A few weeks ago Gary Nunn from our team went to explore Morocco, a country that serves as a gateway to Africa which is steeped in ancient cultures and exotic mystic. With its striking architecture, a strong identity and unique way of life, it’s a place that has long held a fascination with many a traveller. From the mazelike Medina at Marrakech to the peaks of the High Atlas, this is his journey through the captivating North African country…
Day 1 – Arrival in Marrakech
Wide-eyed and with a firm handshake, Mustapha my driver for the next few days welcomed me. We loaded up and I was transported from the cool, modern airport into the heat and atmospheric bustle of Morocco. I instantly realised why this country is known for being a travel photographers dream, the scenery is made up from a myriad of warm colours from orange to deep rust and the striking buildings, often made from delicate mosaics, made an eye-catching backdrop.
Dodging a few people, scooters and a random pony, we arrived at the hotel. Nestled in-between the series of local shops stood Hotel Villa des Orangers, a five-star boutique chateau which was to be my home for the next few days. Just five steps from the imposing rhythm of the city, La Villa Des Oranges serves as peaceful and cool oasis far removed from all the craziness going on just outside its walls.
Offering many treatments within the onsite spa, this is a place that not only serves as a base for visiting the city but a place to completely relax. With just 25 guest rooms (all with an individual design) it also offers an elegant and intimate boutique experience.
Firstly I explored the Majorelle museum which was named after the French artist, Jacques Majorelle. It houses a private collection of Yves Saint Laurent’s history and with the famous fashion designer’s striking vision and a glimpse into his fast-paced life, it was an honour to attend this private tour. Coming from a fashion photography background I stood back and took time to gaze at and admire his work.
Next, I explored the Majorelle Gardens, a two and a half acre botanical garden and artist’s landscape garden which is one of Marrakech’s most cherished attractions. Designed by Jacques Majorelle, it’s an immaculately presented and tranquil place where every detail of the garden is carefully thought out.
I ended the day back at my hotel sampling some of Morocco’s legendary cuisine. Infused with a heady mix of potent local spices, the lentil and tomato tagine didn’t disappoint. I dined on my own private terrace as the North African sun slowly descended accompanied with just a faint hum of Marrakech life that stood just beyond the hotel walls.
Day 2 – A journey to the Atlas Mountains
Waking at sunrise, I started (with a driver) a 200km journey which took us from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, crossing vast alpine plains encircled by jagged peaks and passing through ancient Berber villages lost in time. Our end destination was the Atlas Mountains. North Africa’s greatest mountain range, the area is home to some of the most extraordinary and beautiful landscapes in Morocco.
I couldn’t help but keep asking Mustapha to stop the truck to allow me to properly view the almost otherworldly landscapes so I could just stand, take it all in and listen to the absolute silence. One after another, the valleys merged into the landscapes crisscrossed with windy roads. I’m not usually keen on old rickety roads but when they’re located 4000m above sea level it was quite an exhilarating experience!
We also stopped in Ait-Benhaddou, a group of ancient earthen buildings surrounded by high walls nestled against the High Atlas Mountains which has now become A UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also a location for many famous films, including the Hollywood blockbuster Gladiator. On our journey back we were caught in a sandstorm where powerful tornado-like winds whipped up a gritty blizzard and then quickly descended again.
Day 3 – A Hammam, a cooking lesson at the medina at night
My last day was spent in Marrakech and my first activity of the day was to experience a traditional Hammam. There are two types of ways to experience a Hammam, the first is with a group of people normally naked and the other is in the privacy of a treatment room. Being British I opted for the latter. The Hammam started with a traditional mint Moroccan tea, then went onto a full body exfoliation, moisturiser and finally finishing with a full body massage. I left the spa feeling a like a very relaxed snake that had just shed its skin – not a bad way to start the day!
My next was Lotus Chef which is located close to Jamaa El Fna Square. It’s an increasingly popular and classy cooking school set in a beautiful Riad which guides you through how to produce beautiful and tasty traditional Moroccan food. With its golden passageways and gorgeous terraces, it offers a very attractive location to learn about traditional Moroccan cuisine.
At dusk, I gather my belongings and head towards the famous souks. Absorbing the rhythmic chaos I could easily see why Marrakech has entranced so many of its visitors. With the street food bellowing fragrant smoke, the heady maze of stalls, the trance-like sound of drums and song and a strong sense of a tight-knit community make the medina at night a hypnotic and beguiling experience.
Looking for a location to sit and film a time-lapse of the square, I found Café de France, a famous viewpoint of the market and this is where I ordered my final tagine of the trip. With the camera clicking as I watched the sun rest beneath the city and I ate knowing that one day I will return. This extraordinary country truly had me under its spell!
To watch Gary’s incredible videos from his Morocco journey head over to Moments In Morocco.
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