I had traveled to Morocco already three times. Once, I believe in 2014, even as a yoga retreat participant in Taghazout. The country, the people, the wild and raw nature were stuck deep in my heart and I started dreaming about offering my own yoga retreat there one day. Many years later, feeling more versed both in travelling and in guiding retreats, I planned the first Morocco Retreat to be held in September 2020. For the known reasons we could not go and I had to cancel my fully booked first retreat in Tafedna. We managed to go in November 2021, and it was amazing.
By the way, what and where is Tafedna?
It's a bay, south of Cap Tafelney, with a small fishing village approximately one hour fifteen south from Essaouira. There's a fish market, well it's a big auction hall where the fish is sold, and a bunch of colorful houses that look rather run down. But it's lively, when fishing is happening, many boats come in and out the sea from the shore, helped by a tractor as there isn't as a real port. As far as I know, Tafedna has one tiny shop and maybe one or two "restaurants". I use quote on quote because it's nothing like the restaurants we are used to, it's rather a stand with a grill and maybe a plastic table or two. And then, in the middle of this rural basic moroccan super authentic setting there is THE HOTEL. One hotel, a surf camp (Dancing the Waves) and a few houses owned by foreigners. Really just a few: four to five, maybe.
I found this location thanks to the recommendation of a good friend and yoga teacher. If you know me a little, you also know that I search off the beaten track locations for my retreats. It's the case in Bali and in Costa Rica as well. This is not just because I want you to live a genuine experience in the destination country, it's also because I strongly believe a retreat has to be a big change of scenery where many of our comfort zone patterns are challenged. This is why, a touristic destination with plenty of shopping, cafes and other distractions is not at all what I am looking for. A retreat is, well… a retreat! To retreat means to draw within, to slow down, to remove stuff and create space. So the less there is around, the better.
The hotel in Tafedna is quite an amazing find. Imagine you are in the middle of nowhere and there appears this gorgeous hotel with stylishly decorated spacious rooms, an amazing restaurant (!), a huge swimming pool, gardens with bougainvillea in many different colors. In a city they would definitely call it boutique hotel, but in Tafedna things run a bit behind, fortunately! It has all comforts without being pretentious, chickens and rabbits run free in the gardens and the staff is slow but steady. The wi-fi works only in the restaurant, another great thing. I couldn't have asked more for my retreat.
We practice yoga and meditation in a big room with high decorated wood ceilings and a window front facing the gardens and the ocean. Every morning we meet in silence, sit down eyes closed to feel the day light rise. As we open them again we whiteness the bay being bathed in the first sun rays. In awe we sit and time stands still. Life kicks in, roosters crow, the pale light becomes the strong African sun. By the time we reach the magnificent brunch buffet we are fully immersed in the day. The energetic Hatha Yoga session makes us hungry for life, for sharing our stories and laughter with the other retreat participants and, of course, for the many dishes of our buffet! Time stands still again.
We spend the afternoon reading by the pool, some venture out to the dunes or to swim in the chilly ocean, others even try to catch a wave or two in the bay over watched by the fisherman cleaning their boats and the cats getting the entrails. As the sun starts it's way down we meet in the yoga room again, for a Yin session this time. Time stands still, one more time. Our big front window shows us the precise journey of the luminescent sun towards the ocean, in awe we sit and thankful we bow. The light during dinner has sprinkles of orange, yellow and gold. African sunsets are hard to beat. Tired and happy we watch the day close its curtains and the first stars to enter the scene. And then there is the sky. We probably all got a stiff neck in the first days, not because of the yoga, but because we could not get our eyes off the billions of stars. Time stands still, again and again. Sleep is deep as there is almost no noise and we are full with life.
One might think that the desert is a space of nothingness, of despair and little or almost no life. But it's the exact contrary.
I am thankful for this amazing opportunity and can't wait to be back!
Michela, November 2021
Listen. The desert gives back so much. Your eyes are full of light. Your heart is spaceful and warm. Millions of stars connect you with the beloved.