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3 things to do in Marrakech

mamounia indoors pool 2

Our guests often ask us what is there to do in Marrakech, besides the obvious choices: visit Jemaa El Fna square, Saadian tombs, the souks or Bahia palace. Or perhaps you are on a private Morocco tour and you are short on ideas on what to do with your free time when in the 'Red City'.

If there is one place in Morocco where you are spoiled for choice, than that surely is Marrakech. A bustling city with a ground breaking scene for international restaurants, some of the best shopping this side of Mumbai, 10 centuries of history, palaces and gardens reminding those of Alhambra and, in the last few years, an exploding modern art scene. But you don't need us to tell you about Medersa Ben Yousef or Majorelle Gardens - you can find them on Trip Advisor or inside Fodor's. Below we have compiled three choices for the intrepid traveler. They strike a balance between simplicity and grandeur, between order and spontaneity. 

DAY PASS AT LA MAMOUNIA- 5 to 8 hours 

Did you just end a 4x4 Morocco tour and are looking for somewhere romantic to pamper mamounia pool and gardens yourself and shed off the sand of the Sahara? Or perhaps you just want to see what luxury stands for in Morocco. Sun Trails is proud to exclusively offer a day pass to the most iconic hotel in Morocco. Holders of the pass will be able to enjoy the stunning facilities of the hotel, whether that means taking a dip into the indoor or outdoor swimming pool, playing a game of tennis, working out in the fitness pavilion or simply fall in love again in one of Morocco’s most romantic gardens.

DPP 290021 The pass also includes the difficult choice between a luxurious ‘Hammam Evasion’ steam bath and body scrub treatment or the signature ‘Massage Mamounia’, each comprising one hour of unadulterated relaxation. Inside the spa that was voted by Conde Nast Traveler’s readers to be 'the best spa in the world in 2011'. To conclude, the pass also includes a a la carte lunch at either ‘Le Francais par Jean Pierre Vigato’ or ‘L’Italien par Don Alfonso’, both Michelin- star restaurants.

If you are booking this as part of a private tour with us, our driver will make mamounia gardens 2 sure to drop you off in front of the main entrance in the morning and collect you in the afternoon at the desired time. Otherwise, you will have to make your own way to the hotel. Whichever the case, please make sure to wear formal attire ( no flip- flops, shorts or similar) - the entrance staff are quite strict regarding the etiquette. Once in, you are best headed for the reception where the most welcoming Guest Relations manager will confirm the details of your booking and show you the way to the Spa. There, one of the spa attendees will deliver you a bathrobe, swimming shorts and sandals and show you to the changing room before pointing you in the direction of the pool. That is if you do not want to first try your hand at a game of tennis or try the gym. You can also reverse the order of activities and first have a walk through the gardens, leaving the pool(s) for after lunch. 

More likely than not, it’s a gorgeous day outside. If it isn’t, the outdoors pool mamounia french restaurant is maintained at 28 degrees. Just in case. And the indoors heated pool looks like some scene on the set of 1001 nights, revisited circa 21st century, the multicolored marble walls so opulently swirled that they remind me of a French dessert. Or perhaps that’s just me, mamounia pool bar anticipating the lunch at the French restaurant... After a few strokes and lounging on the pool side deck chairs, it’s time for the spa treatment. Back at the spa, you will fall into the expert hands that will deliver you either the luxurious ‘Hammam Evasion’ steam bath and body scrub treatment or the signature ‘Massage Mamounia’, each transporting you a world away from where you are right now. Back to the changing room and into your clothes, you have the choice between the Italian and French restaurant, depending on the day and season. The ingredients are sourced from Mamounia’s own gardens and lunch is a la carte, that is, you are not restricted to a fixed menu. After lunch, you are invited to tour around what are most likely the most romantic gardens in Marrakech. If you shouldn’t feel like rounding off your tan by the pool. 

