well in evening they become a whole new world
hotel will be able to give you details of the Morocco on a low budget in places without end. They’re loud, they’re colourful
best local ones as well as opening times). But around the older parts of town in the and they’re terribly tempting (a good blog
as the night begins to draw in, it becomes a medinas although it’s worth splashing about Marrakech and shopping in general
real festival spectacle space with musicians, out to try out a more upmarket there is My Marrakesh at http://
dancers, acrobats, storytellers, snake charm- restaurant or two.The country’s moroccanmaryam.typepad.com).
ers and dentists (complete with pulled teeth signature dish is tajine, a kind of stew, There are maps of the souks and it is well
in a massive bag to indicate how successful often with lamb, prunes and almonds, worth consulting them before you go in for
they’ve been…), all enclosed within circles eaten with couscous, and traditionally a general feel, but the joy of them is simply
of spectators as they pull off their finest with your hand rather than a knife wandering around (don’t worry about get-
tricks. There are also endless food stalls and fork: remember, eat only with ting lost – the ubiquitous ‘guides’ will seek
where you can pick whatever you like and your right hand in someobody’s you out and give you a helping hand). Each
see it cooked fresh right in front of you – eat- house. Also delicious is the spicy bean area specialises, so look out for:
ing out is a great way to get genuine feel for soup harira and there are always ● Souk Smarine, if you’re interested in tex-
the city. Once it’s properly dark, look out for delicious pastries available. Personally, tiles which leads onto a section selling
the Gnaoua musicians who play trancelike I enjoyed the pigeon pies but can see herbal remedies
hypnotic music on drums, flutes and three- why these might not be everybody’s ● kissarias, the covered markets which tend
string guitars. These are a revelation. Take it first choice of dinner.You mustn’t to sell more expensive goods, interesting
all in from one of the rooftop terraces, such leave the country without several but not really what you’re here for
as the Café de France’s or the Hôtel CTM’s. mint teas inside you either.This is ● Souk des Bijoutiers, for jewellery
brewed simply – a massive bunch of ● Souk Cherratin, for leatherwork
To Go Exploring mint and an equally vast amount of
The Djemaa is a great place to start your sugar – but is lovely. Orange juice is Haggling
exploration of the area. Close by is the mar- widely available, but it’s often wiser to And when you buy in a souk, you are
vellous Koutoubia Mosque (nearly 70m ask for it without ice or water if your expected, almost encouraged, to haggle for
high and a useful landmark if you get lost, stomach is delicate.Tread carefully everything. For the uninitiated, you should
it was begun around 1150 and is atmospher- with alcohol – it’s not possible usually first choose your haggling spot carefully. In
ically illuminated at night) and Avenue for example to find it in medinas. Morocco, the deeper into a souk you
Mohammed V, the street which takes you up However if you get the chance to try explore, the less likely you are to encounter
into the newer areas of the city known as some of the country’s red wines, inflated tourist prices. Above all, avoid mid-
Gueliz. And of course, it’s right next to the you’ll almost certainly enjoy the taste. dlemen like guides – their commission for
souks. Although you can visit these ancient delivering you to their ‘brother’s’ carpet

The Travel & Leisure Magazine 9
TOURISM EXHIBITION
Moroccan Travel Market (MTM) is the new international tourism exhibition to be
held annually in Morocco following this year’s successful launch in Marrakech
which showcased the Maghreb and Africa. Extremely well organized by Zeyneb
Ghoti, all visitors from the UK were made to feel very welcome at the first event.
Tourism is a key part of Morocco’s economy: in 2006, visitor numbers topped 6.5
million and last year the number of overnight stays was well over 14.5 million, a
record for the country. Enjoying the Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI,
MTM is part of the Kingdom’s tourism policy aiming to reach 10 million tourists
by 2010. Although it traditionally relies on French visitors, Morocco is attracting
increasingly international visitors and businesses from Europe and the Gulf. In
response to the rise of the internet, the emergence of new distribution channels,
the birth of new niche tourism, the culture, welfare and tourism itself, Morocco,
not just for its own growth but also for those of the African continent had to
create an international exhibition on tourism, hence MTM was born.

shop is added onto any price you eventually You are crazy man my friend. Crazy. What is
pay. Chat to the stallholder before you your last offer, your very last offer?…Ha, ha.
begin. You’re initiating a relationship, doing Crazy price. I have many children,’ etc,) give
more than just buying. You are entering a him some back. Maybe a ‘friend’ of yours
ritual: consider giving him or her a postcard has bought the same thing much cheaper. Or
from home or an instant Polaroid photo of perhaps you’ll come back ‘tomorrow’? Keep
themselves to create a positive mood. If asking for the best price (they’ll ask you the
you’re with your kids, introduce them to same) to bring it down although don’t bar-
make the transaction more personal. gain at length unless you’re genuinely inter-
Once you’ve spotted what you want, ested. Keep the haggling friendly but consid-
ignore it. Pretend to be interested in some- er walking away to encourage him to lower
thing completely different. After a while, his offer and hang onto your sale. If you buy
casually pick up whatever you’re really after. more than one item, ask for a reduction for
Ask the price and show astonishment at how buying in bulk or offer something in part
high it is. Emphasise you want a serious fig- exchange. Finally, if you’re getting close to
ure before making an offer, perhaps one third your target price, don’t be too forceful over
to a half of the original sum. When the trader the last few pesetas - remember that this is
gives you their patter (‘You think I’m mad? how the stallholder lives.

