|Posted by Alecia Cohen on October 23, 2015 at 11:50 AM||comments (114)|
Each year Essaouira hosts the Andalusian Atlantic Music Festival (The Festival des Andalousies Atlantique) which pays homage to great musicians and the Andalusian legacy of hispano-Moroccan traditions in the Magreb. Celebrating the friendship and shared history between Spain and Morocco the 12th Annual Andalusian Festival of Essaouira will take place from October 29th - 31st, 2015. Founded in 1992 by Mr. Andre Azoulay, a Senior adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco, the Andalusian Atlantic Music Festival celebrates the diverse heritage of Moroccans and the town of Essaouira's historical co existence of Jews, Berbers, Spaniards, Muslims and Christians who contributed in weaving together a multicultural and rich artistic coastal town. The 12th Andalusian Atlantic Music Festival features concerts along with round table discussions and debates led by academics and professionals in the artistic field as to contribute the importance of cultural diversity.
The schedule for Essaouira 12th Andalusian Atlantic Music Festival from October 29th - 31st, 2015 is featured here:
Thursday, October 29, 2015 Salle Omnisport 21h: Compania de Danza Flamenca, a spectacle of Flamenco Dance and Music 22h: Joseph and Daniel Afriat, Jacob "Coco " Tordjman, Abdelhak El Kaabe Is and Houssam Guinea, a concert of the Intimate connection between Jews and Muslims
Friday, October 30, 2015 Dar Souiri 10h: Projection of the court-feature film "Ya lhmama" (the dove) a collaboration with the pianist Amit Hai Cohen 10h30 : Forum: "An Essaouira Culture Banquet of sharing " 15 h30 : Concert with Moroccan singer, Benjamin Bouzaglo 16h30 : The Orchestra of Rachid Ouchehad and the brothers Abdellaoui, a concert of Chgouri after midnight featuring Spiritual Music Hall Omnisport 21h: Malhoun Music Conservatory and Andalusian Musical interpretations by Nabyla Maan Zaineb Afailal and Amine Debbi and musicians 21h50 : Concert with the Singer, Sanaa Marahati. It will resume the works of popular Salim Halali with the Orchestra Shabab Alwatan Organization Al Andalous
Saturday, October 31, 2015 Hotel Mgallery the Medina 10h Projection of the film "Aida" of Driss Mrini on the relationship Judeo-Muslim connections in Morocco. Dar Souiri 16h: Innovative Concert for new arrangements and the traditional repertoire of Arabo-andalusian music 17h: Concert with the female ensemble Tangerois Arij after midnight: a concert of Spiritual Music Hall Omnisport 21h: Festival finale with the Orchestra Shabab Al Watan Organization Al Andalous, and the voice of Benjamin Bouzaglo, brothers Afriat and Jacob Tordjman. They will be joined by Sanaa Marahati and Zainab Afailal for the final concert
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 14, 2015 at 11:30 AM||comments (11)|
Essaouira is located on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast and offers a wide range of places to stay outside its charming medina. In the Essaouira countryside, just 15 minutes from the city center are several charming, boutique and luxury garden hotels that offer a calm respite for travelers who are looking for an Essaouira vacation. The medina is easily accessible for travelers who stay at boutique and luxury hotels in the rural region of Essaouira. Essaouira's medina can be reached by private driver, “petit taxi” or by walking along the seafront promenade. Essaouira offers both adult and family activities such as horse back riding, cooking classes, biking, camel trekking by the sea, medina historical tours and golfing. Essaouira is also the perfect coastal town to visit on a Moroccan holiday and a great way to end a private Morocco Tour.
Top Boutique and Luxury Garden Hotels of Essaouira are:
Dar Caravane, A New Boutique Garden Hotel in Essaouira
Didier Spindler recently reopened Les Mimosas, now called Dar Caravane and named after his restaurant in the Essaouira medina. Dar Caravane is a boutique garden property located just 10 minutes drive from Essaouira on the road to Agadir. Restored with its original colors, refurbished souiri furniture and his own colorful paintings, Spindler offers guests a charmed stay at this garden hotel with terraces. Dar Caravane has a view of the sea, and serves up poolside lunches, art exhibitions and evening entertainment. Dar Caravane has a total of 5 luxury suites and is divided into three Villas. Villa Bleue, Villa Rouge and a cottage, together make up the well-decorated suites called Bagatelle, Majorelle, Les Saintes, Marie Galante and Désirade. For family stays, Dar Caravane can also be rented out in its entirety.
