Once a year, I join a group of treasured friends somewhere in the world for a yoga retreat. So when I read “surf and yoga in Morocco”, I knew I couldn’t pass up the adventurous destination or the soul-filling connection with girlfriends.
Morocco is a long North African country which shares half its border with the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. French, Arabic, and regional Berber languages are spoken here. Casablanca and Marrakesh are the two most well-known Moroccan cities.
We chose to stay further south near the port city of Agadir. This area has attracted beach tourists and world-class surfers for decades.
We rented out a 5-bedroom hostel, formerly a family riad (house) centered around a tiled courtyard. All of our activities, instruction, and (yummy) meals were included in the trip, which allowed us to relax deeper and just enjoy each other and the planned itinerary.
On day one, we started with an hour of yoga and then hiked in Paradise Valley – a canyon in the Atlas Mountains which held a few surprises for us. Although the surrounding area was quite arid, lush groves of date and banana palms lined the river while melodic birds visited for a little dip. I must say, it would be the ideal place to rest your camel.
Or if you are Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison, it would be a lovely place to escape from it all in the 1960s as claimed by local legend.
More surprising still were these little cafes offering a clever set-up to keep us cool in the river.
The menu typically offered a flavorful hot stew cooked in a traditional tagine clay pot served family-style.
Farther upstream, the bravest of us jumped from cliffs into the refreshing water below occupied by fleshing eating fish recently made popular by fish pedicures in the West. It’s really hard not to squeal when they take a nibble!
Argan nuts provide an important income for locals. Nuts are cracked by hand to expose the soft center which is roasted and squeezed to extract oil. Perhaps you have seen cosmetics and hair products containing argan oil lately – it’s a thing. Locally, argan oil is eaten raw like olive oil and is applied on the skin.
Interestingly, the nut from the thorny, gnarly Argan tree only grows one place in the world: the Sous Valley in this semi-desert region in Morocco. And therefore, this is the only place you’ll see goats foraging in trees.
When we saw these creatures perched on branches, the driver kindly stopped the car upon our excited request. We didn’t want to get too close and scare the shepherd’s herd away. As an important part of the ecosystem, goats digest the fruit and disperse the seeds.
The next day we traveled up the coast for surfing. Here’s the view from the car:
I was told the south is “camel country” while horses populate the northern half of the country. Although we spied only a few camels, we saw a lot of donkeys.
I’ve noticed other Muslim countries, such as Turkey and Oman, offer hot drinks as a manner of good hospitality. Morocco is no exception. I find this curious as they are hot climates. Nonetheless, sharing a pot of tea is such a wonderful way to exhale, slow down the day, chat with the company present, and really live in the moment.
Delightfully, we were kindly poured a glass of hot Moroccan mint tea before beginning our surfing lessons (those white bricks are sugar cubes). See the surfers in the background?
The swells climax December through March which attract serious surfers. And if the snowfall is plentiful at that time of year, one could venture over to Oukaimeden, Africa’s highest ski resort found south of Marrakesh. Imagine surfing one day and snow skiing the next.
When we were there last month, the waves were relatively small and steady – perfect for beginners. I had attempted to surf on two different occasions, and this time I had my best rides thanks to excellent instruction.
Our next adventure was sand surfing on dunes they call “Little Sahara”. We used the green surfboard with no fins. Our ride was gentle but a very waxed board would have made the descent ridiculously fast.
What trip would be complete without shopping from the local talent? We ran out of time to visit the town souk (market), but we came away happy with purchases from local shops. Pottery, tea sets, spices, silver jewelry, clothing, leather goods, rugs, and, of course, argan products were easy to find.
The final item on our itinerary was a massage at a local Moroccan hammam (bathhouse). It was similar to a Turkish bath – as a group, we were scrubbed down, exfoliated, and slathered in mud. Next, we were washed off, treated to tea (yay!) and received a massage. It was deliciously relaxing and certainly an unforgettable experience.
In 1777, the Sultan of Morocco was the first foreign leader to recognize the United States as an independent country. With founding fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, he signed the longest unbroken treaty in U.S. history known as the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1787. Today, Morocco remains one of America’s oldest and strongest allies in North Africa.
Curiously, Morocco’s southern neighbor is a sparsely populated area known as Western Sahara. Its legal status remains unresolved; the United Nations classifies it as a Non-Self-Governing Territory. Who knew an area could show up four different ways on a map?! I’m curious which version your globe shows…
Good To Know
To address a few common questions: Did we wear head scarfs? We did not. If we had gone into a mosque, we probably would have needed one. To respect the culture, we dressed “modestly” by keeping our shoulders and legs covered.
Did we feel safe? Yes! Tourism is an important industry in this region. We never felt stared at, and everyone was friendly. We were always accompanied by our hosts Shine & Smile, and I’m not sure I would have felt as comfortable if we had attempted this trip on our own.
This area of Morocco felt very laid back, and with so much to do, I wouldn’t hesitate to return with my family. And now I’ve added “desert trek” to my bucket list!
Read more – Morocco: Adventures From Marrakesh