A Saharan Dream in Morocco
My recent trip took me to Morocco with Head of Africa, Byron. In Jacada, we had a big discussion whether it should come under Europe or Africa. We ask this question a lot to the locals whether Morocco is European, African or Middle Eastern. This is a difficult question as you need to fully understand the history of the country but the simple answer is that it is all three. It is a Muslim country located on the African continent but it has always had a close relationship and eye North towards Spain, France and the rest of the Europe. This is my photo journal from my visit to this fascinating destination.
We started our trip in Fes which was one of the former Imperial capitals of Morocco. It is often overlooked but it is a great place to start a trip. There are fewer tourists than Marrakesh and the stall-holders in the souk are much more laid back. The architecture and stone work is exquisite and you sometimes find the most impressive riads behind the most simple doorways.
There are no cars or motorbikes in the medina so all the food has to be moved around by cart or mule. Make sure you keep your eyes open because the mules don’t stop for anybody once they get going. There are over 9500 streets in the medina and some are so narrow that two people cannot pass at the same time.
The next day we headed out of the city to visit the Roman remains of Volubilis and the Imperial city of Meknes. Volubilis was a huge city with over 20,000 inhabitants and much of the city still remains today.
We then met our guide Itimad in Meknes. It was so interesting to spend time with a strong woman who was a Berber, artist and guide. This is the best thing about Jacada guides; they all have such interesting stories. I learnt more about Morocco sitting in a cafe with a mint tea talking about life with her than during the whole trip.
However, I think that the lunch on that day is what Byron and I will remember the most. We stopped off in the town of Moulay Idriss and our private driver parked up in front of restaurant terraces full of tourists. I did not have much hope. We were then taken down a narrow back street into a small house and onto our own private terrace. We had views over the valley and town and more food than you can imagine.
After Fes, we headed south into the iconic Saharan desert to spend a night under the stars. There are lots of desert camps to choose from so it is important to speak to an expert to make sure you have the right one. We took a camel up to the top of a sand dune and just waited for the sunset. It could have been so romantic if I was sharing this moment with my wife!
The next day we drove further south to Dar Ahlam in Skoura. The name of the hotel translates to House of Dreams and they couldn’t have been more perfect with the name. This is such a peaceful haven set in an oasis and is a must for any trip to Morocco. Drives can be very long and tiring and here you can recharge your batteries and get some much needed rest and recuperation.
The food is also a real highlight of this hotel. All meals are included but there are no formal dining areas or menus. You just tell the staff when you want to eat and then they set up a private table somewhere in the grounds: on a terrace, in the garden or by a fireplace. I have never experienced this before and it was a great talking point among everyone in the bar of what and where you were going to eat.
We left the paradise of Dar Ahlam and our driver Brahim took us over the Atlas Mountains at sunrise to Marrakech where I left Byron.
I had travelled to Marrakech before but this trip opened my eyes to how much there is to see in this wonderful, vibrant country. The lasting memory I have is the people we met starting from our driver, to all the guides and strangers we saw over many mint teas. It can seem noisy, chaotic and disorganised but under this, there is a warmth and generosity to the people. I can’t wait to return.
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