Fes Food, Eating Well in Fes

Riad Dar Roumana, Fes

Riad Dar Roumana, Fes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fes is the culinary and cultural capital of Morocco. The city of Fes is a leader in Moroccan cuisine. The ancient traditions of Fes cuisine come alive at a variety of riads and restaurants throughout the old city of Fes. New on the scene are a wide variety of boutique riads that have opened their doors to the public and are merging traditional Fassis table cuisine with French and International flavors. Morocco Travel Specialist, Alecia Cohen, takes a look at the best places to dine and experience cuisine in Fes to tempt your pallets on a Morocco Tour.

The world famous Fes Sacred Music Festival takes place each June and Dar Roumana’s restaurant at 30 Derb el Amer Zkak, Roumane in Fes Medina is open daily offering pre-concert dinners from 6pm – 8pm Dar Roumana and they also offer a smaller menu (2 starters, 2 mains and 2 desserts) for a reduced price of 300dh for three courses or 225dh for two courses. For those not attending the festival Dar Roumana’s usual dinner service will continue as normal from 7.30pm – 9pm. It is essential to book well beforehand during this busy period. Dinner is served in the patio and on the terrace with spectacular views of the medina and includes varied delicacies such as roasted beetroot, orange, mint and feta salad, spiced roasted quail with dried fruit orzo, moroccan fishcakes with cucumber and radish ribbon salad and sweet harissa dipping sauce, baked chicken thighs with honey, hazelnut and saffron with carrot and cumin mash. Dar Roumana is run by husband and wife team Vanessa and Vincent. Vincent is a Le Cordon Bleue certified chef and serves up a great table in Fes. Vanessa and Vincent are fabulous hosts and dining at Roumana is a must when in Fes.

The garden restaurant attached to Riad Idrissy at 13 Derb Idrissi, Sieje, Sidi Ahmed Chaoui, referred to as the Ruined Garden, is set in the romantic remains of a crumbling riad which has been turned into a delightful garden, with mosaic floors, fountains and exotic foliage. Lunch is prepared using fresh produce from the souk and includes salads – such as zaalouk (smoky aubergine, tomato and paprika puree) and tfaya (chickpeas, onions, raisins and cinnamon) – and street food, cooked to order in the garden, such as sardines marinated in chermoula (garlic, paprika, cumin, olive oil and lemon juice) with a polenta batter and makuda, spiced battered potato cakes. Afternoon tea is a blend of English and Moroccan, including tea made from homegrown mint and wormwood. After 7pm, the garden is open for dinner by prior arrangement only, offering mechoui lamb (anything from a leg to a whole animal) cooked for seven hours over charcoal, Sephardic suppers and Roman banquets. The ruined garden at Riad Idrissy will operate as a festival green room – where artists, journalists and the audience can mingle between the Fes Sacred Music Festival concerts. Opening hours are between 12 noon and 9.30pm. There is also the great boon of no background music.

Another great lunch and dinner venue in Fes is Palais Amani at 12 Derb el Miter, Oued Zhoune.This imposing Art Deco former palace has superb gardens Is known for excellent high class Moroccan cuisine and you can dine in the restaurant or the patio, booking is essential.

Restaurant Numero 7 Fes, Chef in Residence

Restaurant Numero 7 Fes, Chef in Residence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Numero 7 has a rotating Chef in residence program that uses seasonal produce sourced from the markets in Fes and nearby farms for its cuisine. Located in the heart of Moroccan gastronomy each chef in residence utilizes Numero 7 as their center stage to create a table of unique cuisine through their own interpretation. Numero 7 is owned by Stephen di Renza, a former fashion director for Neiman Marcu and Bergdoff Goodman. He divides his time between Fes and Mararkech. Di Renzi is also the creative director of the Yves Saint Laurent Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech. Numero 7 is a must dine experience for those interested in modern, creative cuisine with a Moroccan touch.

La Maison Bleue offers a classic table in Fes and reservations are also necessary at this elegant riad restaurant. The setting is intimate and romantic, with diners serenaded by an oud player (replaced by livelier Gnawa song and dance at the end of the evening). You’ll be treated to an array of cooked salads, tajines, couscous and bastilla (savoury pastries), plus filo pastry desserts.

