Tuesday, 29 January 2013


February is already upon us.  Christmas New Year tour clients have been and gone, brillient reports as always!  January tour is drawing to a close and in just a couple of days we are off on the 1st Feb tour.

So far the weather has been exceptional with just one day of rain in the North, but predictably it got better and better as the tours progressed.  Staff at our Meski base/office are basking in 26 degrees......... Mind you have to be honest and say that the nights have been a touch chilly!

Due to client transfers to alternative tour dates we do have the one vehicle place available on the 3rd March Classic and one vehicle place has become available on the 3th May "Discovery" tour.

The all new EASTERN Moroccan tour [thus far only mentioned on this blog] has two vehicle places remaining.

Range-Rover Airstream in Marrakech.
Solihull-based off-road automotive specialist Land Rover recently announced that an all-new Range Rover, equipped with the 339PS SDV8 engine, in tandem with an Airstream 684 Series 2 travel caravan successfully completed a gargantuan 3,676 mile transcontinental road trip from Tebay in England’s glorious Lake District to the ski resort of Oukaïmeden in the peaks of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains (and back again)……. in a mere 11 days.
OK, the 11 days was quite impressive but some of our past caravan towing clients will probably be unimpressed in the actual “gargantuan” bit………
Anyway……Towing a 2,399kg Airstream 684 Series 2 aluminium travel trailer (the 684 was winner of the Caravan Club Caravan Design Award 3 years running from 2008-2010) the diesel powered Range Rover was often on the go for more than 12 hours a day on every conceivable type of road surface from Spain’s Vías de Gran Capacidad to the vertiginous switchbacks of the High Atlas Mountains. Thus demonstrating in a nutshell why more European Airstream owners choose a Land Rover to tow their iconic Airstream "silver bullet" than any other brand of vehicle. Of course, if you need further proof of Land Rover’s legendary off-road and trailer towing capabilities then you need look no further than the bookshelves at the Land Rover factory which are groaning under the weight of the slew of RV and automotive awards that have been showered on their vehicles since the first Series I Land Rover rolled off the production line back in 1948.
Mmmmm……..I was, for just over a year between the selling of Trailmasters etc. and the move to Spain an Off Road Demonstration Driver. So whilst I can vouch for the “Legendary” capabilities of the entire Land Rover range Trailmasters ran and now Desert Detours run Nissan and Land Cruiser’s………
Ben Samuelson, whose firm Samuelson Wylie Associates planned and executed the trip on behalf of Airstream & Company, was awed by the performance of Land Rover’s flagship Range Rover vehicle. "The new Range Rover's towing ability is nothing short of stunning,” said Samuelson in a Land Rover press release. “It pulled the two and a half tonne Airstream like it simply wasn't there.” Samuelson was also thankful for the Range Rover’s Trailer Stability Assist program. “Halfway through Spain, we encountered horrendous side winds, the type that sees articulated trucks tipped onto their side, but the Range Rover's Trailer Stability Assist meant that any sway in the trailer was dealt with before it ever started,” he said.
Desert Towing
The Range Rover:…………….
Price £71,295 and up • Engine: LR-TDV6 3.0 litre (37.7 mpg combined) and LR-SDV8 4.4 litre diesel engine (32.5 mpg combined) or LR-V8 5.0 litre Supercharged Petrol engine (20.5 mpg combined) • Wading Depth 900mm • Length 4999mm Height 1835mm Width (incl. mirrors) 2220mm • Gross Towing Load 3500kg •
Great View - Range-Rover Airstream bottom bend.
The Airstream:……………
Price: £53,890 ex works or £55,250 with UK on the road package • Shipping Length 8.25m, Width 2.5M OR 2.3M • MTPLM (lower limit) 2399kg (2.3M)/ 2499kg (2.5M) •
ALOOF……..By Loubna Flah
Ruins and dust
Cold and frost
Arid lands and dunes
No distant echo, nor tunes
Nothing found, everything lost
I am the solitary nomad
Thirst, fever, aloof, barefoot
Sensible enough to be often mad
No abode, no whim, no roots
Essaouira Then.
Then……..Formerly named Mogador (name originating from the Phoenician word Migdol meaning a “small fortress”), is an outstanding example of a fortified town of the mid-eighteenth century, surrounded by a wall influenced by the Vauban model. Constructed according to the principles of contemporary European military architecture, in a North African context, in perfect harmony with the precepts of Arabo-Muslim architecture and town-planning, it has played a major role over the centuries as an international trading seaport, linking Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa with Europe and the rest of the world. The town is also an example of a multicultural centre as proven by the coexistence, since its foundation, of diverse ethnic groups, such as the Amazighs, Arabs, Africans, and Europeans as well as multi confessional (Muslim, Christian and Jewish). Indissociable from the Medina, the Mogador archipelago comprises a large number of cultural and natural sites of Outstanding Universal Value. Its relatively late foundation in comparison to other medinas of North Africa was the work of the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah (1757-1790) who wished to make this small Atlantic town a royal port and chief Moroccan commercial centre open to the outside world. Known for a long time as the Port of Timbuktu, Essaouira became one of the major Atlantic commercial centres between Africa and Europe at the end of the 18th century and during the 19th century.
And now…….
From almost the same spot now.
Essaouira is without question my favorite town in Morocco. After visiting regularly for many years I was amazed to find that I had distant family connections to what was then Mogador……some clients on tours may have heard the story.
Despite having trebled [at least] in size over the last few years Essaouira has lost none of its charm, mystery and lay-back style.
Major improvements to the N8 [almost motorway standard], town up-grades and the arrival of new hotels indicates that there are plans for the future of this stunning town……In the meantime Essaouira remains one of our end-of-tour locations a must visit location……
Actually there are 1000’s of things to see and do in Marrakech. I have been going there for nearly 40years and visit practically every month with our Tour Groups……..But I still find something new every visit……..A fabulous city!!!!
1. Circle the Koutoubia Mosque
The minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech’s most famous symbol – built in a traditional Almohad style and topped with four copper globes – is visible from near and far.
It is not really that high (77 metres), but thanks to local topography and a local ordinance that forbids any other building in the Medina to be higher than a palm tree, it towers majestically over its surroundings.
Still an active place of worship, non-Muslims may not enter. But it’s possible to get a good view of the exterior by walking around either side. The adjoining parkland is a haven from bustling Marrakech.
2. Spend your dirhams at the souks
There are few more pleasurable ways to waste time in Marrakech than wandering around the seemingly endless maze of markets.
The area of the Medina north of the Jemaa El Fna is commercial – at least in its more central areas – with a fibrous network of souks. Beginning on the north edge, the souks comprise alleyway upon alleyway of tiny retail cubicles. The further in you venture the more interesting they become.
The two main routes into their heart are rue Semarine (aka Souk Semarine) and rue Mouassine; the former offers the more full-on blast of bazaar, the latter is a more sedate path leading to choice boutiques.
Every section has its own speciality: carpets and textiles; woollen hats and cooked snails; spices and magic supplies; cotton, clothing, kaftans and blankets – and most importantly raffia bags and baskets, which you'll need to carry all your purchases in.
3. Learn about Islamic scripture and law

