Emily Burrows is one half of Wild Morocco, a Berber-British joint venture specialising in private Sahara tours and desert trekking in the region of the Erg Chigaga great dunes in the Iriqui National Park. Wild Morocco brings the best of both cultural backgrounds. Emily first came to Morocco in 2008. Thereafter, she gave up her management career in London, where she had worked in a number of household-name multinationals to move to Morocco and work in a number of tourism roles. Wild Morocco was created with business partner, Yahya in 2011.
MoP: So, Emily, what first brought you to Morocco and why?
The High Atlas mountains – I did an 8-day trek with the Toubkal summit as one of the trek highlights. At that time, I didn’t know much about the mountain range, but I was keen to discover more as it conjured up images of a compelling adventure in a range less busy than the Alps – besides, I love camping!
MoP: What are the origins of Wild Morocco?
Through travelling and working in a few different tourism roles in Morocco, and making contacts over a period of time, I discovered the desert. The mountains still hold an appeal, but the desert changed everything. If I hadn’t have met my business partner, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to write the website; it started out as a log of my travel experiences.
MoP: What is it that keeps you here/ keeps bringing you back?
Work/life! It makes everything worthwhile when clients express how much they enjoyed their experience. If travellers are choosing to visit Morocco, I think they already have a spirit of adventure.
MoP: What is your most memorable Moroccan experience?
This is too difficult to answer! Let’s say that you never forget trekking in your first sandstorm. My first trek in the desert was, we agreed, four seasons in four days. Yes, including rain!
MoP: What was most exciting for you in 2014 in Morocco?
Our listing in this year’s edition of Lonely Planet and continuing to grow the business.
MoP: What new interests and business projects do you have ahead in 2015?
We are planning to overhaul our website, making it more user-friendly and more visually appealing. We have a lot of photos to put across and it’s been 2.5 years since its previous update.
MoP: What are your favourite places in Morocco….
…. to sleep
Outside in the desert, no tent required. The best time is with the arrival of the new moon, to better see the night sky.
…. to eat
Next to the fire outside in the desert (especially if the bread has just been baked in the embers). Or, home cooking – one of the best tagines I’ve eaten was in Tagounite with relatives – a sardine tagine in a desert oasis.
…. to photograph
The geology of the Draa Valley
MoP: What advice would you give to someone planning their first trip to Morocco?
Don’t forget, you are travelling to North Africa. Vast swathes of the south are undeveloped and untouched, this is part of the appeal. Marrakech is not the norm! Use it as a springboard to other parts of the country. Don’t underestimate geographical distances and travel times – look at a map – far better to miss out a couple of places to maximise time elsewhere and to enjoy the journey. You can always come back. Lastly, just ask any questions.
MoP: What are your hopes for Morocco, for Wild Morocco over the next 5-10 years?
It goes without saying, anyone with a business interest hopes that tourism to Morocco will remain buoyant. The next years will likely be more challenging. It is our job to reassure visitors to the country and impart honest advice.
We’d like to be more involved in conservation. It’s little-publicised that the largest national park in Morocco covers the desert (The Iriqui National Park).
MoP: What is the one thing you never travel without?
My Nokia 101 phone. It has a torch and the battery is very long-life! It also houses two SIM cards. It is always ridiculed in the UK, but serves me really well in Morocco. It is also, so far, sand-proof.
MoP: Any last thoughts from one maroc-o-phile to the maroc-o-phile readers?
Morocco is an open, welcoming country. We are priviledged to be able to travel as we do here. I am priviledged to be welcomed as part of a family, and doors are always open and a meal always shared.
When we talk about ‘Berber hospitality’ on our website, it is certainly not without substance. A genuine example: During flash-flooding in late September 2014, with bridges and roads submerged, Yahya had to seek refuge for the night, with our clients, in a village home near Tazenakht. The hosts provided bed and board and welcomed their visitors like long-lost relatives. For those clients, is was a special and memorable experience in the midst of unprecedented weather. Our list of examples could go on.
MoP: Thanks, Emily – among more unprecendented bad weather, I wish you and your team all the best for the coming years!
© All photos copyright of Wild Morocco.