At Dar El Ghalia, a restored 18th century palace you will find Dar Tajine, one of the best known restaurants in Fes. You can choose from set menus or à la carte: there are salads, excellent Harira, grills, fresh fish, tagines and couscous.

Chez Vittorio is in the rustic Italian restaurant angle well, right down to the candles and checked cloths. The food is good value, Go for the pizzas or steak and enjoy the wine.

Dar Anebar is a riad you can dine in fne surroundings, in the splendid courtyard, or one of the cosy salons. The menu is strictly Moroccan, but of the highest standard, and wine is available.

Palais Jamaï is a five-star hotel has a superb position overlooking the medina. There’s a French restaurant and a Moroccan restaurant. At lunch they serve a good buffet on the terrace above the pool (or in the dining room in winter): there’s the salad buffet, or the salad buffet with barbecue and dessert.

Fes is truly international and Kiotori restaurant offers sushi with a Japanese chef.

Café Clock is a restored town house and is an important and highly original cultural centre which offers a varied menu with offerings such as falafel, grilled sandwiches, some interesting vegetarian options, a substantial camel burger, and delicious cakes and tarts. It is open right through the day into the evening so you can eat whenever you want.

Fes Cafe, Jardin Des Biehn

Fes Cafe, Jardin Des Biehn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fez Café is set in a fine garden in Le Jardin des Biehn, Dinner is available both before and after and during concerts.

Le Kasbah restaurant is on several floors at Bab Bou Jeloud, and occupies a prime spot: the top floor looks out over the medina, making it a good place to relax over food. The menu is traditional Moroccan fare, tajines, couscous and grilled meat.

Fes is famed for its street food and probably the most well known establishment is Thami’s at Bou Jeloud, 50 Serrajine in the Medina. It is highly recommended by the website “The View from Fez.” They recommend Thami’s kefta tagine with egg, the melange and the fish. Fes has many such small establishments and a visit to the vegetable and spices souks will enrich your knowledge and appreciation of Moroccan daily life and the variety of its cuisine even in very simple establishments.

And for those who want the intimacy of a leafy garden, try Ryad Mabrouka as this delightful guesthouse in the warmer months is perfect for lunch, or in winter in the 1st-floor dining room overlooking the medina. Traditional fare is served in a three-course set menu, and wine is available. It’s necessary to book 24 hours in advance. 

For more information Fes Food or a Fes Tour.

For more information about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Moroccan Kasbah’s of the Great South, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Ait Benhaddou, Kasbahs of the Great South

Ait Benhaddou, Kasbahs of the Great South

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Moroccan Kasbah was a place for the local Caid or Pacha to live in and a place of defense when a city was under attack not unlike the medieval European keep. Sometimes, they were built on hilltops so that they could be more easily defended such as the famous Ait Benhaddou near Ouarzazate. It is no accident that many great films like Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator were filmed here because it retains the character and atmosphere of centuries ago when it was an important post on the camel caravan route from Africa to Morocco.

Ait Benhaddou Kasbah was a busy teeming Ksar (a fortified town) with fortified towers and reinforced walls. Inside the Ksar, there was a central mosque surrounded by family homes, communal areas and small palaces. In its earlier history, Ait Benhaddou is believed to have housed thousands of inhabitants. It was composed of six Kasbahs and nearly fifty houses, made with red pisé and connected through a complex maze of narrow streets. Visitors can step straight into the medieval past and it is a great place to take the family to explore.

Valle of One-Thousand Kasbahs, Skoura Palmeraie

Valle of One-Thousand Kasbahs, Skoura Palmeraie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morocco’s Southern region and in particular the region of Skoura is referred to the “Valley of one-thousand Kasbahs,” referring to the way-stations of ancient caravan routes traveled by tradesmen and adventurers. They brought with them customs and crafts, beliefs and skills, and they sought shelter and social interaction within secure Kasbah walls.

Skoura has superb Kasbahs on its doorstep, including the ruins of the Kasbah Amerhidil, and it is an excellent base from which to explore the Dades Valley, the Todra Gorge and the Valley of the Roses.