mamounia gardens 1 Twice the size of Majorelle Gardens and with no tourist in site, the gardens of La Mamounia bring to mind the Alcazar in Seville. Once given as a wedding present by a vizir to his son Mamoun a few centuries ago, they were long used for nezha ( sort of local garden parties). There is hardly anywhere more romantic in Marrakech whilst the afternoon turns to dusk, here, among the hundreds of well- manicured olive, lemon and orange trees. These gardens have beguiled articulate travelers for almost a century now. They were walked by numerous celebrities from Winston Churchill mamounia spa who used to come here every year to paint, to the Stones or the Reagans. In here, even the nearby Jemaa El Fna and its permanent tumult seem to be in a different country altogether. Such a contrast between the two worlds. As the evening sets in, the square is bustling with acrobats, story tellers, witch doctors, musicians, food stalls, henna tattoo artists and the occasional charlatan. Before the night falls, you still have a few hours to do some last minute shopping or lose yourself into one of many palaces within the Medina.

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The day pass is available at 150 euros per person. Rates and conditions may vary slightly according to season. For booking the day pass please contact us at +212 638 636 719/ +212 666 915 384 or email us here . This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ">

HOT AIR BALLOON FLIGHT - 6 hours ( 1 hour flight duration).

Probably the best way to romantically surprise your partner AND get some adrenaline rush while in Marrakech. More than all that, something unique worth doing here in Morocco, high above the red city having the breath- taking Atlas Mountains peaks in the background.

Today, our journey starts quite early as you are being collected by a 4x4 from balloon on the ground your Riad/ hotel in Marrakech between 5H00 and 6H30. Once arrived at the flight area , the take-off point is chosen by dropping a helium- filled balloon to determine the direction of wind. Then, the equipment is unloaded: surprise! What is lighter than air proves to be quite heavy… Once the gas bottles and burners are set up inside the basket, we check to see if there is no gas escape – all looks fine. We now place the basket on the side and attach the envelope – at 35 meters high, one of the highest in the world.

balloon royal flight 1 Once the parachute panel is closed and the checks are made, inflation can begin. A powerful fan draws cold air inside the envelope. The pilot turns on the burners which heat up the air inside. Meanwhile the assistants help keeping the hot air balloon down. The more heat goes into the balloon the more it tries to lift up in the air . The last tests are being performed: the panel opening parachute, on board panels, radio tests , then passengers can come on board : the preparations are finished. The pilot continues to heat the balloon – it must reach a temperature close to 100 ° C at the top of the envelope. The hot air balloon is now swinging as if it had grown a personality of its own.

Finally, the order is given by the pilot: " RELEASE ALL ! " All aids release the cords at balloon flight close up the same time. Everyone is holding their breath. The moment is magical as the journey begins. For those who remained on the ground, the show is fabulous. For those on board, it is both fascinating beauty and adrenaline. This delightful sensation of floating in the Moroccan sky, suspended inside a hot air balloon quickly replaces the initial surprise of the vertical takeoff. The tension that gripped the hearts before takeoff disappears. The hands are not gripping the edge of the basket anymore and one can’t help but say : " How incredible, we did not balloon view from inside even feel the take-off…”. During the trip, many questions are asked while we rave about the beauty of Morocco below and this pleasant feeling of having left all our problems on the ground. Seen from here, everything becomes more beautiful and the everyday worries seem all but important. The red adobe villages below contrast with the lush green of the palm groves and other olive farms, while in the distance the Atlas Mountains show off their majestic peaks covered in snow.

During the first hot air balloon journey on December 1, 1783, the physicist Jacques Charles resumed quite well this feeling by saying : “It’s not just fun, it is pure joy”.

