The Travel & Leisure Magazine Morocco Feature

  • Published on
    13-Nov-2014

  • View
    652

  • Download
    6

DESCRIPTION

Morocco boundOnly an hour away from Spain, Morocco feels like a world awayfrom Europe, says Robert Seymour. But if you want toexperience a different way of life, this could be the perfect choice.This feature appeared within The Travel & Leisure Magazine. For further information or to subscribe for just a one off annual payment of 6 visit wwww.tlmags.com

Transcript

getting to know

Morocco boundOnly an hour away from Spain, Morocco feels like a world away from Europe, says Robert Seymour. But if you want to experience a different way of life, this could be the perfect choice.orroco, especially Marrakech, was for many years a muststop on the old hippie trail. Although the magic that brought the tuned-in and dropped-out crowds in the 1960s and 1970s is still here, things have changed, not least that instead of spending several days in a crowded minibus travelling overland, you can now fly direct from the UK not only to Casablanca but to Fez, Agadir and Marrakech itself. Its also very good value for money, though it would sound strange to describe it as a budget holiday destination. Despite decades under Spanish and French colonial rule which produced the new town quarters to mirror the old Medina districts in the major cities - this is still obviously very much a traditional Islamic culture with the vibrant indigenous Berber way of life in no sense under threat. My own first introduction to Morocco was as a 19-yearold student when I spent the whole of a summer wandering around the country. It was a marvellous experience, one that Ill never forget (especially as it was my first introduction to the art of haggling: see below for some hardwon advice!). You could easily spend six months travelling around the country and only scratch the surface on that first visit I spent most of my time in Marrakech and the High Atlas mountains and while I didnt regret a minute of it, the brief time I then spent in Tangier, Casablanca (which feels more French than

M

Moroccan in many ways) and Fez gave me an appetite to return.

World Heritage SiteFez a former capital of Morocco - may not have the international fame of Marrakech and is rather more traditionally conservative, but it is more than a match for it architecturally and is arguably the countrys intellectual centre, home to probably the worlds oldest university and nearly 800 mosques: the Al Qarawiyin Mosque, Moroccos oldest, retains its original minaret, built in 956. The city has over 8km of fortified walls but its the medina, the whole of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is absolutely unforgettable, not least because its so narrow and mazelike that first-time visitors are almost guaranteed to get lost within it.

...that Tardis feeling of hidden depth and light is truly astounding...Its also a bustling and very much working area where transport is by bike or donkey, never car, and you can happily stumble around for others, enjoying the specialities of each district, whether they be dyers, potters, woodcarvers or weavers. As in the rest

6 The Travel & Leisure Magazine

of Morocco, if you get the chance of quick peek beyond these labyrinthine walls into the patios behind, make the most of it that Tardis feeling of hidden depth and light is truly astounding. As well as being famous for the high standard of its handicrafts, Fez is also home to one of the worlds most important music festivals, the annual weeklong Fez Festival of World Sacred Music which attracts internationally famous musicians such as Ravi Shankar and Youssou NDour. A great blog about Fez is The View From Fez at http://riadzany.blogspot.com. Tangier, like many of Moroccos famous cities, has a strong eccentric and cosmopolitan feeling to it: once it was famously an international zone which was home to writers such as Paul Bowles and particular popular among artists such as Matisse, as well as being religiously very multicultural. Its still good to factor in a visit to the city today, especially as it is so close to Spain. But the focus of many travellers attention is Marrakech and the first stop is almost always the Djemaa el Fna. During the day, this square in the epicentre of the medina is fairly quiet. Its pleasant to do a bit of people watching from one of the many caf terraces around the square

The Travel & Leisure Magazine

7

with a nice hot and sweet mint tea or try an orange juice from one of the sellers on carts. Later on you could try out one of Marrakechs bathhouses or hammams (your hotel will be able to give you details of the best local ones as well as opening times). But as the night begins to draw in, it becomes a real festival spectacle space with musicians, dancers, acrobats, storytellers, snake charmers and dentists (complete with pulled teeth in a massive bag to indicate how successful theyve been), all enclosed within circles of spectators as they pull off their finest tricks. There are also endless food stalls where you can pick whatever you like and see it cooked fresh right in front of you eating out is a great way to get genuine feel for the city. Once its properly dark, look out for the Gnaoua musicians who play trancelike hypnotic music on drums, flutes and threestring guitars. These are a revelation. Take it all in from one of the rooftop terraces, such as the Caf de Frances or the Htel CTMs.