The Glaoui Kasbahs at Telouet and Taourit are also historic sites to visit on a Morocco Tour. Telouet, the seat of Thami El Glaoui Pacha of Marrakech under the French is an imposing ruin with a central living area which is relatively well preserved with the Glaoui’s living quarters bedecked in flowered zellij tiles looking out on to the village of Telouet. Kasbahs were also fortified mansions built by the rich and powerful caids and local feudal leaders. Kasbah Taourit is another imposing Glaoui Kasbah in Ouarzazate the capital of the South. The Krupp cannon which founded the fortunes of the Glaoui’s which enabled them to dominate rival tribes still lies outside Kasbah Taourit.

Ksar Ighnda Boutique Kasbah Hotel

Ksar Ighnda Boutique Kasbah Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the centuries Morocco’s strong and enduring Kasbahs have kept silent vigil guarding communities from potential attack which was all too common in the feudal era which lasted right up to the 1950’s chronicled in Gavin Maxwell’s epic account “Lords of the Atlas.”

Some of Morocco’s finest boutique riads and hotels are now converted Kasbahs. Built or rebuilt in traditional style, they have been renovated to accommodate tourists in luxury and style.

A few of the best examples are found in Ouarzazate and Skoura region. In the Ait Benhaddou Region, Riad Ksar Ighnda is a restored Kasbah with modern architecture that offers a luxury experience and stay inclusive of a private pool, roof top dining, a Hammam and is away from the city center.

In Skoura there are boutique riad guests houses, Les Jardins Des Skoura and Kasbah Ait Ben Damiette, converted Kasbahs that are French owned and offer up luxurious stays surrounded by gardens. Both are located in the heart of the Skoura palmeraie.

More Kasbah’s are being renovated and turned into boutique hotels and guesthouses to offer Moroccan travelers an exciting authentic experience.

The most well known Kasbah Hotel in Skoura is Dar Ahlam, “Dream House” which is an an opulent boutique hotel in the heart of the Skoura palmeraie. Built around a labyrinthine converted Kasbah from the early 20th century, this luxurious property consists of nine suites and three private villas in the attractive gardens with a large swimming pool.

Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot is another well-known luxury Kasbah Hotel located in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. This property offers fantastic service, a beautiful spa, restaurant, and a stunning mountain backdrop.

Kasbah Bab Ourika in the Ourika Valley offers outstanding views of the High Atlas and is a great value place to stay with friendly staff and fantastic food made from produce from their own garden.

At Imlil at the foot of Jebel Toubkal with breathtaking terrace views of the peaks and valleys, Kasbah Du Toubkal is the perfect base for exploring the Atlas Mountains and experiencing Berber culture.

Today, as as Morocco traveler, the ancient Kasbahs of the Great South can be discovered through historic visits on a private tour and visitors also have the opportunity to stay in one.

For more information about Ancient Kasbahs of Morocco’s Great South or a Kasbah Tour.

For more information about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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The Moroccan Music Scene, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Gnaoua Festival, Essaouira Place du marché aux Grains

Gnaoua Festival, Essaouira
Place du marché aux Grains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Marrakech’s Djemaa El Fna Square amongst the orange juice stalls and story tellers you will find stalls with CD’s testifying to the popularity and importance of Morocco’s contemporary music scene which began with the accession of King Mohammed VI in 1999 when greater liberalization of musical genre especially for young people who sought music which reflected their aspirations was gradually phased in and supported with musical festivals organized with royal support and sponsorship like the annual Mazawine Music Festival in Rabat, The Gnawa Festival in Essaouria and the World Sacred Music Festival in Fez. Moroccan TV and radio channels also play an important role with live performances. The Moroccan contemporary music scene and its festivals have successfully fused elements of its ancient Berber musical traditions with modern music such as Chaabi, Hiphop and Rai and Rap.

Traditional Berber folk village music called Ahwash, is very much alive and is on display in July each year at the National Festival of Popular Arts at the Badii Palace in Marrakech. The music performed by professional musicians called Raiss includes comedy and dances in their performances.

