Top 10 Culinary Tours
Morocco – the land of camel caravans and steaming tagines; of “Here’s looking at you, kid” and mazelike medinas – has recently shot up in travel popularity, thanks in part to a bevy of fashionable new and redone hotels. Yet for all the buzz, the logistics of getting around this North Africa nation remain somewhat challenging for visitors, especially if one desires to dig below the surface.
Peggy Markel (www.peggymarkel.com) has been leading culinary tours to Morocco since 2002. Her biannual trips mix luxury and rustic authenticity and pair cooking with observation and history lessons with hammam visits. Recently Markel led Gourmet's Ruth Reichl and actress Lorraine Bracco around Morocco for PBS’s Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth, as the women hand-rolled couscous and extolled the virtues of a cuisine whose origins are Berber, Middle Eastern, French, and Moorish.
Participants on Markel’s trips can expect to do the same on her 10-day ventures, which start and end in Marrakech and include side trips to the High Atlas mountains and the seaside town of Essaouira. The home base in Marrakech is the exquisite Jnane Tamsna hotel (www.jnanetamsna.com), run by French designer Meryanne Loum-Martin and her husband, Gary Martin, an ethnobotanist who guides guests through his herb garden. The resident chef Baija Lafredi leads cooking lessons on the roof, where guests will create, say, a chicken and-pear stew in a tagine and caviar d’aubergine.
The group will also bake bread in traditional wood-fired clay ovens, watch Berber women harvest and crack argan nuts for oil, munch on fresh figs in the mountains, and ride camels on the deserted beaches of Sidi Kaouki.
Upcoming trips: April 18 to 27 and October 31 to November 9, 2010; private trips are available upon request. The 10-day trip starts at $4,595 a person, all inclusive.
For more trip-planning information, see our Morocco Travel Guide.