A Wheel and Away

Living in the lap of luxury in Morocco

As anyone who knows our family will testify, we do not tend to fit in to the category of luxury travellers.  A fifteen pound a night hostel with a spare mattress on the floor and a slightly dodgy shower tends to be much more the norm for us when we travel.

However, I was very fortunate to be invited along on a recent group trip to Morocco, organised by the Moroccan tourist board, which illustrated only too clearly the lifestyle I can dream of becoming accustomed to!  It was four days of sheer bliss, as the gorgeous Majida informed us she wanted to show us the very best of what Morocco had to offer.  And she did not disappoint!

While, unusually, I was travelling without the children, I was, as always, checking out the accessibility everywhere I went and was mostly pleasantly surprised by the steps that had been taken to facilitate access for wheelchair users.  

We started with a delicious lunch in Marrakech, in a venue that unfortunately, while beautiful, had a few too many steps to make it easily accessible.

However, the second stop on our itinerary was the stunning setting of the Widiane Hotel and Spa, in the province of Azilal, around three hours from Marrakech.  On the banks of the Bin El Ouidane lake, the location of the hotel is absolutely spectacular.  The geography of the site means that the hotel is split over three levels, with the top and middle ones offering unparalleled vistas from the rooms.  The lake itself is actually man made, a product of the dam a few hundred meters up the road.  There is a definite South East Asian theme to the hotel, with many elephants dotted around, nods to the architecture and the fabulous and opulent Buddha bar downstairs. 

One of the many highlights is the breathtaking infinity pool with views out over the mountains and and the dam.

The hotels’ design does mean that access is largely restricted to the lower levels for wheelchair users, as there are a number of steps to access the main hotel, so staying here should be treated more in the vein of a holiday apartment – however the pool and views are likely to leave any previous apartments most definitely in the shade!

One of the beauties of the hotel is in its isolated location, lending itself to being the perfect spot to completely switch off from the realities of day to day life.  Lunch at the fabulous restaurant owned by the hotel adds to the feeling.  It is reachable only by boat – the lake is emerald green in colour and so tranquil that even the comment made by one of the group that it just needs some dolphins jumping from it, felt the equivalent of organising a rave in an ashram.  

Once on the shore, there is actually a lift built into the side of the mountain to take diners to the restaurant – the setting is truly wonderful and the little huts in which one can have a massage after a fabulous lunch make this an absolute paradise.  

The stunning restaurant on the banks of Bin El Ouidane
The beautiful lake of Bin El Ouidane

I was really excited on the way to our final stop to have the opportunity to explore the stunning Cascades D’Ouzoud.  

Despite our family having visited Morocco a number of times in the past, we had never made it here, as we had always been told that they were inaccessible and being a long way from where we had been had not thought that they warranted the chance.  Well, we should never have listened!  The waterfalls, North Africa’s highest, are absolutely beautiful and while they do impose some limitations on those who are less mobile, there is certainly enough that can be accessed to make them a worthwhile visit.  

The waterfalls of Cascades D'Ouzoud

https://awheelandaway.co.uk/portfolio-item/cascades-douzoud

For our final stop, I felt as though I’d stepped onto the set of one of those Channel 4 programmes about the parallel universe of the rich.  The Fairmont Hotel on the outskirts of Marrakech was described by the Independent as ‘Possibly the most decadent hotel in the whole of Marrakech’ and it certainly lived up to its reputation.  My suite was bigger than the entire downstairs of my house and it was quite exhausting walking the long trek from the living room to the walk-in wardrobe!  A family of six could have fit in to my bed and still have had room to stretch out.

Due to its sheer size as much as anything else, my suite was largely completely accessible for a wheelchair user.  Doorways were wide, there was ample space for manoeuvring and the enormous roll in shower meant that one could have a shower and a party with all their friends at the same time, should they be so inclined!  And to relax, I could take in the views of the Atlas Mountains from one of my two terraces!

The view from terrace number 1!
The view from terrace number 2!

Communal areas posed no difficulties and the huge grounds afford ample opportunities for exploration.

https://awheelandaway.co.uk/portfolio-item/fairmont-royal-palm-marrakech/

My three days living the life of luxury left me feeling like I should be strolling through the airport with shades on, while my bags had been taken to the plane by my PA, who had popped off to buy some Bolly afterwards.  The reality was a glitch in the airline app had led to it pronouncing a delay of one hour.  Proved to be wrong when still standing at passport control, the tannoy announced a final call for the flight.  I will admit to a fleeting second of joy that I could stay for longer, quickly replaced by the realisation that my extra night was unlikely to be at the Fairmont.  The peace and tranquillity were then somewhat disrupted by the ensuing panic to get to the boarding gate in time to avoid the walk of shame.  I did however learn a valuable lesson.  You can’t run in Birkenstocks.

Note:  All of the places mentioned have some restrictions regarding their accessibility and so would necessitate varying degrees of compromise in order to make them work.  This would not be feasible or desirable for everybody.  The purpose of this article is to present options, to enable the individual to make informed decisions about whether this could work for them.  For more detailed information about their specific accessibility please refer to their individual entries on the Morocco page or get in touch with any questions.  Thankyou.

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