When we took off on our HIITU route into the world of artisanal handcraft around the globe, we agreed there is no better place to start than the sparkly, bright and colourful Morocco - a land famous for the most beautiful and intricate African style handmade jewelry and fashion. It was September 2016, we just finished writing our business plan and were ready to get started with our first little collection for our new hippie shop HIITU. We wanted to release it just in time for Christmas, so after a quick stop in Portugal, where we went to meet our leather producers to work on a shoulder bag (which later became the Xani Bag), we flew straight on to Tangier and began our journey into the world of Moroccan handcraft. The plan was to start in Tangier and work our way down to Marrakech in search of the most skilled craftsmen/women around the country! A naive idea, which we learned later on this trip ☺. Nevertheless, it was a most fascinating and inspiring journey on which we were able to explore the Moroccan culture like we had never expected! We met so many beautiful souls along the way as well as a few very cheeky ones, of which there several about - be aware ☺. There are so many different beautiful styles of African handcraft, but Morocco has its very own diverse signature, which goes way beyond the average merchandise of the touristic stalls in the most famous medinas of the country. It takes some time to discover the true masters of the various kinds of handcraft that exist this culture, but when you do find the right people, it is such a satisfying and beautiful process to work with them and exchange ideas to create something together which holds both cultures within its design. Along this trip, we explored various places and collected our favourite spots for you below!
Tangier was founded by Carthaginian colonists in the 5th century BC, and is considered an important city by the Berbers as its name was probably derived from the Berber Goddess "Tinjis". Due to its location at the tip of northern Morocco, it is also nicknamed the "door to Africa". The city contains a beautiful mixture of Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities, so it's definitely worth a visit!
- Le Saveur du Poisson - quite expensive but it’s a massive menu and its pretty delicious. Keep some space for the dessert!!
Cafe de Paris - follow the Tangier dream and have a mint tea, whilst watching the busy crowds pass. The Cafe’s mirrored interior seems to have changed very little since Truman Capote, William S Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and the rest of the beats supposedly hung out there
Café Haft - for a game of backgammon with a view, the cliff-clutching, multi-terraced hang out on rue Hafa in the Marshan district, has been popular since the 1920s and should you see anyone smoking something other than a cigarette, don’t ask, don’t tell
Salon International de Tanger des Livres et des Arts - in spring, Tangier celebrates all things literary with this big multilingual book fair and cultural festival, headquartered in the magnificent gardens of the Moulay Hafid Palace, which is alone worth a visit
From Tangier we took a driver to Tetouan (totally worth it compared to taking a bus, plus taxi to the station etc). Instead you can also rent a car for the whole trip around Morocco, which gives you more freedom for spontaneous explorations but can also be tiring with some long distances to cover at times! Tetouan is considered one of the nicest cities in Morocco and since it is not far from the sea, there are some beautiful beaches in the area too. The name means "open your eyes" in the Berber language, which you will definitely want to do to not miss out on the beautiful architecture, orange groves and the lively souks!
- Riad Dar Rehla - owner Mohammed is the nicest person, he helped us like a star
- Association de patrimoine de Developpement de l’artisanal - artisan school, beautiful crafts and culturally very interesting
- Medina - just wander around, it’s beautiful - the most traditional Moroccan one we have seen anywhere, not much tourism
- Sit in one of the Cafes around the squares and have a bus bus (small coffee with milk)
From Tetouan we decided to take a bus to Chefchaouen, which was perfectly alright and took us through some mesmerising landscapes. Cefchaouen is renowned for it's high class hash, but there are many more reasons to see this beautiful blue city, nestled in the northern mountains of Morocco. It was formerly a fortress and derives its name from the towering mountains tops surrounding it which look like the two horns of a goat. It is also known for its variety of handcrafted products, so get ready to do some serious shopping...
- Aladdin - good food but don't stay in the hostel
- Just walk around this blue town. Everywhere is beautiful and so much to take in, beautiful picture material everywhere!
