Magical Morocco

Hi folks, Dave Pryde your Personal Travel Counsellor here again from my home in picturesque St Fillans, in Perthshire. It’s clear you agree that Chiara’s initiative to offer exciting menus from around the world is fabulous! Who doesn’t enjoy a great meal, especially when it’s carefully prepared with the very best of ingredients?

Which is not unlike a holiday………….and that’s where I can help! I specialise in planning bespoke trips to any and all corners of the globe. This week’s culinary destination of choice by Chiara is magical Morocco, not just the gateway to Africa but also the source of one of the best quiz questions of all time – what is the capital of Morocco?

Just over three hours away by either scheduled or budget flights, this is a wonderful destination in spring or autumn if you enjoy the sunshine but want to avoid the searing heat of summer. It’s a diverse and exciting holiday hotspot and here I have focused on three alternative locations to try and give you a flavour of the country……….see what I did there?

Let’s start with Fez, a prime spot for those that like a bit of adventure on their travels! Frequently overlooked in favour of better known places here, Fez is full of historical gems with a bustling culture and some fabulous food; must-try specialities include the tagines which feature on Chiara’s menu this week, and brochettes, which are skewers of meat rubbed with salt and spices before being set on coals to provide a delicious snack. You could choose to finish off with Briwat, pretty much a staple dessert in these parts; honey-dipped filo pastry stuffed with almonds, sugar and cinnamon……….well, you’re on holiday!

Whilst at first sight travel may seem chaotic here, there are many ways of getting around, one of the most fun being the red petit taxis that whizz around inside the city limits. Don’t miss the bustling markets where you will be expected to barter!

In terms of sight-seeing, one experience you wouldn’t want to miss would be the 14th century Medersa Bou Inania with its jaw-dropping mosaic tiles and lattice screens. Also make sure you take in the Chouara Tannery where you can see the workers expertly pounding the hides with their feet before using highly pungent, vividly coloured natural dyes to produce their wares – pungent is right, incidentally, don’t forget to make full use of the sprig of mint you’ll be offered at the entrance!

On a hilltop just outside the walls of the city, you will find the Merenid Tombs; the historical ruins are fascinating in their own right but the unrivalled views you get of the city and the mountains beyond make this trip very worthwhile. After the strain of all the sight-seeing, pamper yourself at one of the city’s 250-odd Hammams where you can indulge in a well-earned bath and massage!

Marrakech is probably one of the best-known cities in this country; top of your Itinerary here in “the red city” has to be a wander around the walled part of the city which doesn’t feel like it has changed for hundreds of years. You’ll find everything from exotic spices and herbal potions to carpets and expertly carved woodcrafts. The famous city square comes alive at night with street vendors, musicians and entertainers.

Drinking options are limited as alcohol can’t be served in view of a mosque but do seek out the Churchill Bar for an elegant cocktail! Named after its most famous patron, this stylish art deco piano bar is well worth a visit!

The Atlas Mountains are just a couple of hours away if you are into trekking or walking and it’s also easy to tick off that bucket list item of a camel ride in the Sahara! There are a raft of fabulous hotels to choose from here and once you have had your fill of city life, why not head for the coast and the picture-perfect coastal town of Essaouira – stunning!

Last but not least, it has to be the home of one of Hollywood’s most famous movies of all time, Casablanca. Just two hours north of Marrakech, this city is home to over 7 million people and boasts some of the finest art deco architecture to be found anywhere. Regarded as one of the country’s most “European” cities, Casablanca is the financial centre of Morocco but in recent years has been working hard to develop the tourist industry. Foodies will just love the ‘Marchė Central,’ a great place to enjoy lunch after exploring the diverse and hugely colourful market. The cross-shaped fish market is particularly impressive and in here you will find an abundance of simple eateries crammed with diners feasting on huge platters of fish, grilled vegetables, bread, salads and seafood soup. Cheap, filling and perfect for that customary holiday pastime, people watching!

Mosques, malls, museums, churches, the old medina, cultural and four wheel drive tours, you’ll find plenty to do in Casablanca! You can even book yourself on a cooking course to see if you can match up to Chef Chiara’s high standards!

So, there you go, a whistle stop tour of three places to consider if you choose to pop down to Morocco………………oh, and just in case you thought I’d forgotten, the answer to that brilliant quiz question is Rabat!

Where are we off to next week, Chiara?

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