More to Morocco than Marrakech
AMY GLENDINNING stays at the new Mazagan resort
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