The Ben Youssef Medersa, a Quranic school, dedicated to the teaching of Islamic scripture and law, was founded in the 14th century then enlarged in the 16th. It was given a further polishing up in the 1990s courtesy of the Ministry of Culture.
Entrance is via a long, cool passageway leading to the great courtyard, a serene place centred on a water-filled basin. The surrounding façades are decorated with zelije tiling, stucco and carved cedar, all executed with restraint. At the far side is the domed prayer hall with the richest of decoration, notably around the mihrab, the arched niche that indicates the direction of Mecca.
Back in the entrance vestibule, passageways and two flights of stairs lead to more than 100 tiny windowless students’ chambers, clustered about small internal lightwells. Medieval as it seems, the medersa was still in use until as recently as 1962.
Ben Youssef Medersa, Place Ben Youssef (no phone). Open 9am-6.30pm daily.
4. Don some new threads
Akbar Delights (Souks 45 place Bab Fteuh) is an upmarket French-owned boutique specialising in luxury clothing and textiles from Kashmir, with some items made to their own designs. The tiny space is crammed with embroidered tops and dresses, cotton robes, silk shawls and scarves, plus shimmery, golden shoulder bags. The only made-in-Morocco items are some extraordinary brocaded babouches.
Atelier Moro (Souks 114 place de Mouassine, Mouassine, +212 5 24 39 10 78) contains a cool, eclectic selection of homeware, clothes, accessories and carpets chosen by Viviana Gonzalez of Riad El Fenn. Some of the clothes are designed by Viviana herself, but most of the stock is Moroccan, often the work of nameless artisans that would otherwise be lost in the souks.
5. Descend into Moorish history
Set in its own fenced enclosure and sunk several metres below the current street level, is the Koubba El-Badiyin. It looks unprepossessing but it’s the only surviving structure from the era of the Almoravids, the founders of Marrakech, and as such it represents a wormhole back to the origins of Moorish building history. It dates to the reign of Ali ben Youssef (1107-43) and was probably part of the ablutions complex of the original Ben Youssef Mosque. It’s worth paying the slight admission fee to descend the brickwork steps and view the underside of the dome, which is a kaleidoscopic arrangement of a floral motif within an octagon within an eight-pointed star.
Place Ben Youssef (no phone). Open Apr-Sept 9am-7pm daily. Oct-Mar 9am-6pm daily.
6. Get arts & crafty …….. Moroccan style
On display in Maison Tiskiwin, a private house owned by veteran Dutch anthropologist Bert Flint, is his fascinating collection of crafts and decorative arts from southern Morocco and the Sahara. The exhibition is designed to show Morocco’s connection to sub-Saharan Africa and is geographically laid out to take you on a virtual journey across the Sahara to Timbuktu. Exhibits include masks from as far afield as Mali and an entire Berber tent made of camel hair.
8 derb El-Bahia, off Riad Zitoun El-Jedid (+212 5 24 38 91 92). Open 9am-12.30pm, 3-6pm daily.
7. Be grave at the ancient Saadian Tombs

