Morocco Gateway Blog
Due to the popular reaction to our recent article on Valentines Day special offers and ideas in Marrakesh, here are some alternatives in the perhaps even more romantic ancient city of Fez in Morocco.
Set in the old city’s winding streets, Riad Ibn Battouta in Fez offers seven suites stylishly designed to mirror the journey of Ibn Battouta, a fourteen-century pilgrim who travelled extensively from Spain to China, from Africa to Russia. Perfect location for a romantic escape we think. Riad Ibn Battouta is offering Morocco Gateway users complimentary dinner for two for stays over Valentines weekend of 3 nights or more. For more details on the riad and to make an enquiry, click here
Riad Ibn Battouta
Nearby in Fez is the wonderful Riad Mabrouka. Built in 1920, the Arabo-Andalousian house of Riad Mabrouka was renovated and restored in 2000 to create a guesthouse of 6 suites and 2 rooms, complete with a small swimming pool and restaurant. Riad Mabrouka has a special offer valid until the end of February and including Valentine’s weekend of dinner for 2 persons offered for a 3 nights stay minimum. Click here for more details on the riad.
Riad Mabrouka terrace
Or to view all hotels and riads in Fez including Riads Mabrouka and Ibn Battouta, click here.
With Valentine’s day 2011 already on the horizon, there are fewer better places for a romantic weekend than Morocco. Just a few hours flight time from the UK and Europe, Marrakesh is an ancient city of intense colour, culture, escape and romance. And a number of the riads and hotels featuring on Morocco Gateway are offering Valentine’s Weekend special offers.
In Marrakesh, Riad El Cadi is a fourteenth-century house only a two minute walk from the local souks and a five minute walk from the main Jemaa el Fna square. The riad is offering Morocco Gateway users a romantic lunch on the roof terrace, sun-drenched and decorated with rose petals. For more details on Riad El Cadi, click here.
Riad El Cadi roof terrace
Still in Marrakech Riad Mezouar offering a Valentine’s Special of 2 nights in a junior suite with arrival and departure air-conditioned transfers from the airport, in-room breakfast, three-course menu romantic candlelit dinner for two, perfumed bubble bath with rose petals and a pampering massage for two. Price for two persons for two nights is only €545 (valid 10/02/2011 to 15/02/2011). See more details here.
Riad El Mezouar room
Riad ZamZam is offering a special 3 courses valentines dinner by its top chef for €50 per person. The dinner includes, Mojito cocktail, canapes, smoked salmon and buckwheat blinis with creme fraiche, chicken trid or lamb tanjia with vetable couscous, chocolate and fig torte with vanilla ice cream, moroccan petit fours and tea or coffee. Zam Zam can also advise and book romantic trips ie caleche rides, hot air ballooning, etc. For more details on Riad ZamZam click here.
Riad ZamZam room
At the more luxury end of the market, the award winning Ksar Char Bagh is offering 3 nights accommodation in a traditional Harim Suite (of approximately 70 square meters with private terrace or private garden], a Valentine day dinner for 2 persons (beverages not included), daily breakfast and airport transfers for €565 per person over for 3 nights (Based on a double occupancy and excluding local taxes and 10% government taxes. View more details here.
Delivering beauty treatment which speak of centuries of deep Moroccan hammam expertise, consider also the range of spa hotels as a gift to female partners in particular – by clicking here - or you can see our full listing of romantic riads and hotels in Morocco by clicking here.
If you have an appreciation for art, craft and history, the Dar Batha Museum located in Fez, Morocco is a must-see attraction. This excellent collection of artifacts is housed in a Hispano-Moorish palace that dates back to the 19th century – a beautiful piece of art in itself.
So exactly what sort of traditional artwork can you expect to find at the Dar Batha Museum? Most traditional forms of art were also practical in nature so they usually took the form of furniture that was given a decorative touch. Therefore you can expect to enjoy intricately carved wooden furniture, wrought iron with decorative finishing touches, carpets, embroidery and jewelry.
The Dar Batha Museum also has a great collection of ancient coins. All of these intricately worked masterpieces of functional or decorative art are beautiful to behold and visitors may find themselves struggling to decide where to start and which item to look at next.
The best part of the museum, however, is undoubtedly the pottery room where you will find an unbeatable display of ceramic objects that have been masterfully crafted by Fez craftsmen through the centuries. Of particular interest are the articles dating back to the 10th century which contain items of ‘fez blue’. At the time, this relatively groundbreaking way of coloring pottery involved the use of cobalt to obtain the bluish coloring. Typical ceramics feature a white enamel background with stylized floral motives interweaved on them in brilliant shades of blue. The floral motifs are both sophisticated and harmonious and are a delight to behold.
