Tag Archives: Morocco

maroc-o-phile: Lynn Sheppard

Although I have this maroc-o-philes section on the website, it would be hard to interview myself… Fortunately expat.com wanted to do the job for me. Here is their interview with me, Lynn Sheppard….

Lynn in Essaouira: “The Moroccan lifestyle is pretty laid back”

British expat, Lynn moved to Essaouira more than three years ago to be with her Moroccan partner. Freelance author and travel writer, she particularly enjoys the sun, the beach and the relaxed pace of life in the country.

Lynn in Essaouira: "The Moroccan lifestyle is pretty laid back"

Where are you from, Lynn, and what are you doing nowadays?

A civil servant and diplomat for 13 years, in 2012 I took a voluntary redundancy and moved to Morocco to be with my partner and establish a new rhythm in my life. I wanted to start a business and live in the sun. Over the last 3 and a half years, I have built a business as a published freelance author and travel writer. I also work with local non-profits and as a virtual PA and marketing consultant. In this way, I have built a totally portable new career.
We live in Essaouira, a town on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast which is famous for sardines, kite-surfing and gnaoua music. You can read about my life in Essaouira and pick up plenty of tips for visiting or living there on my blog, “Maroc-o-Phile“.

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Essaouira Gnaoua Festival – 18th edition

Opening parade of 18th Gnaoua Festival 2015 EssaouiraEssaouira, 15 May 2015 – Yesterday, Essaouira‘s annual Gnaoua World Music Festival got off to a colourful start with the opening parade and concert featuring local and national gnaoua groups and international World Music artists.

This is the 18th edition of the event, which is the largest in the festival calendar of this small port town on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast. Other annual festivals include the Festival des Alizés, a celebration of international classical and traditional music held every Spring, and the Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques, a festival celebrating the Judeo-Muslim musical traditions of Al Andalous, which are also a frequent feature of Fes festivals such as the Sacred Music Festival, which begins next week in Fes on 22 May 2015.

Each year, the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival gets underway with a parade through the centre of the Essaouira medina of all the gnaoua groups in their finest regalia, embroidered costumes and caps studded with cowrie shells. The bands are often accompanied by standard-bearers carrying huge flags and feature the typical gnaoua instruments: the krakeb castanets, the stringed gimbri and the tbel drum, which is played with a crooked stick.

18th Gnaoua Festival 2015 EssaouiraEvery so often, the groups pause to demonstrate the fervent whirling and acrobatics which simulate the trance induced by the heavy beats of the instruments. In the street, though, in this carnival atmosphere, these movements are more for show than religious practice and the circles the gnaoua form resemble an elaborately coloured dance-off between rival acrobatic troupes.

Gnaoua music originated in sub-Saharan Africa. With the trade in goods and men across the great desert, African slaves brought their traditions and their experience of hardship and exile into Morocco. Over time, their traditions were absorbed into Islam and Gnaoua brotherhoods of adherents gathered around a maâlem (master) developed in zawiyas (centres devoted to religious learning). The Gnaoua tradition is strong in Essaouira, with its previous role as a major trading port and its centuries’ old connections to Timbuktu and other West African cities.

18th Gnaoua Festival 2015 Essaouira main stageSwiris -the natives of Essaouira – are particularly proud of their home-grown masters, such as Maâlem Mahmoud Guinéa and his brother Maâlem Mokhtar Guinéa, Maâlem Allal Soudani and others. However, they are also welcoming of the big names of Gnaoua music from other cities, such as Maâlem Hamid el Kasri, who opened the festival this year alongside Humayun Khan of Afghanistan. When a great maâlem is on stage, throughout the audience, one hears young and old singing along, responding to the chant of the master, and clapping out the frenetic polyphonic beat.

The Gnaoua Festival is also a stage for some of the best Moroccan and international stars of the World Music scene. The most exciting concerts are those on the main stage (on Place Moulay Hassan) late at night. The fusion concerts bring together a gnaoua group with artists from a completely different genre for a unique kind of mash-up unlike any other. Gnaoua jazz? Sufi-Voodoo fusion? Gnaoua-folk? Everything is possible under the starry skies and the gusting trade winds of Essaouira!

This article originally appeared on the blog, The View From Fez.

The Best of Essaouira: Cookery classes

couscous, the Moroccan national dish - made gluten free with cornmealThe cuisine of Morocco is becoming increasingly well-known abroad and a popular holiday activity is a cookery class where students can learn about the intricate blends of spices, the diverse influences on Moroccan cuisine and attempt to create their own culinary masterpieces. Over the past year, I have tried two cookery classes in Essaouira – one a well-established brand, the other a homely newcomer. I enjoyed both immensely, even though I could already make some key Moroccan dishes. If you want to do a cookery class in Essaouira, I recommend one of these two options. Continue reading

Herbie Hancock in Marrakech

Herbie Hancock live in MarrakechHerbie Hancock in Marrakech, 7 May 2015

The setting was magical: a modern rig of a stage placed at one end of the massive cortyard at the centre of the 16th century El Badi Palace in Marrakech. As the sun began to set, the heat of the day lifted and hundreds of candles set in lanterns around the place began to twinkle. The famous storks of the Kasbah (King’s Quarters) returned to roost on the crumbling ochre walls to watch the scene unfold. We were here to experience the magic – not only of Marrakech, but of one of jazz’s greatest legends, Herbie Hancock. Continue reading

Tips for older travellers to Morocco?