Le Jardins Des Douars Nestled in the hills of Essaouira, Le Jardins Des Douars is a magnificent sprawling luxury, boutique garden hotel that offers the perfect setting for honeymooners in winter and families in spring and summer. Sheltered from the high winds in by the Ksob Oued (river), Le Jardins is ideal for nature lovers and those looking for a private, luxury stay in Essaouira. Le Jardins Des Douars has a large garden where travelers can enjoy the various flora and fauna of the region, take long walks or relax within the nooks and crannies of the Douar. This luxury Essaouira garden hotel offers a traditional Hammam, massages, and a hearth fireplace where guests can enjoy French influenced, Moroccan cuisine.
Les Jardins de Villa Maroc Les Jardins de Villa Maroc is countryside boutique, garden hotel created by the owners of Villa Maroc. Fully landscaped with olive and argan trees, Les Jardins is charming with its local architecture, a Mediterranean garden and a private pool. All rooms overlook the garden or terrace. Decorated with contemporary and traditional Moroccan décor Les Jardins de Villa Maroc offers a calm retreat from the lively Essaouira medina. Their restaurant serves traditional local cuisine and offers breakfast with homemade Moroccan specialties such as Moroccan flatbreads and pancakes. This full service boutique hotel in Essaouira also offers cooking classes, and a Hammam/ Spa.
Ryad de Vignes & Les Domaines du Val d'Argan Ryad de Vignes is one a lush boutique garden hotel in the region of Essaouira set amidst a vineyard. Guests are privy to its enormous estate given Ryad de Vignes is well appointed in the heart of the Les Domaines du Val d'Argan vineyard. Les Domaines du Val d'Argan is the only winery in the region and was founded by a Frenchman over 17 years ago. Val d’Argan serves the region of Essaouira and Marrakech along with other Moroccan cities with their varied white and red wines made from its 35 hectare vineyard which produces over 100,000 bottles a year. With stunning views of the countryside, the Ryad de Vignes, boutique hotel has a flowered garden and 5 spacious rooms set around a large swimming pool. Each room is uniquely decorated with different and has its own personality. Ryad de Vignes has a panoramic restaurant and shaded terrace serving traditional Moroccan cuisine prepared with organic produce grown on the estate, as well as wine from the estate. Ryad de Vignes " Le Val d'Argan " offers many activities, such as visits of the estate, horse-riding and massages with argan oil.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on April 21, 2015 at 1:45 PM||comments (68)|
Every year, the sun-bleached, windswept city of Essaouira on Morocco's Atlantic coast plays host to a festival of Gnaoua and World Music. Normally it is held in June, but this year's 18th edition will take place - like many of the main Moroccan music festivals - in May, to avoid a clash with the holy month of Ramadan. The dates for this year's event are 14-17 May 2015. The principal feature of the festival is the celebration of Gnaoua music and rituals.
The Gnaoua movement is a form of Islamic Sufism. The roots of Gnaoua (or Gnawa) lie in sub-Saharan Africa and reflect pre-Islamic traditions. Successive Moorish sultans brought African slaves to Morocco and their traditions became integrated into Islamic Sufism.
Gnaoui (as practioners are known), like other Sufis, are organized into brotherhoods gathered around a Master, or maalem. These brotherhoods are based in a zawiya - a center of religious teaching, healing and practice found in towns and cities across Morocco. Sufis are known for their communion with God (Allah) through rituals such as music or dancing based on repetitive rhythms, known as samaa. The gnaoua hold spiritual events known as a lila, where the objective is for participants to reach a trance-like state of ecstasy to reach deeper spiritual knowledge. The lila rhythms and rituals are said to call up ancestral spirits to drive out evil and cure ills.
A typical instrument of the gnaoua is the gimbri, a three stringed bass lute covered in camel skin. The skin creates a deep reverberation, creating the soul-stirring basis of gnaoua music. The maalem typically plays the gimbri seated, singing the verse of a song (typically praising Allah or venerating a gnaoua saint). A chorus line of young adherents respond to his call while playing a percussive rhythm on the krakeb, iron castanets said to echo the sound of the slaves' chains. As their clackety-clack beats hasten, the rhythm reaches a crescendo and Gnaoui may enter a trace or break ranks to demonstrate acrobatic dancing and whirling. At the Gnaoua Festival in Essaouira, the audience has an opportunity to see both the brightly-colored, energetic spectacle of Gnaoua groups performing on large open-air stages (on Place Moulay Hassan and near the beach) as well as at more intimate concerts which simulate some of the atmosphere of a lila in smaller venues such as Dar Souiri or a zawiya.
The best venue for the late night, smaller, concerts is the Borj Bab Marrakech. Lying on rugs and cushions under the stars, within earshot of the waves crashing on the beach and with seagulls calling and swooping overhead, a special atmosphere is created for some of the best known artists on the program. As well as offering the opportunity to see the best of local Swiri gnaoua maalems and their groups, such as Tyour Gnaoua with Maalem Abdeslam Alikane, brothers Maalem Mokhtar and Maalem Mahmoud Guinea or Gnaoua rockstar Omar Hayat, the festival also an insight into the full diversity of Moroccan Sufi music - such as the more traditional and contemplative style of the Hmadcha of Essaouira; the drum-led beats of the Issaoua brotherhood from Fes, or the modern fusion style of Maalem Hamid el Kasri from Rabat. The festival program is interspersed with performances by international artists.
