In celebration of Eid el Fitr this week, I’ve been giving you trip ideas in order to help you plan your Middle East travels / Eid holiday. Today, we continue this mini series featuring the top Morocco hotels and desert lodges. I intentionally left certain widly-popular destinations out of this entry because there is more to Morocco than Marrakech, Fez and Casablanca! I want to introduce you guys to other Moroccan hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems I fell in love with while living and studying there. Hope you enjoy my picks =)
There is something electrifying about this city. A quite popular destination for Europeans, I could not make this post without including Tangier. Located by the Strait of Gibraltar, this developed town offers breathtaking views of the oceans (where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean) and is a melting pot of cultures. While it is not technically a “beach” destination, the ocean views are to die for from many parts of town and weather is great year-round. Some of my good friends from Al Akhawayn University were from Tanja (its Berber name) and spoke Arabic, French, English and even Spanish–fluently! I was told that this is a common phenomenon in this city (taking into consideration social class, of course). This shocked me, as I had met Arabs from all parts of Morocco and other Middle Eastern countries, but none spoke all of those languages. I know, I should have figured by Tangier’s geographical location, but still =) Later, I also found out that back in 1912, Tangier was “partitioned” between France and Spain in two occasions until 1956 (only interrupted by a total Spanish occupation between 1940-45). This brief history should give you a glimpse of Tanja’s mix of heritages. Fascinating, I thought! Below, the top Morocco hotel in Tangier:
La Tangerina – 19 Riad Sultan, Tangier
The vast oceans seem to bathe this charming hotel, located high above the Strait of Gibraltar. With only 10 guestrooms spread throughout 4 floors, you can already sense the relaxation. La Tangerina is a highly-rated hotel (# 1 on Tripadvisor!) shock-full of charm and–you guessed it–gorgeous views. Its best feature is the terrace, boasting comfy daybeds that allow you to take in panoramic views of not only of the ocean, but also the medina! There is a dining area also located on the rooftop, so you can enjoy all your meals while watching boats disappear into the Strait. Ahh, can I be there, like now?
Besides Fez, Essaouira is my favorite Moroccan city, hands-down, in terms of charm. Its Beber name (Tassort) actually means “the wall,” describing the flortress walls that used to protect the city. Don’t worry–you can still see a good amount of fortification nowadays! What I love the most about Essaouira is that it caters to history buffs and beach lovers alike (and I happen to be both!). By the way, if you like fishing, you are in for a real treat: Here, you can go fishing (or buy your goods at the local fish market) and take your catch directly to a restaurant in the old city so they can be seasoned and cooked for you at a low price–how awesome is that? Of course, bargaining will be key, but that’s all part of the fun and cultural experience. Below, the top Morocco hotel in Essaouira:
Riad Baoussala – Douar El Ghazoua, Essaouira
The most traditional Moroccan accommodation is a Riad. However, Riad Baoussala is not your typical riad, but more of a quirky hotel with a Moroccan twist. Sounds interesting? It is! Travelers rave about its rustic-yet-comfortable facilities, rooftop, and excellent meals.
One of the biggest “natural” film-making studios of Africa, it could also be dubbed the Moroccan Hollywood. In Ouarzazate, the blockbusters Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Living Daylights (1987), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), and Kingdom of Heaven (2005) were shot. I was simply awestruck when I first laid eyes on it: Ouarzazate is the finest definition of a desert destination. With a charming old town, World Heritage Site fortress and gorgeous kasbahs sprinkled throughout, it is definitely a must-see if you are visiting Morocco in order to have a true Saharan experience. Below, the top desert lodge in Ouarzazate:
Defat Kasbah – Douar d’Asfalou, Tamedacht | District d’Amerzgane, Ouarzazate
The # 1 under “Specialty Lodging” category on Tripadvisor, this desert lodge in fact looks like a kasbah. It is the epitome sight you imagine prior to arrival to Ouarzazate. By only staying at the Defat Kasbah hotel, you almost feel as if you were taking part of history. Gorgeous views of the Atlas mountains and Ouarzazate surround the desert lodge, making you feel as if you were staying at some exotic, remote location in the Sahara desert. naturally, travelers rave about the nice setting, gorgeous Moroccan architecture and the closeness-yet-remoteness to the city. While it is only 3 km away from Ain Benhaddou, you feel as if you were in a different century.
And that shall be all for Morocco hotels and desert lodges! For the next Eid (Al-Adha), I will present you with other top beach resorts and desert lodges in the Middle East, featuring Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey. Once again, Eid Mubarak and I hope you had a great holiday with your loved ones! =)