Arriving at the Banyan Tree in Tamouda Bay, Morocco, felt like a world away from the hot and sweaty Souks that Ben and I had experienced on our last trip to the country a few years ago. Drums greeted us after our long journey and early start along with a beautiful orange blossom oil that was dropped into our palms to absorb and immediately relax us. Hot towels (it was surprisingly breezy outside) were handed to us on the end of a silver tong, held out by a smiling member of staff. Before we’d put them back into the silver trays (much less neat than when we’d picked them up) hot mint tea had been brought out to us on elegant trays and we sunk back into the sofas absorbing the smells and gentle sounds of the reception.
Before long, we all bundled into golf buggies to be taken to our Villa’s (Yes, VILLAS, every Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay room is a villa with its own private pool). Ben and I were surprised (and incredibly excited) to learn that we had been booked into separate villas, which meant that we could use one and keep the other spotless purely for the Instagram opportunities. The first thing we did was climb into the giant soup-bowl of a tub to soak away the flight before a beautiful dinner prepared by the highly-skilled Chef.
We rolled into bed after a deliciously gluttonous meal washed down with beautiful local Rose ready for an early morning start and a trip to the local town.
The Medina of Tetouan is a World Heritage site with Unesco status. We were happy to have a local, experienced, guide with us, after our last experience of a souk was just a tad overwhelming. We felt much more confident to really explore and soak up the atmosphere.
With each corner, the products clearly determined which section we had entered. Ladies dressed in brightly coloured head scarves shopped for the freshest greens, clearly happy to catch up with old friends. It’s the type of place where they would come daily, shopping from the same stand, month on month.
Poultry run between the stands, eager to not become that evenings supper, while children run around asking for you to take their photos.
Of course it was the bakery section that caught my attention and after spotting a strange shaped colourful box, we asked Jamal (our guide) what it was used for. He told us (quite matter of factly) that it was what transported a bride on her wedding day to her husbands house. Usually, the bride will be draped in jewels, so will sit in the box and four gentlemen (usually from her family) carry the box all the way to her fiancés house while she sits in it quietly, with just pin prick holes to peek out from. We also discovered that in Moroccan culture a dowry is expected in every marriage. However contrary to popular belief, the dowery isn’t given to the Bride’s family, but to the Bride. Usually the Bride would then invest all the money into gold, to avoid being heavily taxed on the cash. Belts are an extremely popular form of investment, this particular one costing £7k.
For some reason they were quite eager to get it off me and back into the cabinet, so we left them in peace to find the tannery. A much less stressful experience than our last. I’ve talked before about how they make leather, so will leave you with this post to talk you through it.
With our stomachs starting to rumble, we headed for the restaurant for a delicious spread of salads and pastille which we filled up on…only to discover that was the starter and was followed by plates of tagine, kebabs, chips and then pudding.
Keen to walk it off, we were swallowed up by the souks once more and I somehow was talked into a traditional Berber outfit.
I don’t know about you, but I thought I looked rather fetching… no?
Moving quickly away from the Berber Men starting to get ideas, it was time to head back to the cars for an afternoon at the hotel in the sunshine.
The nature lover in me had to ask the driver to stop so I could get out and watch the impressive Storks for a few minutes, before the group patiently reminded me that they had appointments booked in for the spa.
Ben and I spent the afternoon exploring the hotel and getting some work done, before it was time to change for dinner.
That evening we were dining in a private dining room, off the main restaurant. This time, the chef was playing with the Spanish side to Moroccan culture and cooked a beautiful mixed fish soup (not to everyone’s taste, but I enjoyed it) followed by a traditional seafood paella. A lemon Meringue tart was the grand finale and set us up for a glorious night sleep in our palatial room.