Having already spent one incredible week splashing through the waves of the Mediterranean and hunting down secret waterfalls amongst the mountaintops of the Atlas, it was time for our 15-day road trip through northern Morocco to take a more cultural turn.
Fez, our next stop, is an imperial city and custodian of thirteen centuries of Moroccan history. The city is best known for its celebrated UNESCO recognised Medina, the largest in the world. Not wasting any time, we strolled through lively streets lined with food stalls, handmade carpets, lanterns, leather goods and pottery. A guide is a must if you want to explore the medina properly and we suggest hiring an official one.
On the recommendations of a friend, we stayed at the medina to get an authentic experience and Riad Anata didn’t disappoint. Located two steps from Place Batha, the Andalusian-inspired home is a sanctuary of modern comfort with a traditional feel. The riad provided the perfect refuge after busy sightseeing days and we loved ending each evening sipping mint tea and watching the golden sunsets from the rooftop deck.
One of the highlights of our stay was taking part in Riad Anata’s traditional cooking class with chef Mina. The experience offered us a complete immersion into the Moroccan culture. We set out early to the medina to shop for our ingredients, followed traditional Moroccan recipes while learning about the importance of food in Moroccan life. Then later, feasted on a delicious meal of lamb tagine and carrot and aubergine salad.
For those looking to escape the medina at night, Fez’s new city offers every modern convenience including shopping malls, restaurants, and hotels.
Overlooking the medina, Sahrai became Fez’s first real boutique hotel when it opened in 2014 and is now a firm favourite with on-trend locals. The city’s cosmopolitan set usually drop in for cocktails either in the curtained open-air gallery near the bar or in the rooftop bar overlooking the city. During our visit, our children couldn’t get enough of the panoramic infinity pool.
Our next stop was Morocco’s capital city, Rabat. Ten years ago, I did a financial report on Morocco’s economy and lived in the city for several months. What I remember was a sleepy town with little to no nightlife and a sparse offering of tourist attractions. Today, we found quite the opposite.
Rabat, situated on the Atlantic Ocean, has undergone a transformation thanks to the government’s efforts to bolster the city’s standing alongside European capitals.
With its clean central beach, promenade, and an attractive walled medina, Rabat has all the makings of a “must-do” for any travel itinerary. The city is also home to the country’s most important museum, the Royal Palace and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
Our favourite stop was the city’s Kasbah district. Inside the 11th-century fortress’ walls was a tranquil tiny neighbourhood of twisting white-and-blue laneways, a perfect place for aimless, meandering strolls – and letting the kids run wild.
I believe that the way you experience a city starts with where you decide to rest your head and our family couldn’t have found a better place in Rabat than the Villa Mandarine. Nestled in the heart of a vast orange grove, entering the Villa Mandarine is like stepping into a secret garden. The hotel is located in an upmarket area of Rabat. Once home to a wealthy local family, the building is now a charming 32-room oasis of Moroccan tradition. The hotel is popular with both leisure and business travellers, but no matter who you are, you’re welcomed as if you’re family.
We started our trip by the sea and what better way to end our holiday than to spend our last night on the ultimate beach. Located 45 minutes from Tangier, is the small beach town of Asilah. Although this lovely and tranquil coastal town is a big draw for guests fleeing busy cities, we were directed to a treasured secret known only to selected locals.
Chez Mounir, a private beach stretching as far as the eye can see and hidden within the dunes ten kilometres from Asilah, is nothing short of paradise. Consisting of a main house and several bungalows, Chez Mounir caters to guests looking for a simple, peaceful escape. Although the accommodations can be a bit rustic, what you gain in environment is unmatched. We played on the beach, swam in warm waters and dined on freshly caught fish at night.
Although it was difficult to leave Morocco and all its wonderful cities and sites behind, we were consoled by the fact that our trip could always be repeated, thanks to the many flights and the ease of getting around in this wonderful country.
- Karyn Gorman and Olav Adami