travel

Morocco : The Spice Of Life

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Equal parts relaxing and exhilarating, exotic Morocco is an ideal getaway destination. Penny Carroll goes in search of surf and soul

On a sizzling stretch of sand on a bright, sunny morning, I’m lying face-down on a surfboard, pretending to paddle. “Stabilise, stabilise…Now jump!” calls the instructor as I shakily attempt a surfer’s pose. I’m tentatively wading into the ocean.

Description: The Kingdom of Morocco is a peaceful constitutional monarchy

The Kingdom of Morocco is a peaceful constitutional monarchy

It’s barely 12 hours since I arrived in Morocco, but I already feel a world away from city life. I’ve come to Mazagan Beach Resort, an hour’s drive out of Casablanca, to soak up some sunshine, rest, recuperate- and try my luck surfing Morocco’s famous waves.

It turns out I couldn’t have picked a better location for my first surfing lesson. The stretch of beach adjoining the resort is breathtaking, but the waves aren’t intimidating, and my instructors-an enthusiastic young girl and an older surfing pro- are determined to see me standing up on the board. Each attempt sees me promptly dive into the sandbank, but I’m flooded with adrenaline and excitement and head straight back into the waves for another go. And just like that, my worries are wiped out- I have a new obsession!

Description: Saddle up for a romantic ride on the beach

Saddle up for a romantic ride on the beach

The art of relaxation

The fine balance of action and relaxation is expertly executed at Mazagan. The luxury resort near the town of EL Jadida, a UNESCO World Heritage centre, offers plenty of activities, from horse riding on the beach to quad-biking. But in true Moroccan style, there’s also a beautiful spa where you can indulge in treatments or a traditional hammam. When I emerged- exhausted but triumphant- from the waves, I headed straight to the spa Where my surfing –sore muscles were treated to an amazing full – body massage using local argan oil. The chill out session continued as I relocated to the terrace to watch the Atlantic ocean and sip sweet mint tea. Bliss!

Description: Mazagan’s pool is the perfect spot to spend a sunny afternoon

Mazagan’s pool is the perfect spot to spend a sunny afternoon

Out of town

Although it’s tempting to stay resort- bound, it’s worth venturing further afield to the old Portuguese port of EL Jadida. The ethereal EI Jadida cistern is a must-see, and the shops around the ancient ramparts are the perfect place to hunt for treasures, while the town’s bustling souk filled with spices and fabrics is a feast for the senses.

It’s easy to eat well in Morocco and the local seafood is a standout. Snack on fresh dates as you wander the markets, then head to Mazagan’s Chiringuito Beach Club for tapas with a view, or indulge in a traditional Moroccan tagine and couscous at the resort’s Morjana restaurant.

Description: Head to the Jewish quarter in nearby Azemmour for a taste of Moroccan style

Head to the Jewish quarter in nearby Azemmour for a taste of Moroccan style

Smooth finish

After a packed few days of sightseeing, sunbathing, surfing and house riding, I headed back to the spa for one last treat: a rejuvenating hammam. The traditional exfoliation started with a stint in the luxe mosaic steam room before the therapist scrubbed my entire body and smothered me in a fresh, eucalyptus-scented lotion.

Utterly relaxed and with silky smooth skin, I felt ready to head back to the real world. I left reluctantly, but with two valuable souvenirs: the memory of standing- albeit briefly – on surfboard, and a promise to return.

Make it happen

Double rooms at Mazagan Resort start at $180 and include transfers from Casablanca airport, www.mazaganbeachresort.com

Royal Air Maroc flies daily from London Heathrow to Casablanca from $266 return, www.royalairmaroc.com

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