At the end of each evening on the main stage is the highlight - a fusion concert between one of these invited musicians and a Moroccan Sufi group. These spectacles are remarkable not only in their combination of musical genres and traditions, but also in the collaboration between artists of very different spiritual, religious and cultural traditions. Invited guests this year include Afrobeat veteran, Nigerian drummer Tony Allen; Guadeloupian percussionist, Sonny Troupé; the latter's sometime collaborator, US jazz saxophonist and flautist Kenny Garrett, and long-standing Gnaoua Festival supporter and collaborator, Franco-Algerian drummer Karim Ziad. Those seeking a sample of Morocco's diverse modern music scene, will want to catch Darga, a band from Casablanca playing a fusion of gnaoua, traditional and Western styles on the beach stage or Hindi Zahra, who has been compared to Norah Jones and Patti Smith, on the main stage.
The Festival opens with a spectacular parade of giant marionettes and all the participating Sufi groups on the Thursday afternoon. Seek out a position early on the main street through the medina from Bab Doukkala and get your camera in position! Alongside the main concert program are also events such as the Forum - a seminar series, this year about African Women - and the Arbre à Palabre discussions held at the French Institute. This year there will be a smaller stage with afternoon concerts at Bab el Minzeh near the port. The open air concerts (on Place Moulay Hassan, at Bab el Minzeh and at the beach) are all free, although they can get crowded at night. VIP passes for an enclosed area near the stage can be purchased on site. The intimate concerts are ticketed (for example, concerts on the roof of the Borj Bab Marrakech at 250 dirhams) and places are limited. Essaouira's range of festivals throughout the year (such as the Alizés Festival in April and the Andalusian Festival in the Fall) highlight the melting pot of musical and cultural influences that is Morocco, but the Gnaoua World Music Festival is unparalleled in its showcasing of gnaoua music in its original form as well as in fusion with a range of world music styles. If you are in Morocco this May, don't miss it!
For more information about Essaouira's 18th Annual Gnaoua Festival or an Essaouira Tour Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on February 25, 2015 at 9:10 PM||comments (88)|
The Moroccan port city of Tangiers (also known as Tangier, or Tanger in French) sits on the Straits of Gibraltar, staring right across the Mediterranean Sea at Spain. Sitting just east of Africa's most north-westerly point, it has been a key point of exchange between the African and European continents for centuries.
Between 1923 and 1956 (when Morocco gained independence), Tangiers was at the center of a 144 sq mile international zone under the joint administration of France, Spain, and Britain (and later Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States). This international status and the post-war wanderlust of many European and American travelers resulted in a large and diverse expat population of writers, artists, smugglers, bon vivants and fortune-seekers living alongside Tangier's indigenous populations of Moroccan Arabs, Berbers and Riffians from the neighboring Rif mountain range. Foreign residents included Beat Era American authors, Paul Bowles, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. However, even before the establishment of the French Protectorate in Morocco and the Tangiers International Zone, the seafront frontier town atmosphere of Tangiers attracted its fair share of celebrity residents. One such visitor was French fauvist painter, Henri Matisse.
Matisse's 1912 work, Window at Tangier, is a painting of the view from his window in room 35 at the Hotel Villa de France. Originally built in 1880 by Luciano Bruseaud, the Villa de France was the residence of the head of French diplomacy before becoming the main building of the hotel. It featured impressive gardens stretching to Tangiers' Anglican church of Saint Andrew. The hotel became the favorite of an élite clique of international visitors during the period of the International Zone: French and British aristocrats, German diplomats, military officers and even clergymen are said to have stayed there for a drink or a few nights. The Villa de France only lost its pre-eminent position when Scottish businessman Lord Bute opened a larger and more sumptuous rival in 1930: the Hôtel El Minzah. The decline of Villa de France began after the end of World War II and the dissolution of the International Zone, and by the late 20th century it had long become outmoded and was in desperate need of renovation. The hotel was closed in 1992 and remained shut for more than 20 years. Protests against the threat of demolition in favor of modern property development are said to have reached the ears of King Mohammed VI. Villa de France was finally classified as a historic monument in 2003, befitting its grand architecture and function as the urban memory of Tangier. The renovation and expansion began 3 years later to the tune of around 100 million Moroccan dirhams (US$ 10.5 million).
