Morocco

It breaks my heart when I mention Morocco as a holiday destination and people shake their heads and say ‘oh no no no, Morocco worries me’. I understand that with the events of recent years people are cautious and on edge, but Morocco is beyond safe. 

The first time I went to Morocco I was 16 and I’ve been back another four times since. Morocco provides everything that you could want from a holiday destination: beautiful scenery and buildings, warm sunny weather, amazing beaches, lovely people, good food.

The list is endless.

 

Now, granted Morocco is not for the faint hearted. It can be really full on and a bit daunting but you’ve also got to remember that this is an entirely different culture to ours. As the saying goes, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ and that honestly rings so true in Morocco. In the cities and markets it can be a bit scary if you are not used to people being abrupt and in your face. Just be polite and be stern and you wont get bothered that much.

I have however found in recent years that it isn’t as frustrating as it used to be. Morocco suffered a big decline in its tourism after the Tunisia attack in 2015 due to it being a north African Islamic country and since then a lot of the hawkers, sales people and beggars have really calmed their approach on tourists. Now they don’t really tend to ask you more than once or twice. I don’t know exactly why but I wonder if it is in fear of annoying you to the point you don’t want to return. 

Agadir

Agadir was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1960 and so a lot of the city is quite new. It's maybe not what you expect when you think of Morocco. There are a lot of hotels and restaurants aimed at tourists. Up on the hillside above the entire city sits a kasbah which was partially destroyed during the earthquake. It provides the most glorious views across the city, especially during the night time. Below the kasbah sits giant arabic writing on the hillside, a huge landmark of Morocco and especially Agadir. I believe it reads ‘God, King and Country’’. 

If you want a holiday where all you do is bake in the sun, have the odd swim and plenty of food and drink you will find some beautiful all inclusive hotels with nice pools and private beach sections right on the sea front. But if you want a holiday where you’re rummaging through the souks, eating street food, sipping mint tea and learning Arabic from the locals then Agadir has that too.

The huge stretch of beach is always bustling with tourists and locals of all ages throughout the day and the night.

Quite often stages with be erected on the seafront and traditional Moroccan bands and sometimes DJs will play. New Year’s Eve 2014 I spent with about 3000 other people dancing on the beach and seeing in the new year with a huge firework display. It was glorious and one of the best New Years celebrations I have ever had. My parents have recently returned and were telling me a big screen was put up to watch Morocco's football team try and qualify for the world cup.

Taghazout

Taghazout is a few miles up the road (usually about 120dh for two people to get a taxi) along with some other beautiful beaches and little towns. Taghazout is a small fishing town that over the last few years has become a huge surfing and yoga destination. When I first visited Taghazout there were about three restaurants, a mosque, a few board rental surf shop type places and a butchers. The rest of it was mainly houses for the local fishermen and a couple of small rooms that you were able to rent by the night.  

Now leading up the coast line pretty much all the way from Anza, there are huge developments that have popped up. This stretch of coastline provides the most popular surf spots of Morocco. From Agadir onwards there is break after break providing perfect waves for all levels of surfers. Taghazout is almost central which is why it’s so popular with surfers from across the globe. Carissa Moore (for those who don’t know who she is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carissa_Moore ) recently stayed and seemed to have the best time.

Between Agadir and Tagazought you can find a small road that leads to one of the most beautiful places I have seen. Approximately 20km north of Agadir, if you follow this road you will find yourself on a small twisty adventure climbing the mountain side to Immouzer des Ida Outanane. The valley that runs through the mountains follows a small section of the Tamraght River that slices its way through the rocks. The river is lined with argan trees and palm trees as far as the eye can see, covering what otherwise seems to be relatively barren. In a fair few spots along the river you can find huge rock pools of beautiful clean enticing water. Many companies offer excursions here and show the best spots to do some cliff jumping but when we visited we just hired a car and did it ourselves.

On your way you’ll often see small huts along the road. These tend to belong to the Berbers (the indigenous people of north Africa) and quite often you will find them selling their work such as carvings, sculptures, fossils and argan oil. If you can stop and have a look, they are friendly and often up for a chat (even if they don’t speak much English) and know that if you do decide to buy from them the money is going to them directly.

Carry on up the mountainside and you will eventually find the cascades. You’re able to park up and walk a small section through some trees and then it will open up and you’ll find yourself on the edge of a cliff, a fair few meters up. Provided there has been some rain up in the mountains recently then the cascades will be beautiful. There is also a hotel right at the top of the climb that provides a beautiful backdrop for a nice lunch.

Sidi Ifni

Sidi Ifni is a beautiful city on the south west coast of Morocco. It’s an extremely picturesque city with all of its buildings painted white and blue and it rests on a beautiful stretch of beach. This city has always been a huge trade city, in particular for fish, and people come from all around to trade here. In 2013 my brother ended up meeting and chatting with a couple of men who had travelled across the Sahara on camels to come and sell their jewellery here.

Ifni makes alot of its money from its fishing trade, as there is a huge port just south of the main city. This means there are fresh catches coming in every day and if you walk to the top of the city you’ll find the market where they sell these catches along with bread, eggs, meats etc. It’s interesting to see the things they have for sale as moroccans are huge advocates of using every part of the animal which definitely isn’t something we are used to here in the UK. Next to the market you will find a few food stalls selling fired fish; if you like fish and don't mind getting messy, try some. Agree how much you want to pay and what you want on your plate before sitting down, but you’ll get a tasty feast of fresh lightly battered fish.

