It’s getting to that time of year when leaving the warmth of your duvet in the morning is one of the hardest tasks of the day; let alone the walk home in total darkness. Given the dark nights and cold mornings, daydreaming about next year’s summer holiday is hard to avoid.
If you can’t wait that long, then Morocco is the perfect place to escape the cold British weather. If you head there in the summer, you’ll be faced with almost unbearable 35-45 degree Celsius heat; in the winter months it’s a much more moderate 15-20 degrees. With its magnificent desert landscapes, rocky mountains and the vibrancy of Marrakesh, it provides a welcome contrast to the bleakness of British wintertime – and the fact that it’s only a couple of hours away on a plane means flights are a bargain.
Once you arrive you’ll be overwhelmed with things to keep you busy, and the prices are startlingly cheap. The life and soul of Marrakech revolves around the main market square, a general hub of noise, sound and tantalising smells. Behind the square is a labyrinthine maze of souks selling beautiful and elaborate Moroccan objects; ornate mirrors, brightly coloured ceramics, silver plated tea sets, beaded cushion covers and masses of jewellery. It’s a paradise of exotic finds, but you’ll need to develop tough haggling skills to bag the best bargains.
Beyond the city centre is a wealth of historical sites to explore. The Koutoubia Mosque towers over the city in stunning Moroccan architectural style, and there is also a selection of fantastic palaces, including the Bahia Palace, with its beautiful carved stucco ceilings and luscious gardens. The Saddian tombs, built to bury Saadian rulers in the 16th century, are also a popular site of interest, due to the stunning Islamic architecture.
Although Marrakesh contains a wealth of exciting tourist spots and cultural sights, it’s definitely worth taking some excursions and exploring Morocco as a whole. It’s home to the second largest waterfalls in Africa, the Ouzoud Waterfalls, 150km north of the city. You can take a raft right up to the waterfalls themselves, and have lunch on a crag overlooking the impressive scene. If you trek a little further downstream, you can swim in the lagoons and mini-waterfalls at your own pleasure – if you can brave the cool water temperatures. Be careful to avoid getting dragged in to a costly guided tour, heading off the beaten track and finding your own little spot of paradise is part of the fun.
A must-do activity on any trip to Morocco is a trip to the Western Sahara. Don’t let the nine-hour coach trip through the Atlas Mountains put you off; you’ll get to visit a Berber village used as a set for Gladiator and Game of Thrones, and take in the stunning scenery en route. Once you arrive, you’ll be given your own camel to ride out in to the sandy plains at sunset, and a cosy, welcoming tent on arrival at camp. The Berber tribe will treat you to a chicken tagine with cous-cous -a Moroccan staple – before playing traditional music under the starry, night sky. If you wake up early enough, you can watch the sun rise over the Sahara – a truly incredible and unforgettable experience.
For an affordable and truly memorable winter break, Morocco is the perfect choice. A culture worlds away from our own, yet only a short flight away, it provides a welcome escape without costing a fortune. With amazing food, a rich historical culture, beautiful scenery and that most important of factors – heat – Morocco has all the necessary components for a perfect winter break.