Experiences in and around Marrakech include:
– a cooking course held in the countryside outside Marrakech offers blind spice-tasting as well as instruction in creating the perfect Moroccan meal. When all the work is done, relax with a glass of Moroccan wine and enjoy the fruits of your efforts.
This was a hilarious, and educational, experience. French Michel and his Moroccan wife and staff were excellent: we did the lamb with prunes, two breads, three salads. Michel lectured, in his amusing way, on spices, how to tell fake saffron and argan oils from the real things. The program took all day, and be warned that one doesn’t eat until about 3 so hearty breakfasts are a must. Peter Burleigh, USA, November 2014.
* Tasting Marrakech
Make the most of eating your way around Djemaa el Fna: Want to experience eating dinner on the square but don’t know where to start? Here is the perfect introduction. Join Mandy, a Canadian living in Marrakech, and a local official guide for a three-hour, tailor-made food and cultural experience. Sample local specialities with the locals and gain confidence in knowing what to order: perhaps a succulent, slow-cooked tanjia or a bowl of harira soup with sweet chebakya. Each tour is private and customised to your tastebuds. Once you’ve eaten, soak up the night-time ambiance in the famous square with its storytellers, bellydancers and traditional healers. End the night at a popular brasserie overlooking the square, or be escorted back to your riad by the guide. As you wander in the olive souk, you might like to buy some olives, preserved lemons or harissa, but other than that, there’s no shopping involved on this tour.
food stalls at Djemaa el Fna – where to start? (photo: Mandy Sinclair)
Have you visited the glorious historical buildings and souks of Marrakech and now want something different? We have two options that offer a specialist, insider view of the red city.
* Hidden Marrakech
A tasting trail-meets-historical tour, on this personalised daytime tour of the Marrakech medina we push open the doors others only dare photograph to discover the secrets of the medina. Expect to explore the local street food scene, take in an art exhibitions you might not otherwise know about, and discover centuries-old spaces with stories to tell on a tour that you will leave you with a greater understanding of the local culture. We’ll point out other well-known points of interest easily discovered with the help of a guidebook, but prefer to show you the hidden Marrakech we know and love. Think of it has hanging out with a friend in Marrakech, but the kind of friend who knows where to shop, what exhibitions to see, top picks for people-watching, and the sites that still have her in awe after many years of living in the red city. Lunch at a locals-know street cafe dining on a Marrakchi specialty cooked underground is included before saying our farewells.
* My Gueliz
Gueliz is a neighbourhood in the new city developed and occupied by the French during the era of the French Protectorate. This tour includes a stop the art-deco church in the heart of Gueliz before wandering through some of the backstreets steeped in history where art-deco theatres, apartment blocks, old hotels and cafés line the streets along with new street art installations. We will stop for a drink in a restaurant decorated by the famed American designer Bill Willis and enjoy lunch in a popular locals-only fish market. We’ll visit art galleries tucked inside art-deco gems and venture down unassuming side streets before visiting some of our favourite designers in their showrooms. En route, we’ll stop by our favourite patisserie for a sweet treat before sitting street-side and enjoying the people-watching in this incredibly diverse neighbourhood where old meets new, tradition meets modern and East meets West. Because after all, there is more to discover in Marrakech than just the medina!
* Action and adrenalin-packed adventures
River-rafting and kayaking in the High Atlas Mountains just outside Marrakech: from a half-day trip on the Ourika River to a three-day adventure on the Ahansel River, experiencing the magnificent scenery and Berber hospitality.
- the palmeraies (palm groves) offer another view of the red city. Away from the hustle of the souk, they offer a peaceful retreat and an opportunity to see a more rural way of living. There are some splendid places to stay as well as resorts.
- the Ourika Valley in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains above Marrakech is a haven to explore for a day. There are farms where essential oils and organic herbs are produced, beautiful rustic places to stay, and gentle walking to famed waterfalls. It’s perfect for escaping the heat of Marrakech. At the Ourika Organic Kitchen and Gardens you can learn how to conjure up a Moroccan culinary feast using organic products. Combine your day with trekking, camel-riding or visiting a local Berber home for mint tea. Also on offer here are yoga workshops and mountain biking followed by lunch.
- Head up to the Toubkal region – Morocco’s highest mountain and- the second highest in Africa. There’s trekking around the Berber village of Imlil for a few hours, or more strenous hiking for a few days. You can even summit Mt Toubkal if you’re fit enough. This region sees fewer tourists than Ourika and yet is still only an hour or so from Marrakech. Choose a day to visit when there’s a souk in a small Berber village such as Tuesdays in Tahnaout. People from all over the region come for the weekly souk or market to buy and sell their wares – it’s an experience seeing local Berber life. Top off your visit enjoying lunch with a view at National Geographic award-winning hotel Kasbah du Toubkal, or Sir Richard Branson’s place, Kasbah Tamadot.
- A longer day in the car, but worth it is Aït Benhaddou, the best preserved, fortified pisé village in Morocco, with a kasbah and ksar to explore. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been used as a backdrop in many movies, such as Gladiator, The Mummy and Lawrence of Arabia as well as being a location for Game of Thrones. It’s a full day-trip from Marrakech, or you can stay overnight in a wonderful kasbah-style hotel. Climb into the High Atlas as far as the Tizi n’Tichka pass and then head east to the Ounila Valley and Telouet. In this region, you’ll see many of the dilapidated old kasbahs that Jacques Majorelle loved to paint. Continue on this road as far as Ait Benhaddou, and return on the main road to Tizi n’Tichka.
- Agafay Desert: if you don’t have time to go all the way to the Sahara, get a taste of the desert at Agafay, less than an hour from Marrakech. Here the stony desert is surrounded by the High Atlas mountains and offers almost all the activities you’d find in the dunes: you can ride a camel, trek into the mountains, visit local villages and try a dune buggy. You can even stay overnight in luxurious tents.
- how about seeing all of the above from the basket of a hot-air balloon? Magical tours over mountains and palmgroves await during the spring and summer months.
- Essaouira: head for the coast for a blast of sea air, a fish lunch on the harbour and a browse through the art galleries and interesting shops of the small medina. The beach is made for football and windsurfing. It’s here on the ramparts that Orson Welles shot Othello in 1950, and more recently the medina was transformed into Astapor in Game of Thrones. Just 2 1/2 hours’ drive from Marrakech, it’s a great break away from the city. New on the agenda: take the slow road to Essaouira, stopping off for winetasting and lunch at a vineyard en route.
– Stargazing for amateurs and professionals at SaharaSky, 25km south of Zagora in the Sahara, near the Algerian border. This exceptional facility is one-of-a-kind in Morocco, allowing access to the dark sky, far from light pollution. You can even see southern hemisphere constellations invisible elsewhere in Europe and north Africa. There’s a comfortable kasbah-style hotel for overnight stays.