Also worth seeing are the astrolabes – a display featuring a variety of fascinating astronomical instruments that were created and perfected by learned Arabs. They are not only functional, but wonderfully decorative with intricately worked metal and inset jewels. You’ll find the Dar Batha Museum at Place du Batha in Fez.
The Dar Batha Museum is close to all the Fez hotels and riads listed on Morocco Gateway which you can view by clicking here.
We are often asked about English-owned and therefore English-speaking riads and hotels in Morocco – Marrakesh and Fez in particular.
There are a number of these riads and hotels, which we have listed here for viewing ease.
It is useful to remember that whilst these riads and hotels are owned by English people, that is not to say that these owners are there on site when guests are there. Often, in our experience, the English owners (like French and other nationality owners) will travel to and from Morocco throughout the year. Do not expect them therefore always to be your hosts.
Often however, the English owners are on site or can be contacted during a stay if needed. They also tend to ensure that their staff speak a high standard of English.
Dar Zemora was purchased in summer of 2001 by its English owners and opened in September 2003 as a guesthouse comprising four suites and three bedrooms. Created as a “country house hotel” Dar Zemora is a convenient retreat, situated in the peaceful Palmeraie area but within a short drive to the city of Marrakech. Read more about Dar Zemora here.
Dar Zemora pool above.
Originally home to a fortune-teller, Riad Zamzam is located in the historical and religious site of Zaouia Sidi Bel Abbess, the shrine of Sir Bel Abbess. It is now owned by Emma and Marcus Joyston-Bechal who moved to Morocco from the UK in order to restore the riad (you read more on their adventures in coming to Morocco at their blog here). Or read more about Riad Zamzam here.
View over Fez from Dar 47
In Fez, Dar 47 was purchased in 2007 by owners Michael and Emma Crane for its panoramic views of the medina. The house offers exclusive rental from two to nine people, with a minimum of a two-day stay. Located near the centre of Fez, guests can expect a short drive to the city centre and places of interest, or slightly longer walks. Read more about Dar 47 here.
A full listing of English-owned and English-speaking riads and hotels in Morocco can be viewed by clicking here.
For soon-to-be married couples who are planning a honeymoon in Morocco, there are many good specialist honeymoon providers who offer a full service including flights, concierges, activities and transfers. A google search will uncover these providers.
But they can charge royally for these services and this can be expensive on top of the cost of the wedding.
Fortunately there is a good alternative in going for a self-arranged honeymoon. Not only is this far cheaper, it is also more personal as you have control and discretion over all elements of the honeymoon.
For couples looking for a high-end luxury bolt-hole, good options include Ana Yela, Jnane Tamsna, Riyad al Moussika , Tigmi (image below) and Dar Zemora. More luxury hotel and riad options can be found here.
We have also put a list together of romantic hotels and riad getaways across Morocco which is a good starting place for accommodation ideas. You can view this list by clicking here.
If there is more of a budget, there is a good range of mid-priced riads and hotels in Marrakech including Riad L’Orangeraie , Riad Dar One, and Riad El Cadi. More mid-price option in Marrakesh can be found here.
People tend to head for Marrakesh as a first option on an honeymoon, but Fes is also worth considering– it is less visited than Marrakesh but perhaps more intensely romantic. There is a good selection of mid-priced boutique riads and hotels listed here. Riad Fes and Riad Alkantara are good starters for a search in Fes.
Finally, who can beat a trip to the Sahara desert for a honeymoon?? We list a number of kasbahs and hotels which are familar with taking care of people on their honeymoon. You can view these by clicking here.
Remember that all the hotels and riads listed on Morocco Gateway can arrange transfers to and from these desert hotels for those honeymooners who want a mix of sand and city.
For people looking a self-catering accommodation option in Morocco, many of the riads and hotels clearly do not fit the bill.
But good news! There are a small number of riads and private apartments which do offer self-catering, most of them also providing a house-keeper who can very usefully assist with food ingredients buying and preparation.
Located near the centre of Fez, Dar 47 offers exclusive rental from two to nine people in its five bedrooms. Dar 47 has two terraces – the front terrace is a good place for guests to sunbathe with sun loungers, parasols, tables and chairs and a “rainforest” shower to cool off in while the rear terrace on the other hand becomes an al-fresco venue. A built-in barbeque, dining table and lounging chairs adjoins to a terrace kitchen which is fully equipped for guests to use. Although Dar 47 is generally thought a self-catering accommodation choice, the live-in housekeeper provides breakfast and daily cleaning. Additionally, guests can request lunch and dinner for a supplementary cost. Read more about Dar 47 here.