The Grand Hotel Villa de France was officially re-opened in September 2014, after a soft launch over the preceding summer. Along with its erstwhile rival, El Minzah, it is now owned by Iraqi-born British businessman, Nadhmi Auchi. The aim of the renovation has been to maintain the character of the original architecture, while acknowledging Tangier's pinnacle of the 1950s and 60s, in a modern 5* hotel setting. Room 35 has been reserved as an homage to Matisse. The renovation is sympathetic to the original charm of the 19th century design, while incorporating traditional Moroccan craftsmanship and modern amenities (such as independent apartments and a new pool).
Today, as in yesteryear, the new Grand Hotel Villa de France enjoys unfettered and impressive views of both the Tangiers medina, the Mediterranean and its own extensive gardens. Sitting on a hill above the city, it is the perfect escape from the bustle below - either for a drink on the beautiful terraces, or for a longer stay.
Written by Lynn Sheppard
Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 16, 2014 at 10:15 AM||comments (1)|
The global inspired American chain Anthropologie boasts a March 2014 Lookbook and new collection inspired by Morocco. Anthropologies’ design team and models recently traveled to Tangier and the Blue washed city of Chefchaouen, nestled in the Riff Region, for a cultural and landscape photo shoot. This serves as an inspiration for those who wish to travel to Morocco or want to bring some Moroccan lifestyle pieces into their homes. Anthropologie chose Tangier and Chefchaouen for their recent shoot having read the accounts of writers and expats who formed a community there in the 1950’s. “In Tangier you have this beautiful light bouncing off the Straits of Gibraltar, along with an atmosphere of louche glamour,” states Susy their Chief of Marketing. Some of Travel Exploration's team's favorite shots from the March 2014 LookBook are featured here.
Anthropologie opened its first storefront in 1992. Since then this trendy, upmarket lifestyle chain has demonstrated an expertise and penchant for taking its audience of buyers on a visual extravaganza through eclectic and colorful designs. Anthropologie takes its audience off the beaten path and has a knack for combining quality with a fresh take on design. Anthropologie has a captive audience and with its magnificent and fun products that are inspired by designer’s far-flung journeys around the globe. This leading retailer has made an impact on the fashion market and emotionally appeals to those want to decorate and dress with global flair. Tribal, antique and various old world patterns can be found within the fabric of all products that Anthropologie sells.
By successfully creating a name for themselves in home furnishings, clothing, found objects, gifts and décor, Anthropologie products now resonate with a global audience of varied ages. Ikat, Suzanni, Batik, Berber and Victorian inspired designs are just a few influences on many of its home furnishings. Having the Northern cities of Tangier and Chefchaouen part of Anthropologie’s color palette for spring 2014 is a hallmark and compliment to Morocco.
From ancient Tangier’s winding medina streets to small cafes, tearooms, whitewashed rooftops along with the tiny back roads of Chefchaouen this March is a great time to get to discover Morocco!
For More Information about Tangier & Chefcahouen Travel Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on July 27, 2013 at 9:35 PM||comments (21)|
In the new Moroccan constitution adopted in 2011 in the context of the Arab Spring , His Majesty King Mohammed VI reaffirmed the "Hebrew distinctive characteristic" of Morocco as " one of the age-old pieces " of "its national identity"" and he called for "the restoration of all the Jewish temples " in the Kingdom. In a message at the restoration ceremony of the 17th century Slat al Fassayine Synagogue in Fes, King Mohammed VI reiterated his commitment to religious freedom and spiritual diversity, and emphasized the importance of the three-thousand-year-old Jewish legacy in Morocco. King Mohammed VI commended the institutions and individuals whose years of effort led to the restoration of Slat al Fassayine and called for the restoration of all Moroccan synagogues. Morocco is intent on making the Judeo-Moroccan cultural heritage a priority as part of its larger domestic program to preserve the unique and historic aspects of Moroccan culture. "As is enshrined in the Kingdom's new Constitution," His Majesty said, "the Hebrew heritage is indeed one of the time-honored components of our national identity. For this reason, I wish to call for the restoration of all the synagogues in the other Moroccan cities so that they may serve not only as places of worship, but also as forums for cultural dialogue and for the promotion of our cultural values."
Essaouira is the site of an annual pilgrimage to the grave of the renowned Rabbi Chaïm Pinto,known for many miracles during his lifetime, he died 1845. His home and synagogue are preserved as an historic and religious site. It is situated in the Mellah. The hiloula of Chaïm Pinto is held in September every year and is attended by many devout jews from all over the world.. The Chaim Pinto Synagogue, is an historic site in Essaouira, Morocco, formerly known as Mogador, and was the home and synagogue of Rabbi Chaim Pinto.
