This week on our Travel Tuesday (apologies for delayed posting!) I took a reluctant George Hook, host of Newstalk FM’s High Noon, to Morocco.
George’s concerns are far from unusual – terrorist atrocities in Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey have impacted tourism in every Muslim majority country. A small sign of the effect is that Ireland’s last direct flight to Morocco finishes up this month, having had two regular services until recently.
Yet, as we discussed and as visitors will have found, Morocco is a country of warm hospitality and I had no safety concerns while there.
Marrakech of course was our first port of call – a city that demands immersion in the excesses – for good and ill – of the Medina and Djemma el Fna.
Yet there are countless oases within this chaos – in the courtyards of riads and dars that make it the boutique hotel capital of the world (Palais Donab where we stayed somehow sees 250 or so hotels ranked ahead of it on TripAdvisor – extraordinary!). It’s also in the hammams, from the community public facilities to private spa-like offerings; and in rooftop cafes. You can find it outside of the town too, but surely a calm serene location defeats the purpose of Marrakech. If you’re going for that, try for idiosyncrasies like in the Fellah Hotel, with its boxing ring!
Then onwards to the coast to Essaouira. I’ve waxed lyrical about Essaouira here before, but it bears repeating – its combination of magnificent beach, fishing port, ramparts and medina, with an authenticity blending Moroccan life with a French cafe influence merits a place in the A-List of African travel.
Our journey took us back inland too to the Atlas Mountains, to the Taourirt Kasbah in Ouarzazate, which doubles as a movie set; to the desert beauty of Erg Chigaga, and to Fez, amongst others.
I think George yielded a little as we spoke, even if he ended worrying about the Agadir earthquake from 1960!!
Listen and enjoy: MOROCCO PODCAST and all our previous editions!
You can also tune in at 13.30hrs every Tuesday on Newstalk 106-108FM in Ireland, at http://www.newstalk.com or via the TuneIn App.