TELETEXT DOES MOROCCO: AN INSIDER'S GUIDE
When Visit Morocco sent Teletext Holidays' own Ricky Durrance to experience this wonderful country for the first time, he came away with an insight - there is more to this diverse country than the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. Lucky for us, Ricky highlight his insider's guide to the three days he spent in this diverse country - but will it inspire you to book Morocco holidays this 2019? Let's find out...
DEPARTURE DAY, 15TH NOVEMBER 2018
There are a few perks to working in the travel industry, with the most obvious one being that from time to time it's required to travel abroad to experience new countries, on the invitation of partners that I am lucky enough to work with. Such an opportunity presented itself late last year when the Moroccan National Tourist Office invited me on an educational trip to Bin el Ouidane and the Atlas Mountains, and of course, I didn’t hesitate to say yes and explore this colourful country for myself.
Therefore it was with great excitement that I arrived at Gatwick Airport in the early hours of Thursday 15th November and met up with the tourist board representative Amine, and my fellow travelers. There were 13 of us in total on this trip, with travel companies across the country represented. After a three-hour flight, we arrived at Marrakech International Airport, and it was here that we got our first treat – fast track security access! After around half hour we strolled out of the airport, which itself seemed a little bit quiet, and we were told that this is because nobody is allowed into the airport unless they are travelling themselves, so there are no taxi drivers or general members of the public inside the terminal, which certainly makes it seem a lot less hectic than some airports I've experienced in the past.
As the drive to our hotel would take around 3-4 hours, we were driven just a short way to a local Riad style hotel for lunch, called Dar Rhizlane. These Riads are a very popular type of accommodation in Morocco, they are boutique style luxury hotels which feature only a small number of rooms, plus lovely gardens and usually a communal room where you can eat and admire local entertainment in the evenings. Considering this one was in the heart of Marrakech you could be forgiven for thinking we were in the middle of nowhere as there seemed to be no sound, just a feeling of total relaxation. After a lunch - in a garden with mosaic floors - consisting of fresh salad starters, lamb, fish and beef kebabs with rice for mains and local fruits for desert, we had a quick tour around the Riad and boarded the mini bus to start our journey to the Widiane Suites and Spa in Bin el Oudane.
After around 4 hours we arrived – I’m told that a helicopter from Marrakech or Fez to the hotel takes a mere 40 minutes, which explains why it such a popular resort for the rich and famous – we had time for a quick shower before settling down to some dinner. As it was around 8pm we weren’t able to see too much of the hotel and surrounding area, but we were told to prepare ourselves for spectacular views once the sun rises the next morning. So we headed to bed, full of local beer (called Casablanca), and some very enjoyable local wine.
Due to confusions relating to the one hour time difference from the UK, I got up around three hours earlier than I was supposed to, just in time to see the sun come up. The views from the hotel were truly breathtaking, with the hotel nestled between the Atlas Mountains and on the shore of a huge lake, which itself is ten times larger than Central Park in New York and stretched as far as the eye could see.
After breakfast it was time to take a good look around the hotel. A favorite of rich Middle Eastern guests, and having in the not distant past hosted the King of Morocco and several Qatari Princesses, the Widiane Resort & Spa consists of 36 vibrant rooms. This is a riad style hotel with a 5-star service, offering total relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of busy, popular tourist resorts Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca and the other metropolitan centers. The hotel is split over three levels and each room is unique in its layout and appearance. There is a restaurant, karaoke room, the Karma Lounge, a swimming pool plus an infinity pool, along with access to the jetty where a host of watersports are available. It's the sort of hotel that has plenty of hidden areas, so that you can escape from the hustle by taking tea in a traditionally decorated room, away from preying eyes. At the time of writing, the hotel is adding on another extension, which will offer another 80 rooms in the traditional 5-star style, as well as a number of secluded villas with private pools, making them ideal for the expected Middle Eastern guests who value privacy above everything else. The Widiane Resort & Spa is a truly luxurious hotel that with its breathtaking views of the mountains and 5-star service, really does make it standout as a must-visit if looking for a ‘get away from it all experience’.
After a three-hour tour of the hotel, it was time for lunch. Whilst I would have settled for a McDonalds, instead we hopped onto two boats moored up by the watersports jetty - and despite my years of experience as a seaman, honed by watching many boats moored up on Canvey Island seafront - I was told to don a lifejacket and enjoy the ride to the Canyon Thai restaurant which is part of the hotel. Despite being ‘part of the hotel’, it's actually nothing of the sort, as it involves a 20-minute boat ride out across the huge lake, and down several tight turns which offered amazing views. We soon arrived, and what greeted us was totally unexpected. The restaurant was the only building in sight, and was built across several steep floors into the cliff face. A glass elevator takes you from the bottom of the cliff to the top. As with the hotel, the service was first class and we enjoyed several Thai-inspired dishes including fish spring rolls and rice, as well as glass of wine and a few local ‘Casablanca’s’. Whilst waiting for our boats to return for the home journey, the skies turned grey and the heavens opened.
After a 30-minute hours delay due to the weather conditions we jumped on the boats and headed back to the mainland. The agenda said the next activity was ‘watersports’, but ironically the weather was too bad for this to take place, so I went back to the hotel and showered, and prepared myself for the evening’s entertainment.
To follow the remainder of Ricky's journey to Morocco, stay tuned for the next Teletext Does Morocco blog...