Cultural Tours Handcrafted in Morocco

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Riad in Rabat Luxury desert camp in Erg Chebbi Hotel near Bin el Ouidane Luxury desert camp in Erg Chigaga Riad accommodation in Fes Riad in Essaouira Luxury riad in Marrakech Luxury desert camp in Erg Chigaga Guesthouse in Taroudant

Accommodation

Morocco traditional riads

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When considering where to stay in Morocco during your holiday, then quite frequently you will come across the word riad used to describe a small hotel or guesthouse. A riad is a traditional Moroccan house, usually located within the old part of a walled city which is called the medina. Riads usually having between four to eight bedrooms arranged around a central courtyard. All rooms are different shapes and sizes and once converted from the original family home to a guesthouse, they will have been upgraded to have modern bathroom facilities and other creature comforts. Some riads have small splash-pools or fountains in the patio and most will have a roof terrace for relaxing and sunbathing. Larger luxury riads may even have a full size swimming pool. The word ‘riad’ comes from the Arabic word for ‘garden’—the patio was traditionally arranged geometrically, with four small areas planted with fruit trees around a central water feature—a fountain or a pool—which keeps the interior air cooler in summer.

The architecture of the riad is designed to protect the privacy of the family within—there are rarely any windows in the exterior wall to the street and all windows are looking inwards to the courtyard. A non-descript wooden doorway often can go unnoticed in the narrow alleyways of the medina, but once opened reveals a richly mosaic-tiled courtyard, ornate arches and carved decorative plasterwork. Tumbling bougainvillea, lemon and pomegranate trees and cool, bubbling fountains create wonderful oases of tranquillity hidden from the external hubbub. Salons and reception areas are located on the ground floor for receiving guests and for dining, while upper levels accommodate the bedrooms and then the sun terrace is the icing on the cake.

Staying in a traditional riad is an enriching cultural and authentic experience as part of any Morocco adventure holiday, but is not necessarily suitable for all travellers. Anybody with mobility issues or with young children may need to think twice. Riads often are located in narrow alleys with no immediate vehicle access, they have steep winding staircases, unprotected balconies and soundproofing is minimal. Noise reverberates within the intimate cloistered space, making them less than ideal for loud, boisterous families or very small children (unless booking out the entire riad).

We at SheherazadVentures offer traditional riad accommodation with a number of hand-picked partner properties in the Moroccan Imperial Cities of Marrakech, Fes, Meknes and Rabat, as well as inside the medinas of Essaouira and Taroudant. We offer mid-price to luxury riad accommodation according to the budget of our client. All our properties are selected for the quality of their service and comfort, their safe location and ease of access (most parts of the medina are not accessible by car), their charm and design, and their suitability for either a winter or summer climate (e.g. pool, air-conditioning and/or fireplace).

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Morocco boutique guesthouses

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At SheherazadVentures we believe that by staying in smaller character guesthouses our clients will have a better, more authentic holiday experience in Morocco. We also like to support small, local businesses rather than international chains. Outside of the main urban centres, we have teamed up with a number of boutique hotels which are bursting at the seams with traditional architectural features, genuine hospitality and a heart-felt family-run vibe. Across Morocco we have sought out some absolute gems ranging from renovated 19th century kasbahs of the Sahara caravan routes, fishermen’s caves on the Atlantic Coast, higgledy-piggeldy Berber village houses in the gorges of Todra and Dadès and a quaint High Atlas Mountains hideaway filled with colourful rag-rugs and candlelit nooks and crannies. In destinations such as Marrakech, Casablanca, Oualidia, El Jadida, Tangiers, Mirleft, Skoura, Taroudant, the Middle Atlas and Central Atlas Mountains and close to Agadir we have a number of small, luxury boutique hotels where guests can enjoy a good deal of pampering and relaxation within their Moroccan adventure itinerary.

Wherever you wish to travel during your Moroccan holiday, SheherazadVentures demands the very best comfort, service and value for money for our guests, whilst also seeking out local character from locally-owned small businesses where possible. In some rural, ‘off-the-beaten path’ and undeveloped regions there are very limited accommodation options, but we will rarely offer anything less than a 3-star equivalent and always inform the client if only simple hotel or gite-style accommodation is available in a specific destination. As a rule, we design our Morocco tour itineraries so that there is a choice of 3-star, 4-star and luxury upscale character options in most overnight destinations.

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Morocco classic hotels

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From time to time we find that the comforts and facilities of a larger classic-style hotel are more suitable for certain nights within your Morocco adventure tour. In the main touristic hubs of Marrakech, Fes, Casablanca and Agadir, as well as at the fringes of the Sahara near Merzouga, Erfoud, Ouarzazate and the Dadès Gorge, there are a number of excellent 4-star and 5-star hotels with whom we collaborate. The hotels we choose have authentic Moroccan character and design, all with outdoor swimming pools. This can be a great opportunity to mix and match lodging styles within your tour, especially if travelling with a family whereby you might want to have a few nights with a large outdoor pool, bar, spacious gardens and, in some cases, a private beach. Anybody with mobility issues might also prefer modern hotels that usually have a lift to upper levels or disabled facilities.