Soon enough it is time to think about the landing. The pilot balloon flight panoramic view chooses a flat area and starts the approach after having explained to the passengers what to do upon making contact with the ground. With a bit of luck, there is no wind and we have what we call a ‘kiss landing’. If the wind picks up, we may get balloon flight palmgrove dragged along a few meters. What better after the flight, then to enjoy a mint tea and talk about the sensations we just experienced? The 4x4 tour takes us to one of the small Berber villages we just flew over and discover the enticing Moroccan hospitality by having a mint tea with Moroccan pastries or freshly- baked bread dipped in olive oil.

Before being dropped back at our Riad, you are given each a diploma attesting your Marrakech hot air balloon flight.

The hot air balloon flight is available starting from 200 euros per person for a shared flight. Different options are available including the exclusive and private use of the balloon. For booking the journey please contact us at +212 638 636 719/ + 212 666 915 384 or email us here .

MOROCCAN COOKING CLASS - 5 hours (cooking time: 2 hours).

An experience recommended not only to those that are fond of cooking or cookery class in the souks 1 exotic cuisine but also as one of the best introductions to Marrakech's historical center way of life. You will interact with the locals on one hand and get your bearings and learn to navigate old city’s streets on the other. The experience is personal as groups rarely exceed 10- 12 persons and everyone gets personal attention. Gemma, the Dutch organizer, has lived in Marrakech for 8 years, speaks Moroccan, English and French and is a well of information on such disparate topics as how to get rid of the djinns ( spirits) in your kitchen, the social importance of couscous or ecological agriculture in Morocco.

cookery class 3 After meeting in the morning on Jemaa El Fna square, the participants are organized into groups, explained the menu of the day and given a shopping bag and shopping money. Before starting the actual cooking, you will spend a few hours being introduced to Moroccan cuisine by visiting the lamb ovens, the preserved vegetables area, the smmen shop, witness how bread is cooked in the local farnatchi, get familiar with a few spices and shop yourself for vegetables and fruits, among other things.

First stop, the underground oven where the mechoui ( lamb shoulder) is cookery class preserved vegetables stewed- it appears up to 40 of them can be fitted inside the tiny stove (probably the best place to sample the mechoui in Marrakech is Al Fasia restaurant in Gueliz). Shortly after, we pass by the olives and preserved vegetables section, where we'll get the lemons and olives, ingredients used in almost any tagine. A few shops away, we get to see the different types of smmen (sort of local butter used mostly with preparing cookery class at the herbalist couscous but also preserving chicken). A few narrow alleys and turns later, the tour reaches the spice market and venture into a herbalist shop. A very patient young man explains the virtues, names and colors of most spices and herbs around the shop. No one can remember the names of all the spices but everyone can smell and even taste them. Ask for the difference between real and fake saffron – it is worth your time. Saffron is not grown in or around Marrakech cookery class 2 but largely cultivated in Taliouine, in the south of Morocco. After getting our necessary of cumin, ginger, curcuma, paprika and cinnamon we are headed for the local fruit and vegetable market, so typical of the medina. Getting lost in translation and mostly making use of sign language, your mission now is to buy the ingredients: carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, celery, cauliflower and alike, depending on the season. You are free to touch and smell – what you buy now is what you will cook and ultimately have over lunch.

cookery class bread oven Our journey takes us next to the local bread oven, where the bread loafs are patiently waiting their turn as the man in charge is placing them in the oven with his bread paddle. From time to time a vase of tangia is brought in to be placed next to the burning coal. This typical dish of Marrakech, is mostly eaten by students as it takes very little time to put together. Back in the streets of the souks again and a few derbs later, we are standing in front of the Riad’s main entrance.

Watch your head as you go through the doorstep, then through a passage cookery class in the kitchen way and out into the bright courtyard where all the necessary tools and boards are waiting. You will be assisted by the two expert dadas of the house, which even get around in English. Gemma will also be on hand throughout the cooking process to help with whatever you cookery class a table may need. Each team is given a station and a mission. Some will cook the starters, some the main course or the desert. Some can cook two or more dishes depending on their interest and skills. Starters may include zaalouk, bstilla or various Moroccan salads. The main course will most likely be a tagine. For the dessert, dough is turned into different shapes before being sprinkled with almonds and taken into the district oven, then baked into the most mouth watering Moroccan pastry. Water and wine accompany the lunch while everyone is happy to see how what they have just bought in the markets a few hours ago was turned into a delicious lunch. The mint tea is there to conclude the festivities. You will be done by latest 4 PM which still leaves you with still plenty of time to discover some of the other gems of Marrakech, shop or just roam around the souks. Now that you got a few bearings.

