Morocco Welcomes Back Travellers
20 January 2022
February has seen the reopening of international flights into Morocco, a welcome return for the country’s tourism industry and travellers alike. Scott Dunn CEO Sonia Davies is delighted Morocco is able to accept visitors again, having herself travelled there in the autumn before the borders shut once more to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant. Here, she explains why Morocco should be next on your list.
As Autumn arrived in earnest in the UK with heavy downpours (and petrol shortages), it was a relief to escape for a week to Morocco. Morocco can be reached by a direct flight of approximately 3.5 hours from London or 9.5 hours from New York. By travelling just one hour further south than mainland Spain you benefit from wonderfully warm sunshine in the spring and the autumn. Morocco is a melting pot of cultures – the original Berber (Amazigh) culture mixed with Islam and then Spanish and more recently French influences, creating a captivating fusion. Depending on where you are in the country these influences will be seen to a lesser or greater extent.
In Marrakech, the bustling, hectic medina with its sights, tastes and smells, gives a glimpse of traditional city life. A local guided Tasting Trail was a wonderful way to be taken around the medina, understanding how the market operates, and also seeing some of the community aspects. The hammams had recently reopened and these remain very much part of the community, for the old as well as the young. We met the man who keeps the wood furnace burning to heat the water for the hammam – he soon knows if the hot water is running out as they bang on the wall! Next door was the baker, with the wood-fired oven churning out bread which was then taken to different stalls in the medina. He also bakes the bread made by the local women, who bring their dough to him covered in their cloths ready to be baked. It was a treat to see this hidden side of Marrakech, thanks to the access from our guide.
We stayed in the Kasbah area of the medina at La Sultana, which is formed of five riads. It’s a peaceful haven, but also perfectly located to make the most of its proximity to the medina. It is a wonderful blend of luxury and authenticity – it is a beautiful boutique hotel, but stays true to the design and feel of the riad. Its furnishings honour Moroccan artisans, from the wood-carved furniture and tiled floors to the ornate plasterwork. Thank you to Mustapha Bounadmi for showing me all the wonderful rooms of the hotel, and for the 5* service from the whole team.
An hour away, you can experience a different side of Morocco – away from the hustle and bustle of big city life and resorts, the Atlas Mountains await. The landscape changes quickly as you leave the city. Here you see more of local village life and the reality of living in these rugged mountains. We stayed at Kasbah Tamadot, where the juxtaposition between this 5-star resort and life in the mountain villages couldn’t be more evident. The resort had everything you could need, with a pampering spa, pool, tennis courts and excellent service. But my favourite part was the Berber Boutique, set up by the Eve Branson Foundation.
Kasbah Tamadot supports Pack for a Purpose, a charity which enables travellers to bring much-needed supplies to local community projects around the world. We brought 5kg of warm baby clothes and reading glasses, items specifically requested to support the Eve Branson Foundation. When we visited the Berber Boutique the story of how Eve Branson set up this foundation really came alive while we spoke with Fatima, who was running the boutique. Fatima had left school at 12 (the age at which mandatory education comes to an end) and she met Eve and learned to knit, becoming part of the creation of the first craft centre. The foundation has helped give young women, and now young men, a skill to enable them to work and generate an income.
Fatima still makes some of the crafts, but is now also a savvy saleswoman. I left with some coasters, her hand-crafted camel, and the item I will treasure most – a handmade rug with “women of the village” stitched into the design. Education and opportunity are things many of us take for granted – I was humbled and inspired in the Berber Boutique by what Eve Branson has achieved and the drive of the local community to continue her work.
We also spent some time hiking in the mountains, as well as having a wonderful day visiting the local market and cooking a tagine and fresh bread with Latifa in her home in the mountains, thanks to our amazing guide Adil. It was these experiences which brought home the joy of travel and the difference we can make.
Morocco has had little to no tourists in the last two years – one of our guides hadn’t guided at all for 18 months and had instead been picking apples and walnuts in his village. Travel can create wonderful memories, but it can also bring much-needed income to local communities. I was inspired by my trip to Morocco to say – when you are ready, please do travel once more. But think about travelling more responsibly and experiencing a little something outside of the hotel – see the difference you can make.