Eating and drinkingYou can eat and drink well in Morocco on a low budget in places around the older parts of town in the medinas although its worth splashing out to try out a more upmarket restaurant or two.The countrys signature dish is tajine, a kind of stew, often with lamb, prunes and almonds, eaten with couscous, and traditionally with your hand rather than a knife and fork: remember, eat only with your right hand in someobodys house. Also delicious is the spicy bean soup harira and there are always delicious pastries available. Personally, I enjoyed the pigeon pies but can see why these might not be everybodys first choice of dinner.You mustnt leave the country without several mint teas inside you either.This is brewed simply a massive bunch of mint and an equally vast amount of sugar but is lovely. Orange juice is widely available, but its often wiser to ask for it without ice or water if your stomach is delicate.Tread carefully with alcohol its not possible usually for example to find it in medinas. However if you get the chance to try some of the countrys red wines, youll almost certainly enjoy the taste.

markets any time of the day, and its maybe wiser to try them in daylight hours for the first time to get your bearings, in the early evening they become a whole new world without end. Theyre loud, theyre colourful and theyre terribly tempting (a good blog about Marrakech and shopping in general there is My Marrakesh at http:// moroccanmaryam.typepad.com). There are maps of the souks and it is well worth consulting them before you go in for a general feel, but the joy of them is simply wandering around (dont worry about getting lost the ubiquitous guides will seek you out and give you a helping hand). Each area specialises, so look out for: Souk Smarine, if youre interested in textiles which leads onto a section selling herbal remedies kissarias, the covered markets which tend to sell more expensive goods, interesting but not really what youre here for Souk des Bijoutiers, for jewellery Souk Cherratin, for leatherwork

To Go ExploringThe Djemaa is a great place to start your exploration of the area. Close by is the marvellous Koutoubia Mosque (nearly 70m high and a useful landmark if you get lost, it was begun around 1150 and is atmospherically illuminated at night) and Avenue Mohammed V the street which takes you up , into the newer areas of the city known as Gueliz. And of course, its right next to the souks. Although you can visit these ancient

HagglingAnd when you buy in a souk, you are expected, almost encouraged, to haggle for everything. For the uninitiated, you should first choose your haggling spot carefully. In Morocco, the deeper into a souk you explore, the less likely you are to encounter inflated tourist prices. Above all, avoid middlemen like guides their commission for delivering you to their brothers carpet

The Travel & Leisure Magazine

9

with a nice hot and sweet mint tea or try an orange juice from one of the sellers on carts. Later on you could try out one of Marrakechs bathhouses or hammams (your hotel will be able to give you details of the best local ones as well as opening times). But as the night begins to draw in, it becomes a real festival spectacle space with musicians, dancers, acrobats, storytellers, snake charmers and dentists (complete with pulled teeth in a massive bag to indicate how successful theyve been), all enclosed within circles of spectators as they pull off their finest tricks. There are also endless food stalls where you can pick whatever you like and see it cooked fresh right in front of you eating out is a great way to get genuine feel for the city. Once its properly dark, look out for the Gnaoua musicians who play trancelike hypnotic music on drums, flutes and threestring guitars. These are a revelation. Take it all in from one of the rooftop terraces, such as the Caf de Frances or the Htel CTMs.

Eating and drinkingYou can eat and drink well in Morocco on a low budget in places around the older parts of town in the medinas although its worth splashing out to try out a more upmarket restaurant or two.The countrys signature dish is tajine, a kind of stew, often with lamb, prunes and almonds, eaten with couscous, and traditionally with your hand rather than a knife and fork: remember, eat only with your right hand in someobodys house. Also delicious is the spicy bean soup harira and there are always delicious pastries available. Personally, I enjoyed the pigeon pies but can see why these might not be everybodys first choice of dinner.You mustnt leave the country without several mint teas inside you either.This is brewed simply a massive bunch of mint and an equally vast amount of sugar but is lovely. Orange juice is widely available, but its often wiser to ask for it without ice or water if your stomach is delicate.Tread carefully with alcohol its not possible usually for example to find it in medinas. However if you get the chance to try some of the countrys red wines, youll almost certainly enjoy the taste.

