Travel

Our 1st Journey to Morocco - RETREAT RECAP

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It was an incredible few weeks we spent with our guests at our first ever joint Noorish Tofino & Dryftwater Sports yoga & surf retreat in southern Morocco. It’s been a couple of months now since I have come home and had some time to reflect on a transformative week.

Stunning architecture surrounded us everywhere we went. Intricate tile and lattice work, Moorish-style doorways and lavishly landscaped gardens are all trademarks of the Moroccan design aesthetic.

Stunning architecture surrounded us everywhere we went. Intricate tile and lattice work, Moorish-style doorways and lavishly landscaped gardens are all trademarks of the Moroccan design aesthetic.

For our group in week 1, our guests started their trip with a smattering of Moroccan culture in Marrakesh. Retreat leader Mama Liz toured the ancient city’s sights including the Bahia Palace, Jardin Majorelle and Saadian Tombs with our guests before setting off for a cross country adventure on the road towards the Sahara desert. Crossing majestic landscapes that included UNESCO heritage sites, palm fringed oases and the Todhas gorges, our guests bonded on the road with spontaneous break-outs of Africa in song. A lightning and thunder storm temporarily halted the group from reaching their camel steeds but that is part of the traveling experiences – surprises are abound. 

It turns out the camels you ride there are one-hump, not of the two-humped variety.

It turns out the camels you ride there are one-hump, not of the two-humped variety.

Riding camels in the desert was a dream for some of our guests and they were not disappointed. From there, it was onwards to our retreat location by the sea, the small village of Mirleft. We settled into a routine of deepening our yoga practice, trying surfing for the first time for some and advancing our skills for others, and daily cultural exploration in town and nearby.

Morning ritual: Yoga followed by a sumptuous Moroccan style breakfast of crepes and fresh orange juice

Morning ritual: Yoga followed by a sumptuous Moroccan style breakfast of crepes and fresh orange juice

Surfing every daily strengthened our bodies, challenged our minds, and refreshed our spirits

Surfing every daily strengthened our bodies, challenged our minds, and refreshed our spirits

Over the course of the week, something magical occurred. Some of our guests experienced a transformation in mindset and well-being. Through the challenge of travel to a new country, through new activities and physical experiences, our guests found greater inner awareness and a new sense of empowerment. Intentions set at the beginning of the trip were being realized and by the time we said our goodbyes, each woman came away with some deeper and more valuable to carry through back home than simply just a surf and yoga trip.

We loved seeing first time surfer Nicole, an established equestrian and yogi, so pumped to ride her first waves.

We loved seeing first time surfer Nicole, an established equestrian and yogi, so pumped to ride her first waves.

Each of us, as retreat leaders, also experienced great personal growth on this trip. We are constant students of life and are humbled by the challenges that we face.

Each of us, as retreat leaders, also experienced great personal growth on this trip. We are constant students of life and are humbled by the challenges that we face.

I feel so grateful and privileged to be part of something so special and I believe I speak for our entire team of Liz, Carly, and Youba. To be a small part in providing the space and time and tools to help our guests blossom and grow is something I will never forget. I am thankful our first group of guests believed in us and allowed us to be part of their personal journey. 

Mama Liz and her team at Spot-M will be hosting the next set of yoga & surf trips this Fall and Winter.

WOMEN’S ONLY - October 19-26 and October 26-November 2

FAMILY/CO-ED XMAS BREAK - December 21-28 and December 28-January 4

Please visit Dryft Water Sports for full details.



Meet Our Retreat Leader Series - Elizabeth Finkle Sans AKA "Mama Liz"

We are starting a new series of posts at Noorishing Thoughts so you can get to know us a little better. We start with Noorish’s premier partner, Elizabeth Finkle Sans of Dryftwater Sports, who is an inspiration to me. We call her Mama Liz (she’s mom to two teen daughters) and she’s always looking out for everyone around her. She’s an accomplished athlete (former pro skier!), entrepreneur and a big part of her community in the Hamptons in New York. Mama Liz gives us some insight into what makes her tick.

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Tell us a bit about yourself - who is Mama Liz and what is she all about?

Mama Liz is a wife/ mother/ yogu/surfer/skier/hippie trapped in a 45+ body, a peter pan who never wants to grow up! I worked so hard to be a grown up while working on Wall Street for 20 years, I want those youthful years back!

What inspires you?

Young people who don’t realize the gift of youth,older people who live like they are decades younger. 

Like many of us today, You’re a wearer of many hats - entrepreneur, mother, wellness advocate. What keeps you balanced and gets you through your many tasks in the day?

While I love my husband and daughters dearly, and I love my home, I always have a trip planned. I have had the good fortune to travel my whole life and whether it is a new location or a return to an old location, the excitement of travel keeps me in balance. 

You created Dryft Watersports, which makes beautiful, handcrafted surfboards. What is like working as a woman in the surf industry?