Flanking the south side of the Kasbah Mosque, the site of what is possibly Marrakech’s most visited monument is an ancient walled garden, the use of which far predates the Saadian era. Dotted around the shrubbery are early mosaic graves; the identity of those interred is long lost. Attention instead focuses on the three pavilions built during the reign of Saadian sultan Ahmed El-Mansour.
First on the left is the Prayer Hall, which holds numerous graves, mainly of Alaouite princes from the 18th century. Next to it is the Hall of Twelve Columns, a more ornate affair with three central tombs surrounded by a dozen marble pillars. The tomb in the middle is that of Ahmed El-Mansour, flanked by those of his son and grandson. A third, stand-alone pavilion has ornate Andalucian-style entrance portals.
Rue de Kasbah, Bab Agnaou (no phone). Open 8.30-11.45am, 2.30-5.45pm daily.
8. Explore Morocco through its museums
The Dar Si Said Museum (Riad Zitoun El-Jedid, +212 5 24 38 95 64), former home of the brother of Ba Ahmed, builder of the Bahia, now houses a large collection of crafts and woodwork. Among all the kitchen implements, weapons and musical instruments are beautiful examples of carved cedar, rescued from the city’s lost dwellings.
Inaugurated in 1997, the Musée de Marrakech (Place Ben Youssef, +212 5 24 44 18 93, www.museedemarrakech.ma) is housed in a converted early 20th-century house. The museum exhibits rotate, but the star attraction is the building itself, particularly the tartishly tiled great central court, roofed over and hung with an enormous chandelier that looks like the mother-ship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The former hammam is lovely and makes a fine exhibition space.
9. Breath in Marrakech's pungent tanneries
Marrkech Tannery.
To experience Marrakech at its most medieval – and most pungent – visit the tannery district. The tanners have been here since the city was founded and their work remains a pre-industrial process, using hundreds of vats full of foul liquids to cure animal hides. The eventual products can be seen and purchased at the leather shops near the gate, but you may prefer to get the hell out of the quarter and purge yourself in the nearest hammam.
10. Step into a Sultan's palace
Constructed by Sultan Ahmed El-Mansour (1578-1607), the Badii Palace is one of the two principal monuments of the Saadian era (the other is the Saadian Tombs). Today it survives only as a denuded ruin, but once it was a model of triumphal ostentation. Walls and ceilings were encrusted with gold from Timbuktu, while the inner court had a massive central pool with an island, flanked by four sunken gardens. At the centre of each of the four massive walls were four pavilions, also flanked by arrangements of pools and fountains. It took some 25 years to complete the palace and barely was the inaugural celebrations over before the ageing ruler passed away. His palace remained intact for less than a century before the Merenid sultan, Moulay Ismail, had it stripped bare and the riches carted north for his new capital at Meknès.
Place des Ferblantiers (no phone). Open 8.30-11.45am, 2.30-5.45pm daily.
11. Shop in a handicrafts department store
Don’t let the humble entrance fool you – Centre Artisanal is the closest thing to a department store in Marrakech, albeit a department store selling nothing but handicrafts. It’s the ultimate souvenir store, with everything from trad clothing (babouches, jellabas, kaftans) to jewellery, and home furnishings to carpets. Prices are fixed at slightly above what you would pay in the souk, but this at least does away with tiresome haggling.
Trust me, this truly and Aladdin’s Cave…….and did I mention, its only yards from the Saadian Tombs.
Kasbah 7 Derb Baissi Kasbah (+212 5 24 38 18 53). Open 8.30am-7pm daily.
12. Eat in fabulous surroundings
Dinning out Marrakech.
There are plenty of picturesque places to eat in Marrakech, but two are stand out. The setting for the Pavillion (North Medina Derb Zaouia, Bab Doukkala) – the courtyard of a splendid old house where tables cluster under the spreading boughs of a massive tree – is superlative, while Narwama (Jemaa El Fna & Koutoubia Mosque 30 rue Koutoubia, +212 5 24 44 08 44, www.narwama.com, open 9am-7pm daily), the city’s first proper Thai restaurant, is housed in the central courtyard of a palatial 19th-century residence. It’s an enormous space that, with its potted palms, pastel hues and global lounge music, feels like a Buddha Bar night in some orientalist conservatory.
13. Get leathered
Chez Said specialises in fashionable leather bags, decorated with coins or beads, or just a simple metal disc on the front. Designs come in both modern and vintage styles. The leather is either au natural or dyed; when the latter, colouring is properly fixed and doesn’t come off on your clothes. Said speaks English, and also sells his bags in bulk to certain well-known stores in the UK.
Souks 155 Souk Chkairia (+212 5 24 39 09 31). Open 9.30am-7.30pm daily.
14. Appreciate modern art
Marrakech is bereft of theatres and music venues, and the few cinemas aren’t going to be showing much you’ll understand, but there’s a growing commercial gallery scene.
Housed in a gorgeous townhouse is the Medina’s premier exhibition space, Dar Cherifa (Souks 8 Derb Charfa Lakbir, Mouassine, +212 5 24 42 64 63). Parts of the building date back to the 16th century and it has been lovingly restored by owner Abdelatif ben Abdellah. Regular exhibitions lean towards resident foreign artists, but there have also been shows by Moroccan artists Hassan Hajjaj and Milaudi Nouiga.
When Galerie 127 (Guéliz 127 avenue Mohammed V, 2nd floor, +212 5 24 43 26 67, galerie127mohammedV@hotmail.fr) opened in 2006 it became the first photo gallery in the Maghreb and only the third in Africa. It got off to a good start with an opening show by Tony Catany. The king bought 30 of the photographs.
Galerie Rê (Guéliz Résidence Al-Andalus III, angle rue de la Mosquée and Ibn Touert No.3, +212 5 24 43 22 58) is a serious and lavishly designed contemporary gallery for changing exhibitions by mostly ‘Moroccan and Mediterranean’ artists. Upstairs is a selection from established Moroccan artists such as Abdelkarim Ouazzani, Tibari Kantour and Mohammed Lagzouli.
The Light Gallery (Kasbah 2 derb Chtouka, light.marrakech@gmail.com) kicked off in 2007 with photographs of neon and fluorescent lights by Gilles Coulon, then moved on to drawings by Swiss painter Mathias Schauwecker. It’s a big, bright, modern space where they also sell a few clothes, books, and have some small photos for sale from the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton and Martin Parr.
The Matisse Art Gallery (Guéliz 61 rue Yougoslavie, No.43 passage Ghandouri, +212 5 24 44 83 26, matisseartgallery@gmail.com) is a decent space devoted to solo shows by young Moroccan artists such as calligraphy painters Nouredine Chater and Nouredine Daifellah, and figurative painter Driss Jebrane. More established names are also exhibited, such as Farid Belkahia and Hassan El-Glaoui (the late son of the former ‘Lord of the Atlas’ was devoted to painting horses).
15. Have a belly (dance) full
Dinner Entertainment.
Marrakchi socialites will tell you that Comptoir is sooo over, but on the right night it’s still the best party in town. From the outside it’s a well-behaved little villa on a quiet residential street, but inside the place buzzes with dressed-up diners on the ground floor, while upstairs is a sizeable lounge filled each weekend night to within a whisper of health and safety violations. The crowd is a mix of good-looking locals, sharper expats and wide-eyed tourists delighted to have stumbled on the Marrakech they’d always heard about. Drinks are pricey but the nightly belly-dancers are hilarious.
Hivernage Avenue Echouhada (+212 5 24 43 77 02, www.comptoirdarna.com). Open 7pm-1am daily. Admission free.
16. Find your Moroccan groove
Pacha (Zone hôtelière de l’Agdal Boulevard Mohammed VI, +212 5 24 38 84 00, www.pachamarrakech.com) is an enormous complex which, apart from the club itself, also includes two restaurants – Jana and Crystal – as well as a chill-out lounge and swimming pool. The dancefloor and bars can accommodate up to 3,000 smiley souls, and guest DJs are flown in most weekends. The names include many of those you’ll find elsewhere on the international Pacha circuit. The club is some 7km south of town, so getting there and back can be pricey.
Almost too big for its own good, Palais Jad Mahal (Hivernage 10 rue Haroun Errachid, www.jad-mahal.com), just outside Bab Jdid, has a nice restaurant and bar with (usually) a boring live band playing vintage rock covers on the ground floor, and a voluminous club down below (separate entrance along the street, admission 100dh) that today houses a nightly ‘oriental cabaret’ frequented mostly by Moroccans.
Thêatro (Hivernage Hotel Es Saadi, avenue El-Qadissia, +212 5 24 44 88 11, www.theatromarrakech.com) is where you’ll find the hippest, best-informed locals. The venue was once a theatre; now, the stalls are filled with sofas, while the balcony is tiered with throw cushions. A series of semi-private, gauze-veiled crash crèches fill the stage, while the former orchestra pit houses a long curved bar, well stocked with chilled champagne and Red Bull. The sound system is thunderous, and psychedelic cinema projections entertain the eye – it’s just a pity no one thought to leave space for a dancefloor. Look out for nights by Sound of Marrakech, as well as occasional international names. Open daily from 11.30pm.
17. Grab a cocktail on a roof terrace