Ouarzazate Festival Hadous Musicians

Ouarzazate Festival Hadous Musicians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two famous traditional musical bands are Bachir Attar’s Master Musicians of Jajouka who originally met with Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones in 1969 and recorded with them. Their music celebrates the pagan rites centered on the figure of Boujeloud who has been likened to Pan. They perform regular concerts in Morocco and abroad including the United States and Germany playing with international musicians. They recently featured in Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown “ program on CNN. The other traditional band is the Daqqa of Marrakech who perform a ritual dance for the religious festival of Ashura.

Chaabi is a popular music descended from Moroccan folk music. Originally performed in markets, it is now performed during celebrations or meetings. Chaabi songs end with a swift rhythmic section and syncopated clapping. Modern instruments like electric guitars and buzuks are also used as well as lutes and a drum.

Andalusian classical music called Al Ala was brought to Morocco following the Reconquista in Spain when Muslims and Jews were forced to leave. It is an urban form of music which is highly popular and performed with large orchestras frequently on TV and radio. Jewish musicians had a profound influence on Al Ala.

Gnawa was brought to Morocco by Sub-Saharan Africans and later became part of the Moroccan tradition. Much of the modern fusion draws on Gnawa and the annual Essaouira Gnawa Festival is now broadening its musical performances to include a more contemporary repertoire.

Classical Malhum which translates as “gift” or “inspiration” is Arabic in origin and is derived from Sufi inspired Arabic Andalusian poetry.

Sufi Brotherhoods (tarikas) are widespread in Morocco, and music is an integral part of their spiritual tradition. The purpose is to induce a trance state which inspires mystical ecstasy. Leading Sufi Brotherhoods include the Derkoua, Hamadasha, Aissoua and the Jilala.

Modern music includes Rai which is associated with Algeria in the international music scene, but Morocco has produced its own stars lincluding Cheb Mimoun and Hanino. Other genre include Hiphop, Electronica and Fusion, which draws on Gnawa, Jazz and heavy metal. Casablanca is a major center for contemporary Moroccan music.

Pirating remains a concern for Moroccan musicians as it is difficult to establish copyright for music performances and CD’s, although Morocco has an intellectual property rights law. In Marrakech an English music producer Nick Wilde set up Marrakchi Records a record label, music publishing and artist management company to support young Moroccan musicians. Marrakchi Records provides a management service for Moroccan musicians and promotes them thus helping to establish them in the fast moving contemporary Moroccan music scene. It covers all genres from Rock, Hiphop, Electronic,   gnawa , blues and African music. Artists who have successfully produced albums with Marrakchi Records include Caravane, Blue Medina, DJ Haze, Mwanssa, Chaabi and Nisrine.

The Moroccan Music scene is vast and growing along with it’s new pop up festivals and summer venues.

For more information about the Moroccan Music Scene or Festivals in Morocco 

For more information about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

 

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Marrakech Voted World’s Top Holiday Destination by Trip Advisor

Djemaa El Fna at night

Djemaa El Fna at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The city of Marrakech has been voted the World’s Top Holiday Destination by Trip Advisor. Based upon travelers’ reviews compiled by Trip Advisor to choose the best world travel destination, Marrakech, Morocco came in on top in March 2015.

Marrakech is known as the “red city or Al Hamra,” a city in southwestern Morocco within the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Marrakech is the second largest city and administrative center in Morocco. Marrakech, guarantees an exciting holiday experience with it’s lively souks, majestic gardens, oriental palaces, markets, historic medina and Djemaa El Fan Square filled with snake charmers, entertainers and outdoor food stalls.

Marrakech is an hour from the High Atlas, three hours from the Atlantic Coast and five hours from the Sahara Desert region. Marrakech’s unique location makes it the premier city to visit on a Morocco Tour and also an ideal city for excursions for those travelers who want to take in the city for a week.

Some of the key hotspots not to be missed on a visit to Marrakech are the Majorelle Gardens, The Koutoubia Mosque, El Bahia Balance, Ben Youssef Medersa, the Saadian Tombs, the Spice Market and the ancient Jewish Mellah.

