Morocco for the Soul Surfer

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As a Luxury Travel and Lifestyle Content Producer, Michael Vanarey is no stranger to exotic and awe inspiring destinations. But he holds a special place in his heart for Morocco, where he lived like a local for three months while winding down from a cross-European road trip. To give Priceless Cities members an insider view on this incredible country, he shares his ideas for those who want to enjoy the best Morocco has to offer. Not a member? Sign up today to Priceless Cities for exclusive access to art, dining, luxury and entertainment.

The surf in Morocco is simply above the crowd; it is completely incomparable and unique to other international hotspots. Maybe it’s the epic desert backdrops falling onto long, uninterrupted stretches of North Atlantic coastline, or the rich berber culture that greets you on the beaches. But all these subtle distinctions, like the morning call to prayer for the perfect early surf alarm, are what sets Morocco apart as so much more than just another incredible surf break. You won’t be disappointed to leave your busy life behind for a week or two and get back to the bare essentials of sun, surf and exploration.

Running down sand dunes of the Sahara!

Running down sand dunes of the Sahara!

I was lucky enough to have settled in Morocco as the tail end to the trip of a lifetime. 11 months in a camper van with my brother, where we covered over 33,000km and 22 countries. And yet, I can confidently say that I felt more in amazement in Morocco than any other country I visited that year.

Tommi Howell walking the Sahara until the sunset.

Tommi Howell walking the Sahara until the sunset.

For those keen surf explorers or ‘wanderlusters' who have never been to Morocco and need an itinerary packed with the essentials to get a taste of what this epic country has to offer, then please read on!

Taghazout:

Old cars used by locals to check the surf at Taghazout

Old cars used by locals to check the surf at Taghazout

This was my home for nearly three months. It is situated approximately 45 minutes drive north of Agadir, a major international hub for flights from most of Europe and UAE. We heard that it has been a popular stop on the surfers' path since the 50s, where the hidden but famous long right points come alive during the autumn and winter months. Accommodation and food here can be very basic and cheap which is great for those on a budget. Unfortunately petty crime is endemic so extra vigilance of your belongings and boards is required!

Luke Dawson pulls into a Monster at Banana Point, Tamraght 

Luke Dawson pulls into a Monster at Banana Point, Tamraght 

The quality of accommodation here ranges from luxurious boutique 5-star villas to a local’s spare bedroom. But for those wanting an insider’s guide to the secret surf spots around the town there are plenty of Surf Camps and local guides on offer. Warning: you will be swamped with offers on arrival!

Day surf trips can also be booked at the local Cafes or hotels but sometimes the beach break out the front of the town is the best spot for learners to start into their surfing careers.

Fishermen at Insousane look on as their tractor takes on sea water!

Fishermen at Insousane look on as their tractor takes on sea water!

While in Taghazout you can visit Paradise Valley (90mins drive from Taghazout) where weekly trips are planned by most surf camps as a day break. For the best produce and local eats while you’re in Taghazout,  you can check out the Souk (farmer’s markets) in Awrir where you can buy a week's worth of fresh fruit and vegetables for 4 people for only 35 euros!

 

Marrakesh:

Ahhh Marrakesh…We regularly took culture side-trips between weeks of constant surfing to explore the hidden gems of Marrakesh’s Medina.  This major ancient metropolis is located about 3 hours drive North of Agadir and is famous for its old fortified city (Medina) packed with local vendors and entertainment. You can get there from most major hubs via bus or air.

A tannery worker in Marrakech's Medina works hard in the mid day sun 

A tannery worker in Marrakech's Medina works hard in the mid day sun 

As Morocco’s popularity inevitably increases, there have been myriad articles recently published about this magical place, but my personal must do activities include::

  • Islamic Scriptures. The Ben Youssef Medersa is dedicated to the teaching of Islamic scripture and law and was founded in the 14th century. It is a surreal feeling to walk the halls, now open to the public. Allow yourself to be totally in awe of the mosaics tucked away from the hustle and bustle of street life.

  • Medieval Tanneries. Ever wondered how leather was made back in the olden day? To experience Marrakech at its most medieval, visit the tannery district in the east of the Medina. Ask a local to direct you, but and then wander solo amongst the many tannery pools to witness this part of Moroccan culture. It is something neither you, nor your nostrils will soon forget. Be careful not to fall prey to scammers appearing to be owners/managers or officials of the tannery who will ‘guide you’  for an unknown hefty fee at the end. It’s free to walk in and you don't need a guide.

  • The Sultan’s palace. The Badii Palace is one of the two monuments of the Saadian era (the other is the Saadian Tombs located nearby) in Marrakech. I’d highly recommend you scale the walls to the parapet viewpoints and visit the ancient Minbar that once stood in the nearby mosque. The heat can be pretty unforgiving in the middle of the day so it was a morning or late afternoon destination for me.

  • Souks. Souks. Souks. This is a big attraction for a lot of visitors. Myself included! You would be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable way to spend time here than meandering around the endless maze of markets in the Medina. I’d recommend targeting the area just north of the Jemaa El Fna which is the most intimate and shaded networks of souks in the Medina. Remember, you don’t need to buy anything the first time you see it; always start your bargaining politely at 1/2 of the 2nd price that stopped you walking by and be prepared to walk away from any negotiation with respect and a smile - they will probably invite you back at your last offered price!

Souks offer hidden gems throughout the Medina. Dress respectfully.

Souks offer hidden gems throughout the Medina. Dress respectfully.

Sahara Desert, Zagora:

This place stole my heart. To witness such vastness and hear only the whistle of the wind in the sand dunes was a humbling and settling experience to share with my close friends. If you’re strapped for transport, you can book day, 2 day or even week long trips to the Sahara Desert from Agadir, Marrakesh or Zagora. We had our van so we drove as far as we could to Zagora and booked a local guide there. For around 150 euros (negotiated price) we got the all inclusive, 2 day Sahara desert experience which included dining in Bedouins camps at night with Queens sized western designed beds, camel rides at sunset between camps, and rolling across the landscapes on dune buggies. The best times are sunrise and sunset for those budding photographers spent on top of the largest sand dune you can find!

The stars of the Sahara is something to be seen

The stars of the Sahara is something to be seen

Travel and photography have allowed me to explore more countries in the last two years since my corporate career ended that in my entire life. I am immensely grateful for the opportunities that came about by putting myself out there. Embracing the universe of travel has given me an entirely new career path, one that I enjoy immensely, and I look forward to knocking South America, Hawaii and hopefully Cuba off my bucket list in 2017. 

Now I just need to figure out how to sneaky my way into the Amex Lounges…

Michael VanareyComment