Colourful, sweet-smelling, majestic and a feast for the senses, all of these wondrous experiences came together during my long weekend in Morocco last February
Last February I booked a surprise birthday celebration to Morocco for my partner. We flew out from Gatwick and stayed at the Riad Dar Rhizlane, just on the outskirts of Marrakech. I can say without a doubt, it was magical. The hotel is positively palatial. The outside walls are resplendent in white bougainvillea and the fountains in the court garden are covered with thick beds of rose petals and water lilies.
At night the gardens and swimming pool are beautifully illuminated and there are private dining rooms dotted all over the place, with staff standing subtly in the background, awaiting your every need.
Dinner on our first night was three courses. Nothing much to shout about, you might think, but the starter alone was 15 different dishes! We then had two tagines of meat and chicken, followed by caramelised toffee fruits, fresh mango and lemon sorbet. All of that, together with pre-dinner drinks, wine and dessert wine came to just £55 per head. Given the quality of the cuisine and the stunning surroundings, I think that is something to shout about.
As part of the long weekend, I also wanted somewhere quiet and relaxing to stay, away from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. So I booked accommodation at Les Terres M’Barka, which opened in November last year.
If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know that I am a ‘foodie’ and the food here was a wonder. As well as being a Riad boutique, M’Barka is also a working farm and the produce is extremely fresh. From whole sea bass with honey, cumin and caramelised lemons cooked in a tagine, to beef fillet braised with apricots, fresh beetroot and ginger, followed by orange, coriander and red onion salad – I salivate just thinking about it. In fact, I have been so impressed with Moroccan cuisine that I have not stopped cooking it since coming back to the UK!
M’Barka also has a luxurious spa and amazing views of the Atlas Mountains. During our stay there and accompanied by a private guide, we took a day trip to the mountains, making our way into remote Berber villages to experience cultures that are so completely different from cosmopolitan life. Not surprisingly, we were given a taste of what I might call ‘Moroccan mountain cuisine’, a four-course lunch of chicken and lamb tagine. I can taste and smell the herbs and spices just thinking about it! Our expedition into the Moroccan mountains was very similar to a school itinerary that our Steppes Schools programme offers. It’s definitely worth a look.
There is a Moroccan saying: ’Each granule of couscous represents a good deed’. It is hardly surprising that so many thousands of granules are consumed each day as they are clearly reflected in the good nature of the people. I will most definitely be returning to Morocco for another visit and, next time, I will be staying at least seven nights, not four, as there is so much to see and (yes, you guessed…) so much to eat!