Although there is no longer a Jewish community in Essaouira, the building is an active synagogue, used when pilgrims or Jewish tour groups visit the city. The synagogue is on the second floor of a three-story, courtyard building inside the walls of the old city that also contained Rabbi Pinto's home and office. The building is of whitewashed plaster over masonry. The synagogue consists of a single large room. There are two women's sections, one across the courtyard and one on the third floor, both with windows looking into the synagogue. The synagogue room underwent a modern renovation in line with the policy of restoring Morocco’s Jewish synagogues announced by King Mohammed VI, concealing the ceiling and column capitals, and painting the wood of the Torah Ark and Bimah light blue.
The other synagogue being renovated is Slat Attias Essaouira's mellah covers over 10 percent of the town, but Jews constituted almost 40 percent of the population in the late 1880's. Jewish stars on the doors to the mellah show the degree to which Jews were accepted in Essaouira, to the point that some of the richer Jews did not even live in the mellah. Commemorative plaques indicate the buildings in which synagogues were located. The Jewish community formed an important link with the outside world for Morocco not only as regards trade but also in terms of art and culture. André Elbaz the painter is one of many, who lives in France but always remembers his birth place, Essaouira, and continues to exhibit there at the Contemporary Art Centre at Essaouira. Former inhabitants of Essaouira, most of them Jewish, formed a committee to rehabilitate the town.
The Jewish cemetery, just outside the city gates, is extremely well-kept. The cemetery is renowned as the site of an annual pilgrimage to Rabbi Haim Pinto. Annually, on the hillula or anniversary of the rabbi’s death (26 Ellul on the Jewish calendar), Jews from around the world come on pilgrimage to the rabbi’s grave. Essaouira was founded in 1765. The oldest tombs date from 1776. These tombs carved out of marine sandstone, are interesting. Contrary to Jewish tradition and Mosaic Law, they are sculptured with very marked human forms. A famous citizen of Essaouira, the adviser to King Mohammed VI , André Azoulay ,who is Jewish, has said that his birthplace Essaouira is, “the single place in the Arab world equipped with a population mainly Jewish until 1930, could be used today as example for the dialogue between the Jews and the Moslems throughout the world” During the 19th century the Jewish population in Essaouira grew from 4,000 to 12,000 from 1830 to 1912, and declined to about 6500 in 1936.This is attributed to the decline of commerce and other economic activity during the French Protectorate era in Mogador in favor of Casablanca and Agadir. The immigration trends of the 1950s and 1960s caused the Mogador Jewish community to dwindle. n the early 1970s most of its Jewish community members resided in USA,Canada, Europe and Israel. By 2005, the community had almost disappeared. Essaouira used to be an example of a small town in which Muslims and Jews lived side by side in both rich and poor districts, working together but socially segregated - and in peace.
The rise of Essaouira as a commercial port in the 19th century because of the cotton trade and the links with major ports such as Manchester and Liverpool saw the Jewish community involved in export –import trade in Essaouira reach its zenith. It was unique because there were almost as many Jews as there were Muslims, so the term "minority" did not really apply, as it did in every other town and city in Morocco and everywhere in the Arab world. Aside from ownership of the land in and around the town, which always remained in the hands of the caids and makhsen - local landed gentry and royal family clans - most urban-style import-export business was dominated by Jewish families. The one exception was all artisan work connected to wood, directly linked to the vast forests around the town. From the very beginning of royal trading in the 18th century, the Corcos family dominated the import of tea leaves from Britain, which originated from its Far East colonies, and was thus responsible for making tea the traditional morning beverage in Morocco. Essaouira's last Jews began to leave following the Six Day War. Many of the working-class families left the mellah, the Jewish district in Arab cities, for Israel.
The Kasbah's well-off business leaders headed mostly to France and Canada. But thousands of Jews remain here, buried in two cemeteries on the edge of town, including Rabbi Chaim Pinto. Thousands of Jews return each year to venerate his tomb and those of the many Moroccan Jewish saints and ancestors uniting them with their past and also celebrating the future. Many religious schools, a yeshiva, and several English-French Jewish schools were founded in Essaouira in the 1800s. In the early 20th century, the Jewish population in Essaouira was still higher than the Muslim population, and urban life was regulated by the Jewish calendar. Essaouira's real beginning as a import-export center came in 1760 when the sultan of Morocco appointed families from Casablanca, Marrakech and other northern cities to settle here and become official royal traders. Many if not most were Jewish. The town grew. According to Ottmani, seven of the town's leading families in the 19th century were Muslim, while 25 were Jewish, with names such as Corcos, Afriat, Bensaoud, Cohen Solal, Belisha, Ohana, Pinto and El-Maleh. In the beginning, these families conducted trade by ship mostly with Britain, but also handled local trade and the camel caravans coming from Timbuktu across the desert, with links to Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo and Mecca.