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The cookery lesson is available at 50 euros per person. For booking the cookery lesson please contact us at +212 638 636 719/ + 212 666 915 384 or email us here.


Moroccan Cooking Class and Souk Introduction

IMG 3696Recommended not only to those that are fond of cooking or exotic cuisine but also as one of the best introductions to Marrakech and its old city's way of life, in a city where local reliable guides are getting harder to come by. An excellent alternative to a day trip outside Marrakech, this is escaping the city while never leaving it. You will interact with the locals, get your bearings and learn to navigate the old city’s streets. Prepare a tasty tagine, take the dessert to the local farnatchi ( oven) and learn how to find the real saffron, among other things. The experience is personal as groups rarely exceed 10- 12 persons and everyone gets to ask all the questions he/she wants. Gemma, the organizer, has lived in Morocco for 8 years, speaks Moroccan, English and French and is a well of information on such different topics as how to get rid of the djinns ( spirits) in your kitchen, the social importance of couscous or ecological agriculture in Morocco.  

DPP 29092932    At 10 AM we were met by Gemma in front of Café de France, on Jemaa El Fna. Gemma is Dutch, has lived in the Medina for the last 8 years and speaks some Moroccan, apart from French, English and Dutch.  The participants that day were: a Dutch couple, a Canadian lady, a teacher from England and her daughter and myself. We were then split into pairs and given each pair a shopping list, money and a shopping bag. And off we went, into the souks…
First stop was a little square just behind Jemaa El Fna. There, among food stalls and other sellers, the underground oven where the mechoui is stewed- it appears up to 40 lambs can be fitted inside the rather small looking oven. Shortly after we reached the olives and preserved vegetables section, where we purchased the tastiest black olives and preserved lemons. A few shops away, we got to see the different types of smmen (sort of local butter used mostly with preparing couscous but also preserving chicken). From  DPP 29092936
there we followed Gemma through the souks and down Semmarine to arrive on Place des Epices. Turned right and a crowded passage gave way to the old slave market where witchcraft accessories hang in front of shops, alongside skins of most exotic animals. After a few failed attempts at purchasing a kaftan (anyone sees the connection with the cooking here ?) , we got back to the spice market and into a herbalist shop. It took quite a while to be explained the virtues, names and 
  DPP 29092938   DPP 29092934
DPP 29092949    colors of  most spices and herbs around the shop ( and the world). Some of us got to smell and in some cases, taste them. We also got to know the difference between authentic and fake saffron. We learnt that nigella can cure almost any cold and fenugreek gives appetite. That is if anyone could lack an appetite while in Morocco… We bought the necessary amount of cumin, ginger, curcuma, paprika and cinnamon for our lunch. And then some. Always lingering on the edge of the souks

and past the carpet market, we made our way into the local fruit and vegetable market, a small square probably busier than the Jemaa El Fna itself. After some careful planning, we got our necessary of potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, carrots and aubergines. Talk about farm- to- table...

Next stop, the local bread oven. ‘Bread’ doesn’t quite define it. Tangias make their way in quite regularly. Cookies, biscuits and other pastries as well. Most of the time though, the children drop the bread loafs of every family early in the morning on their way to school. Then they collect it at lunch time on their way home. At this time of day, the bread loafs were patiently waiting for their turn as the man in charge was adroitly handling a huge wood bread paddle. Once out of there, we still had the time to enjoy coffee and tea on a roof terrace before reaching the riad where the cooking class is being dispensed. Even up above the souks, one is prone to constant sensory overload, carpets hanging from the rooftops, the muezzin calling to prayer, the ocean of satellite dishes all pointing out in the same direction, the snow on top of the Atlas far in the distance. Down in the street again and a few derbs later, we were standing in front of the Riad’s main entrance. 