10 The Travel & Leisure Magazine
Palace. The tombs are now restored after cen-
ts
YO U R M o ro cc o Fac turies of neglect and the garden and courtyard
areas contain the final resting places of more
rocco is well linked
al air po rts at the major cities so Mo than a hundred princes and members of their
There are int ern ati on ys, Royal Air Maroc,
rou s car rie rs including British Airwa household. The gravestones are works of art
to the UK wit h nu me anair and Thomsonfly
t low co st air line Atlas Blue, Easyjet, Ry in themselves with some gorgeous tiling
North Afr ica ’s firs Algericas in Spain and
. Ple nty of ferries operate between work. The palace is ruined, but still gives an
offering dir ect flig hts raltar to Tangier but
als o hig h-s pe ed ferry options from Gib impression of wealth and power and what
Tangier.T he re are get ferries to Ceuta
eti me s be a bit bumpy.You can also easily remains today to be visited is the area where
these can som from Almeria and
roc co (te chn ically Spanish territory) ambassadors were received.
and Me lilla in Mo ing from France.
u co uld alw ays take a car ferry too, includ Enjoying the cities of Morocco is only part
Malag a. An d yo o.uk) and Southern
de tai ls at Di rec t Fer rie s (www.directferries.c of its appeal – to get to grips with the country,
More head for the hills. The High Atlas mountains
ferries.co.uk).
Ferries (www.southern ou could think about
hin the country is just as easy.Y rail are a showcase for the traditional Berber peo-
Getting around wit very good value, bus and
ern al flig hts bu t the re’ s also a ver y good, and h sle ep ing car
ples and a stay in any of the small villages that
int swift wit
ndable, comfortable and are dotted around the hillsides is a memorable
network.Trains are depe b site (w ww .seat61.com) has plenty experience. Although you can get up into the
t Sixty One we
options. The Man In Sea fro m London to Morocco in
48 hours on
mountains under your own steam, there are
ing ho w to get
of information includ of taxis around and a
rney.There are also plenty many companies which offer safari-type trips
a really pleasant train jou y Me rcedes, for hopping betw
een towns, a
into the High Atlas, whether it be walking or
, bas ed on spe ed
shared taxi system cycling including Epic Morocco’s Walking
.
great way to meet locals eri ng trips to and around Mo
rocco is Epic with Nomads option, as part of which you fol-
ny op era tor s off ted to Travel
Among the ma .uk , mentioned above); Addic low a family in a migrating tribe through the
icm or oc co .co
Morocco (www .ep ng into what’s
ted to tra ve l.c om a good site for researchi mountains on their six-monthly move to fresh
http://www.ad dic -voyages.ma; Hip
lan ca- bas ed Ca rav an Voyages www.caravan pastures in the Jebel Saghro range in the south
on offer; Casab om and
at www.hipmorocco.c of the country. Like so much of Morocco, it’s
Morocco/Hip Marrakech offer English-speaking ria
ds. Once inside an experience as much as a holiday.
ch .co m wh ich
www.hipma rra ke – one of the most
are ma ny op tio ns for seeing the sights
the country the re ss of champagne
is in a ho t air bal loo n over Marrakech with a gla Agadir
interesting
://cieldafrique.info). Morocco is not simply a feast for the brain,
with Ciel d’Afrique (http three, four and five
e cho ice of accommodation, from it’s also a marvellous place to kick back and
There is a ver y wid ticularly luxurious
e Ma mo un ia (w ww .mamounia.com) is par relax, and there’s nowhere better for that than
star hotel s (th lar riads and dars,
spl urg e) to the increasingly popu Agadir on the country’s south-west Atlantic
if you’r e loo kin g to – often by foreigners
ho use s which have been restored coast The city, once a fishing village and
tradition al Mo roc can uil boutique hotels.They
cro ss be tw een sec on d homes and rather tranq now a major fishing port, has a genuinely
– as a start your
ally co mm on in Ma rrakech. A good place to beautiful bay with 10 kilometres of white
are esp eci ’s own site at
dat ion sea rch is the Moroccan Tourist Board sand and around 340 days of sunshine a year
accom mo ensive.
g which is pretty compreh so it’s not surprising that it has also become
www.visitmorocco.or nt to lea ve, you might also want to
it so mu ch you don’t wa s in the country’s major holiday resort. The
An d if yo u like GEM Estates are specialist
nsi de r bu yin g a sec on d home in the country. tat es.co m) . swimming and watersports are great here but
co .gem-es
their web site at (www don’t expect to find the narrow old streets of
Moroccan property – see a ran ge of Mo rocco adventure options the country’s other cities: after an earthquake
.co.uk) has
Explore (www.explore into the High Atlas and
camping, Marrakech, a trip in 1960, the city was comprehensively
such as 11 days including photos from their trips.
also has very atmospheric rebuilt. For a little historic trip, head for the
into the Sahara.The site hilltop Kasbah which gives great views. TL

12 The Travel & Leisure Magazine
Epic Morocco

• Tailor-made holidays
• Group adventure tours
• Hiking with nomads
• Corporate groups

www.epicmorocco.co.uk
escape@epicmorocco.co.uk 020 8150 6131

An eclectic selection of riads and A selection of English speaking riads
hotels throughout Morocco in Marrakech

www.hipmorocco.com www.hipmarrakech.com
info@hipmorocco.com info@hipmarrakech.com
0208 816 7065 0208 816 7065
The Travel & Leisure Magazine 13
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Marrakech Atlas Mountains
Fez Essaouira
Hotels - Riads - Apartments
Golf Holidays & Health Spas
Flights from London and regional airports
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riad accommodation & transfers
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14 The Travel & Leisure Magazine

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