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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.