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Sahara luxury desert camps

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For all our Sahara desert tours we have a dedicated local partner offering a fabulous luxury tented desert camp tucked away in the Sahara dunes at either Erg Chebbi or Erg Chigaga. For those who do not have time to travel south to the great Sahara desert, we also have access to a luxury tented camp and oasis retreat close to Marrakech, in the Agafay desert.

With a luxury Sahara desert camp you can expect to sleep in a sumptuously decorated and spacious private tent, with en-suite shower and toilet facility. Each bivouac is differently styled—some are woven from camel-hair in the style of Berber nomads, some are made from cool white canvas—but in general each luxury Sahara desert camp has just a small number of tents so that there is a chance to really escape, feel the magical solitude of the desert and enjoy exceptional personal service from a dedicated team of local Berber and Saharawi nomads. Beds are huge and have fine Egyptian cotton sheets, while the interiors are bedecked with Moroccan carpets, tea tables, cushions, antique Tuareg furnishings and local artefacts. You can open the side of your tent and look out to the magnificent rolling dunes that surround you for miles. There is a communal salon area for relaxing with a drink, meeting other guests if you wish, for playing music and board games. Other activities available include riding on camels, a romantic sunset aperitif in the dunes, desert excursions in 4x4, private parties, folkloric music and entertainment and even private air transfers from Marrakech. The restaurants at each camp differ, but serve delicious traditional Moroccan cuisine on fine tableware, usually in an atmospheric lantern-lit tent or under a canopy woven from camel-wool. Local nomads extend their legendary hospitality to our guests around a welcoming campfire in each of our chosen luxury desert camps.

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Sahara standard desert camps

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To spend a night in the vast Sahara desert, many miles from civilization and in the company of friendly locals is often the main highlight for our clients during their Moroccan adventure holiday. Our very comfortable standard desert camp is well-managed and ideally situated at the foot of Morocco’s highest sand dunes—Erg Chigaga.

The bivouac camp is owned and run by SheherazadVentures co-director, Abdellah Hajja, and offers a superior level of comfort, service and cleanliness compared to many of the other standard camps around. There are 15 private tents sleeping up to four people in each, on proper beds with thick mattresses, cotton sheets and cosy woollen blankets. The camel-wool tents are lined for warmth in winter and to protect from sand or wind penetration. Each tent is lockable from the inside and has solar lighting. Direct from the camp you can climb the highest dune at Erg Chigaga and enjoy sandboarding back down the slopes. Sunset camel rides, day treks and even wild-camping safaris can be arranged with our team of local nomad guides, direct from the desert camp. The Erg Chigaga camp is staffed by our friendly local team of Saharawi nomads, ‘Blue Men’ because of their traditional indigo-dyed robes and turbans—all descended from families indigenous to this region of the Sahara. There is a shared bathroom block with European style toilets and showers heated by solar panels. There is a large restaurant tent where dinner is served and outdoors there are carpets, cushions and pouffes for relaxing close to the campfire or for stargazing late into the night. Our nomad partners in Erg Chigaga will entertain you with traditional songs and drumming, stories and riddles while you soak up this unforgettable, magical, experience. In addition there are outdoor earthen ovens for preparing the local speciality of ‘mechoui’—a whole slow-roasted lamb cooked on a spit and which is traditionally served on festive occasions. The camp is approximately 60 kilometres from the village of M’Hamid el Ghizlane and is only accessible by 4x4 or camel.

In Erg Chebbi, on our Sahara desert tours that enter the desert at Merzouga, we use a very comfortable and clean Berber nomad-style camp. Tents have proper beds with thick mattresses and there are shared bathroom/washing facilities. Once you reach the edge of the dunes at Merzouga in your 4x4 vehicle, you then meet your camel-man and you ride for about 1-2 hours across the golden dunes to discover this tranquil nomad camp. Dinner is served under the stars and the local Berber nomads will entertain you with songs by the firelight. In the morning you can watch the sunrise before breakfast and then trek by camel to return to your vehicle. Our hosts in Erg Chebbi will offer you the opportunity to take a shower in their charming desert auberge before continuing your Moroccan adventure tour by road.

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Sahara wild camping

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For the more adventurous traveller, SheherazadVentures offers bespoke wild-camping safaris into the Moroccan Sahara accompanied by knowledgeable local guides and camel handlers. Departing either from you hotel in the village of M’Hamid el Ghizlane or from our desert bivouac camp in Erg Chigaga dunes you will set out on a camel caravan loaded up with camping mattresses, blankets, food, water, cooking equipment and modern 2-person igloo tents. You will have a cook, guide and camel-man with you to steer the course and set the daily pace. Each guest will have his own camel to ride and extra camels will be used to carry the camping equipment, food and your baggage. Lunch and evening dinner is prepared over a campfire (or which guests can help gather scrub and wood) and the location of the nightly bivouac will be determined according to climate and local conditions. The toilet and washing facilities are ‘au naturel’ and your guide will set up a small mess/kitchen tent for preparing the evening meal. Guests may wish to bring their own sleeping bag or liner. Blankets and mattresses are provided. Bring a torch! This is a true, authentic taste of desert life, close to nature, the way that nomads have existed for centuries.

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