We recently holidayed in Essaouira, Morocco – which is a charming ancient fishing port. We loved the winding medinas, mouthwatering food and windswept sandy beach. Every day of our week-long holiday we were occupied with soaking up the culture of the city and spending time on the beach –but thanks to Palma Quads, one day we had a totally unique and unforgettable experience.
Palma Quads organised a custom-made cultural tour exclusively for our family. We went inland to an Oasis town called Inlajar. In contrast to the dusty, sandy landscape of Essaouira, Inlajar is lush with green palm trees, fields of crops and olive groves.
Yassine our tour guide, tailor-made the cultural trip for our family. We have 3 young children (aged 9, 7 and 4) and he managed to organise a day that both stretched them and accommodated them. During the day the children had a donkey ride, we ate with a local family and explored their home, we went off-roading to an archaeological dig where we got to speak to the archaeologist who unearthed the oldest necklace ever discovered(!), we ate a tagine under an olive tree, we explored the oasis and witnessed the complete process of making olive oil. It was a day that we will treasure forever, and without doubt the best day of our holiday in Morocco.
We started off by meandering up the hillside to a traditional rural home. The walk was only about 20 minutes long, but it was warmer than we are used to and up an incline. Yassine had kindly organised for us to have a donkey available for our children to ride when they needed to rest their legs. This, of course, was an enormous hit.
We were welcomed into the family home with incredible hospitality. They received us with open arms and a vast array of home baked bread, biscuits and cake, freshly pressed olive oil and sugary mint tea (poured from a height by the elder of the family). While our children were a bit shy at first, they soon discovered how delicious the snacks were and had their fill!
We sat on carpeted floors, reclining against embroidered cushions as Yassine taught us all about the customs of the local people. Then we got to meet the rest of the household, including the newly born calf and several children a similar age to our own. The little girls were especially friendly, coming alongside our daughter, walking with her and beaming ear to ear.
After saying goodbye to our hosts, we paced down to an olive grove and made a base for the afternoon. We enjoyed lounging against cushions in the shade of the trees, playing wooden dominoes that we’d bought in the medina, and our boys tree climbed till their hearts were content.
After a rest, we went by 4X4 further up the valley for a once in a lifetime encounter. Nestled in the hillside by this Oasis town is Bizmoune cave; an archaeological site that made history. Just two years ago, beads from a stone age necklace were discovered here – dated from 150,000 years ago. It is the oldest human necklace to have ever been discovered and is on display in a museum in Rabat. Yassine took us trekking up the hill to the archaeological site – and as luck would have it the lead archaeologist who discovered the beads was working on the dig and came to talk to us! While we were there, we saw one of the archologists unearth a spearhead, which is a very cool thing to witness! Almost four years ago we went to the English Stone Age caves Cresswell Crags, and it continues to be a significant memory for our oldest child. These sorts of moments, when (pre)history comes alive for our kids, are priceless.
Yassine made sure all our needs were taken care off, and after another bouncey, off road adventure back to the olive groves, we were met with an enormous meat tagine to eat under our special olive tree. Our hosts cooked in in their home and transported it down the hillside on their donkey – it couldn’t have been more idyllic or authentic. Our children (who are not especially good at eating everything I cook for them at home) ate up the tagine with relish – which I’m sure says as much about Moroccan cuisine as it does mine!
After munching on star anise infused biscuits, washed down by green tea brewed over a fire, we meandered back to the car through the oasis. We saw locals harvesting and winnowing their olives, and then went to the town olive-press to see the ancient process of making olive oil. Yassine told us with pride that the olive oil made in that area has won awards for being the best olive oil in Morocco. Having tasted it ourselves, it’s not hard to see why. Surely the fresh water from the Oasis itself, as well as the pride and meticulous care of the olive grove by the local community is the secret.
The ancient oasis was a remarkable sight; it spurts out of the ground in a thick jet of water that gushes relentlessly through manmade channels to irrigate an enormous area of land. The locals have a fortnightly rota according to the size of their land, and day and night the channels are manned so that water is directed into the different fields in a fair way. The rota organiser is selected by the community, and they serve in this capacity until they pass away or are unable to do it any longer. This system has been operating for generations – the water is property of the Oasis dwellers and the government respect their traditional way of life and do not interfere. Truly, we’d never seen anything like it! When left without outside interference, communities can thrive and share natural resources fairly – even producing the best olive oil in the entire country.
Each cultural tour is custom made to your party. Please contact the owner of Palma Quad, Rashid to discuss your requirements. For families with older children, mountain biking and hiking can be incorporated into your adventure.
Cultural days start from €260 per party and include all food and drinks.
Contact Rashid via