It is a very competitive business.There are not a great deal of women who are making boards, but there are many shapers out there. I just have to keep getting the boards into more hands and into more locations and hope the word spreads! We are in America and Central America and soon North Africa

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You were a former professional skier and now you are an avid surfer. What have outdoor sports taught you that has translated into something bigger in life?

Outdoor sports teach you that nothing goes as plans, and that we must be flexible and able to change plans on a dime. One day we are skiing in packed powder in sunny weather and great visibility, and within 40 minutes its cloudy and there is no visiblity where you cannot see your hand in front of you! Or you are surfing nice shoulder high waves, the sky turns grey, the wind crosses, and the waves are sloppy, overhead, and there is a strong rip. We have to adapt. Life changes too. We can be healthy one day, and be diagnosed with cancer the next.  Some people are so much in tunnel vision, that the slightest change throws them into depression.

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What are your favourite places in the world? Do you have any bucket list places you want to check off?

Nicaragua is one of my favorite places. Paris is my favorite City. I cannot wait to visit Africa!

Liz at her Nicaraguan home having a blast

Liz at her Nicaraguan home having a blast

If there's one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were in your teens or twenties, what would it be?

I would have spent more years traveling and not have settled into a serious job until I was over 30. I don’t regrets, but there is no reason to hurry to settle down!

You can come meet us, that’s me (Liv), Mama Liz, and retreat leader Carly at our upcoming event in New York!

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We are hosting a COMPLIMENTARY Pop-Up Yoga & Essential Oil event at the LeRose Dance Company. Take some time out for yourself next Saturday afternoon and enjoy a restorative yoga session led by Carly. Stay for a social over some light snacks and kombucha afterwards as we take questions on yoga, surfing, essential oils, wellness and anything in between! Details below:

WHEN: SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20, 1:30PM - 3PM

WHERE: LEROSE DANCE COMPANY, 202 Montauk Hwy, Westhampton Beach, NY

WHAT: NOORISH TOFINO & DRYFTWATER SPORTS POP-UP YOGA & ESSENTIAL OIL SOCIAL

RSVP: Email me hello@noorishtofino.com, or check out our Facebook Page at Noorish Tofino Retreats under Events. Or just show up early with your mat and you’re good to go! Limited spots available so come early.


How Morocco Went From Off My Radar to Cream of the Bucket List Crop

“Marrakesh is simply the nicest place on Earth to spend an afternoon”

~Sir Winston Churchill

The former Prime Minister was said to be “captivated” by Marrakesh. “Here in these spacious palm groves rising from the desert the traveller can be sure of perennial sunshine, of every comfort and diversion, and can contemplate with ceaseless satisfaction the stately and snow-clad panorama of the Atlas Mountains. The sun is brilliant and warm but not scorching; the air crisp, bracing but without being chilly; the days bright, the nights cool and fresh.” Churchill had a love affair with Morocco and now I’m beginning to understand why.

Marrakech Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Marrakech Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I’ll admit Morocco only recently rocketed to the top of the running list of places I really wanted to go. As a surfer I knew there were amazing breaks in this part of Northwest Africa but I had never thought about exploring the region. Perhaps it was because I had already traveled to Africa, mostly in the South, and I thought it would be a slog to get there from the West coast of Canada (Reality Check - It’s not so bad via a hop to London then a 3-ish hour flight south to Morocco). To be honest, I’ve had a life long love affair with travel to Africa, and I was able to mostly fulfil those dreams on trips with my husband, a South African, in my twenties.  I have experienced the vibrant energy of Africa; I felt so alive there. They say there is an African beat, and that once it’s in you, it stays. Traveling Africa is not always for the faint of heart and for me, there is always a deep emotional commitment when I am there. The last time I was there, I cried before I left perhaps knowing I would not come back for quite some time. Africa can require a lot of work and research beforehand and lots of patience when things don’t go as planned. But that’s half the fun and where the magic can happen.

Colourful leather slippers is an example of strong craftsmanship in Morocco. Photo by  Martin Adams  on  Unsplash

Colourful leather slippers is an example of strong craftsmanship in Morocco. Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

What caught my eye about Morocco was, not only the vast range in natural beauty from mountains to deserts to the twisty coastlines, but also seemingly enchanting culture, history and architecture. It is a place where European influence intersects with Arab and African roots. Some of its cities, like Tangier, have long been loved by artists, writers and musicians and continue to be a magnet for celebrities. Moroccan design and art have made their way into mainstream focus, and I started to fall in love with Moroccan artisanship when I was sourcing items for Noorish House. Hand-thrown earthenware in warm tones that reminded me of the setting sun, and sparkling lattice-style silver lanterns that twinkled in the night - these items are a feast for the eyes. I had the good fortune of meeting a lovely lady who imports Moroccan goodies and traveled there frequently. Through our conversations, my fascination with the country grew. Our co-retreat leader and yogini, Carly, lived in Morocco and had wonderful things to say about her time there. Finally, my mind recalled the vivid stories my Auntie told me, a long time ago, when she traveled to Morocco and how she adored the country. I was hooked.

