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Morocco benefits from mile upon mile of sandy beaches situated on its Atlantic Coastline. These beaches in Morocco are perfectly geared up for water sports fans, but are less ideal for sun-worshippers. The large Atlantic rollers are ideal for surfing and body boarding, something adults and older children will love. During public holidays and the summer, the beaches become crowded with domestic tourists. Beaches tend to attract people, which in turn attract touts. Camels, horses and quad bikes are readily available on popular beaches where children (or adults) can enjoy a short ride. Sun loungers and umbrellas are available to rent, some beaches have a small café as well, but facilities vary from place to place.
The beaches are fun for people watching and playing in the waves and children will love building sand castles. However, the Atlantic surf can be quite rough so it is more a pursuit for confident swimmers. If you are in Morocco for longer, we recommend that you stay somewhere with a pool so that you can enjoy the beach atmosphere and crashing waves, but then relax around a cleaner and safer pool environment where you can relax in swim-wear without the concern of revealing too much flesh on the beach.
Located on Morocco's West coast, Essaouira is the epitome of laid-back Morocco. A popular domestic tourist destination, the town has a small, stress free medina and a busy fishing port, ensuring fresh fish every day. Inside the old town, there are art shops and souvenir stalls, with none of the selling pressure you see in the larger Moroccan cities. The emphasis here is on relaxing and people-watching, visitors spend most of their time promenading on the ramparts and enjoying mint tea in the square. The beach is large and windy, making it a haven for water sports lovers. Kite surfing and wind surfing are popular here, as well as regular surfing.
Just to the south of Essaouira lies the small Atlantic village of Sidi Kaouki. One of the more family friendly beach villages, this is a laid back and sleepy place with just a handful of cafes. To the north of the village are some interesting rock pools at low tide, to the south, the sandy beach seems to stretch endlessly into the horizon and if you are prepared to walk for 10 minutes along the beach, it won’t be too long until you find a deserted stretch of sand. This spot is perfect for surfers and in the summer months, when the surf is gentler, it is a great base for beginners. As is the case in Essaouira, it can get windy here in the summer months, especially in the afternoons, so it pays to hit the beach in the morning and then spend the afternoon lazing around a pool.
In the south of Morocco, benefitting from a year round temperate climate, Mirleft has some excellent beaches and some of the best boutique coastal accommodation in the country. Even better, it is still fairly off the beaten track. The coast here is wild, with pounding waves and strong currents and lovely sandy beaches. On national holidays the beaches are packed as this is a popular Moroccan destination but there are few tourists here and outside of the country holidays the beaches are almost deserted. The village is well spread out, with the centre away from the sea and the accommodation tends to be in more isolated spots making a car very useful. Mirleft makes for an excellent base for exploring some of the nearby towns such as Sidi Ifni and Tafraout, whilst staying in fantastic accommodation.
Situated on a small lagoon on the Atlantic Coast, Oualidia is a well-heeled town, slowly growing in popularity for both domestic and international tourists. Whilst most of the Moroccan Atlantic coast is exposed to the elements, the unique tidal lagoon offers calm waters and abundant birdlife: there is a chance of seeing flamingos in the winter months. Water sports fans will love exploring the lagoon by kayak or boat, whilst for keen surfers, the wild Atlantic Coast offers crashing waves and great surf. Food-wise, the region is particularly well-known for its oyster production. Sea food lovers can also enjoy fresh lobster, crab and red mullet.
Well-known as a package destination, the town’s beaches are clean and full of tourists. The town itself is geared towards package tourists and holds little charm. The airport is a convenient location for exploring the couth of the country, but you really wouldn’t be missing out if you avoided the town completely.
Nestled in the Anti-Atlas, Tafraoute attracts only a small handful of tourists. It is a wealthy town, on account of the large number of migrant workers sending money home from abroad and evidence of this can be seen in the architecture and the amenities. There are some lovely small restaurants and great views of the surrounding mountains. The area is popular with rock climbers and it’s not hard to see why; dramatic rock formations, beautiful valleys and off the beaten track location mean the beauty of Mother Nature can be enjoyed in relative peace.
About an hour’s drive from the village is a beautiful gorge which is best explored on foot. Passing fig & olive trees, date palms and an ambling stream, the views are fantastic. Also of interest are the ‘blue rocks’ painted as an art installation by Belgian artist Jean Verame in the 1980’s. Beautiful rocks, in an almost lunar landscape, have been painted royal blue with a smattering of red, creating a bizarrely enjoyable sight. Another, more dubious, rock sight is le chapeau de Napoleon a rock formation that is claimed by the guide books to resemble Napoleon’s hat. I remain inconvinced. The lion’s face however, on the other side of town, is instantly recognisable.
Hot in the summer and still pleasantly warm in the winter, a stay in the summer months makes a pool a necessity. The largest and most expensive hotel in town, Hotel Les Amandiers, is the best place to stay, but it is stuck in the 1980’s with out-dated décor and sullen staff. Rooms are soulless, but clean, and the restaurant is uninspiring. That said, the pool (and views) are fabulous and the bar serves alcohol.
