Eye Candy

When You Take a Dreamy Trip to Morocco with Your 20 New Best Friends

by Katie McKnoulty
All photos by Katie McKnoulty.

The travel company G&T Weekends takes their lavish dinner party vibe on vacation in Morocco. Pack your caftan.

Morocco – Earlier this year I joined G&T Weekends in the desert outside Marrakech for the kind of weekend away I always dream of organizing but never do. The London-based travel operators find amazing villas, lodges, and mansions in out-of-the-way places and pull together twenty to thirty people (mostly strangers who become fast friends) for lavish lunches, evening soirees, and local adventures en masse.

I’ve traveled a lot in my life, particularly over the last four years for my blog, The Travelling Light, and I’ve developed my own style of travel — I like to take things slow and as they come. I don’t plan much in advance, I leave things open-ended and up to fate, and I rarely travel in groups. This is usually great, but if I’d done my first visit to Morocco in my regular free-flowing style, I wouldn’t have seen half the amazing things I saw on our trip.

Day one, morning one, had me holding on for dear life to the back of a quad bike as we zipped across desert sands, a group of us riding two to a bike, up, down, and over pastel pink and green mountains. We drove for hours, my eyes and camera taking in the beauty of the mountains and the views across the horizon.

Our ultimate destination was a nomadic Berber tent run by a Berber nomad with a Nokia mobile phone, where we sipped tea in the shade while looking out over mountains that stretched as far as the eye could see. 

We visited Beldi Country Club to take a pottery class, but ended up getting severely distracted by the endless fields of perfect, blooming roses that dot the grounds. Bright pink bougainvilleas and leafy green trees line the paths and buildings, providing shade and dappled light in the hot Moroccan sun.

The ceramics studio is in the middle of the estate, and the happy guys working were ready and willing to give guests a go on the pottery wheel. There are little boutiques, a glass blowing studio, and so many pretty glass-covered atriums and greenhouses. We were there for hours and still didn't scratch the surface, but I left feeling very happy.

Day two had us driving an hour outside Marrakech to hike single file through the Atlas Mountains, snaking through the curves and tiny Berber villages with no other tourists in sight. The mountains are the most incredible shade of pink, a hue you see all over Morocco. The local villagers don’t really allow photographs of themselves so we were forced to put away the cameras and smile and wave instead. A plus, really.

We ended the hike at our Berber guide’s family home, which is constructed from the natural materials of the surrounding area. We sat cross-legged around tables on the floor with brightly colored woven rugs beneath us, exhausted from our lengthy hike up and down the mountains. We ate home-cooked tagine, the best of the trip, with produce grown in the family garden.

We spent a morning in Marrakech, wandering around the maze of souks. Long metallic dresses, pointy slippers with pom poms, embroidered bucket bags, and ceramics were all on our shopping list.

We ended up spending the most time in a three-story rug shop with its own tiled rooftop terraces upstairs, and layers and layers of patterned and embroidered textiles covering every inch of surface. I bought a small yellow rug at my friend’s insistence that it was actually a meditation mat and therefore an essential item. I’ve visited many markets throughout India, Southeast Asia, and Europe, and these were the most jam-packed and full of the most interesting, unique things.

Our final evening was spent in the middle of the orange sand desert, where we decided to take an impromptu hike — me barefoot for some reason — up a giant hill to get the best sunset view.

We had dinner in our own tent around a long communal table and did stargazing next to a fire.

The merits of traveling in a group were slowly revealed to me over the weekend: built-in friends, the ability to put down my phone and be present while someone else made the calls, a well-crafted schedule that made the most of our time in a place as beautiful as Morocco. In the space of four days, I crossed three deserts, navigated the endless souk markets, discovered a neverending field of roses, tried my hand at making pottery, ate my weight in tagine, and lounged around a desert villa. I covered a lot of ground for a short trip.

G&T Weekends will be in Iceland for New Year's Eve. Check out the full schedule of upcoming weekends on their website.

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