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Watch your head as you go through the doorstep, then through a passage way and out into the bright courtyard where all the necessary tools and boards were into place. We were helped by the two Moroccan ladies of the house. Each team was given a station with cutting board, knives, blender and all else we may need.  We initiated with the starters which consisted in a  variety of Moroccan salads and zaalouk ( a sort of tapenade made out of fresh tomatoes, crushed garlic, fresh coriander,
a few spices and fried mashed aubergines- make sure you try this at least once while in Morocco). Other stations prepared courgette salad, sweet carrot and cinnamon or mixed salad. In the meantime, the chermoula (dressing for the ‘boulettes de sardines’) was being prepared. A few small plates were filled with olives and amlou ( a paste made out of almonds and argan oil) so we can get an appetite going. The filleted fresh sardines were then chopped in the blender and mixed DPP 29092941  
DPP 29092942    with the dressing and turned by our very expert hands into balls before being placed directly in the pot where the tomato and olive oil sauce was already cooking through. Next to it, the side dish was a vegetable tagine made of carrots, green peppers, courgettes, potatoes, pumpkin, cauliflower, green beans and green peas. Ve-ge-te-rian heaven. Having placed the two tagines on the fire we followed with semolina and coconut biscuits. How can we leave the dessert out ? 
After rolling tablespoons of dough into small balls and placing them in the trays, the trays were then taken to the same local farnatchi we had visited in the morning. On returning to the Riad, we sat down at the table and started eating our salads, rose wine or water to quench our thirst. Gemma was always around helping with cooking,  giving advice, organizing the ladies and helping with serving lunch. She eventually joined us for lunch after the starters. We ended up  DPP 29092944   
DPP 29092950 congratulating each other on our work and how little it took to turn things bought at the local market into the tastiest of meals. By the time we had finished our starters, the tagines were ready and so we had the main course. The 'boulettes' were to die for. Eight people talking and having lunch tend to take their time so it was just perfect timing when everyone had finished their main course to step out and fetch our perfectly cooked coconut biscuits from the oven. 

We had them as desert together with the ubiquitous mint tea. The relaxed ambiance makes it very adequate for both those that are really interested in cooking and those that are just there to have fun. It was close to 4 PM when we left the Riad and that left us with still plenty of time to discover some of the other gems of Marrakech and roam around the souks. This time we had our bearing right… 

A big thank you to Gemma and everyone else involved. A video snippet of the course can be watched here .   

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Sun Trails

14 Avenue Hassan Seghir

Casablanca 20000

Phone : +212 638 636 719/ +212 666 915 384

Skype: sun_trails_morocco

We are open 7 days a week from 9 AM to 5 PM local Morocco time. For any last minute enquiry feel free to call us on the number(s) listed above.


Boutique tours of Morocco

What better place than Morocco for a private tailor made tour ? It can be a day trip from Marrakech into the Atlas Mountains. Or a 14 day private luxury Morocco tour. And everything in between. With such a different culture and language, a boutique 4x4 Morocco tour with an English speaking local driver- guide guarantees the best holidays in Morocco. Choose one of the many 4x4 tours from Marrakech or another imperial city and you will discover the off the beaten track Morocco. Much more than excursions from Marrakech or Morocco desert tours, our 4x4 custom tours travel all across Morocco, covering Berber villages, majestic Kasbahs, enchanting palm groves or Touareg desert camps. From Ait Benhaddou to Chefchaouen, from Erg Chebbi to Taroudant and from camel rides in the Sahara to hardcore trekking Morocco can only offer. Browse among our 4x4 boutique tours of Morocco and book your favorite today !