More to Morocco than Mar­rakech

AMY GLENDIN­NING stays at the new Maza­gan re­sort

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

I OPEN the doors to my ho­tel room and the boom­ing sound of the surf crashes in as I in­hale the sea air.

I’ve got to be hon­est: this is what I’ve come for – the chance to surf in the At­lantic, as well as a chance to come back to Morocco.

The west coast is a part of the coun­try I’ve never been to and I’m dy­ing to get in the wa­ter.

Tourism has yet to take off among Euro­peans in this part of Morocco, with most head­ing to Mar­rakech and Es­saouria.

The re­sort I’m stay­ing in is a vast, new cre­ation – a huge, four-sided $370m cas­tle right on the beach about an hour south of Casablanca Air­port.

Called Maza­gan, it is aim­ing to at­tract tourists to this part of Morocco with a lux­u­ri­ous re­sort fea­tur­ing golf cour­ses, a spa, restau­rants, horse rid­ing – and surf board hire. Phew!

The size of the place is pretty over­whelm­ing: 500 bed­rooms sur­round­ing a huge pool re­plete with sun­loungers and palm trees.

Maza­gan also has six restau­rants, bars, a night­club, a vast golf course and a huge casino – all sur­rounded by beau­ti­fully man­i­cured grounds.

The beach stretches out on ei­ther side be­yond – beau­ti­ful and largely de­serted.

I fi­nally get my surf­ing fix, hir­ing a wet suit and board to spend a few hours catching waves on a mid­size swell which is pretty con­sis­tent the whole time I’m there.

Other op­tions for ex­plor­ing the beach are quad­bik­ing or camel rid­ing – but I find some early morn­ing runs as the sea mist rolls away are my favourite way to ex­plore.

An ex­hil­a­rat­ing horse ride is also a once-in-alifetime ex­pe­ri­ence as the grey horse I’m rid­ing takes off and vir­tu­ally flies along the shore through the surf.

When it’s time to re­lax, Maza­gan of­fers a tra­di­tion­ally dec­o­rated spa, or ham­mam, in­clud­ing a steam room and wa­ter fea­tures dec­o­rated with rose pe­tals.

I enjoy a full-body or­ange flower oil and salt scrub and a man­i­cure be­fore sip­ping mint tea on a sun lounger out­side with the crash­ing of the At­lantic surf in the back­ground. Once you’ve worked up an ap­petite, you are spoiled for choice in terms of places to eat.

Restau­rant Mar­ket Place of­fers a buf­fet-style se­lec­tion of foods from around the world, from Ja­panese sushi to Mid­dle East­ern dips, plus pizza and cur­ries.

Beach­side din­ing is also plen­ti­ful with a pizze­ria and bistro right on the shore.

Other restau­rants in the re­sort of­fer a more up­scale op­tion for fine din­ing – Sel De Mer is a French-in­spired fish restau­rant serv­ing im­pec­ca­bly pre­sented haute cui­sine, while Fauchon is a chic Parisian­in­spired dessert bar.

For those look­ing for some­thing more au­then­ti­cally Moroc­can, you can book in for a night at the ‘Al Firma’ – ‘The Farm’.

Take a jumper or jacket be­cause you’ll be din­ing un­der the stars in a wooded area close to the ho­tel.

Our din­ner there starts with tra­di­tional harissa soup and de­li­cious Moroc­can dips, fol­lowed by tagines of beef with prunes and chicken and lemon, plus moun­tains of cous­cous.

The food here cer­tainly pro­vides in­spi­ra­tion if you visit the tra­di­tional me­d­ina or mar­ket, in the nearby town of El Ja­dida.

Mean­ing ‘the new one’ El Ja­dida in fact be­gan as a Vene­tian trad­ing port in the 15th cen­tury, sur­viv­ing sieges thanks to its walled for­ti­fi­ca­tions and in­cred­i­ble cis­tern, or wa­ter re­serve, built by the Por­tuguese in the 1500s.

In the bustling, crowded streets, pre­served le­mons, figs, fresh mint, spices and flat­breads are piled in huge quan­ti­ties on carts and stalls.

In­side the Me­d­ina it­self, fam­i­lies sell tra­di­tional Moroc­can leather­work shoes and bags – but go pre­pared to hag­gle.

I pick up a set of Moorish-in­spired plates and a gor­geous pair of slip­pers, plus ground spices to cook my own tagines back home.

Sadly I can’t take the surf back with me – but I’ll definitely be back to ex­plore this beau­ti­ful coast­line again.

●● The huge pool at the cen­tre of the Maza­gan Beach Re­sort in Morocco

●● The op­u­lent Sel de Mer fish and seafood restau­rant

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