When we last visited Ifni in Dec 2014, a week or so before we arrived the city had fallen victim to a natural disaster. They had experienced a lot of heavy rain which in turn caused a huge mudslide taking out the lower part of the city alongside the river. Houses, businesses, campsites were wiped out. A zoo that sat a little further up was also destroyed, the animals swept away with the water. When we arrived we passed families living in tents where their houses used to stand. Ifni is a great surf spot with a lot of people travelling down in vans and camping, but with a huge mud deposit in the bay, the campsites where almost all gone and the beach had changed. It became a messy choppy break. 

Just down the road from Ifni there is Legzira beach on which stands huge beautiful natural archways out of the cliff side that at low tide you can walk under. Unfortunately since then, the biggest archway has collapsed which was a huge heartbreak for the locals, but I believe the smaller ones still remain. Sidi Ifni and surrounding areas are beyond beautiful and it is a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle you get in the bigger, better known parts of Morocco. After such devastation they will be more grateful than ever for the money tourism can provide them, so add it to your adventure list and I promise you wont be disappointed

Essaouira 

Essaouria is my favourite part of Morocco that I’ve visited. It is another coastal town with a long beautiful beach and a stunning ‘old town’ inside the medina walls. The city is protected by huge 18th century ramparts that you are able to walk along giving you a stunning view in all directions. Much like Marrakesh, Essaouria is full of little streets lined with market stalls and shops selling everything ranging from food to jewellery from the Sahara. If you find Marrakesh daunting then Essaouria is the place to come as it offers a similar view of Morocco but in a much less in-your-face way.

Nicknamed ‘The Windy City’, Essaouria is quite often being battered by pretty high winds and waves, never so much so that it takes away from the beauty of the place, but it does mean that the beach is quite popular with surfers, windsurfers and kite surfers. All along the beach there are places that you can hire equipment for all of these activities. If you are more of a land dweller, fear not as there are quad bikes and horses for rental further up the beach.

  

Essaouria is a very picturesque city, so much so that it was used in the filming of Game of Thrones. For you GoT fans it was used as the city of Astapoor where Khaleesi meets Ser Barastan Selmy and where she releases the Unsullied as Drogon burns their masters. These scenes where filmed on the ramparts and in the port so if you’re a super fan you can go and stand where they stood. 

Returning to Essaouria is on my books every time I visit Morocco. It offers so much for pretty much everyone making it an ideal place for anyone from the solo traveler to families. If you have the chance to visit I honestly cannot recommend it enough. Riad Saltana was the first place we stayed in Essaouria and when we returned a few years later they welcomed us with open arms. It's a beautiful riad with stunning views from the roof terrace that has recently been refurbished inside. You can book on their website (http://riadsaltana.com/en/home-2/), or find it when you arrive and have a barter.

Marrakesh

Marrakesh is whole other world. Not like any city I have visited before. Inside the old Medina walls it is made up of a maze of tall red walls and undercover market streets selling everything you can ever imagine. The people here are a lot more forward and abrupt, maybe because this is the main tourist destination of the country, but they are always friendly. 

Out from under covered streets you’ll find a huge plaza that boasts a huge amount of interesting things to watch and experience. One of my favourites is the circus acts and acrobats that perform here. Looking for a donation at the end of the performance, they tend to perform a series of flips and tumbles that really don’t seem safe, but I’ve never seen it go wrong. Circus in Morocco is a huge thing, a traveling circus called Cirque Shems’y (the circus of my sun) provides a lot of opportunity for under privileged  children in Morocco, offering them a pretty cool alternative.

 

Within this square you will also find snake charmers, henna ladies, musicians and (my least favourite) men with monkeys on chains.  Beware that all of them will expect money if you interact or take photos, but please consider reading up on animals in the tourist trade before taking part in anything that involves another live creature. It is also worth reading about the effects of black henna, as it can be fatal.


During the nighttime this entire plaza changes. Food stalls are erected from what seems like nowhere and you can find some really tasty wholesome Moroccan food. Try speaking to the staff in your hotel or rhiad as the locals always tend to have a favourite and can advise you on where to go. Each stall is numbered and very often family run. A lot of the ingredients are laid out in the stall so you are able to watch them prepare and cook it all in front of you while you wait. 

Whenever I have stayed in Marrakesh it has never seemed like long enough. There is always more to see and explore. There are a lot of buildings and gardens that I would highly recommend going to see if you get the chance. The mosaic work always takes my breath away. A very popular one being Ali Ben Youssef Medersa which was once a college, and was one of the biggest learning centres in Morocco but is now a historical site. The entry way alone is breath taking and inside it is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. 

I haven't been back to Marrakesh in a while but I think about it a lot. It's a phenomenal place unlike any other I have ever experienced. One of my favourite things about this city is that you can sit on a roof terrece of your hotel or riad and you can be sat in a t-shirt and +20 degrees heat and you can look up and see the Atlas mountains lining the horizon over you, capped with snow. That view is something I will never forget and I can't wait for the day I get to show it to Tom. 

As you can probably tell, Morocco has my heart. I've been to this beautiful country four times and I still want to go back. The places I have mentioned are just the beginning of what it has to offer and there are still places I want to go but haven't had the chance yet. I'm dying to jump on a camel and camp under the stars in the Sahara or watch the locals hard at work at the tanneries in Rabat.

I have never met people so welcoming in my life or gone to a place where everyone wants to be your friend and have a chat. Please don't let anything put you off visiting, nowhere is perfect but I have never felt unsafe while walking around this glorious country. 

Try all the food, talk to the locals, immerse yourself in their culture and traditions (couscous Friday is not to be missed) and you will leave with a warm heart and some beautiful memories.

 

N x
 

Thank you for reading.
Feel free to get in touch on the contact tab if you have any questions or would like any info and i'll get back to you as soon as possible. 

All photos by Nenagh Louise photography

© Nenagh Louise Photography 2020
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