Followed by other vibrant cities such as Istanbul, Hanoi, Prague, London, England, Rome, Buenos Aires, Paris and Capetown Marrakech should be on every travelers bucket list.

For more information about Marrakech or a Marrakech Tour.

For more information about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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The Berbers of Morocco, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Almost everything you see in and around Morocco, particularly in the South, is Berber in conception whether it be the riches of arts and crafts silver jewelry, wood carving, carpets and Kelims, brass and ceramics and pottery, the delicious tangines and couscous, and the villages of the countryside. Above all the people dressed in traditional Djellabas, the families and their delightful irrepressible children, all are Berber.

Berber Villages Morocco

Berber Villages Morocco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In modern day times it is possible to visit a local Berber family on a Morocco Tour and experience the culture from bread baking in the mountains and enjoying tea with a Berber family. On a Berber Village Tour a traveler will experience the authentic Morocco that is often not experienced when traveling in large groups or with a company that does not have interconnections with local Berber families.

The Berbers were the original inhabitants of Morocco, 4.000 years ago, well before the Phoenicans, Carthaginians , Romans, Byzantines and the Arabs who arrived in the 7th Century. The Romans made them citizens and many served in their legions but they never subjugated them.

Berber Village, Ait Ouzzine, Berber Tours

Berber Village, Ait Ouzzine, Berber Tours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tribes in the Atlas mountains withstood the Arab invaders and while they accepted Islam, they maintained their independent customs and way of life in a remarkably resilient way despite attempts to repress and marginalize them. The great dynasties of Morocco began with the Almoravids (1062–1147) with their capital in Marrakech and the Almohads (1147–1269) through to the Merenids and Saadians who ruled from the Sahara to Spain were Berber dynasties . When the French Protectorate was established( 1912-1956) the Berbers in the South resisted them and in the North Abdelkrim El Khattabi proclaimed the Riffian Republic from 1920-26 and resisted the combined forces of the Spanish and French for ten months when they launched poison gas attacks by air against the Berber forces.

Most figures put the Berber population of Morocco at around 60 per cent of the Moroccan population, though Berber experts say that almost 80 percent of the country claims at least some Berber heritage.

Tifinah Berber Language Alphabet Sign

Tifinah Berber Language Alphabet Sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today under King Mohammed VI, Tamazight the Berber language is recognized as an official language taught in schools and at the Universities including the University of Ibn Zhor and there is a Royal Institute of Amazigh language and culture (IRCAM) which is working to create a standardized version of the Berber language and a dictionary.

Berber first names were banned for a longtime but were recently declared legal. There is a high quality satellite Amazigh TV channel which broadcasts daily in the Tachelhit, Tarifit and Tamazight dialects, reflecting the diverse cultural achievements of Berber writers, poets, artists and craftsmen. The Berber flag can be seen flying from innumerable shops and windows in nearly any city. Berber radio programs and a small film industry have both grown in recent years. Berber musicians and singers such as Raissa Talbensirt, the doyenne of Amazigh singers, and Najat Aatabou are extremely popular in Morocco. Berber ritual music often features drums and rhythmic handclapping. It is used in the rites of the agricultural calendar – such as moussems – as well as on occasions such as marriage. Ritual music is also performed to help deal with evil spirits.

In the Atlas Mountains professional troupes of musicians, called Imdyazn, travel during summer and perform in village squares and at weekly souks. A leader improvises poems telling of current affairs. Drum, rabab and clarinet accompany the singer.

Rwais are Cheleuh Berber musicians from the Sous valley who perform ancient musical theatre involving poetry, fine clothes, jewels and elaborate rwais. Groups consist of single-string rabab, one or two lotars (lutes), sometimes nakous (cymbals), and a number of singers. They play for every celebration and produce their own repertoire and improvisations. Female ensembles are called raysat.

Berbers refer to themselves as Imagzihen which is said to refer to free people. Tashelhit (sometimes known as “Soussi” or “Chleuh”) is spoken in south-west Morocco, in an area between Ifni in the south, Agadir in the north and Marrakech and the Draa/Sous valleys in the east. The southern Atlas and Anti Atlas Mountains are home to the Chleuh or Shilhah. The Chelueh are the largest Berber tribe in the country and often viewed as having the most ‘pure’ Berber language, Tashlhit. The majority of Berber films and music are produced in the Tashlhit language.