Dar 47 terrace above
Chez Rebecca in Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast is a self-catering apartment in Essaouira’s historically listed medina. The house itself is round 150 years old and renovated in 2008 by four English friends and managed by a Moroccan team of staff. Its location is central, with food souks on the doorstep, and the beach only a ten minute walk away. Chez Rebecca includes a fully-equipped kitchen, spacious living room and dining area. Read more about Chez Rebecca here.
Chez Rebecca terrace above
You may also want to look at the private riad and house options across Morocco here which do provide all meal catering but without the need to share with other guests.
For those people who have not yet arranged their new year’e eve and day, Morocco and Marrakesh in particular represents a great destination, only a few hours from the UK and Europe, and offering sun, clear skies (usually!) and a party atmosphere!
Most riads and hotels stay open for the Christmas and New Year season, and some of these have interesting special offers for their remaining rooms – you can read more about there in our recent article on special offers here. Remember that most of these special offers have been negotiated by Morocco Gateway and are therefore only available through ourselves.
For those people who want to get away but for peace and quiet, there are a number of riads and hotels on the outskirts of Marrakesh such as La Palmeraie area, which are always popular over the Festive season. We have listed these in a selection called “Marrakesh Borders” here.
Almost of interest may be our list of clubs and restaurants in Marrakesh here.
For family trips in Marrakesh and across Morocco, have a look at our selection of family-friendly riads and hotels here, and for multi-family parties, you may also want to look at a choice of riads and hotels that cater for large parties by clicking here.
We wrote a blog post back in July 2010 about Family friendly holidays in Morocco. This post received a certain amount of attention and so we thought we would put together a list of hotels across Morocco that we believe are particularly good at catering for families. You can view this hand-picked selection by clicking here or view the orginal blog post by clicking here.
We have also written about a number of family activities in Marrakech and other places across Morocco that you may wish to view and be inspired by! Examples of these are Riad Attajmil’s new working farm (which can also accomodate – great as a combination with a stay in Marrakesh, Fez oe Essaouira). Also, for people staying in Marrakesh is the Oasiria Water park, which you can read more about here.
All of the hotels that we have selected for Morocco Gateway can provide guests with good tips and advice for families staying in Morocco. For multi-family parties, you may also want to look at a choice of riads and htoels that cater for large parties by clicking here.
Most of us have been on a holiday where we have forgotten an essential item which has somehow plagued us for the rest of the holiday. We know that there is no single check-list that meets everyone’s needs but here is one list of items to prepare before traveling abroad to Morocco which may be useful:
- Sun hat
- Sun cream (at least factor 20)
- Insect repellant
- Plug adaptor (Morocco uses French styled 2 point sockets)
- Travel insurance (and the provider’s helpdesk number saved on your phone)
- Mobile phone with European/ North Africa coverage
- Cereal bars (just in case there is nothing appealing for lunch where you are)
- Salt pills (in the event of diarrhea and dehydration)
- Ear plugs (we never travel without)
- Wet-wipes (for hands before eating)
To see the full list of items to pack for a trip to Morocco and Marrkaesh, click here.
If you are missing any of these items when you arrive, all of the hotels on Morocco Gateway have been selected as they will be able to help you out.
Here is a great recipe I found for vegetarians who want to try a tagine courtesy of the Blog site Fes Cooking. You usually don’t find vegetarian tagines in the bigger cities, but you will find them in Berber communities and with this recipe you can eat it at home.
Image by L’Aubergine Grillée
For 2-3 people:
- 2 sliced onions
- 2 heads of garlic
- 1 potato, peeled and cut into circles
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into circles
- 1 cup of peas
- 2 tomatoes, cut into circles
- 2 hot chili peppers diced
- ½ cup of chopped cilantro
- ½ cup of chopped fresh parsley
- powdered ginger or fresh ginger
- olive oil
Heat olive oil in a big pot, or tagine. Add the onions. Cook for a few minutes, until the onion starts to change color. Add garlic, spices, potatoes, carrots, peas, and chili peppers. Add one cup of water to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes on a low flame. Add the tomatoes, parsley, and cilantro. Cook for 10 more minutes and serve!
This dish can also be cooked in the oven: Start the onions on the stove, as above. After they finish cooking, add all the ingredients to the pot and put in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes on 180-200 ° C.
For people who want to take an interest in Moroccan food further, there are a number of riads and hotels running cookery courses for guests at resaonable prices. You can view these riads and hotels by clicking here.
Remember to ask about the cookery courses in any enquiry that you submit to riads and hotels via Morocco Gateway.