From Marrakesh we drove southwest to the coastal city of Essaouira, then headed further south before turning northeast and finally back to the Red City. This was the tour part of my trip. I’ve included interesting bits from most the places that we stopped, even if briefly.
Morocco’s roads, for the most part, are paved and maintained in these parts. There are some rough patches and hairpin mountain passes that make a few kilometers last a long while, so be aware. Distance does not equal speed. If you are prone to motion sickness, you’ll want to prepare ahead.
This is argan oil country. At some point you’ll most like spot tree-climbing goats, the only ones that climb, who like to help themselves to the tree’s fruit. There are lots of cooperatives just outside of town so you can have a look at how the oil is extracted from the nuts and buy products for skin, hair and edible treats, one of the most tasty being amlou, the ‘Moroccan Nutella’.
Having spent only an afternoon enjoying this picturesque seaside town, I can only say it’s a pretty place worth exploring. Once called Mogador by the French, the city took its modern name after Moroccan independence in 1956. You’ll see it referred to both ways.
A strategic port used by the Phoenicians, Portuguese, and Arabs you’ll want to take a walk along the walls of the citadel built by the King of Portugal in 1506. The cannons date to the 1760s.
Deja vu? Game of Thrones was filmed here. You’ll also want to check out the Port, Scala du Port, and watch the fisherman work at sunset with the wind blowing in your hair.
Handicrafts made from local ‘thuya’ wood are popular souvenirs. Watch the marquetry artists honing their craft at the Centre Artisanal D’essaouria, where you can buy all manner of finished products, large and small [118 Avenue Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah].
For a tasty treat while shopping in the medina, do try Lamandine Souiria for the most delicious Moroccan pastries. A box of these beauties will only set you back a few bucks.
Windsurf, kite surf and take a camel ride on the beach here if that’s more your speed. Or, plan a visit during the annual Gnawa Music Festival, celebrated since 1988. During the four day festival over half a million people descend upon the port city to hear the mystical music.
We stayed just outside of town at the lovely Jardins d-Argane Hotel. Resident peacocks roam free. We dined here as well and were happy with the food and service and our room had a small balcony overlooking the pool.
A newly rebuilt city, after being destroyed by a major earthquake in 1960, only a few remnants of Agadir’s old history remain. Drive up to the Kasbah, one of the only remaining examples of medieval architecture left in the city. Its position provides a stunning view of the city and coastline below.
Next, head down to the sea for lunch. I didn’t expect to enjoy eating at Le Nil Bleu. Named after a river in Egypt, it looked like a tourist trap on the beach. It was terrific! Right off the bat I’ll say it was the BEST hummus, tabbouleh and baba ganoush I have ever tasted. Cold beers with great food and company. I’d repeat.
A few miles out from the city center is La Médina d’Agadir, a life-size, open-air recreation of Agadir’s former medina, also wrecked by the earthquake. Constructed in 1992 using traditional Berber techniques, this place has it all, clothing, home goods, produce and prepared foods. The tagines were a great buy, if you can get it home.
This little town is best known for traditional, locally made new and antique silver Berber jewelry. Spend some time wandering around the medina and souks hunting for take-home treasure.
We stayed at Tigmi Kenza, a beautiful riad with a cool history, just ask the owner Karim, who is most likely helping you get checked in. This place has everything you’d want in a boutique hotel: comfort, beauty, intimacy, great food and friendly locals and guests willing to share their love of Tiznit and Morocco. All you need to do is ask!
Stop in Sidi Ifni to take a walk on the beach and eat at Nomad, a little restaurant with hispter cool music wafting in the air. If you meet the owner Abdellah and any of his friends happen to be dining, you’ll be treated to interesting conversation and a lot of laughs. Just about everyone we met in Morocco has a genuine love affair with their own town, and is willing to sing its praises. If you are vegetarian or vegan, just ask if they can accommodate you. [Boulevard Moulay Youssef]
Unless you have more time and can spend a few nights in the desert, I wouldn’t recommend heading all the way to Guelmim to see Plage Blanche. If you do, see if you can arrange to stay in a desert camp. Morocco really does have it all – Beaches and coastal towns, big cities, cool mountain air and sandy deserts.
El Malara is a showstopper. Designed and built by a French couple, Jean and Bernadette, who retired to Tafraout, it’s setting in the Anti-Atlas Mountains is tranquil and gorgeous. You’ll be looking for reasons to stay and plotting your return.
If you are heading northeast into the High Atlas Mountains make a stop in Taroudant and have a look around the medina and the souks. You will be rewarded with fewer tourists and the best treasure hunting thus far. There will be the ubiquitous babouches and leather poufs, but there are some small shops packed with antiques.
I bargained for a small, old bellows (there are lots to be had in Morocco) from Bazar la main de Fatima, Chez Larbi Mars (N 62 Souk Alijazarin). If you are looking for antique Berber jewelry, blankets, or bags check out Antiquites du Haut Atlas (36 Souk Smata).
My friend and I absolutely loved our time at the Hiba Lodge, a mountain-side lodge home in the High Atlas Mountains. Lots of hikers stay in Imlil as a jumping off point to enjoy the incredible mountain terrain. Owned by a local family, it’s very cozy and the food they prepared for us was wonderful. It was cold at night and the in-room fireplaces and cozy Berber blankets were extra comfy. We wish we could have stayed longer!
Our tour guide arranged for a wonderful surprise on our last afternoon in the mountains before heading back to Marrakesh – a cooking class with a million dollar view! We learned to make tagine and bread the traditional way, cooking on a charcoal fire and in a clay oven.
The air was clean, the sun warm, the food delicious, the company fun and easy-going and that view! The picture is worth a 1,000 words.