Discovering Morocco in 10 days: High Atlas Mountains, Sahara Desert, Atlantic Coast

My personal highlights: 1. Experiencing the Sahara desert feeling like a little girl playing in a huge sand box – 2. Joining local women for an authentic Hamam experience

This blog story invites you to dive into my first Africa travel. I experienced south of Morocco starting in Marrakech going all the way through the High Atlas Mountains, the Sahara Desert down to the to Atlantic coast.
All of that mainly traveling in a mini-bus with an excellent local guide and a group of 15 passionate traveler.

On this trip I learnt about the beautiful real Moroccan way of life, Moroccans or better Berbers are a unique hearty folk that captured my heart. Berbers are a Moroccan pre-Arab culture that ruled unperturbed and unconquered for hundreds of years. They are craftsmen, you get to see that in every village you pass by. Interested in knowing more about this amazing people? Visit the blog www.journeybeyondtravel.com and dive into that fascinating history.

I can absolutely recommend exploring this country. As a passioned traveler having a heart full of love I am very much pleased to have left a piece of it out there.

Traveling alone? Consider an organized group travel!

I’ve chosen a group trave. with the company Intrepid. Happy to have booked them for a trip in Brazil and South East Asia back in time I knew what expected me. One benefit of choosing this kind of traveling is to have all accommodation and transfers organized. You move smooth, efficient and safe. An other advantage of intrepid is, that they use local guides. They bring you to spots you would never have access by yourself. This makes the experience authentic. That is how we got to buy the world renewed Safran or got to eat sea food as locals do for example.
Find the detailed itinerary of the South Morocco trip here and get the whole picture. My blog story includes personal moments and highlights and skips some of the itinerary spots.

Let’s start in Aroumd and drive through the High Atlas Mountains after 1 night in Marrakech at my own

One of my highlights is the village Aroumd situated in the High Atlas Mountains. By the way: the High Atlas rises in the west at the Atlantic Ocean and stretches in an eastern direction to the Moroccan-Algerian border. After a 1 hour light hike we reached the village situated at 1900 meters. I am ready to discover the village populated by ca. 1900 inhabitants. I spend an afternoon making Moroccan donuts from scratch. A local girl teaches me a delicious, simple recipe. I feel so honored to have this chance to be the in her house.

Food blogger maniac interested to know more about Moroccan Food

My curiosity for food brings me directly into the kitchen of the Riad we stay. I get introduced to the preparation of a Tagine.
Tagine is named after the earthenware pot in which it is cooked for hours. It comes with seafood, beef, lamb, chicken or with only eggs. Every Tagine has veggies included, too as pumpkin, zucchetti, potatoes or even prawns. Beside Tagine couscous is one of the excellent dishes you get all around Morocco. The preparation procedure and spices used are same.

Cooking Moroccan food at home following the blog mymoroccanfood

I found a very lovely blog about moroccan food called mymoroccanfood managed by Nargisse!
You will be so much inspired cooking the dishes by yourself, give it a try! My favorite is the Quinoa and shrimps stuffed squid tagine.

A traditional hamam experience in a local village – Sitting scrubbing my skin with prestigious argan oil

My adventure in Aroumd continous experiencing a very special wellness program. I am fascinated about the simplicity and authenticity of a local hamam. Entering the stone house a woman asks me to keep my underpants on. They guide me to a room where two ladies sit with their daughters on the floor washing each others body & hair. There the lady ask me to sit down. The girls bring me two buckets with water and a pot of black soap made of artisan argan oil. Sitting there on the floor beside them I enjoy my first traditional hamam experience, as a Aroumd local. I am again: fascinated.

Driving through the Tizi n’Test pass to the Game of thrones village called Ait Benhaddou

The trip is packed with a full program (10 days), be prepared for a lot of driving. This is mostly done with a comfortable mini bus. The scenery you get out of the window is breathtaking and makes the drive entertaining. The drive passes through the Tizi n’Test pass (2092m) still the High Atlas Mountains. This is one of Morocco’s most challenging roads, but the most exhilarating and overwhelmingly drive ever.

Arriving in Ait Benhaddou my eyes are again wide open to admire the houses and landscape. This Mud Brick city on the edge of the High Atlas Mountains is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and featured in many films. Game of thrones fans: The city is used to represent the slave trading city of Yunkai in the episode 3. Today it is still home of 8 families. We walk through the whole village and I feel thrown back in time.

Continuing towards the Sahara Desert: Pure adventure on a 4×4 car

The second highlight of my trip is the Sahara Desert. I am surround by dunes, silence and a tremendous infinity. A feeling I cannot describe in words. It is like playing in a big sand box when my feet touch the ground.
In the desert a perfectly organized camp waits to spoil us with comfortable tends and delicious Moroccan Tagine. Her we stay for one night only. A place to definitively come back for some desert hiking for example.

