yogaretreat

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.

Why It's Time To Let Go Of Your Fears

Do something that scares you

We all have fears. Small ones, innate ones, big scary dark ones. Ones that grip us and freeze us into stone. Ones that keep us from moving forward and help hold us in place of the same decision making and behaviour patterns. Even as I write this post and face a blank page, I feel fear. Fear of not being able to express exactly into eloquent words what I want to say. We put off doing things, confronting things, saying things due to our fears. And it’s time to let go and taste the freedom that erasing our fears can create.

Jump....or No?

Jump....or No?

When we overcome the ideas and thoughts that hold us back, we learn something new about ourselves. We feel empowered because we’ve taken control and created our own narrative. Our own self-limiting thoughts may have prevented us from doing the things we wanted to in the past. How many times have you wanted to pursue something that scared you slightly but yet excited you? Did you push past those negative thoughts and went ahead or did fear paralyze you?

A confession: I have a real deep rooted fear of failure. Despite being academically successful in my youth and having established a decent career in my field. I love starting projects but I can have a real problem finishing them. Why? Due to my self-imposed pressures I create and the thought that I will not meet my expectations. But as I approach the age of 40, I realize it’s time to shed those binds holding me back and push ahead with my vision. There is something very scary about starting your own business. I am putting myself out there, my ideals and thoughts. What if no one likes what I have to offer? Or, how can I possibly compete with that xyz? But by avoiding the deep calling I’ve felt within me to create Noorish Tofino, I won’t ever know whether this idea will spring into life. To overcome this fear, I must re-frame what I think of failure. Failure isn’t always bad. Failure is a learning opportunity if I can expand my horizons and learn from my mistakes and those of others.

I had a childhood fear of diving. It actually stemmed from being upside down, which meant I couldn't do handstands until about the age of 27 when I started practicing yoga regularly. It would be another 10 years before I actually learned to dive, head first, into a swimming pool.

I had a childhood fear of diving. It actually stemmed from being upside down, which meant I couldn't do handstands until about the age of 27 when I started practicing yoga regularly. It would be another 10 years before I actually learned to dive, head first, into a swimming pool.

So do something that scares you - once a month, a week, a day. You might surprise yourself. When I first tried surfing, I was terrified before I even stepped into the water. I couldn’t imagine myself out there having fun. I was afraid of the murky gray and cold water and of the waves sloshing around. The fear physically gripped me and I wasn’t breathing properly. My mindset was already in self-sabotage mode. Fortunately, I had a very kind and patient instructor who with her smile and calm energy, coaxed me out and on her first push off the big floaty foam surfboard, I stood up and felt the magic of “standing” on water for the first time ever. A smile spread across my face and I was hooked. Without pushing past my initial gut feeling of fear, I may not have ever started surfing, a sport that has brought such incredible experiences into my life and introduced so many wonderful friends I now know.

Are you making excuses, putting off plans, or avoiding something so you don't have to face your fears? Photo by  gabrielle cole  on  Unsplash

Are you making excuses, putting off plans, or avoiding something so you don't have to face your fears? Photo by gabrielle cole on Unsplash

What is it that scares you? You may instinctively know or you may need to contemplate deeply to find the answer. Maybe you are afraid to try new things because the unknown is scary, or maybe you are anxious to travel without your family because you believe without you they will fall apart. You find excuses to avoid the task; you put it off and procrastinate. Whatever it might be, try to recognize the triggers. Note how it makes you feel and try to understand where those thoughts came from and what behaviours it’s creating (or not creating, as in avoidance). Our fears can be created from previous bad experiences, or passed down from our family since early childhood. Once you recognize what you’re dealing with, you can find a way to overcome the blockage.

This is not an article instructing you how to beat your fears. That, is a path you must find. Rather, it’s recognizing that each and every one of us have things that give us anxiety. And by knowing what that is for you and how it limits you, you can focus on taking the power back into your hands. Living without self-limitations will give you new sense of freedom and a feeling that you CAN, do and achieve anything.

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why Should You Go On A Women’s Retreat

Before starting Noorish Tofino Retreats, I embarked on many women’s only retreats in my quest for adventure, soul replenishment, and fun. Each trip I took brought me a new perspective on myself and the world around me. Every experience I had, without the comfort of family and my home surroundings, has shaped and driven me to who I am today. I am immensely thankful for these opportunities.