A café by day and restaurant by night, Kechmara also functions well as a lively and convivial bar. There’s a long bar counter to the right as you enter with a tap for bière pression, back shelves lined with spirits and bar stools for perching. The menu lists long drinks and cocktails, which are also served on a spacious roof terrace.
Guéliz 3 rue de la Liberté (+212 5 24 42 25 32). Open 7am-midnight Mon-Sat. Admission free.
18. And relax... at a hammam
Mixed-Modern Hammam.
House in a big old house near the Royal Palace, Dar Karma (Kasbah 51 derb El-Mennabha, +212 5 24 38 58 78, www.dar-karma.com) was once the home of Mohammed V’s French translator. An elegant maison d’hôte since 2003, it retains something of a homely air, despite such mod cons as a small swimming pool and a water-mist cooling system on the roof terrace. The hammam is very grand indeed.
One of the longer established guesthouses in the Palmeraie, Les Deux Tours (Palmeraie Douar Abiad, +212 5 24 32 95 27, www.les-deuxtours.com) is the sublime work of premier Marrakchi architect Charles Boccara. Guests share the most attractive of outdoor pools, keyhole shaped and fringed by perfectly maintained lawns, as well as a stunning subterranean hammam.
Les Jardins de la Medina (Kasbah 21 derb Chtouka, +212 5 24 38 18 51, www.lesjardinsdelamedina.com), the former royal residence has been a luxurious 36-room hotel since 2001 a big international restaurant, a splendid hammam, a decent gym and a beauty salon round off the services.
19. Join the party
Four key events for the diary: January sees the Marrakech Marathon (www.marathon-marrakech.com); February, the Dakka Marrakchia Festival (www.morocco.com/blog/dakka-marrakchia-festival-a-musical-celebration), an annual festival of traditional Marrakechi music; July the National Festival of Popular Arts (www.marrakechfestival.com), a five-day celebration of Morocco’s arts; and December the Marrakech International Film Festival (www.festivalmarrakech.info).
20. Sleep in Moorish luxury
Koubba El-Badiyin.
The creation of designer Meryanne Loum-Martin and her ethnobotanist husband Dr Gary Martin, Jnane Tamsna (Palmeraie Douar Abiad, +212 5 24 32 84 84, www.jnane.com) is a ‘Moorish hacienda’ with seven opulent suites and 17 gorgeous rooms, set in five buildings scattered around some beautiful gardens, each with its own pool. The architecture is vernacular chic, coloured in the palest tones of primrose, peppermint and clay and enhanced by Loum-Martin’s own inspired furniture. Surrounding fruit orchards, herb and vegetable gardens provide organic produce for the kitchen.
Char-Bagh (Palmeraie, +212 5 24 32 92 44, www.ksarcharbagh.com) takes the Moroccan fantasy trip to extremes. A charming French couple have re-created an Alhambran palace court on a kasbah-sized scale. A moated gatehouse with six-metre-high beaten metal doors fronts an arcaded central court with pool. The extensive grounds contain herb and flower gardens, an orchard, an open-air spa and the deepest of swimming pools. Indoor amenities include a cigar salon, a house sommelier, and a chef trained under Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon.
Set in a hectare of lush gardens filled with roses and hibiscus, bougainvillea and palm trees, Dar Zemora (Palmeraie 72 rue El-Aandalib, Ennakhil, +212 5 24 32 82 00, www.darzemora.com) is Marrakech’s answer to the English country-house hotel – perhaps it achieves this status because it’s owned by an English couple, who have remodelled this former private abode beyond all recognition.
A Japanese tourist hailed a taxi outside his hotel in Marrakech and asked to be taken to the airport.

