On a recent trip to Morocco, our North Africa specialist Issy experienced the September earthquake. She was thankfully unaffected, but witnessed the devastating impacts and made it her mission to help where she could. After this, she eagerly continued her adventure and explored some of the country's most seductive cities. From the winding streets of Fez to the bright blue buildings of Chefchaouen, this slice of North Africa leaves little to be desired. Read on to hear about Issy’s generous actions post-earthquake and her plans to carry on visiting Morocco.
- When did you visit?
- Where did you visit?
- What did you get up to?
- What were the highlights of your trip?
- Did anything surprise you about the destination?
- What was your favourite thing you ate?
- Are there any experiences you’d recommend?
- What’s a top tip you’d give to clients?
I visited Morocco in September 2023, when the country was tragically struck by an earthquake. I was very lucky to have been unaffected myself, so while I was there I did what I could to help. This included buying blankets, oil, water and non-perishable goods which were taken by trucks to an affected village in the Atlas Mountains, near Marrakech. After helping out, I went on to see the rest of the country, which was operating as usual. This was a strong reminder of how important it is to keep tourism alive after disasters like these when communities need the industry’s support more than ever. And the great thing is that we, as tourists, can help out simply by visiting their gorgeous towns and cities – a style of travel we call Philantourism.
I went all over Morocco: I visited the busy cities of Marrakech, Tangier and Fez; had a brief stay in the capital, Rabat; saw the former imperial city of Meknes and the nearby town of Moulay Idriss; and finally, enjoyed a quick visit to Chefchaouen, which is known for its sea of blue buildings.
My first priority was to help out after the earthquake struck, buying food and supplies for those affected in both in Marrakech and the more remote areas. After this, I carried on around the rest of the country as I know the importance of sustaining tourism post-disaster. In Tangier, right up in the north of Morocco, I went on a lovely walking tour with my Moroccan guide, Guillaume. He was amazing, taking me from rooftop to rooftop for delicious drinks, nibbles and an incredible view of the white buildings against the ocean. I went on another walking tour in Chefchaouen, which completely stole my heart – and I was only there for an hour! It’s a wonderfully whimsical place and I couldn’t stop smiling as I wandered around. Fez is also fabulous, and I was expertly guided through the old town (known as a medina) and its labyrinth of streets filled with colourful mosaics.
I had so many! Tangier is so different to the other cities. It’s friendly, laid-back and a wonderful combination of European and African influences. In terms of dining, Tamint (an Indian restaurant at the Oberoi Hotel in Marrakech) was well worth a visit. Drinking their cocktails while overlooking the incredible grounds against a mountainous background was certainly a highlight for me.
Yes – how easy and reliable the train system was. The stations are all really nice with their choice of coffee shops and places to eat, and there’s a lounge for first-class ticket holders too. The bullet train between Rabat and Tanger was super speedy, taking an hour and 20 minutes. Definitely a worthwhile addition to any itinerary. Aside from the trains, I was also surprised by just how good Moroccan wine is! They have a lovely rosé from the Medallion estate close to Casablanca.
I’ll always be a fan of a Moroccan salad, and lunch at the Ruined Garden in Fez delivered an amazing one. I also enjoyed a tasty pastilla in Meknes, which is traditional Moroccan dish made with flaky pastry and shreds of chicken.
If you’re an animal lover, then the American Fondouk in Fez Medina is a really interesting foundation with a lovely story. It was set up by an American woman with an aim to look after the welfare of working animals and the families that depend on them. For anyone who loves cooking, the Fez Cooking School is a must. It teaches you how to prepare classic Moroccan cuisine within the beautiful setting of a restored palace.
When you get stuck into the craziness of Fez, it’s best to do so with a guide. It's not like other cities where you can happily wander around without getting lost. If you want to experience the medina (old town), you’ll need a good guide to lead you around the busy souqs (markets). Once you’re in, it’s tricky to get out if you don’t know how!
Header Image by Salva Lopez