Simon recently spent two days exploring Marrakech, The Atlas Mountains and the Agafay desert on a whirlwind tour with Charlie Shepherd of Epic Morocco Events. Having squeezed in 11 hotel site inspections, visits to numerous event spaces and private venues and also experiencing off-roading in the Atlas Mountains and desert, Simon is our Marrakech expert with bang up-to-date knowledge of the destination.
Just 3-3.5 hrs flight from London, Marrakech is the closest true ‘culture shock’ to the UK. With 300 days of sunshine a year, world class hotels and bijou and characteristic accommodation, couple with an exceptional variety of contrasting landscape you have all the right ingredients for an outstanding incentive and meeting destination.
What struck me was the authenticity of the destination, barely touched by western influence. Of course you have tourists and 5 star hotels, however, visit Jemaa el Fna, the main square and you’ll find it occupied 90% by Moroccans. The accommodation, even the latest additions including the Four Seasons and Beachcomber’s Royal Palm Resort (both of which I stayed at of course!), have been designed totally in keeping with the Moroccan style, yet offer a modern twist. You have the modernity of the New Town where you’ll find Zara, McDonalds etc so the familiarity of the Western world, however, a stone’s throw away in the ancient medina you can give your group a totally unique experience and take them out of their comfort zone. Transport them out to the High Atlas mountains for another change of pace and you have contrasting experiences that make for an exciting journey of discovery.
The Medina is a labyrinth of 9000 alleyways which take you through the main square where the locals vie for your attention with various performances such as snake charming, tooth pulling or medicinal/herbal offerings. Haggle in the souk markets and find a bargain, or chill out at one of the many cafes or restaurants overlooking the square.
For accommodation options you are spoilt for choice with over 500 Riads located in the Medina, some furnished to the highest of standards with 4-30 rooms on average, ideal for private buy outs for incentive groups. Within 20 mins drive of the city centre you have several high quality options including the Four Seasons (excellent choice for residential conference groups up to 250 pax or incentive groups) and the 6 star Royal Palm, which to my mind is ‘the stand out’ property for groups. There are other very high end options such as the Royal Mansour, however this I would say is more suited to celebrity types and not so ‘group friendly’. Other stand out city centre options are The Pearl and Naoura Barriere, both a short walk from the Medina and located in the heart of the nightlife area, close to the Jad Mahal and Comptoir restaurants where you can enjoy live local entertainment including belly dancers and live bands, which are always a hit with groups for a relaxed evening’s entertainment.
A stunning hotel option situated in the High Atlas mountains is Sir Richard Branson’s retreat hotel, Kasbah Tamadot with 27 rooms and suites set in gorgeous surroundings. Ideal for a private buy out for groups where they can stay in a peaceful environment and then dip into Marrakech, just 1h 15 mins away.
In terms of activities, Charlie at Epic Morocco Events will create a truly bespoke programme for each and every group. With his unrivalled local connections derived from years exploring the mountains and desert regions with his adventure travel background, Charlie can open doors to private venues and experiences that are ‘off the beaten track’:
• Explore the ancient Marrakech Medina, main square and souks
• Dine in Palace settings
• Hike and 4×4 through berber villages
• Quad bike and drive Polaris buggies through remote deserts
• Mountain biking in the High Atlas Mountains
• Hot air balloon over north African plains
• Stay in world class characterful hotels
• Learn to cook the Moroccan way
• Ride a camel!
• Helicopter trips to the Sahara desert possible for groups with large budget!
• Experience North Africa’s longest zip line
• Discover a culture far-removed from our own in this friendly and welcoming destination
Marrakech offers accessible Africa, a country where medieval roots and ultra modern VIP services co-exist – so think Marrakech for your next incentive or conference event!