Photo by  Wenni Zhou  on  Unsplash

Photo by Wenni Zhou on Unsplash

There are so many wonderful places but below are a few reasons why you too should place magical Morocco on the top of your bucket list.

  1. MARRAKECH - Called “Paris of the Sahara” by Sir Winston Churchill, this is the fourth largest city in Morocco and a great starting or ending point for visiting the country. It sits at the base of the impressive Atlas Mountains and is famous for its red houses and pink washed walls. The Medina, or the ancient fortified part of the Old city, is a maze of alleyways, lined with stall vendors who would love to offer you a cup of mint tea while enticing you to shop. Marrakesh, with its lively colours, sounds, and smells, is a kaleidoscope for the senses. Be prepared to be dazzled by the friendliness of the locals, the skillful street performers, and the stunning architecture of the royal palaces. Our Moroccan Moon Yoga & Surf Retreat offers an option to stay 1 night in a posh riad in the Medina at the end of our week. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with a central courtyard, often with a pool and fountains, that offer an oasis of tranquility after the bustle and excitement of visiting Marrakesh.

Beautiful Riads, a traditional Moroccan home or palace, make for a unique hotel stay.

Beautiful Riads, a traditional Moroccan home or palace, make for a unique hotel stay.

2. SOUTHERN MOROCCAN COAST - Morocco is famed for its blue sunny skies and vast stretches of sandy beaches. The Atlantic Ocean glimmers beside the seaside towns and fishing villages, and is perfect for a variety of water sports, including surfing of course! The southern coast is more laid back and less developed from the northern coastal cities and resort towns. You won’t find many high rise hotels or surf schools overtaking the local break where we are staying on our retreat. We will be close enough to neighbouring towns and beaches for visits, all the amenities, and shopping but will be far away from the usual tourist traps so we can truly relax and enjoy our stay in an authentic way.

The southern beaches of Moroccan provide an ample playground with waves going left and right, beach and point breaks for all different levels of surfers.

The southern beaches of Moroccan provide an ample playground with waves going left and right, beach and point breaks for all different levels of surfers.

3. MAJESTIC SAHARAN DESERT - I can think of few experiences that would be as sublime as riding on a camel across an empty desert of golden sand dunes. Watch the sun descend into a ball of pink, orange and red and make camp under a thousand sparkling stars. A desert trek into the Sahara with a local Berber guide is a must-do in Morocco. This adventure is an optional add-on at the end of our Moroccan Moon Yoga & Surf Retreat in week 2 - ask me about it.

The feeling of solitude while one rides into the desert. Photo via Andrea Cappiello @Unsplash

The feeling of solitude while one rides into the desert. Photo via Andrea Cappiello @Unsplash

4. MIGHTY MOUNTAINS - Several impressive mountain ranges are found in Morocco. The Rif Mountains are close to the Meditarrean coast and is known for it’s springtime wild flower blooms. The High Atlas has snow-topped peaks (yes snow in Morocco!) and makes for a spectacular drive. The Anti Atlas is full of oasis villages in its valleys. Twisty mountain passes in Morocco are popular choices for cycling and motorcycle touring. Hikers and trekkers will delight in the options and places to camp.

Photo via @Unsplash by Annie Spratt (IG @anniespratt)

Photo via @Unsplash by Annie Spratt (IG @anniespratt)

I have barely touched the surface of wonderful places in Morocco - I’ll have to save Fez, Meknes, Chefchaoen and a few others for another post!

JOIN ME on our first official Noorish Tofino Yoga & Surf Retreat in Morocco next May, in partnership with Liz of Dryft Watersports and Carly of Papaya Wellness. We will have the best local guides by our side as we explore the fabulous beaches and coastlines, wander the souk markets for treasures, and trek to historical sights. We will be treated to fresh local cuisine, made in house by our private chef, including Moroccan favourites like the tagine and Moroccan crepes and pastries. All the while practicing yoga upon rising and before sleeping with Carly. Learn to surf or work on advancing your skills; we will have a maximum of 3 students per surf coach so every guest will have the highest attention to detail and care in the water. Only 4 spaces remain in Week 2 - contact us at hello@noorishtofino.com now to secure your spot. We have Early Bird and Bring a Friend Discounts too so please inquire.

THE NOORISH DIFFERENCE

We are all about the people. We work with only the best so our team can provide you with highest level of service possible. Our retreat groups are small - a maximum of 8-10 ladies per trip so you get the most attention and customized service. We are established travellers and adventurers who have discerning taste when it comes to where to stay, eat and go. We provide a welcoming environment for women of all backgrounds, cultures and experience levels. Whether you’ve never stepped on a yoga mat or surfed before to those who are wave warriors and shredders, we will welcome you with open arms. We believe in EMPOWER, ENGAGE AND EMBRACE for each and every woman on our retreats. This is YOUR dream retreat, so let us make it happen for you.