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Our journey begins in the mystical city of Marrakech, home to one of the world’s great marketplaces – the famed Djemaa el Fna. This program was developed in conjunction with the inception of the luxurious Jnane Tamsna guesthouse, a paradigm of Moroccan luxury and class in the Palmeraie, and home to Meryanne Loum Martin, designer, and Gary Martin, ethnobotonist. Here, we will study hands-on with Bahija Lafredi, a wonderful chef, who shares with us her authentic recipes and techniques. The tagine is a central focus, as is couscous in a couscousier, pastilla, and an in-depth look at spices. We will stroll through the gardens and learn about plant medicine and ancient agricultural systems with Gary Martin. Afternoons are for soaking in the hammam and wandering in the medina with our expert guides.
We will visit a nearby aromatic garden and essential oil distillery, to study the properties of local plant oils, and also how to make Berber bread, the mainstay of Morocco’s migratory peoples. We will travel high into the spectacular Atlas Mountains for a two-day excursion, staying at one of the top 5 mountain retreats in the world. Here we’ll learn learn lamb, fig and walnut tagine – quintessential Moroccan home cooking. We witness the full range of Morocco’s geography as we travel down to Essaouira on the coastal Sahara, where we sample local dishes influenced by Spanish conquerors. Our study of the Berber, Middle Eastern, Moorish, and French threads that weave together the fantastic tapestry of Morrocan life culminates back in Marrakech.
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Welcome aperitif and dinner in the enchanting private guesthouse gardens.
After breakfast, tour ethnobotanist Gary Martin’s organic vegetable garden. Meet a local ethnobotanist and herbalist, who will give us information on local use of medicinal and culinary herbs. Our first hands-on cooking class with chef Bahija will include dishes such as Chicken and Pear Tagine and Caviar d’Aubergine. We will then enjoy these dishes for lunch served in the garden.
After lunch, relax in the lush quietness of our guesthouse. Clay court tennis and time by the pool. Optional tour of the monuments, including the Palais Bahia and the Dar Si Said Museum for Moroccan Crafts.
Dinner under the stars.
After breakfast, a lesson on couscous made in the traditional couscousier. Lunch in the garden.
Afterwards, we’ll forage through the spice market. Learn to identify true saffron. Participate in identifying the various ingredients of ras-el-hanout, the traditional mixture of herbs and spices used in many Moroccan dishes, especially tagine.
In the evening, dinner in the Medina.
After breakfast, a fusion cooking class will be given on Spanish Moorish cooking. Almond soup, almond cake and tortilla. Lunch in the garden. Afternoon options include more Medina shopping, hammam, massage.
Evening free. Recommendations will be given. Great night for belly dancing!
The Atlas Mountains
After breakfast, drive across the Haouz plain to the market town of Tnine Ourika to discover a picturesque organic garden of aromatic herbs. Here we’ll learn about essential oils used in aromatherapy, cuisine and massage.
Before our picnic lunch under a tented shade, there will be a demonstration on baking bread in traditional Tachelhit (Berber) clay ovens.
In the late afternoon we will travel up into the hills. Upon arrival at our mountain retreat, we’ll enjoy mint tea on the terrace, perched majestically at the apex of the Ourika Valley, guarding the gateway to the snow-capped Atlas Mountains. With 360 degree panoramic views, we’ll hear the call to prayer resounding from the mosques in the lush river valley below. From its unique position it offers a birds-eye view of the Atlas and their traditional Berber villages.
The Atlas Mountains
After breakfast, we’ll hike along mountain slopes to visit irrigation systems, home gardens and terraces of the Tachelhit Berber mountain agriculture. Lunch on the terrace. Afternoon free for rest, relaxation, hammam, and optional additional hiking. In the evening, cooking demonstration, followed by dinner at the Kasbah.
After breakfast, we’ll travel about three to the Atlantic coast to visit the Portuguese port of old Mogador, now known as Essaouira. We’ll enjoy a lunch of grilled fish at the port. Visit woodcarvers who produce artifacts of fragrant thuya wood, peruse the carpets and kilims to perfect one’s appreciation and eye for Berber design. Visit the music stores for the best selection of Gnawa and Andalous tunes. Sit in one of Essaouira’s French style cafés for journal writing and people watching. Afterwards, it’s off to our seaside pension for a night’s stay in a village setting. No electricity – just candlelight, stars and the sound of the waves. Stroll along one of the west coast’s most treasured beaches, have a camel ride, or a long walk. Dinner will be prepared by chef Khadija.
A drive back to Marrakech, with a stop to observe the Berber women who have collected and cracked argan nuts for oil in the traditional way. Arrive back at our guesthouse, have time to relax, have a swim, then dine ‘back home’ after our turf and surf adventure.
After breakfast, a cooking class with Bahija on pastilla and kefta. Lunch in the garden. Afternoon free. Private guides available for personal excursions.
Evening presents our gala dinner complete with Andalous musicians. Au revoir!
Departure after breakfast.