Tamazight is spoken in the Middle Atlas, between Taza, Khemisset, Azilal and Errachidia. Tarifit (or Rifia) is spoken in the Rif area of northern Morocco. Drawa Berbers are found in the Draa Valley. The Dades live in the North East, The Mesgita, Seddrat and Zeri tribes are along the North West. The Moroccan Rif region is home to the Ghomara.

Some Berbers living around Ouazarzate in the south remain nomadic herders and the Tuaregs of the Sahara Desert near Zagora and guelmim are also Berbers, whose language Tamazight is considered the least corrupted out of all Berber languages . Their highly distinctive jewelry and symbols and their Tifinagh script display a fascinating world symbols.

Many schools now teach a standardized form of Tamazight. As well as the University of Ibn Zohr offering degrees in Amazigh, an umbrella term for the three dialects of Berber that are spoken in Morocco, the previously oral-only language has moved further into the mainstream with the creation of a Royal Institute of Amazigh language and culture.

The strong hold of Berber culture has cemented itself in Moroccan daily life and to experience the traditions, the people and their culture first hand on a Tour to Morocco makes for an enriching discovery of Berber Morocco

For more information about the Berbers of Morocco or a Berber Cultural Tour

For more information about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

 

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Morocco’s Rural Markets, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Sidi Mokhtar, Souk, Breakfast - Photo by Lynn Sheppard

Sidi Mokhtar, Souk, Breakfast – Photo by Lynn Sheppard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even if your trip to Morocco is mainly centered around the major cities, it is worth getting out for a day into the countryside to see rural life. Although the majority of the Moroccan population now officially lives in urban areas, many retain an attachment to the land and their native town or village. It is worthwhile, therefore, seeing Moroccan life in a different context, as it is still lived by many people. Despite increasing urbanization, the agricultural sector in Morocco still employs around half of the workforce and there is nothing quite like the hub of activity on a Moroccan market day!

On any day of the week, a market (or souk) will take place somewhere in each Province (a region like a State in the US or a county in the UK). The souk often takes place in one of the larger towns or in a village which acts as a hub for the surrounding rural area and local farms. The weekly market is so ingrained in local culture that many towns include the day of their souk in their name. Take a look at a map of Morocco: any town with “el had” in its name has the weekly souk on a Sunday. Likewise, “khamiss” means the market is on a Thursday.

Souks and Markets, Morocco

Souks and Markets, Morocco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rural markets provide several essential services for local people. As well as being an opportunity to buy and sell essential items, the souk is a weekly meeting point. Unlike in other cultures, it is mainly men who attend the souk, picking the shopping according to the strict instructions of their wives and mothers. While they are at the market, they take the opportunity to pause for a cup of tea or three and catch up on local gossip with their friends and the itinerant traders.

The weekly souk might also be a chance to use services that we might be more accustomed to accessing on a high street or in a mall. Dotted around the edge of any souk are the barbers’ tents, doing a brisk trade in haircuts and close shaves. And whereas in the West we might park our car in a multi-storey parking lot or leave it with a mechanic for a service, Moroccan farmers tether their donkey at the roadside and catch a taxi to the market, or bring their donkey along for a once-over by the vet or blacksmith.

At the larger markets, for example the Sunday market at Had Dra between Marrakech and Essaouira, early risers will be rewarded with the sight of cattle auctions and camel trading. On-site abattoirs ensure that sheep, cattle and goats traded that morning are slaughtered according to Muslim customs before being sold by the kilo or as a quick barbecued snack for those needing some sustenance before the journey home. People travel long distances to reach the souk and public transport is always packed on market days.

