Surf Maroc for sun, sea, feasting and recharging

Food is nourishing for the soul and at Christmas there’s plenty of opportunity for feasting and festivities. That said, I still wanted to escape from the tinsel and joy. This was the year for me to set new traditions, to try different food and to be somewhere different.

I am not a Grinch, it is just that I (like many others) find this time of year tricky for a variety of reasons. Having no plans for Christmas, I realised I could go anywhere and do anything and after some research I found the Surf Maroc yoga and surf trip and booked it.

I had never been to Morocco before, I was a little familiar with the food, I’ve made a few tagines and used couscous a lot in salads. It’s an interesting cuisine with culinary influences from Spain, France and Arabia with an array of aromatic ingredients from cinnamon, ginger, preserved lemons, honey, prunes, dates and argan oil. I like the combination of sweet and savoury that works so well, like pairing chicken with dates or apricots in a tagine.

I was looking forward to trying more Moroccan food, getting some sunshine in December and learning to surf. It’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new experiences. I got myself well immersed into the food zone on the plane as I started to read Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh. It’s all about how food touches our senses, influences our memories and psychology. As well as why we should enjoy all food from an indulgent takeaway, a meal cooked for us by a loved one to those dishes of our childhood. All of these dishes make us who we are on the outside and inside.

Anyway, back to the holiday…as I stepped off the plane it was evening and cool in Agadir,  At Villa Mandala, our home for the week we had some food and then it was bedtime before the first yoga session at 7.30am.

Salute to the sun

Everyday there was a strong 2 hour yoga class in the rooftop shala led by Laura and Haley. These were challenging sessions. I had thought that I was reasonably fit but I found new muscles over the week.

As we arrived on our mats it was dark and by 9.30am the room was flooded in sunshine and we could enjoy the view of the beach and ocean. Some mornings I did question my sanity as I was tired and my muscles were aching, then the scene with blue skies and rolling waves gave me the answer to why I was here.

Yoga shala

The most important meal of the day

With warmed up muscles and feeling energised, the smell of breakfast (mmm, those pancakes) wafted from the kitchen and my appetite was well and truly awake. We sat and ate together, enjoying a changing menu of healthy smoothies, eggs (scrambled, fried and in a tagine…), homemade muesli, mixed nuts and fruit. Thank god there was coffee too, as that is always my morning kick start.

I loved the baghrir known as the ‘thousand holes pancake’ served with a chocolate sauce and the m’semen square pancakes with amlou, a nutty sweet sauce. Decadent and delicious, I want to try these at home for brunch.

Riding the waves (or not)

As we were out on the beach for the surf we had packed lunches and every day we got to fill our tiffin tin with a variety of freshly prepared salads. The choices changed daily and included avocado, red cabbage, rice, nuts, falafels, grated carrot, lettuce and broccoli with bay and lemon. One of my favourite parts of the day was sitting on the surfboards to eat our lunch on the beach after the hard work of surfing.

lunchtime salads

We were a group of mixed surfing abilities, there were some fine surfers and great beginners amongst us and our instructors gave us the guidance we needed. I had determination over talent, I fell off the board a lot, I managed to ride a few waves but I know now I am not going to be a surfer, which is fine. It was fun to try and we got to see some beautiful spots along the coastline, including Imousane bay where you can find the longest waves.

After the surf we had a chance to look around the fishing port and take in the sights and smells of the fish market. Many places had BBQs on the go, cooking the catch of the day and the smell of that fish was awesome, unfortunately we didn’t have the time to try any. We did have an interesting cultural cooking exchange (input from Greece, Sardinia and Morocco) sharing the best way to cook an octopus as our instructor Baz had got one to take home. Freezing it to help tenderize the meat was one of the top tips!

Morocco fish market

The power of yin

The evening yoga class was one of my favourite times as it was a blend of yin and more relaxing stretches to ease our aching muscles. We got to see some stunning sunsets too from the shala, as well as learning the pleasure and pain of using a tennis ball to help those particularly sore muscles.

Villa Mandala sunset

I’d recommend yin yoga to anyone who does a lot of sport, I started doing a regular class at Unity yoga last year and it’s helped my flexibility and my relaxation capacity. You get deep stretches which help balance out your body, ease areas of tension and soothe the mind.

Food tastes better in company

Tea time was obviously my other highlight of my day and we enjoyed snacks first with nuts, dips, bread, olives and crudites. The communal eating was an enjoyable part of the trip, food always tastes better in company and it was a chance to get to know each other chatting over dinner.

Dips Villa Mandala

Over the week we got to sample many Moroccan dishes, we helped ourselves from big sharing platters to the menu of the day which varied from stuffed cabbage, flavoursome mixed salads, aubergine lasagne, vegetable curry to tagine. The desserts were lovely – bananas in toffee sauce with caramel ice cream was delicious as was the poached pear with chocolate. That reminds me, we had cake everyday in the afternoon too – the chocolate brownies were amazing.

Tea time at Villa Mandala

Christmas Day

I did have a few days off the surf as my body needed the rest and on Christmas Day I had a day by the pool at Surf Maroc’s hotel Amouage in Taghazout. That was bliss, just chilling out by the pool, reading my book and I treated myself to a massage as a festive gift. We got to enjoy live Moroccan music and food at Amouage that night which made for a different Christmas Day.

On our last evening we rounded off the night with traditional Moroccan mint tea and a selection of sweets and biscuits infused with spices from cinnamon and cardamom.

It was great to get some winter sun, meet new people and try out some new experiences. I learnt a lot and loved the food, I am no surfer though, I think I might stick to yoga. It was a holiday which enriched the senses from the colourful food, incense in the yoga shala to the music we enjoyed in the van driving out to the surf. We have been sharing Spotify links in the Whatsapp group to keep the holiday vibes going now we are all back home. Here’s my holiday playlist. Now, I just need to decide where my next adventure will be!

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