In modern times the caravans disappeared, but international trade focused on Europe became highly competitive. The silver jewelry work was famous for the much sought-after filogram design, the Dag Ed Essaouiri - thin lines converge on a circular center as meticulous radii, a design that was instantly recognizable as native to Essaouira. The master silversmiths were all Jewish, as were many of the workers, who lived mostly in the mellah. Today, the remaining silver designers are Berbers, many of whom worked with the local Jews until they left. The local Arab jewelers all work in gold. Israel has been a part of the attempt to commercialize. There is an ongoing attempt to link French-speaking Jews back to their countries of origin in North Africa. In some cases, it has been successful, as French and Canadian Sephardim, and in some cases Israelis, have bought homes there. The Essaouira Alliance Israélite Universelle School, was founded in 1765. While no longer an Alliance school, the building remains the same, with its open courtyard, narrow staircases, and rooftop view of the Atlantic ocean.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on July 18, 2013 at 8:30 AM||comments (2)|
In Morocco in July and August when temperatures are on the high side, you can avoid the sweltering heat of the cities by heading to coastal resorts or the Atlas Mountain retreats where cooler breezes allow you to escape inland heat. Agadir’s long clean crescent beach on the Atlantic coast, offer opportunities for surfing, snorkeling, wind surfing and jet skiing. Most of the larger hotels and surf clubs on the beach rent out water sports equipment and surf boards and cool sea breezes keep the temperature down. Further up the coast the ancient fishing port town of Essaouira with its ramparts, long idyllic beach and sea front, provides opportunities for wind surfing and other water sports . It has a reputation for being windy but temperatures are much lower than inland which means that you can enjoy the fun of Essaouira’s colorful relaxed souks and walk the ramparts with their 17th century cannons or simply enjoy the thriving cafe life and many good restaurants. You can take a private tour to Essaouira with a Morocco travel agency which is the easiest option. Other less convenient options of travel to Essaouira is the CTM and Supratour buses offer regular daily luxury airconditioned bus trips from Marrakech to Essaouira return, which take three hours with a stop on the way at a roadside café. This for budget travelers and the way to travel if you do not have other transport arranged or the budget for a private Essaouira Tour.
[/caption] Two more relaxed alternatives to Essaouira are Sidi Kaouki some 20 kms drive from Essaouira and the alluring lagoon and beaches at Oualidia which is between Safi and El Jadida. Both locations are quiet and uncommercialised. Sidi Kaouki is a delightful small town with a few small hotels and an unspoilt beach which is also ideal for surfing and relaxing. The Hotel Villa Soleil, is a white villa with a garden and restaurant close to the beach. Other hotels along the beach are Hotel windy Kaouki, a traditional Moroccan residence and Hotel Blue Kaouki. Oualidia is becoming more popular with tourists. The lagoon and extensive beaches were a well kept secret and a favorite of Moroccans as a seaside venue and a place to unwind, the beaches extend for miles. It is a beautiful natural beach and fishing location where surfing and swimming in the shallow waters of the lagoon can be enjoyed by all the family. It is ideal for swimming, surfing, wind-surfing or water-skiing. You can also hire a kayak and explore the lagoon or go fishing. There is a French run surfing school for children and beginners. Oulalidia is a very important ecological location. Among the marshes and wetlands there are curlews, flamingos, sandpipers, plovers, and many other migrating species making it a paradise for bird watchers. It is the main place in Morocco for oysters and you can enjoy them and the best seafood in the restaurants and small hotels along the beach. The most luxurious hotel is the luxury boutique hotel La Sultana Oualidia situated on the edge of the lagoon. It has an infinity pool ringed with jacuzzis, whose waters seem to merge with those of the lagoon, and an exotic, terraced garden as well as a five star health spa and an underwater restaurant. Alternatively you can drive to the Atlas Mountains to places such as the trekking town of Imlil and the Shangri la setting of the Kasbah Toubkal surrounded by mountains with outstanding views from its terrace. You can experience the life of the Berber people and the cool clear air of the mountains. Even a trip to the Ourika Valley with its bubbling streams or further up to the seven waterfalls of Sebti Fatima which leads on to trekking in the mountains. The ski station of Oumkaimeden offers views over the Vale of Marrakech. Other mountain locations include Midelt, Ifrane and Azrou which are high up winter stations and offer a cooler temperate climate with forests and national parks to explore. Even when you are in Marrakech, you can find a shady spot in the eco paradise of the Majorelle Gardens owned by Yves Saint Laurent or the green palm tree lined Moulay Abdesalam Park off Avenue Mohammed VI or the delightful Harti Park near the Place 16 Novembre and Macdonalds which has a children’s playing ground with two large stone dinasours. You can take the family for the day to the Oasiria Water Park just outside Marrakech,or the Beldi Country Club 6 km outside with its adult and two children’s swimming pools, Spa and three restaurants, set in fine gardens with roses,olive trees and flowering plants. This is also an hotel and the club serves non guests. For the seriously trendy there is Nikki Beach in the Palmeraie which has a DJ with groovy music as well as an excellent restaurant and swimming pool. Many hotels and some restaurants in Marrakech now welcome guests and nonresidents for lunch and a dip in their pool.