If as an older traveller, you are wondering whether there is anything you need to be specifically aware of or any preparations you need to make, check out my tips for older travellers to Morocco here.

For ideas on where to go and what to do in Morocco for the young at heart, check out this post.

maroc-o-phile: Heather Cole

maroc-o-phile Heather Cole

Heather and Peter at Tamdaght

The latest interviewee in the maroc-o-phile series, is UK-based blogger, Heather Cole, a.k.a. The Conversant Traveller. By day, Heather is an outdoor educational specialist, by night she’s a blogger and a part-time traveller. Heather writes the words for Conversant Traveller whilst her hubbie takes the pictures. Together they hope to inspire other independent travellers to see more of the world.

MoP: Hi, Heather. What makes you a maroc-o-phile?

Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to shake Morocco from beneath my skin (and that’s not just the Saharan sand stuck behind my toenails!). I first visited back in 2010, not expecting anything but another enjoyable trip to assign to the memory bank, but to my surprise, when I returned home I couldn’t stop thinking about the overwhelming sensory experience I’d just had. It took less than a week for hubbie and I to decide we’d soon make our very first return visit to a country ever. And we haven’t looked back!

MoP: You’ve been to Morocco 5 times in the last 4 years and you’re planning another trip for 2015. What is it that keeps drawing you back to Morocco?

I could wax lyrical about the friendliest most genuine people we’ve ever encountered, the superb cuisine and the endless landscape photography opportunities. I could enthuse about there always being new and exciting places to discover and the joy of returning to what are quickly becoming ‘old haunts’. Yet the underlying reason is that we feel so relaxed and at home in Morocco. It is one place we can truly unwind. Continue reading

Springtime in Morocco

Ait Baha: Taroudant to Tafraoute Spring has well and truly sprung in Morocco! The days are warmer and longer and it’s the perfect time to visit.

If you haven’t planned your Springtime in Morocco, there are still deals to be had. Don’t forget, flights from London to Essaouira begin on 1 May.

Take a look at my post for Travel Exploration for some spring holiday ideas!

The Marrakesh Express

arriving in MarrakechTourism in Morocco didn’t begin with the hippy trail, but without a doubt the likes of the Crosby, Stills and Nash; the Rolling Stones and the Gettys helped put Marrakesh on the 20th century map.

“Looking at the world through the sunset in your eyes
Travelling the train through clear Moroccan skies….

Sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind
Had to get away to see what we could find…”

Read my post for Travel Exploration about the origins of those famous lyrics and the Swinging Sixties in Marrakech here.

maroc-o-phile: Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki

Photo: Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki

Photo: Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki

Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki, aka MarocMama, is a professional writer and world travelling wife and mum of two boys. She is currently an American expat living in Marrakech, Morocco, exploring all that Morocco has to offer.

MoP: Amanda, what first brought you to Morocco?

The first time I heard about Morocco I was probably 12 years old. The TODAY show (an American morning TV show) did a segment called “Where in the World is Matt Lauer” where everyday for a week he’d turn up somewhere else in the world. One day it was Marrakech. I so vividly remember him standing in Djmaa el Fna with a monkey on his shoulder! Maybe two years later, I saw Malika Oufkir on the Oprah Show talking about Morocco and her book. I read the book and Morocco stuck even deeper. When I finished high school, my dad wanted to take my sister and I somewhere, anywhere we wanted in the world, and we eventually settled on Morocco (at my insistence), even though neither of them really even knew where it was. That was 2004. It was on that trip I met my husband in a very chance encounter (you can read about it here) and never looked back. Continue reading

I’m vegetarian. Can I travel in Morocco?

An internet search of “vegetarian travel Morocco” invariably brings up plenty of posts and advice about how difficult it is to travel as a vegetarian or vegan in Morocco. While I’ll admit that it is easier for those who eat meat (or at least fish), and you probably won’t meet a meat-free Moroccan. However, Morocco is a country abundant in fresh vegetables and with a little preparation, you will certainly not only not starve, but you might even have a couple of truly excellent meals!

Read my post for Travel Exploration about meat-free travel in Morocco for ideas.

If you’d like to cook vegetarian Moroccan food at home, check out my recipe for chickpea tajine.

Finally, if you are travelling to Essaouira and want the low-down on the top three vegetarian restaurants, check out my e-guide, The Best of Essaouira.

Vegans might find this list which I compiled on listly useful.