The desert trip includes a fun camel ride. My personal exciting journey is the 4×4 ride through the desert and the dry lake called Ikiri. The car sliding and bumping on sandy and stony paths is pure adventure. Our driver Mustapha is a professional Rally driver of the Maroc Dakar Series. The scenery encountered here is unique in the world.

A beautiful laid-back city called Essaouira at the Atlantic Coast

The trip coming to an end we reach the Atlantic coast. Essaouira is a little pear loved by plenty of surfers and kiters due to its perfect wind conditions, too. It’s the coastal getaway in Morocco, away from mass tourism and the hectic lifestyle of the major cities of Fes and Marrakech. This charming town fits the bill perfectly. The city offers fantastic sandy beaches, authentic culinary experiences, gentle Moroccan charm and just enough sophistication to make the destination unforgettable.

This is where I discover best street food: fresh fish, figs to go, bread, bakeries with hand made sweets. By strolling through the streets you pass by hip young Moroccan designers, cozy coffee shops and live street music. The diverse ethnic groups such as Arabs, Africans and Europeans enrich it with good vibes.
Recommended: Visit the rooftop terrace called Taros for great dance and drinks.

The culinary highlight of my morocco trip:

  • Buy the fresh fish at the market
  • find the spices or side veggies you like and home made bread
  • bring everything to a special restaurant that grilles it for you
  • enjoy it and lick your fingers!

A secret hint about where to sleep in Essaouira

Dar Lazuli Bed & Breakfast is a modern Riad with attention to detail. It’s located in a tranquil zone close to restaurants and nearby souks. I like the ambience with a contemporary and traditional design. The staff is friendly, too.

5 things to do and see in Marrakech

My trip started and ended in Marrakech. I discovered the city mainly on my own. I got lost in the medina, of course. But people are friendly and help you to find your way back to your Riad. Marrakech has this atmosphere of 1001 nights with its rose purple sky in the evening.

  1. Try the local food stalls at the main square of Marrakech called Djemaa El Fna. There is a mass of people insisting to stop at their stall, take your time and choose what you like.
  2. Visit the Berber museum inside the Jardin Majorelle and the Botanical Garden. It’s a perfect spot to take typical moroccan design photography.
  3. Visit or stay a palaceEl Badi Palace is the sprawling 16th-century sultan’s home. Sultan Ahmed el Mansour spared no expense adorning the more than 350 rooms of his palace with marble, gold, onyx, ivory, wood and semi-precious stones.
  4. Relax in a typical Riad, enjoy fresh brewed typical moroccan hot tea and lean back.
    Most of these traditional Moroccan houses built around a central garden or courtyard. They are as much a part of the city as the snake charmers of the main square. Many of them have had a modern makeover.
    Recommended: Riad Alboraq located in a hidden corner absolutely away from the crowded streets you find a modern, clean and very comfortable place to stay. Their terrace is lovely to enjoy breakfast. The infrastructure is sophisticated and makes you feel like a princess.
  5. Get lost in the backstreets. Walk around to discover every angle of the old medina. Feel the vibes of the Marrkech. Find classic local souvenirs as djellaba robes, spices, babouches (Moroccan slippers), old carpets or colorful ceramics.
    Recommended: La Porte d’Or — an ancient two-level bazaar rammed with rugs and antiques.

Want to know more about Lovefoodish travels? Check some other blog stories here.

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STORIESZurich Blogging

Zurich blogging at sake shizuku Store

Zurich blogging at sake shizuku Store – handpicked corns of rice processed to an exquisite drop of joy. Sake is pure life.

My personal highlight: Finding out that sake is more than a drink, it’s an integral piece of Japan’s culture reflecting a multifaceted life full of traditions.

Curiosity for blogging in Zurich brings me all the way to the Letzigrund area in Zurich Kreis 9, where Marc Nydegger since September 2013 is running his company shizuku GmbH and since October 2016 the sake shizuku Store. In Japan shizuku GmbH is supported by J. Kobayashi Co., Ltd. to guarantee a personal and immediate contact to the local breweries.

shizuku means “the first drop falls”. That is why here you discover premium drops from Japan. Find more than 30 different sake, from classic premium drops up to modern interpreted sparkling sake. There is a large selection: A sweet umeshu (plum wine), a shochu (distillate) or Japanese rum. shizuku supplies to private and gastronomic consumers and offers also an onlineshop (www.shizuku.ch). In any case I suggest stopping by at the sake shizuku Store to get all of Marc Nydegger’s professional advices to find the type of sake you like the most.