On the way, a car zoomed by and the tourist exclaimed, 'Oh! A Toyota - Made in Japan! Very fast!'
Not too long afterward, another car flew by the taxi. 'Oh! Nissan - Made in Japan! Very fast!'

Yet another car zipped by, and the tourist said, 'Oh! Mitsubishi - Made in Japan! Very fast!'

Mustapha, the taxi driver, who was 100% Moroccan, was starting to get a little annoyed that the Japanese made cars were passing his taxi, when yet another car passed the taxi as they were turning into the airport. 'Oh! Honda - Made in Japan! Very fast!'

Mustapha stopped the car, pointed to the meter, and said, 'That'll be 500 dirhams.'

'500 dirhams? It was short ride! Why so much, it was only 100 dirhams last time? '

Mustapha smiled as he replied, 'Meter …… Made in Morocco. Very fast.'
 BACK TO THE HAMMAM......................
Tradional Hammam.
Recent articles in some Moroccan journals have highlighted the changing nature of the Moroccan bathhouse, the hammam. While the traditional hammam is still available, many tourists opt for the "spa". However, some "spa and hammam" establishments are pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
The legitimate "wellness" industry has promoted spa treatments as a health and relaxation where various treatments are available including massage. Of course massage is available in a traditional hammam, yet there is a vast difference between some of the spas and a hammam. most markedly the issue of gender separation. Traditional hammams have specific times for women and times for men. A large number of the newer spas allow mixed bathing and it is this aspect that has been raised as a problem by some commentators.
The magazine Metropolis (Le Magazine chic at urbain) comments, not totally approvingly, that there has been a growth of mixed hammams. "These new style of institutions will revolutionize the habits of Moroccans have appeared recently in several cities across the country but especially in Marrakech".

The magazine points out that behind the signs "Hammam & Spa", these baths nothing in common with traditional hammams. 'The new wellness temples are hiding places of encounters between men and women who operate as prostitutes who come to sell their charms.' without being worried in the least. The magazine claims that the vice squad avoids intervention for fear of scaring away tourists who contribute much to the economy of the entire region.

Entry prices are expensive while extras can reach heights depending on the services provided by the girls who work in what has become the favorite places for sex tourists from the Gulf States
Receipts of these establishments are so substantial that many hotels and riads have succumbed to the merits of this approach to develop their own mixed spas and hammams so their customers can avoid venturing into unknown places ~ Metropolis.
Fortunately there are still many traditional hammams and a large number of "spa and hammam" establishments which are purely and simply about having an enjoyable non-sexual experience.
A visit to the hammam
Typical Hammam Entrance.
I receive numerous emails from people about how to behave in the hammam. As a foreigner you will normally find Moroccans very welcoming and helpful, but as many people are hesitant about visiting a hammam for the first time, here are a few tips. With an understanding of the unwritten rules of the hammam you should be fine.

First of all ask around and find a hammam near you. Check out the times for men and women. Often the day is divided between women in the morning and men in the evening. The cost is usually around five dirhams. Having decided on the place and time you need to get a few things.
Buckets. The hammams normally have a supply of black buckets but I have found it best to take my own as they can be in short supply. So purchase a couple of plastic buckets in the local souq.
Scoop. You will need to bring a small plastic bowl to mix your water with. The place you buy your buckets from will normally have white ones with no handle.
Soap. Shampoo, and a razor if you want to shave. Don’t forget your towel and hairbrush.
A plastic bag to hold your clothes while you wash.
Scrubbing glove or mitt. The Moroccans seem to prefer a black mitt.
Underwear. Preferably dark boxer shorts for men and underpants for women. Women remove their bras when washing. Bring clean underwear to put on afterwards.
When you arrive, pay, get a ticket and go to the dressing area. Undress down to your underwear and put your clothes and towel in the bag – you don’t take the towel into the hammam. Take your bag and ticket back to the counter and give the attendant a couple of dirhams to look after it for you. They don’t give you a bag check, so relax, they will certainly remember you.