If you have the opportunity to visit a rural market, it is unlikely you will find much of interest to buy. Unless you are self-catering, the heaps of fresh fruit and vegetables are more likely to be of photographic interest than for purchasing. If you do buy something, make sure you buy a sack or a woven basket to carry it in. You will marvel at the recycling ingenuity of rural people, who upcyle tires into feeding troughs, plastic into grocery baskets and old jars into storm lanterns. Pause for a beldy (authentic, rural) breakfast – buy all of the ingredients for your breakfast by weight (a couple of dirhams of tea, a few ounces of sugar and a bunch of mint) and take them to one of the pop-up cafes to have someone brew the super sweet tea. Pick up a freshly baked loaf, a packet of homemade cookies, handful of olives, a half pound of fruit or some grilled nuts. If you dare, grab a couple of bits of meat or offal and have them grilled over charcoal. Your cafe host will supply plates and – depending on your region – some olive or argan oil for dipping your bread in.

If you are based in Marrakech, nearby souks worth a visit include Asni (Saturdays) or Tahanout (Tuesdays). Around Essaouira, as well as Had Dra on Sundays, you can visit Smimou (also Sunday), Akermoud (Saturday), Ida Ougourd or Sidi Mokhtar (Wednesday) or Meskala (Thursday). Depending on your route, these might be a convenient stop-off on your way to/from Marrakech or Agadir. If you are travelling in the Middle Atlas, the Sunday souk at Midelt is large and well-known for local carpets and – in season – apples. Travelling up the coast to Casablanca, the Saturday souk at Oualidia is also worth a visit.

Remember, rural folks live simple, conservative lives. Always dress appropriately (no short shorts or skimpy tank tops) and be discreet when you take photographs. The weather-beaten faces of rural people are fascinating, but the owners do not always welcome the attention of the lens.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about Moroccan Souks and Markets outside Marrakech

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc, The Moroccan Off-road Rally for Women Only

Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc

Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morocco is well-known for extreme races. The marathon des sables – known as the ‘toughest footrace on earth’ is a grueling 156 miles (five and a half marathons) through the Sahara Desert in 100°F or more. The Trans-Atlas Marathon is a trail of approximately 177 miles in 6 stages at an elevation of up to 11,000 ft. But did you know that there are also vehicle rallies competing across some of Morocco’s most challenging terrain? The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is a women-only endurance rally across a course which is all off-road and redesigned every year.

2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Rally. This year, it will bring together 185 teams of around 300 women aged 18-35 from 30 different countries. There are 10 teams competing from the USA alone. Their common denominator is determination and a commitment to the principles of the race, which are a respect for values of tolerance, solidarity and determination; for the host country and its people through the charitable activities associated with the race and for the environment. (The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles in Morocco is the only motor rally globally with the ISO 14001 certification).

Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc

Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc

 

 

 

 

 

 

The teams compete in 4×4, Crossover, Quad or truck vehicles or on motorbike. Auto company Daimler Benz Mercedes is competing with 4 teams – selected through competitions held in Germany. Each team may choose its own route – the team that drives the shortest distance wins. This means that the so-called Gazelles must reach pre-defined check points by driving the lowest number of kilometers. Eco-driving is encouraged and rewarded. This means making choices between fording rivers or finding bridges or driving around mountains or over them. Completion of the course takes skill and grit – as well as a compass, a navigational plotter and maps! The average day of competition is 10-13 hours long. For the 25th edition, a new category of ‘expert’ has been introduced for previous competitors looking to compete in a car. Their terrain will be tougher, sandier and the route even more rugged!

Since 2001, during the period of the race, the associated Cœur de Gazelles charity provides on average, 5000 medical consultations and around 7000 people receive donations of clothes, medicine or other needs.

The Rally runs from 25 March – 2 April 2015. As the entire route is off-road, it is not always easy to view the competition, although in remote areas you may glimpse the helicopters which monitor the race and ensure safety. The Gazelles gather for a well-deserved rest and the prize-giving in Essaouira at the end of the race. On 2 and 3 April, you can expect to see them arriving – exhausted and exhilarated- in the seaside town before the final event and prize presentation on 4 April.

Registration has just closed for 2015, so if you like the idea of being a Gazelle, you have another year to prepare (and raise the sponsorship)! If that sounds a little too taxing for your vacation in Morocco, head to Essaouira at the start of April to toast their arrival at the end of the rally!

 

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc or Travel in 4×4 

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Morocco Travel