markets any time of the day, and its maybe wiser to try them in daylight hours for the first time to get your bearings, in the early evening they become a whole new world without end. Theyre loud, theyre colourful and theyre terribly tempting (a good blog about Marrakech and shopping in general there is My Marrakesh at http:// moroccanmaryam.typepad.com). There are maps of the souks and it is well worth consulting them before you go in for a general feel, but the joy of them is simply wandering around (dont worry about getting lost the ubiquitous guides will seek you out and give you a helping hand). Each area specialises, so look out for: Souk Smarine, if youre interested in textiles which leads onto a section selling herbal remedies kissarias, the covered markets which tend to sell more expensive goods, interesting but not really what youre here for Souk des Bijoutiers, for jewellery Souk Cherratin, for leatherwork

To Go ExploringThe Djemaa is a great place to start your exploration of the area. Close by is the marvellous Koutoubia Mosque (nearly 70m high and a useful landmark if you get lost, it was begun around 1150 and is atmospherically illuminated at night) and Avenue Mohammed V the street which takes you up , into the newer areas of the city known as Gueliz. And of course, its right next to the souks. Although you can visit these ancient

HagglingAnd when you buy in a souk, you are expected, almost encouraged, to haggle for everything. For the uninitiated, you should first choose your haggling spot carefully. In Morocco, the deeper into a souk you explore, the less likely you are to encounter inflated tourist prices. Above all, avoid middlemen like guides their commission for delivering you to their brothers carpet

The Travel & Leisure Magazine

9

TOURISM EXHIBITIONMoroccan Travel Market (MTM) is the new international tourism exhibition to be held annually in Morocco following this years successful launch in Marrakech which showcased the Maghreb and Africa. Extremely well organized by Zeyneb Ghoti, all visitors from the UK were made to feel very welcome at the first event. Tourism is a key part of Moroccos economy: in 2006, visitor numbers topped 6.5 million and last year the number of overnight stays was well over 14.5 million, a record for the country. Enjoying the Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, MTM is part of the Kingdoms tourism policy aiming to reach 10 million tourists by 2010. Although it traditionally relies on French visitors, Morocco is attracting increasingly international visitors and businesses from Europe and the Gulf. In response to the rise of the internet, the emergence of new distribution channels, the birth of new niche tourism, the culture, welfare and tourism itself, Morocco, not just for its own growth but also for those of the African continent had to create an international exhibition on tourism, hence MTM was born.

shop is added onto any price you eventually pay. Chat to the stallholder before you begin. Youre initiating a relationship, doing more than just buying. You are entering a ritual: consider giving him or her a postcard from home or an instant Polaroid photo of themselves to create a positive mood. If youre with your kids, introduce them to make the transaction more personal. Once youve spotted what you want, ignore it. Pretend to be interested in something completely different. After a while, casually pick up whatever youre really after. Ask the price and show astonishment at how high it is. Emphasise you want a serious figure before making an offer, perhaps one third to a half of the original sum. When the trader gives you their patter (You think Im mad?

You are crazy man my friend. Crazy. What is your last offer, your very last offer?Ha, ha. Crazy price. I have many children, etc,) give him some back. Maybe a friend of yours has bought the same thing much cheaper. Or perhaps youll come back tomorrow? Keep asking for the best price (theyll ask you the same) to bring it down although dont bargain at length unless youre genuinely interested. Keep the haggling friendly but consider walking away to encourage him to lower his offer and hang onto your sale. If you buy more than one item, ask for a reduction for buying in bulk or offer something in part exchange. Finally, if youre getting close to your target price, dont be too forceful over the last few pesetas - remember that this is how the stallholder lives.

10 The Travel & Leisure Magazine

co is well linked the major cities so Moroc international airports at Royal Air Maroc, There are including British Airways, with numerous carriers ir and Thomsonfly to the UK Atlas Blue, Easyjet, Ryana icas first low cost airline ericas in Spain and North Afr ries operate between Alg direct flights. Plenty of fer tar to Tangier but offering ferry options from Gibral here are also high-speed get ferries...

Recommended

View more >