Fez and Marrakech Morocco
Emily Plumley travelled to Morocco with agency sales manager Catherine Standring and tells us all about this exotic destination.
An exotic destination just a three-hour flight from London sounds too good to be true - except it is not a dream but a reality, a country by the name of Morocco.
Morocco is a hugely diverse country with beaches, mountain ranges, cities and desert. The people are most welcoming and friendly and their culture and customs fascinating.
There are two main races in Morocco, the Moroccan Arabs and the Berbers. The Berbers are Morocco’s original inhabitants and still form more than half of the population. They have their own language and mostly live in rural areas in stone houses perched on rocky slopes, overlooking their cultivated terraced fields.
Catherine and I visited two cities in Morocco; Marrakech and Fez. Marrakech, our first stop, is a vibrant, lively and colourful city which has much to offer the visitor. Here you can notice a western influence, in particular amongst the men, and it is now acceptable for women to bare their shoulders in public. Despite this, long skirts that cover the knee should still be worn.
Djemaa el-Fna is Marrakech’s main square where all the action happens. During the day, there are sellers with their fruit and vegetables, but from around 5pm when the weather cools and the sun is setting is when it really comes to life. There are snake charmers, storytellers, fortunetellers, dancers all selling their talents to locals and tourists alike. The square also becomes a large open-air restaurant with a variety of foods to choose from and outdoor seating. Koutoubia Minaret, the famous landmark of the local skyline, dominates one end of the square.
Our accommodation in Marrakech was based in Riads, which are unique to Morocco. Originally houses built for large families, riads are typically plain on the outside but beautiful on the inside where the main feature is a courtyard with plants, flowers and a fountain. All the rooms face inwards towards the courtyard and the fountains are often decorated with roses in the water. Riads are more intimate than your normal hotel; some have a very romantic setting. I found the whole experience of staying in a Riad luxurious and comfortable.
From Marrakech to Fez, we drove through the Atlas Mountains, which offer a spectacular scenery of snow-capped mountains, even in the height of summer.
Fez is quieter and less hectic than Marrakech. Here we enjoyed wandering the souqs, although I would recommend a guide for your first time visiting them because it is very easy to get lost, there being over 30,000 shops! It is very interesting to wander around them; the sights, sounds and smells are something else! You will see craftsmen working and making their goods using traditional tools and methods that have been used for centuries.
The tanneries in Fez are also well worth a visit; you are offered a sprig of mint on entry as the smell can be a little overwhelming because they use ammonia from pigeon droppings in the cleaning process, but the view from above is stunning and well worth it.
I could go on to tell you more about the things Catherine and I did and saw in Morocco but that would spoil it for you. I have only scratched the surface but invite you to visit Morocco yourself and see what an exotic destination Morocco really is.