I’m just back from yet another trip to Morocco with a fun bunch of ladies with my group Venus Adventures – Global Trips for Women. Someone on the trip asked me how many times I have been to Morocco now. I really don’t know. Maybe 20? And I have to say, even though I have seen all the places 20x before, it’s a place I never get tired of. There’s just something magical, mystical and mysterious about Morocco that always draws you back – it’s like that feeling of having to keep looking around the next corner. This exotic mysteriousness draws me to return, stepping back in time in the ancient cities of Fez and Marrakech, with their twisted alleyways full of secrets – of black magic and superstitions, of days gone by, of strange occurences. As a tourist, if you embrace Morocco, and let yourself be open to the experiences, you will also get a whiff of it. But remain closed to it, and you will only see the surface. Don’t forget to stop and observe the goings-on.
Moroccans will get under your skin and touch your heart. When they greet you they shake your hand and they do touch their heart: even this is a beautiful gesture. Small children will kiss your hand. Moroccan kindness, generosity and willingness to help is second to none. They like to talk to you. And they will go out of their way to help you. Ask a shopkeeper for some help, and most likely he will close his store and take you to the place you are looking for. Be open to meeting people and every day will be some kind of new adventure. I love it when my ladies have a free day in Marrakech and come back with all sorts of stories of people they have met and the acts of kindness they experienced. Morocco is also a fantastic mix of Arabia meets Africa – this fusion of cultures is evident in the catchy beats of a Berber drumming session, the black magic, and in the faces of many people you will see traces of African and Arab features.
Morocco has it all: deserts, ancient cities, mountains and coast, and you will always find what you are looking for, be it a beach break, an active holiday hiking in the mountains or a quiet desert retreat riding camels into the sea of sand dunes to get some downtime for your soul. That’s one of the things that makes Morocco so magical: the variety. On my all-ladies trip we not only explore the maze of ancient streets in the old medinas (cities), but we also hike into the Atlas mountains and stay the night with a Berber family. This is a very authentic and special night as there are no other tourists in the village, and we get to see how the locals really live. Berber lives are still very traditional as their day is dictated from sunrise to sunset with milking the cow, herding goats, tilling the fields, cooking, looking after the children, milling flour etc. But the biggest is highlight is riding a camel into the Sahara as the African sun sets in the distance and sleeping under a blanket of stars. The serenity and the simplicity is, well, magic!
They say you are what you eat. One thing I really love about Morocco is the food. It is always prepared with the freshest ingredients, and lots of herbs and spices (not hot, like Indian food, just tasty) which are great for your digestion. Just a few years back, if you travelled around Morocco as a tourist it seemed that every restaurant only served the familiar and traditional tajine or cous cous dishes. It was normal to get “tajined-out” after a couple of weeks and to be craving a pizza or just something different! These days there are many funky new cafes and restaurants opening up – especially in Marrakech – serving a wider variety of traditional dishes, as well as foreign-inspired dishes. Two of my favourites in Marrakech are Zwin Zwin and Nomad, not just for the fabulous food, but also for the amazing terrace-top views of palm trees, snow-capped mountains and breath-taking sunsets.
In Morocco you are always surrounded by beauty, and I don’t just mean the stunning landscapes. I mean in every way, from the decorated tea glass you sip your mint tea out of, to the tiled walls of your riad, to the elegantly twisted bars in the windows of a simple house. A handmade touch of beauty is added to almost everything. Moroccans take pride in what they do, and on a trip to Morocco the shopping is irresistible, from the handcrafted, camel bone-inlaid mirrors, the beaten-metal lamps, and the painstakingly crafted mosaic fountains and table tops.
And then there are the beautiful hygiene rituals of the hammam, where a steam bath and a “gommage” (scrubbing from head to toe with a rough glove) ensures all your dead skin is scraped off, leaving you pink and shiney like a new born baby! Natural “black soap” is used (the residual of the olive oil-making process), and afterwards a soothing argan oil massage is not to be missed! Moroccans love their natural beauty products, and a trip to Morocco will make you rethink all those expensive, chemical-filled Western beauty products!
Imagine sleeping under African skies with an Arabian atmosphere – talk about the best of both worlds! And YES, it is as exotic as it sounds. Nothing beats a night in the Sahara – saunter out to a desert camp for an hour or two on camel back, as the sun sets in the distance and enjoy the serenity of the Sahara. Sit on a dune by yourself, alone with your thoughts and feel the calmness of this barren place descend upon your soul.
Take a stroll into the spice market in Marrakech and peak down the side alley where bottles and bags of strange things (mostly animal parts) are sold for black magic potions that the local women use to attract a lover or punish a husband.
Spend an evening on the Djma El Fnaa (otherwise known as the Big Square) and watch the age-old art of storytelling: old storytellers recount moral-filled tales to a beguiled audience using strange props, like a Barbie doll, a hedgehog and a set of denchers!
Leave your Islamophobic world behind (because Morocco is safe!), open your heart, your ears and eyes and discover a magical, beautiful place!
Why not join Venus Adventures on an unforgettable and exotic women-only trip to Morocco!