Next, take your buckets and soap etc and check out the rooms of the hammam and decide where you will feel most comfortable. Be careful to sit where there is good drainage and not downhill from someone.

Take your buckets and fill one with hot and one with cold water, leaving enough room to do a bit of mixing to get the best temperature for your needs. Remember the hot is usually very hot, so take care. Go back to your spot and use your scoop to mix the water.

When you have the right temperature, wet yourself all over and relax for a few minutes while you start to sweat and your skin softens. Then it is time for a scrub with your black glove. Moroccans don’t usually use soap yet. It is quite common among women for other women to offer to do your back for you and you should return the favour. Be aware that if an attendant offers it will cost you a few dirhams and the scrubbing will be pretty hard! If it gets too much for you simply say shuya (a little).

After you have scrubbed every inch of yourself and the dead skin is coming off, rinse yourself. Only then is it time for the soap, the shampoo or the shave. When you are done, rinse and relax for a few minutes.

When you are ready to leave, return to the counter with your buckets and collect your bag. The attendant will usually wish you good health as you leave by saying bisaha and it is polite to reply allah stik saha.
Make Room!!!!!
As much as I love the Marrakech Old City "Medina", strolling around it has been getting a little worse these last few years. It’s not so much the crowds, that’s part and parcel of a busy shopping area, and the occasional donkey traffic-jam is just everyday life in action, it’s the only way you can get heavy things through the narrow streets, just as the hand-carts serve a very important role in keeping the shops and riads stocked up.
The main problem now is the amount of moped and motor scooters that race far too quickly through what has, for over a thousand years been no more than a pedestrian area, long before we even thought of pedestrianization.
The traders at the Derb Dabachi, one of the main entrances to the souk, have got fed up of the noise, pollution, danger and stress of the mopeds and scooters that cause havoc in the area and have hung signs forbidding anyone to enter riding a bike or moped……and it’s working!
The signs invite riders to become pedestrians and walk alongside their transport until they leave the area. Let’s hope other traders take the idea up and the Medina can once again become a ‘motor-free zone’.
But hey, don’t be put off anyway……it’s all part of the fun……..jostling, smells, the chatter, bartering and good humoured  traders, just be careful where you step and keep an ear tuned for the sound of a stressed Yamaha engine!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

EID Al-MAWLID …………..


Of course published here for interest, not as a religious statement…….However, we wish all our readers, whatever your faith may be, a happy Eid Al-Mawlid

Eid el Mawllid en-Nabaoui, Eid Al-Mawlid [or name variations] celebrates the birth of the Prophet Muhammed, not just in Morocco but throughout much of the Sunni Muslim world.

It's an official holiday in Morocco, celebrated with street processions and other festivities throughout much of the country and as often occurs on important holidays, the Moroccan head of state, King Muhammed VI grants a Royal Pardon to a number of prisoners.  Last year 566 people were freed from prison (including the now world-famous Fouad Mourtada)….but that’s another story…….
Organised events may differ from one city to another and from one region to another, there are however some factors and aspects common to all celebrations, including the use of torches and candles, as well as the traditional costumes worn by all to go to the mosques and on visits to family and friends. Religious vigils are also held, as well as outings and trips with family and children.

Sunday, 20 January 2013



I thought I would do this now and again introduce our Tour/Staff members.....Where better place to start than at the very top.....No not me, but "Alice", that's the one doing her meercat impression.

Alice joined the team after the sad passing of "Sydney", my previous travel companion/partner. I thought that I could just get along OK without a constant "shadow", but no.....so along came Alice, NOT a replacement, as dog owners know, you can't do that ........ After a very nervous start Alice is now a regular, the next tour [Feb] will be her 10th.

A'Hammed's Lamb Tagine is her favorate with Kefta a close second and she is first in line when we make our "Big Soup" ......

Favorate location is of course Erg Chebbie Dunes.... endless space to run, sand to dig and camels to annoy.


As I write this Blog entry much of the UK lies under a blanket of snow and those parts that are not are freezing cold or wet.  No I am not gloating, it's actually quite chilly down here in Southern Spain at the moment....... Well, when I say chilly I mean long-sleeve T-shirts and fleece for the evening.

So given the weather back in the UK it is perhaps not surprising that we are very busy with enquiries and bookings for the coming year and beyond...... So let's look at the 2013 Moroccan Tour Schedule:

  • 5 Jan -     The New Year Moroccan Tour.
  • 1 Feb -    The Moroccan Classic.
  • 4 Mar -    The Moroccan Classic.
  • 10 Mar -  The Eastern Moroccan [1st Tour Date].
  • 1 April -   The Eastern Moroccan [2nd Tour Date].
  • 6 May -    The Discovery Tour.
  • 27 May -  The "Footsteps of the Moors" [Spanish Sierras to the Moroccan Sahara].
  • 11 Sept -  The Eastern Morocco [3rd Tour Date].
  • 3 Oct -     The Moroccan Classic.
  • 5 Nov -    The Moroccan Classic.
  • 2 Dec -     The Moroccan Winter Wonderland Tour.
  • 17 Dec -   The Xmas - New Year "Celebration" Tour.

