posted on 19/04/15
by Tim Greenhalgh
In late January this year I travelled to Morocco for a prospecting trip that would take me from Fez to Marrakech. We followed the old caravan routes through the Middle and High Atlas mountains, driving through stunning landscapes from snow-capped peaks to the Tafilelt Oasis, the world’s largest palm grove.
The purpose of my trip was twofold: firstly to review and evaluate the hotels and restaurants used on our tours currently, and secondly to meet our contacts in the region to ensure that we offer the most authentic and wide-ranging experience possible in such a culturally rich and diverse country.
There are few things in Morocco more authentic than the ancient art of Hikayat (storytelling). Once a common sight in the infamous Jemaa el-Fnaa square, today it is rare to catch a tale or two from one of the red city’s raconteurs. Whilst in Marrakech, I was privileged to hear stories from a real master, and the passion in his expression was captivating, so much so that it almost transcended the language barrier – this is an experience we would like to offer to tour participants in the future.
The mysticism of the performance transported me back to Fez where my journey had begun. Many consider it to be the country’s ‘dark heart’ and it is easy to see why when in the middle of the medina and its assault on the senses. Donkeys transport the cargo through the narrow passageways, lined with all manner of produce and handicrafts. Occasionally, an opening emerges where several alleys meet and you’re greeted by the sight and sound of artisans hammering metal or carving wood. These foundouks (workshops) as well as the tanneries are what make Fez so special: knowledge and techniques which are passed down from one generation to the next and have remained largely unchanged for centuries. No surprise, then, that the entirety of the old walled city is a UNESCO world heritage site.
I hope this gives a snapshot of a country with an incredible amount to offer. Both our Andalusian Morocco and Morocco tours include a huge variety of sites, landscapes and history and I urge you to plan to discover these for yourselves.