Hello from Marrakech! Or should I say… Salaam Alaykum! This literally translates to “peace be with you” and is the local greeting here in Morocco.
Our first Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey since March of 2020 kicked off at the end of August 2021, where a group of Members explored the colorful country of Morocco from the vibrant spice markets of Marrakech to the High Atlas Mountains and Fes. Here is a snapshot of our daily adventures and what it is like to take an unforgettable travel experience with Exclusive Resorts.
Today was our arrival day. Some Members were apprehensive after not traveling for so long, but everyone arrived smoothly without any flight delays or disruptions. After checking into our first hotel, the luxe Villa des Orangers, our Members chose to relax and settle in—lounging by the pool, getting a spa treatment, or taking a nap before our welcome cocktail reception. A private dinner was served outside by the pool and once the sun went down, the weather was perfect with a light breeze. Everyone enjoyed meeting, chatting, and getting to know one another after what felt like a lifetime without travels! The group went off to bed full, happy, and looking forward to the trip ahead.
The day started with a walking tour of the Old City of Marrakech, called the “Medina”, where Members were able to visit a variety of monuments including mosques, beautiful architecture, palaces, and the spice market while learning the rich history of Marrakech. After touring the Medina, we had a traditional Moroccan lunch then headed back to the hotel for a little rest and relaxation before our afternoon activity—a sidecar ride through the Palmeraie neighborhood often referred to as the “Beverly Hills” of Marrakech.
In the evening, we were joined by a Professor of Moroccan Cultural Studies to educate us on Islamic customs and culture. She had a plethora of good insight on Moroccan culture and the group relished her knowledge throughout dinner.
Any trip to Marrakech is not complete without a day of shopping in the famous Moroccan souks, delving deep into the hidden stalls. Fun fact, there are over 10,000 stalls in the central market! We provided each couple with their own personal local guide to go on the shopping adventure of their dreams, picking up fine-made leathers, hand-woven carpets, lamps, spices, Argan oil, and more. The personal guides allowed them to gain exclusive access to shops and galleries travelers normally cannot find on their own. A trip to Marrakech is not complete without a suitcase full of local wears to take back home!
High Atlas Mountains
After a great few days in Marrakech, we left the bustling streets of the city and headed up to the High Atlas Mountains. The High Atlas Mountains are North Africa’s highest mountain range and a hiker’s paradise. After breakfast, we hit the road and made a stop at Amizmiz Farm-to-Table Cooking School. Amizmiz was set up to provide work for women in the village communities surrounding the farm, and classes offer a wonderful opportunity to talk with local women. Almost all of the food is from their vast garden and the nearby surrounding villages. While visiting Amizmiz, Members participated in a cooking class-turned-competition, learning how to prepare a typical Moroccan meal including bread, lamb, chicken, vegetables, and couscous. Cue the competitive spirits!
After the cooking lesson, the Members indulged in the meal they prepared, surrounded by the beautiful garden. The group loved this cooking and lunch experience—Member Kelly I. commented that it was her favorite part of the trip so far! After lunch, we continued our drive to the High Atlas Mountains to check in to our home for the next three nights, Kasbah Tamadot, Richard Branson’s estate luxury hotel. The property was absolutely beautiful with jaw-dropping views of the High Atlas Mountains from every angle. Within minutes of settling in, Members were in the pool or in the spa—they did not waste any time soaking up the luxurious amenities. We spent the rest of the day at leisure in order to fully rejuvenate before the rest of our adventure and enjoy the pristine property.
High Atlas Mountains, Morocco
The High Atlas Mountains are a first-rate place to go hiking, so we began our day on the trails. Members had the option of a shorter, less strenuous three-mile hike and a longer five-mile trek. The weather was perfect for our alpine adventure. We paused mid-hike in a Berber village to have tea with the local people and a picnic lunch before heading back to the hotel for some R&R. After four days of being on the go and a vigorous morning on the trails, Members had the afternoon to simply be.
Dinner on this night was a special treat—a full Moroccan affair complete with a band, belly dancers, and a saffron tasting menu. Members were surprised with traditional Moroccan garb to wear to dinner. Men wore a “Jalaba with a Fez hat” and the women wore a “Kaftan”. From the entertainment to the food to the company, the night couldn’t have been more perfect. The group shared plenty of laughter and tales of their travels so far. It was a truly wonderful evening!
High Atlas Mountains, Morocco
This was our last day in the High Atlas before heading to Fes. We had a “choose your adventure” day with options to continue hiking, tour a local mosque, and relax at the hotel. At night we had a visit to the Eve Branson Foundation which is a small non-profit providing young people with artisanal skills to preserve traditional Moroccan and Berber crafts. Members had a wonderful time buying local goods to support the people in the community. We received so many comments from the local people thanking us for coming because they haven’t seen tourists in so long. They said it was a breath of fresh air to see travelers again, especially since the people of Morocco rely so heavily on tourism. One guide commented that “we were the welcomed rain that ended their drought”.
Today the group got an early start to make their way to Fes, our third and final stop on the itinerary. Due to Covid, the previously scheduled flights to Fes were not operating, but we knew this in advance and had an excellent backup plan (just one of the benefits of traveling with Exclusive Resorts!). The group instead sat back and relaxed on the drive from the High Atlas Mountains to Fes. Luckily, it’s a very scenic drive and as an added bonus, we stopped for a wine tasting and lunch at a Moroccan winery. We enjoyed the food and delicious wine so much, every Member bought a few bottles or cases to bring home with them. We departed the winery and headed right into Fes just in time to catch the sunset tour of the city. Fes is the second-largest city in Morocco and the narrow, winding streets are bustling. The tour was a beautiful introduction to the city before we headed to dinner at the hotel.
For the final day in Morocco, we had a full itinerary planned to wrap up the experience. We started off the day with Covid tests at the hotel for all of our Members—while it may not sound glamorous, it was a requirement for everyone to get back into the States. We arranged for someone to come out to the hotel for a convenient experience. After the Covid tests, we hit the streets of Fes! We started out with a “foodie tour” of the city where we made our way through the medina (old city) and discovered mouthwatering delicacies that most travelers would never stumble upon on their own. Members tasted some of the local bread that is prepared in the market, lentil soup, olives, dates, and cheese. This authentic experience guided us through the “hidden gems” in the medina.
After the foodie tour, we continued our tour by visiting the artisanal side of the market where the local wears are made in their traditional ways. The medina tour ended with a visit to the childrens’ library, a non-profit organization founded by the expat community in Morocco to give local children a chance to read, learn, and expand their worldview. Exclusive Resorts even made a donation to the library on behalf of the Members, and some of our group brought books from the US to donate—it was a heartwarming experience. After the tour concluded, we made our way back to the hotel to relax before our final dinner. The group shared stories and reminisced about the trip, the whole time planning when they could all greet one another again. A reunion is already in the works!
Departure day came all too quickly. All of the Members had staggered flights, so before heading to the airport, we ensured everyone had received their negative Covid tests for a seamless reentry to the US.
The group’s excitement to travel again was palpable, with many of the Members planning for a future Journey and talking about a reunion trip in May 2022 (I’ve already begun to look into options for them!). Their colorful, flavorful adventure in Morocco was a feast for the senses and a heartwarming adventure. We’re already looking forward to the next!