At the moment a few tours are already FULL but we are taking "standby" bookings while most of the others are well over 50% booked.

If you are looking for a particular date to visit Morocco that is not shown above......just ask, we have the staff and subject to min client numbers we are able to slot-in additional tours.

IDEA........... You could join the 25th August "Soul of Andalusia" tour and then continue directly on the 11th September Eastern Morocco Tour......... What an adventure!!!!!



I have of course no personal knowledge but can report that a seller of sex toys and other related stuff has been sentenced to eight months in prison and fined €900 by a Moroccan court for infringing public decency.
The vendor, who was not named, was sentenced for "importing, holding and exhibiting licentious products and the publication of prints and photos that are against morals and public decencies," it was said.
The court also found against the accused for having obtained a health ministry authorisation "after having provided false information" on its business that is based in Casablanca, the economic heart of the kingdom…..obviously not just the “economical” heart of Morocco then!
The seller had a licence for the sale of "food products, and used it to import erotic objects". A number of fruit “flavoured” and “fruit shaped” objects were produced in an otherwise pathetic defense attempt.
The vendor had apparently come up with the idea of selling such products "after conducting research on the internet, together with some friends,  in order to find a solution to his own sexual problems"…..Mmmm, makes you wonder don’t it!
I was told, but again stress that I have no personal knowledge, that the authorities’ attention was initially drawn to the enterprise due to the huge number of “customers” seen frequenting the newly opened shop in what was previously a very quiet street.  I am also told that most of the confiscated items and material mysteriously disappeared while in the police custody. 


Event Recorders, Dash Cams…….whatever you call them have more than one use. Designed to record the forward view from your vehicle they monitor road and traffic and with “G” force detectors they will record what they call “events” ….accidents to you and me! The advantages are obvious… if the accident was not your fault you have the evidence to support both your protest and possible claim. If the accident was your fault quickly eat the SD card!
Another advantage is that providing you have invested in the higher range HD recording models……you can buy from China via E bay for as little as 25 pounds [bound to be stacked with features] or on the internet elsewhere from anything up to 300 pounds…..you can download onto your laptop really clear recordings of those otherwise hard to describe routes/sections.
Depending on what SD cards you use you can get days and days of continuous recordings. In fact Desert Detours record an entire 24 day tour on just a few cards. But there is another not so obvious feature/advantage….
All our “Tour Escort” vehicles, as well as my own private vehicles, are fitted with the “Road Hawk” unit that seem to be one of the pro-industry favourites. As mentioned we record an ENTIRE 20+ day tours in HD on a few SD cards showing GPS location on Google Map, sound, speed, time/date etc. The clarity of the HD is stunning. The bonus is of course you can replay and/or download the hard to explain visual bits of a trip by simply slipping card into your computer. They come with benefits……..


I was stopped a couple of months ago in Southern Morocco for alleged speeding and a traffic offence. I say alleged because knowing the road like the back of my hand I was aware of the police camera location and took great care.

600dhm was requested by the feds when I was pulled over……..That soon changed to red faces when I run the event on my laptop……even showing the cops pointing the camera at me 100’s of metres ahead. The Road Hawk recording showed my speed to be 35km NOT the alleged 70km and that I DIDN’T cross the white line.

Crazy thing was that while I was distracted accepting a handshake and apology A’Hamed, our tour assistant, had jumped out of the following second escort vehicle and thinking the worst and that I was in trouble, had slipped one of the police offices 100dhm …….. Duhhhhh .

The last Road Hawk we brought had dropped in price to a well worth under £200. Details and info/contact somewhere in the blog below.



In general those who have joined us on tour, even during the winter months, enjoy quite mild [even warm] weather conditions. Crossing the Atlas via the heady Tizzi n Titcha Pass most of us will pause awhile and admire the stunning views ……… Indeed I have a favourite pull-in that I can never pass by….. for many years while escorting our tour groups Sydney [my dog] and myself would take a break  and for a few moments together wonder at the outrageously panoramic. Rolling hills wounded by deep stealthy valleys……and always embraced by distant and indifferent peaks, topped with snow, so idyllic and captivating. Yet there is another side to the splendour……..one all too often revealing its mercilessly harsh and frequently tragic presence.
On a bitterly cold and icy morning in December, Salem Said trudged with his son along a snow-swept track pressing towards the only school in this area of the Atlas Mountains.

This predominantly Berber region is a victim of poor infrastructure and exceptionally harsh winters, as was starkly illustrated just days before when a week-old baby died in Anfgou village, after falling ill because of the extreme cold. The lack of emergency medical assistance was also a contributory factor when an abnormal bout of heavy snowfall made approach roads and tracks impassable. For a time the isolated village was effectively cut off from the outside world.