I have girlfriends who never go on women’s retreats, or have never traveled solo without their husbands or kids. I have girlfriends who make it a priority to travel, whether it is yearly or every few years, on a women’s retreat, with their friends or by themselves. Many of those who have never been on a women’s only trip will tell me they have either never thought about it, or didn’t think they would enjoy it, or are afraid things will go sideways at home or at work if they are away. Well my friends, I am here to tell you, if you are on the fence or even if you think it’s not your thing, you might be surprised by the incredible experience a women’s retreat can provide you with.

There are all kinds of womens retreats available out there. Those featuring yoga and meditation, those for artists and photographers, and those for adventurers and nature lovers. Almost always they provide an opportunity to self-reflect through independent travel, to see the world through a new lense via the exploration of a new place, and to build a feeling of support and community through new friendships. Below are the top five reasons I believe, why you should go on a women’s retreat.

Reason #1: Deepen Your Connection

When you take the time to slow down, to listen to your inner thoughts and feelings, you are able to deepen your connection to your inner self. Away from the hustle of everyday life and the noise of everyone else’s needs, you can find that time and space to tune into the heart’s desires. Women’s retreats are the perfect getaways to achieve that deepening connection. At Noorish Tofino Retreats, we provide 1-2 yoga classes each day that provide us that space to deep breathe, recharge and to allow our minds to float and wander. We provide dream making workshops so you can have fun using your creativity to find your vision. As a personal experience, I find the word ‘nourish’, was a theme that kept coming to my mind as I meditated during a retreat to Nicarugua nearly 5 years ago. Although I did not know it at the time, this work kept resonating with me and has led me to the creation of Noorish Tofino Retreats. If you take the time and provide yourself the space to tune in, you too can find clarity in your inner voice.

Reason #2: Push Your Personal Boundaries

Traveling alone and meeting up with a group of strangers can seem daunting. Trying to surf for the first time, or going away from your children for an extended period to a new place can be terrifying. Even being out of your routine means you need to adjust and be flexible. But I truly believe in doing things to scare you once in a while is good for the soul. A challenge that you can overcome, be it through mental toughness o physical strength or deep soul searching, can be a real confidence booster. And you might even find it fun and exhilarating. 

Reason #3: Make Friends With the Most Interesting Women

Why is it that some of the most interesting women travel on women’s only retreats? I don’t have the answer but I do find the real soul sistas I’ve met on retreats, whether they are other traveling guests or retreat hosts or coaches, are some of the most interesting and strong women I’ve never met. A retreat brings together women of many different backgrounds, experiences and cultures, and the playing field is level as everyone is starting on the same page. Doing adventurous things together and providing emotional support for one another is a sure-fire way to create lasting friendships which often span continents and cultures. I met two of my favourite ladies, Liz and Carly, now partners with Noorish Tofino Retreats, through a surf retreat.

Reason #4 Focus On Your Own Needs

Photo by  Mayur Gala

Photo by Mayur Gala

Breaking out of your routine means you are now available to focus in on your needs, FIRST. As women who may have busy careers, or managing households with children and pets, we often put those around us first and we only get to ourselves at the end of the day, when everything is done. By then, we are exhausted. Going on a womens retreat means not just taking an hour here or there for yourself, but actually investing in extended time to nourish your soul. You will come back feeling refreshed and calm; ready to take on the world. 

Reason #5: Revel in the power of Feminine Energy

Photo by  Seth Doyle

Photo by Seth Doyle

Being in a group of all women brings out a soft yet strong female energy. It’s as if being in our own pack, out exploring new places and doing new things together, creates a energetic force field that elevates us all. We believe in the positive energy that this exudes, giving each and every woman confidence and a sense of community.

Here at Noorish Tofino Retreats we provide intimate small-group retreats for a high level of service and customization. So whether it’s your first women's retreat or your 50th, we want to help you feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible. We believe in nourishing the mind, body and soul. Start your retreat planning today with our signature Noorish Your Connection Retreat in Tofino, BC, Canada or check out our Moroccan Moon Surf & Yoga Retreat. Don't see a retreat that fits in with your schedule? Contact us about private groups and retreats.