North Africa is a perfect playground for clients to indulge their favourite hobby, writes Katie McGonagle
Modern life can be pretty busy, with the demands of work and families leaving us precious little time to ourselves. So it makes sense to use our free time to reconnect with whatever makes us tick.
Whether it’s hanging 10 on the waves, teeing off on the fairways or finally putting that fancy camera to good use, the varied landscapes of Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt are just the places to pursue your passions, whatever they might be.
The Red Sea is so synonymous with scuba diving that clients shouldn’t take much convincing to head here, whether they’re total novices or fully qualified divers.
Regional specialist Sharm Direct works with Aquarius Diving Club to offer everything from introductory sessions – £50 for a half-day shore dive or full-day boat dive – to Padi open-water courses (from £224 for four days).
Opt for accommodation at diver-friendly properties such as the Hilton Sharm Waterfalls Resort, which is ideal for diving and snorkelling, as guests can access the house reefs direct from the hotel jetty (from £39 per night all-inclusive with Sharm Direct).
The Cleopatra Luxury Resort in Nabq Bay (from £40 a night all-inclusive) boasts its own Second World War shipwreck, which is visible from the beach.
More-experienced divers can maximise their time at sea with a liveaboard, where they’ll not only have more opportunities to get underwater, but also to mix with fellow divers on board.
Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides says: “A liveaboard is perfect for dive enthusiasts who are keen to make the Red Sea’s fascinating underwater world the focus of their holiday. The onboard accommodation is extremely comfortable, with en suite cabins and large saloons.”
Guests must have a Padi open-water diver qualification or equivalent, with durations ranging from three to 14 days.
This might be a land of deserts, but you wouldn’t know it from its lush golf courses, many of which have attracted world-renowned course designers.
That’s certainly the case at the five-star Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa in Morocco, one of Sovereign’s best-selling golf properties, where the Gary Player-designed course poses just enough of a challenge to keep players on their toes. If they need to brush up first, pre-book lessons and club hire at the on-site golf academy.
Despite its recent troubles, Tunisia has built up a strong reputation among golfers, offering a budget-friendly alternative to other short-haul golf destinations.
Red Sea Holidays’ Hammamet programme includes free shuttles and discounted green fees at nearby courses Citrus and Yasmine, and with five-star accommodation leading in at less than £500 for a week, this is worth considering for clients on a budget.
In Egypt, Soma Bay is home to the first championship golf course built in North Africa, at The Cascades Golf and Country Club. The par-72 course, also a Gary Player design, is open to guests of any Soma Bay hotel.
Hayes & Jarvis suggests staying at the Kempinski, so golf widows can make the most of other sports facilities – including tennis, squash and a dive centre – or sit back and relax in the spa.
For every person who wants a break from cooking every night, there’s another who relishes the chance to learn about local flavours at their leisure, and with its rich and varied cuisine, Morocco is ideal for the latter camp.
There are plenty of home-based lessons such as Do Something Different’s tajine cookery class in Marrakech (from £38), which starts with shopping for ingredients in the souks before getting to grips with the cooking in a family riad.
However, serious chefs should make a beeline for the best cooking school in the city, at boutique hotel La Maison Arabe, where guests can learn to make samosa-style pastry briouat or sweet-and-savoury meat pie pastilla, as well as the classic couscous and tajine.
These specialities feature on Intrepid Travel’s comprehensive 10-day tour, the Real Food Adventure to Morocco, which really gets under the skin of local cuisine, from ingredients in the spice markets and souks, to the final dishes, complete with wines made in Meknes and a tasting trail around Fes medina. Land-only prices start at £725.
Sister company Urban Adventures extends this philosophy to Egyptian capital Cairo. Its cuisine isn’t as well known as Morocco’s, but the four-hour Home-Cooked Cairo excursion not only teaches guests how to make rice dish kushari, lentil soup, stuffed vegetables and moussaka, but also brings them into a family home for an unbeatable insight into local life (£30).
These lands are teeming with the ruins left behind by ancient civilisations, so anyone with even a passing interest in archaeology can’t fail to be awestruck here, whether it’s by the third-largest amphitheatre in the world at El Djem, or the mind-blowingly ancient pyramids and Sphinx at Giza.
The best place for history buffs has to be a Nile cruise, where they can wake up each morning to a new and even more exciting ancient site, from the Valley of the Kings and the Colossi of Memnon, to the Temple of Karnak at Luxor and Philae Temple at Aswan.
The 10-day Jewel of the Nile is On the Go Tours’ most popular Egypt option. Cruise-only prices start at £899. Discover Egypt offers seven-night cruises in the company of an Egyptologist, so guests can learn about the ancient sites in depth. Prices start at £799, including flights.
Nile cruises aren’t just about history: if selling a tour on the strength of its ancient sites isn’t enough to convince clients, try another tack. Budding photographers will find capturing these ancient sites easier with fewer people around, so it’s worth suggesting they visit now before the crowds start to ramp up again – and given the resurgence of Nile cruise product, that’s only a matter of time.
Hayes & Jarvis offers a seven-night cruise between Luxor and Aswan, with a private Egyptologist and private car transfers, so photographers can take as long as they need to capture just the right shot. Prices start at £995, including flights and full-board accommodation.
The colourful souks of Morocco are also prime fodder for photographers, especially if they get beyond the obvious sights in Marrakech. Riviera Travel has an eight-day Imperial Cities of Morocco tour, which visits Fes, Casablanca and Marrakech. Prices start at £799, including flights.
Image credit: Intrepid Travel
Unless they live in Newquay and don’t mind the cold, chances are surfers will have to jet abroad to practise their skills. And as appealing as the golden shores of Byron Bay or California might be, Morocco’s Atlantic coast is a lot closer and cheaper to reach.
Visitors to Essaouira or Agadir won’t be short of surf schools down on the beach. But rather than take their chances on arrival when, why not pre-book the Surf School at Paradis Plage Surf Yoga & Spa Resort in Taghazout, just north of Agadir?
Classic Collection Holidays can bag spots on its two or five-day surfing packages, which start at £45 and £110 respectively, with 90 minutes’ tuition a day plus board and wetsuit hire.
Better still, non-surfing spouses can sign up for the two or five-day yoga packages (£40 and £80), or pre-book their green fees and course transfers to Taghazout Golf (from £105 for two rounds). So there’s no chance of boredom setting in.
Four nights at La Maison Arabe in Marrakech starts at £525 with Prestige Holidays. The price includes Gatwick flights, B&B accommodation, private transfers and a half-day cookery course, for departures on July 6.
Red Sea Holidays offers seven nights’ half-board at the Royal Azur Thalasso Golf Hotel in Hammamet from £519. The price includes flights, transfers, green fee discount and shuttle transfer, for May departures.
Hayes & Jarvis offers seven nights’ B&B at the Kempinski Hotel Soma Bay in Egypt from £829. The prices includes flights with Turkish Airlines from Gatwick and transfers, for departures on September 4.
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