I for example learned that sake pairs perfectly with grilled meat or a Cheese Fondue beside classical dishes such as Sushi. Some sorts are enjoyed with food, some are ideal as an aperitif or digestif.

Find here a suggestion of sake brands to be found at the shizuku Store

Inatahime Ryokan: Salty and leathery nose. Aromas of lime blossom and soja mix withnotes of dark chocolate, coffee, tobacco and nutmeg. Price: 37 CHF, moreinformation here.

Karaku Amakuchi: Intense and vivid Junmai Ginjo. Fruity, sweet with notes of lychee and fresh strawberries.
Price 39 CHF, more information here.

Kachiumamai: Gentle, sweet and slightly fruity Junmai Daiginjo. This premium drop has won 3 Golden Stars by the iTQi (International Taste & Quality Institute). Price: 72 CHF, More information here.
(Sake types from left to right)

Why a Swiss guy decides to bring the heritage of Japan all the way to Zurich

Marc Nydegger left the country for an exchange year in 1997/1998 at Minami Highschool in Nagoya and 2005/2006 at Waseda University in Tokyo. His fascination about Japan brought him to study Japanology beside Economics/International Law.

Talking to Marc makes me understand, that today one of his motivations is to pass over his personal Japan experience with unique traditional heritage through a product that incorporates these values the most. The sake. It takes only a few minutes to catch that his knowledge about sake is remarkable and full of personal dedication. Marc is a Certified Sake Professional that lives the passion through his veins. Besides sake he loves to cook Japanese Cuisine, too.

The history behind sake-from a beverage of the gods to a drink for the common people

Getting in touch with the Japanese culture is enriching for me, too. I knew there is more behind the production of sake. Sake is Japan’s traditional alcoholic beverage. It is so persuasive that in the Japanese language, the word for alcohol is simply “sake.”

I found out about the existence of a god of sake. The same god of rice growing and harvesting. Many centuries ago, when people prayed for ideal growing conditions they used to thank the god for the successful harvest. This drop of alcohol linked everybody to their gods and brought people together in congeniality. That is why, sake took on a vital role in religious festivities, agricultural rites, and many different ceremonial events, from marriages to funerals to business achievements.

Marc suggested me a movie called “The Birth of Sake”. If you are interested to see the whole picture of sake including the production and what it means to Japanese culture I absolutely recommend it to you, too. Watch the trailer here!

Some technical facts on how sake is produced

The techniques used to make sake are unique in the world. Rice is milled to a fine white grain and steamed, and then two simultaneous processes occur. The rice is broken down into sugar through the action of koji microorganisms, and at the same time the sugar is fermented into alcohol through the action of a natural yeast.

In general, there are five basic types of sake. Each requires different brewing methods and a different percentage of rice milling. For example, there is rice which is unmilled (100%), there are grains where 15%, 40% or 65% are polished away.

The grade of polishing can somehow influence the quality of the sake. The husk, or outer part of the rice grain, contains kind of nasty impurities. By grinding them away the husk and move toward the kernel, the impurities become fewer and fewer, until the pure starch is hit.

Some important facts about available types of sake
(source http://www.shizuku.ch/index.cfm?action=content.displayKnowledgeContent#28 and www.esake.com/)

  1. Junmai-shu (pure rice wine; at least 30% of rice polished away; no adding of distilled alcohol)
  2. Honjozo-shu (at least 30% of rice polished away; a tad of distilled alcohol is added)
  3. Ginjo-shu (at least 40% of rice polished away; with or without alcohol added; if bottle is labeled Ginjo, it means distilled alcohol was added; if labeled Junmai Ginjo, it means no alcohol added)
  4. Daiginjo-shu (at least 50% of rice polished away; again, with or without added alcohol; if bottle is labeled Daiginjo, it means distilled alcohol was added; if labeled Junmai Daiginjo, it means no alcohol added)
  5. Namazake (special 5th designation for unpasteurized sake; incorporates all four above)

Did you know that?

  • sake differs from other alcohols. It’s created out of three major types of microorganisms found in the natural environment: fungi, bacteria and yeast. Popular alcohol, whether beer, whisky, brandy, vodka, gin, tequila or rum, use only one type of microorganism – yeast.
  • sake brewers use three components: koji spores to make the koji mold, lactic acid bacteria to stabilize the mash, and yeast to ferment the mash into alcohol.

Sake cheese pairing September 12, 2017, Store, 7 pm

Are you interested in getting to know more about these delicious drops of Japan? Marc and I are planning a sake cheese pairing on September 12, 2017 at shizuku Store.

Save the date and or send me an email to get more information.

Useful links for your next Japanese Travel

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