Holding the hand of his 8-year-old son, sometimes carrying him, Salem Said battled on against the biting sleet and through, at times waist-high drifting snow to get to the tiny school in the village of Timahdite, three kilometres from their hamlet farm. Some may say a foolhardy and irresponsible trek, but following an earlier tragedy meagre stores and wood for a fire, where kept there. 
The family of the baby that died in Anfgou would feel more desperately isolated than most this winter, although they are not the first to suffer such tragedy in recent years. More than 20 children froze to death in this very same deprived High Atlas village during the winter of 2006-2007. There was of course much hand-wringing and promises made in the aftermath of the heart-breaking calamity, but nothing significant had been done. The grading of the link track started but was not yet finished and the nearby transmitter mast still stands tall and silent, awaiting commissioning…….while according to unconfirmed local reports, at least four children have already died from the cold weather this winter.

Said could now feel his feet and fingers, the heat from the fire exceeded its minute size. “We are not asking for the moon. A simple, passable track to link us up is all we’re asking for” he said, while pulling his thick woollen ca====== tight and high. Downing the last remains of a piping mint tea he slipped back into the storm, heading back off towards the family farm.


Calls were launched in recent weeks via social networks from people moved by the situation of these people and information referring to the death of a number of infants.

The response has been positive and "six truckloads of mattresses, blankets and food has been distributed to families living in 10 villages, including that of Anfgou" said Elmahdi Benabdeljalil spokesman for a group composed of sixty concerned Moroccan citizens.

At 1600 meters, Anfgou (400 km south of Rabat) is located in one of the coldest regions of Morocco. As I wrote…..in December a month and a half old baby perished, a victim of the cold and lack of infrastructure. The death brought to five the number of young children who died in similar circumstances, according to local media.

"In addition to the 20 tons of food and hundreds of blankets that were distributed to the inhabitants of different villages," said Mr. Benabdeljalil. "With the help of simple people and some families, we were able to collect more than 350,000 dirhams [32,000 euros]. One person gave 100,000 dirhams [9,000 euros]. I can say that the operation was successful. "

He said he was pleasantly surprised by the cooperation of local authorities who provided all the logistical support for the success of this operation.

The High Atlas region suffers from isolation and a lack of infrastructure and many roads are impassable in winter. Residents complain about having to transport essential goods on donkeys.
Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch, acknowledged that "there is still a gap between urban and mountainous areas. It is in this sense that the Directorate for Rural Development and mountainous areas was created to coordinate and develop projects for the development of rural and mountainous regions,"…………Perhaps things will improve…….Let’s hope so.



Children in remote Moroccan mountains will soon be able to walk to school with dry feet, thanks to a team of volunteers from Shepperton.

Dozens of wellington boots have been donated by kind-hearted residents to Baraka Community Partnerships, a charity based in Shepperton High Street.

Mother-of-one Anne Ridgway, who lives in Manor Farm Avenue, is collecting the boots on behalf of the charity, and hopes to send them to youngsters based in the village of Tighza in the Atlas Mountains.

Mrs Ridgway, 47, got talking to charity director Andy McKee at a fundraising event and soon after was visiting one of its projects in Morocco with her husband Jonathan and daughter Alexandra, 16. She said: “We stayed in their homes and did things like painting and digging toilets. "Now we try and do something each year and this time it is collecting wellies.

"The kids walk miles to school and the weather can be really bad, there is torrential rain at times. Most are barefoot or in sandals. If they have these boots they can get to school.”

Mrs Ridgway has so far received around 50 pairs of children’s wellies that she is keeping at her home until they can be taken to Morocco in the coming months.

Youngsters from schools including Littleton CofE Infant School have donated dozens of pairs including some with frogs on and brightly coloured ones.

Baraka Community Partnerships was set up in 2006. The name means blessing in a number of Arabic-based languages. They also work on projects in Laos, India and Zambia.

The charity is looking for more pairs of child’s wellies to be donated. To find out more information, email Mrs Ridgway on anne.ridgway@ntlworld.com

Lamb tagine with dates:


This recipe comes from the Souss, where Argan oil is produced and is often used to flavour all sorts of dishes, including this tagine. You don’t need to use it, but if you have been to that part of Morocco and have eaten this tagine there, you’ll miss it if you don’t. Use the best quality dates you can find, pitted or unpitted as you wish, for this unusual tagine.

Serves: 6, Preparation time: 15 minutes, Cooking time: 3 hours
You will need:
1.6kg shoulder of lamb on the bone, cut into 4cm chunks
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp saffron water
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
¾–1 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2–3 tbsp melted unsalted butter, argan oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, very finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
225g Medjoul dates, pitted if you like
Ground Ceylon cinnamon


1. Trim the excess fat from the meat. Crush the garlic with one teaspoon salt to a paste in a mortar. Loosen with the saffron water, then stir in the spices and butter or oil.

2. Place the meat and spice mixture in a 28 to 30 centimetres tagine set on a heat diffuser over a low heat, and toss and cook to release the aroma of the spices. Stir in half the onion, the coriander and 240 millilitre hot water. Raise the heat to medium and bring to the boil. Cover the tagine, reduce the heat and simmer for two hours.

3. Add the remaining onions to the tagine and simmer, uncovered, for a further one hour or until the meat is very tender and the sauce has reduced to a thick gravy.

4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. If your tagine is not capable of taking high heat, transfer the contents of the pot to a shallow baking dish. Place the dates around or among the chunks of meat.

5. Sprinkle each date or cluster of dates with pinches of ground cinnamon.

6. Bake, uncovered, in the upper part of the oven for about 15 minutes or until the dates become a little crusty.

Best served at once.