For More Information about the Morocco in Summer in Agadir & Essaouira Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on July 14, 2013 at 6:00 PM||comments (21)|
Azemmour is a charming former Portugese fortified town on the great Oum Er-Rabia river 75 km from Casblanca and close to the fortified city of El Jadida which the Portugese moved to after abandoning Azemmour in 1541. The Duke of Braganza took the town in 1513 with a force of some 500 ships and 15,000 troops. It was used as a destination for shipping goods along the river. Azemmour is unspoiled and a very restful destination of character in Morocco.
The views from its ramparts and walls which rise up from the river are striking. Its white Medina and ochre walls seen from the three bridges that cross the river are very picturesque. The town is refreshingly calm and gives first time visitors to Morocco a good idea about the tranquil Moroccan way of life in a small town. The old Kasbah is mostly a ruin with striking views cross the river and gardens from the rampart walls. The prominent Dar El Baroud tower is all that remains of a gunpowder store that was destroyed.
The Moroccan built Medina is reached via Place de Souk and a 16 century gate with a European semi circular style arch. Azemmour had a substantial Jewish population which left in the 1960’s and the old Mellah or Jewish quarter lies in the northern part of the Medina after the Kasbah. The old synagogue is well maintained and looked after by a local family and it is possible to see inside where lies the tomb of Rabbi Abrahim Moul Nis, which is an important shrine for Jewish pilgrims and is the focus of a Mouassem each year.
The patron saint of Azemmour is Abu Shuayb Ayub Ibn Said Erredad al-Sanhaji Assariya , who died about 1177. His mausoleum was built on the order of Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah. Each year a moussem is celebrated to honour him. The Azemmour festival is held each year in July.
Riads in Azemmour include the Oum Errabia, 25 Derb Chtouka a modern and traditional high class riad with excellent cuisine. The Dar Wabi ,Derb Daira and Riad 7, at 2, Derb Chtouka
Riad Azma 17 Derb Ben Tahar is a grand 19th-century house complete with original carved woodwork and charming rooms surrounding a lovely courtyard. The carved, painted ceilings here are some of the finest and the rooftop terrace has great views of the medina
There is the Restaurant Panorama with a delightful garden serving Moroccan cuisine and La Perle restaurant on Hauzia beach across the river from Azemmour .
Hauzia beach has kite surfing, although the river has strong currents and care should be taken. The wetlands by the beach have a variety of bird life for bird watchers.
A visit to Azemmour can be combined with a trip to the Portugese fortified medina of El Jadida giving the visitor a good idea of the Portugese architectural heritage and naval prowess in the sixteenth century. The Portugese presence in Morocco declined after their defeat at the battle of the three Kings at Kasr el Kebir in the north of Morocco in 1578.
For More Information about Azzemour, El Jadida and Morocco's Seaside Towns Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on June 22, 2013 at 8:00 AM||comments (63)|
The lagoon and extensive beaches at Oualidia, lying between El Jadida and Safi, were a well kept secret and a favourite of Moroccans as a seaside venue and a place to unwind. Now it is finding increasing in popularity as a beautiful sheltered natural beach and fishing location where surfing and swimming in the lagoon are enjoyed by more tourists on a break from the busy streets of Casablanca and Marrakech.
Oualidia also an excellent location for bird watching with flamingos in spring and summer, amongst other species. The unspoiled beaches extend for miles and are ideal for walking and horse riding. There is a French run surfing camp for young and old, ideal for families with children. Members of the royal family reputedly learn to surf there. As well as the ruins an ancient Kasbah built by Sultan Al Walid there is the former King Mohammed V’s palace which is now largely derelict.
With its mild year-round climate and quiet relaxing beaches, Oualidia is less crowded than the more populated Essaouira and more protected from the wind . A haven from the hot and dusty cities and less commercialised than other resorts such as Agadir.
There is none of the usual hassling in Oualidia. The shallow waters of the lagoon are ideal for swimming, surfing, wind-surfing or water-skiing. You can hire a kayak and explore the lagoon. Oulalidia is a very important ecological location. Among the marshes and wetlands there are curlews, flamingos, sandpipers, plovers, stilts and many other migrating species making it a paradise for bird watchers
Keen walkers can follow the cliff path for miles above deserted grottoes and beaches. Oualidia is famous for its oysters. You can sample them as well as locally-caught crab, sea bass and sea bream, at one of the many waterside restaurants or freshly grilled on the beaches by fishermen.