- Buy some ‘Kitama’ and enjoy those colours even more ;)
- Waterfalls - just outside town
- Food market - very traditional and local
- Kasbah - nice and idyllic for a lil wonder around
Again we continued by bus to Fez. This city has an extensive history as the birthplace for many scholars, artisans and imams, and has the world's largest car-free urban area which can be found in the medina. The medina and its little niches are a definite must-see as it still remains largely untouched and much of its architectural history is still preserved. It is the mekka for all things handcrafted and here we finally decided to settle down and get working!!!
- Dar Labchara - best hotel in town, run by our Moroccan family, definitely mention us for extra nice treatment ;) beautiful old rhiad, delicious breakfast, beautiful people
- Berrada Family Restaurant - Best food in town!!!!
- White bean soup - little street kind of opposite Berrada... the soup is very traditional Moroccan but you can also find other good snacks. Just find a place that looks cleanish and has space - very busy down there
- Food Market down by Saffahin Square/Bab Khoukha - find a clean looking sandwich stand and order an omelette one with extra veggies and salad - delicious
- Have a bildia (spiced arab coffee) at one of the little cafes in the medina
- Pomegranate juice - when in season this is the most delicious and healthy thing to have, there are little stands all around and its safe to drink, at least we never had a problem ;)
- Cafe o'clock - nice for lunch, has a good terrace with sun
- Dar Tajine - restaurant right next to the tanneries, unfortunately a bit smelly but good food
- Fekkahs - best cookies of Morocco, you can find them at little bakeries around the Medina or go to Patisserie la Villa in the new town - they are the best!!!
- Guided tour - a must!! Old town, Mallah, Mosques, little alleys, cemetery, ... VERY IMPORTANT that you say you dont want to go shopping, just culture. Ask at the riad.
- Wood Work Museum
- Traditional music festival at the beginning of May
- Ifrane - when you need some fresh mountain air, drive into the mountain to little Switzerland (where you can even ski) or other berber villages
El Jadida and Oualidia
For this trip it is easiest to rent a car. In El Jadida you will find the beautiful Cité Portugaise which became a Unesco World Heritage in 2004 and is one of the earliest settlements built by the Portuguese in West AFrica. Oualidia on the other hand is a relaxed resort town with gorgeous lagoons and golden sands, and is particularly famous for its oysters!
In Oualidia - fish fish fish... little stands by the beach with oysters and more but also a couple of good restaurants around. Check out this article for all the info!
or dos...learn to surf
Continue on to Safi and check out the typical colourful ceramics...we haven't been yet but it is high on the list. Then on to....
Marrakech is home to gorgeous Islamic architecture such as the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa and the Koutoubia minaret, but also has a beautiful old Jewish district with the Lazama Synagogue and the Jewish cemetery, which encompasses the bustling diversity that you will find in this city steeped in ancient artistry.
- Riad Sabah - run by Hans a fellow Bavarian and his Moroccan wife, very nice with food from their organic farm from outside town - contact Hans here: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Riad dar Aicha - very cheap but super nice!!!
- This air b'n'b is also apparently very nice, a recommendation of a friend
- Terrasse des epices - for lunch, beautiful terrace with lots of sunshine spots
- NOMAD - for lunch and dinner
- Le jardin - green oasis for a nice lunch
- Fish stand number 96 on the big square
- Digestive tea next to dancers on square after dinner
- Kosybar - good sushi and nice for chilling during day or night
- Le Fondouk - more upscale, nice roof garden
- Dar Cherifa - super nice for lunch...culture centre, beautiful old building
- Patisserie des Princes - more fekkahs and other traditional moroccan patisseries...sooo delicious
- Jardin Majorelle - YSL lovers must
- Berber Museum inside garden - beautiful exhibition
- Maison de la photographie - beautiful old photographs from the 19th and 20th Century
- Chez Faouzi - antique jewellery redone
- Raffia shoes - baboush section of medina
- La port d’Or - for antiques
- Al Kawtar - ladies with disabilities that do very cute embroidery
- Beldi Hotel - for a nice wellness day/night and to enjoy their gardens
- Fellah Hotel - for a very relaxing time out from Marrakech's buzz
- Atlas Mountains - for some hiking and a nice hotel treat at for example Kasbah Bourika
- Ouzoud waterfalls
- Toubkal Mountain
- Ourika Valley