Back in November I had the opportunity to explore more of Morocco than ever before; a rich cultural road trip starting from the grand city of Rabat on the coast, to a rich cultural deep dive into the city of Marrakech.
My first thoughts on Rabat was how green and lush and open it is compares to Marrakech. Rabat is actually the capital city of Morocco and home to King Mohammed VI. Sitting beside the ocean it boasts incredible scenic landscapes and cultural monuments. The ruins of the once tallest Mosque in the world is accompanied by the city’s iconic Hassan Tower, a 12th-century minaret and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
Staying in the heart of the city, close to the palace at Sofitel Jardin des Roses (called so because of the literal Andalusian garden of 3000 roses) we explored the historical and cultural offerings of the city by day and unwound at the cosy hotels bars and restaurants by night.
Far too many snacks and cocktails at the Amber bar then onto Belly dancing accompanied the most delicious mouth watering tagines at Al Warda. Moroccan’s definitely know how to feed you until you’re rolling to bed or onto the rose spa for a hot stone massage and relaxing sauna sesh.
The hotel has the comfiest beds imaginable and I slept soundly with a terrace view room overlooking the rose gardens below. The next day we were on the road to Marrakech!
A deep dive into Marrakech
It’s been on my dream travel wish list to hot air balloon across the desert for as long as I could remember, and whilst I’m scared of heights, the opportunity to pass up such an experience was too crazy and it finally happened!
A bleary 5am start to drive into the desert before sunrise was painful, but so worth it when you’re watching the pastels coloured sky change and shift over the sandy mountains and olive groves below. Marrakech is unlike anywhere in the world because it’s shielded from the wind by the Atlas mountains; you can take a balloon up 300 days out the year. We were super blessed and had a small intimate balloon holding just the four of us but they can go up to 20 people. All the more fun! The take off and landing were so smooth, you don’t even realise you’re drifting up to 3000 feet. I couldn’t recommend Ciel d’Afrique enough for providing us with the life changing experience, just go on their homepage alone and you get goosebumps! The owner took us up himself and we got an amazing insight into the industry and just how much dedication is takes to be a hot air balloonist. 1000 photos in the camera roll later and we were sadly making our descent and onto the hotel.
The afternoon was spent exploring Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech’s on site organic farm, with goats, sheep, horses (the sweetest rescues), donkeys, rabbits and even baby tortoises. We had the most delicious picnic with all the homegrown harvests such as olives, honey and tomato and cheeses. The hotel offers farm picnics for all guests and families that want a slice of countryside amongst it all! The 231 hectare land the hotel is surrounded by citrus trees and olive groves, the smells wafting through the air are pure heaven.
Whilst enjoying many of the restaurants of the Fairmont we also got to taste plenty of Moroccan wine and it’s delicious; I don’t know what I was expecting (i’m no snob) but it definitely rivalled it’s European counterparts!
The hotel is so vast you may need a golf buggy to get from one section to another, luckily I wasn’t too far and enjoyed the walk to and from (burn off all those tagines!). I stayed in the junior garden suite room and it was at least 3 times the size of my apartment in London. One of those pinch-me moments for sure with a giant marble bathtub, a separate living room.. and terrace.. and walk in wardrobe.. and kind size bed! We were only there for 3 nights but I wish it had been 7, honestly. I could have enjoyed that room endlessly!!
The next morning I had my first traditional Moroccan Hammam experience with Ghassoul wraps infused with musk clay and organic plant body scrub. It eliminated any summer tan I had accrued over the year but my skin was totally reborn! It’s quite the experience (prepare to sit literally naked on a marble slab whilst a woman washes and scrubs and bathes you – she even washed my hair for me). Safe in the knowledge I’ll never see her again – I can say it was a rejuvenating and must try worthwhile experience.
Just reliving this experience through this photo diary has me yearning to go back asap. I left my heart in Morocco!
We had a local tour guide to take us around the centre of Marrakech the next day, we started the classsic Jardin Majorelle created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle, and later saved from being torn down by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980. Yves’s ashes are scattered in the garden and there is a memorial plaque to him. Just a short walk away is the famed YSL museum exhibiting Yves own archive from his collections. He kept one look from each collection he created. Both are must visits in the city.