As a family with three young children, it is not often that we manage to find an activity that is equally absorbing for all of us. In the past, we have found walking a very good solution, but outside of this we can end up in a conflict of play park vs culture. If there is one thing that my daughters are passionate about, it is crafting. Colouring, sticking, gluing you name it, it will occupy them for hours. My husband, having long since resigned himself to the a life in a predominantly female household, has adapted well, but there is only so long that such activities will hold his attention before he starts to roam. And if I’m honest, there’s only so much time can spend drawing rainbows before I get restless. So, it was with a certain amount of hesitation that I suggested a family pottery class on our last holiday in Morocco. The girls were enthusiastic, my husband was agreeable and I was slightly unsure. We are very good about going walking together, or playing on the beach, but would it be possible to find an activity that would absorb the adults without going over the children’s heads?
We met our teacher in the workshop. He spoke not a work of English but had a wide grin, he didn’t even grit his teeth (visibly) when my three year old nearly sent all of his pottery samples flying. Our first activity was to make a pot on the wheel, Patrick Swayze eat your heart out. Our teacher patiently demonstrated the technique to us and then we each had a turn. Some of the children were more enthusiastic than others, but everyone had a go, with a reasonable amount of success. None of us were naturals, but we definitely got full marks for enthusiasm. Surprisingly, despite the fact that only one of us could have a go at a time, the children were happy to stand and watch each other.
Flushed with our success at the pottery wheel, we then moved to a table to start making pots, which evolved into lanterns. Again, our teacher demonstrated the technique and we were then left to create, with him gently interjecting from time to time to refine our creations. Admittedly the children needed help, but we were under no time pressure and could all enjoy the opportunity to be creative. As we worked, the pots rather ambitiously evolved into lanterns. Our teacher took this all in his stride, albeit slightly amused by our ambition, and helped us to finish off our creations which were left to dry in the sun.
The next part of our class was to try our hand at Tadelakt, which is a traditional type of plaster used in Moroccan buildings. After selecting the colour, most important, we were encouraged to get our hands dirty, smooth the surfaces and start applying the mixture. This was quite hard work for the children and they slowly started to lose interest, returning to the work table to make some pottery animals. My husband and I, meanwhile, were in our element, decorating the walls and trying to outdo each other’s creativity. Again, our teacher was on hand to give some friendly help.
By the end of the session, we had earned ourselves a large lunch which we enjoyed whilst our works of art dried in the fierce midday sun. The biggest challenge of the holiday was getting our works of art back to the UK on the plane but they now sit proudly on our mantelpiece, complete with candles. The conclusion all round was that the class had been an overwhelming success. All five of us really enjoyed ourselves, a lovely way to spend a morning together.
Dubbed by some (perhaps a little over-enthusiastically) as a mini Marrakech, Taroudant is a small walled town to the north east of Agadir in the Souss Valley. Occupying a position of historical importance due to its location on the trans-Saharan trading route, it is a very pleasant town, with some very well preserved ramparts that surround the medina. Once inside the ramparts, there is little to remind you of Marrakech, other than that it is a Moroccan town. However, there are some delightful souks which you can explore and indulge in some low-stress retail therapy. It is possible to explore the town in a caleche (horse and cart) the tour takes you around the perimeter of the walls and will also take you to a point where you can walk on the ramparts.
My six year old daughter was desperate to learn to surf. Her father is a keen surfer, but ever since an episode in Australia back in 2004 when I nearly broke my nose, I have been a little reluctant; shielding myself from the pursuit with my children. However, in the spirit of encouraging my children to be more adventurous, I was starting to run out of excuses so, when we last went to Morocco, I dusted off my wetsuit and promised that we would have a lesson together.
On the morning of our lesson, my daughter woke bright eyed and excited. I was apprehensive. As we walked down to meet our guide, however, it was a sunny day and the sea looked calm and inviting. Too calm, unfortunately, we were forced to abandon our plans and wait for better waves the next day. My daughter was disappointed, I on the other hand, was somewhat relieved at my stay of execution.
Tomorrow came quickly, however, and the next day we returned to the surf camp which was alive and buzzing with bodies; surf was officially up. Unfortunately for my daughter, conditions were now too rough and it was judged that she shouldn’t have her lesson, mine, however, could go ahead. She hid her disappointment well, with the incentive on an ice cream her sadness soon abated. I, on the other hand was now on the brink, forced to be brave and face my surfing fears.
The session began with a briefing, going through an assessment of the conditions and safety. They were very thorough and then insisted upon a full warm up before we were to enter the sea. We were then divided up into groups and the more experienced headed off with their guides, I was left for a one on one session, as they could obviously see the fear in my eyes. I started off learning the basic techniques and then went into the water to spend some time body boarding, which I absolutely loved. Catching waves and then coasting in to the shallows. My cheer-leading children came along to watch and play on the beach, my husband came to laugh, but I didn’t care, it was great fun. We then turned to the rather more tricky business of trying to get me to stand up on the board – this was my downfall back in 04. However, before even attempting to stand up, I needed to learn how to choose a wave and then catch it. My instructor was most amused by my attempt to catch every wave coming in my direction. Slow down, he said to me, there is always time, there is always another wave. For a working mother of three, there is never time and I am always trying to do a zillion things at once. Suddenly, the opportunity to step back, focus on the waves and wait for the right one felt very, very appealing. I stopped stressing and worrying and just started to enjoy myself, slowing myself down to a surfer’s pace.
Catching waves is one thing, standing up is quite another. This isn’t something that comes at once, it takes practice and patience and certainly wasn’t something that I could master in my first lesson. But I had a lot of fun trying (as did my family watching) Being in the sea, focussing on the surf, all my other worries seemed to disappear and I really enjoyed myself.