Morocco is justly famous for its cuisine with its melange of flavours from El Andalus, Arabia and Africa. From the moment you break through the fine crispy pastry of a pigeon b’stilla to release aromas of cinnamon, allspice and ginger, you’ll be hooked. While the best meals are to be found in private homes, there are some superb restaurants in Morocco. Harira soup and a kefta tagine at a pavement cafe, kebabs and salads in the Djmaa el Fna in Marrakech, a bowl of fragrant b’sarra from a souk stall, fresh fish straight off the boats in Essaouira or a couscous royal at a palace restaurant in Fez – all will have your taste buds tingling.
Hands-on cooking courses can be found in all major towns and in country villages, from a quick 1 ½ hours if you’re pressed for time, a half day or immersive courses over several days.
Morocco reverberates to the Berber beat. From little boys banging empty plastic bottles to Gnaoua musicians’ castanets and twirling heads, from strident trumpets at weddings to the stately Arab-Andalous classical music, from nomads drumming in the desert night to modern Moroccan hiphop, the country’s music is hugely varied and fascinating. For a taste of classical music, watch this sublime video of the Temsamani Orchestra of Tetouan performing at the School for Traditional and Popular Arts in Tetouan’s medina.
Watch the musicians on Djemaa El Fna, drop into Café Clock for a Sunday Sunset Concert, attend the magnificent Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, Essaouira’s Gnaoua and World Music Festival or the Oasis Festival outside Marrakech in September.
“The 2018 Fes Festival of World Sacred Music that I attended in its entirety is one of the highlights of my life.” Sakkar Azizuddin, USA
Traditional Moroccan architecture is breathtaking in its intricacy: carved plaster, carved or painted cedar wood, mosaic tiles adorning walls and floors, marble fountains. And you don’t have to seek it out – it’s all around you in the riad guesthouse you’ll stay in, and in the humblest dwellings to the most spectacular palaces in every medina. Some favourites are the Ben Youssef Medersa and Dar Si Saïd in Marrakech and the Attarine Medersa in Fez.
Morocco’s Sufi Brotherhoods are numerous and there’s often a saint’s day celebration (moussem) where the music and rhythm engender a trance-like state to experience God. The Fes Festival of Sufi Culture each October features concerts by various brotherhoods.
At the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, end each evening at the feet of a different Sufi group in the garden of a Pasha’s palace. The small villages of Sidi Ben Aissa, Moulay Idriss Zerhoun and Sidi Ali as well as the city of Meknes are all well known for their Sufi groups. Chefchaouen and Essaouira support active women’s Sufi groups.
When houses didn’t have bathrooms, people went to the hammam to bathe. This ritual became the basis for today’s hammam experience and still provides a place for relaxation and gossip for both men and women. Choose between a traditional medina hammam or a more spa-like experience at a top hotel.
The smaller towns and villages provide a fascinating glimpse into Moroccan life. Go on market day to meet women down from the mountains to sell their carpets, take a walk through orchards to the village olive oil press, and taste country bread baked in an outdoor oven and dipped in local honey. Organic produce grown right here is used in country cooking classes. Some places are known for specific products such as the thread buttons of Bhalil, essential oil of rose in Kelaa M’Gouna, silver jewellery in Taroudant, almonds in Tafraoute and saffron in Taliouine.