When I think back on our trip to Morocco, two things immediately occur to me: colour and scent. The cinnamon-orange aroma of our hotel, a riot of cerise bougainvillea tumbling all over walls, terracotta buildings, endless racks of turquoise, pink, red and orange sandals, the sharp eucalyptus tang of the hammam, bright blue skies: all of these instantly take me back to our week there.
This is a holiday that’s been booked in for about three years, ever since my mom said that she wanted to go to Marrakesh for her 70th birthday. S and I decided to add on some trekking in the Atlas Mountains onto the four day city break, and with direct flights from Bristol, this couldn’t have been an easier trip to plan.
April was the perfect month for Morocco (thanks Mom!) as we had blue skies and warm breezes for most of our week there. The mountains were chillier — there was still snow on some of the passes — but this only added to their beauty.
We booked a three day, two night walk around the Three Valleys of the Atlas mountains, starting and ending in Imlil. Day one was a breeze, but day two was more challenging –eight hours of constant up and downs, accompanied by fog and rain. Still, after our epic hike in Salkantay, I know now I can do anything and my improved fitness definitely made the ascents a lot easier. We were also fuelled by very sugary mint tea, aka Berber whisky!
We thought this would be a group tour, but it actually turned out to be private; just us, our guide Ibrahim and our muleteer/cook Hamid, so I felt a bit spoiled! I was constantly amazed by the meals that Hamid could produce from the back of a mule up the side of a mountain.
Our choice to do the trekking prior to Marrakesh was definitely the right one, as facilities were pretty basic in the village ‘gites’ we stayed in and I didn’t have a shower for two days. The discovery of a rose petal-bedecked bathroom at La Maison Arabe, the amazing hotel my dad had picked (and very kindly treated us to) was met with sighs of delight. It was from the ridiculous to the sublime in terms of sanitation!
The four days we had in Marrakesh were a delightful mix of tasty tagines, sightseeing, relaxation (I indulged in both a hammam session and a massage), constant mint tea, birthday cocktails, haggling for leather sandals, reading in the sunshine and taking a very long time over breakfast. Everyone we met was so friendly, and it was one of those holidays that surpassed my expectations and gave me everything I wanted and more.
Since it was a landmark birthday, we all wanted to make it the best we could for Mom. In addition to a gift of concert tickets and inspired by Holly, I contacted friends and family to put together ‘seventy years of memories’. I didn’t opt for seventy envelopes — we’d have still been there now opening them — but I certainly collected a lot of wonderful anecdotes about her. For my part, it was so much fun to get the emails and letters back from everyone, especially since it gave me insight into parts of Mom’s life that I hadn’t known about. I then packaged them up with customised stickers, and prayed they wouldn’t get crushed in my carry-on!
Watching her open them on a warm night as we ate a superb dinner by the hotel’s pool was itself a memory I’ll treasure forever. There was so much love in the air — it was magical. And in fact that word sums up the entire trip. Morocco, I’ll be back.