The Araignee Gourmande restaurant is highly recommended as is L'Ostrea and there are a others including the l’Hippocampe, which is also an hotel and Le Kalypso.
There are small hotels including the Dar Beldi which is French run with attractive French Moroccan architecture and decoration and a fine garden. It is about 10 minutes walk from the beach.
The luxury boutique hotel La Sultana Oualidia is at the edge of the lagoon with L'Hippocampe and the Auberge Oualidia , which offers less costly accommodation.
Oualidia has been described as a coastal escape for connoisseurs, with something to offer out of season as well because of its milder climate and the protection from high winds by the lagoon.
|Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 14, 2013 at 10:00 AM||comments (17)|
Essaouira has it all! Ramparts and cannons looking out to sea, a maze of alley ways and souks selling artifacts, carpets and jewellry , the best handicrafts that Morocco has to offer, art galleries and museums ,excellent restaurants, riads and hotels to suit every budget a mysterious island with a deserted mosque and abandoned settlement, a thriving fishing port, a long beach with a collapsed fort. Essaouira is the perfect seaside destination for single travelers or family holidays.
In the 18th century Sultan Mohammed III directed a French engineer, Théodore Cornut, and several other European architects and technicians to build the fortress and city blending Moorish and European designs of the period. There is a martello tower which was a revolutionay design at the time. Originally called "Souira" ("the small fortress"), the name became "Es-Saouira" ("the beautifully designed") which is especially apt. The imposing gate to the harbour was built by an English renegade "Ahmed the English." Thus the town has its own special magic and attracted the famous film director and actor Orson Welles who filmed his renowned version of Shakespeare’s Othello here in the early 1950’s using the ramparts and medina streets to great effect. Essaouira also had a hippy period when Jimi Hendrix and many others gathered here.
The development of Essaouira into Morocco’s premier seaside destination owes a great deal to André Azoulay a native of the town and the Adviser to King Mohammed VI .Essaouira is now a cultural centre for the arts with a number of galleries featuring contemporary Moroccan artists and it is a great opportunity to view and buy their work which is becoming internationally famous. The Frederic Damgaard gallery is the best and oldest in town and features the work of local artists. Essaouira’s beautifully refurbished Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah Museum is in an old riad and has a small but interesting collection of jewellry, costumes, weapons, musical instruments and carpets fom the region. There’s a section explaining the signs and symbols used by local craftsmen and photographs of Essaouira at the turn of the century. Essaouira is famous for its wooden artifacts,bowls,intricately designed boxes and cabinets in workshops in the Skalla de Ville just under the ramparts. Other finds in the souks are carpets and kelims and jewellry shops near Avenue Istiqlal where you can find berber jewellry and items in gold. Down by the harbour, the Skala du Port has cannons and picturesque views over the fishing port and the Île de Mogador. The small fishing boats are painted a deep blue and the larger fishing vessels are sometimes raised on to the harbour for repairs. Fish are landed and it is possible to buy them fresh from the sea or eat them grilled at tables on the dockside. Sam’s the wooden restaurant in the harbour is famous for its fish dishes as is the Restaurant de la Plage with views out to sea and Essaouira’s long beach.The terrace of Restaurant de la Plage is still one of the the best places for lunch in Essaouira. Other highly recommended restaurants include ; Les Alizés ,Ferdaous, El Minzah, Riad Al-Baraka and Les Chandeliers The magnificent square at the entrance to the souks has numerous cafés for breakfast and coffee during the day and patisseries bake excellent cakes and pastries which can be consumed in the cafés. Fishing with a fishing boat from the harbour can be arranged as can trips to the Ile de Mogador ( with a permit from the Port office) except during the mating season of the famous colony of the rare Eleanora's falcons, between April and October.
Essaouira is a windy town and thus a paradise for surfers, wind surfing is particularly popular and the bay is often filled with the colourful sails of windsurfers gliding back and forth with speed. Care should be taken by swimmers as there are strong undercurrents. If riding camels along the beach is not enough for you, you can ride horses and trek in the surrounding countryside and discover the ancient viaduct brought down by an earth quake. Outside the town you can witness the amusing sight of goat’s climbing argan trees to eat the berries and you can visit argan oil presses and women’s cooperatives producing argan oil which is now a highly sought after product for culinary and cosmetic purposes. Essaouira now has extremely good connections,with its own airport and a motorway linking it to Marrakech.The Supra tours bus company provides s regular service between Marrakech and Essaouira. There are three world class festivals held in Essaouira each year ; the Gnaoua Festival of World Music is held in Essaouira, normally in the last week of June. It is a great event and it is important to book hotel accommodation well in advance if you decide to visit at this time. The spring musical festival of Alizés in May features classical music and opera and the festival of Atlantic Andalusian music,art and dance in late September.